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5 stretches that finally make it easy to master the splits

Maggie Giuffrida is a graduate of The University of Arizona where she earned a degree in journalism. She is a contributing writer for SheKnows, specializing in health and fitness. Maggie is a certified yoga instructor and health and well...

Stretches for splits that really work — your inner yogi would be so proud

Unless you plan on aging like a fine wine, you've probably gotten a little stiffer over the years. Fortunately, the solution to creaking and cracking as you get up in the morning may be easier than you think. Starting your day off with a "good for you" habit of deep yoga stretches can not only help you to stay limber — it may have you splitting like a kid again.

Studies have shown that stretching helps increase flexibility and improve athletic performance, while decreasing the risk of activity-based injuries by delivering blood to the muscles and loosening up your body. It also helps separate and lengthen your muscles, giving your bod that super-slim, toned appearance if that's what you're going for.

So what's the ultimate test of one's stretchability? Well, the answer to that is obvious — it's the splits, of course! But don't start panicking on me just yet. I promise to ease you into this pose nice and slow. Check out my top five stretches to help you master the splits below!

1. Standing forward bend

Stretches for splits that really work — your inner yogi would be so proud
Image: Maggie Giuffrida/SheKnows

Standing straight up, feet together, arms by your side, reach your hands up and overhead into a prayer position and then swan-dive your arms and chest down toward the ground. Let your fingertips or palms fall to either side of your feet and slowly start to bring your chest in towards your knees. If you have a hard time reaching your toes, put a little more bend in your knees until your hands are on the floor. Keep pressing your chin and chest in towards your knees and thighs for the maximum stretch. Remember to never lock your knees and always keep a slight bend in them to avoid injury.

Stretches hamstrings and back, alleviates anxiety, relieves headaches, improves digestion and quiets the mind.

More: 7 Yoga poses when you're too tired to work out

2. Pyramid pose

Stretches for splits that really work — your inner yogi would be so proud
Image: Maggie Giuffrida/SheKnows

Starting in Tadasana, or mountain pose (standing straight up, feet together, arms by your side), gently step one foot about 3 to 4 feet behind the other, allowing the toes to turn out slightly to the side and aligning your back heel with your front heel. Note: It's important that your feet should not be directly in line with one another. Instead, your back foot should be a few inches to the side to balance more effectively. Once your legs are in place, bring your hands to either side of your front foot and lower your chest and chin in towards the top of your thigh. Continue reaching your fingers and hands behind the front leg for more of a stretch.

Stretches the spine, shoulders, wrists, hips, hamstrings and strengthens the legs. Improves posture and balance and calms the brain.

Next Up: Lizard pose

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