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5 Stretches 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 that get you closer to a full yogi split and help heal your body

I know you may be thinking your most flexible days are behind you, but the truth of the matter is, they don’t have to be! It’s never too late and you’re never too old to learn the secrets of splitting. So go ahead — grab your yoga mat, put on your stretchy pants and get ready to get limber!

Stretching is an essential part of any workout routine. 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.

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

Standing forward bend

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 workout

2. Pyramid pose

Pyramid pose

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.

3. Lizard pose

Lizard pose

Coming into a low lunge position with your front knee bent, knee aligned with ankle, and your back leg extended behind you. Keep your back knee off the ground or lowered to the ground, allowing it to gently rest on the floor; then bring both hands to the inner side of your front foot.

More: Best yoga poses to remove hip tension

Lizard pose

From here, begin to work your way to the ground by coming onto your forearms and allowing your chest to move closer to the ground, continuing to reach your head and back heel in opposite directions. You can modify this pose by using a block to support your forearms.

Stretches the thighs, hamstrings, groin, abdomen, shoulders and neck. Opens up the chest and lungs.

4. Pigeon pose

Pigeon pose

From down dog position, bring your right knee in toward your chest, moving your body into a one-legged plank pose. Next, bring your right knee toward your right wrist and your ankle toward your left wrist, trying to get your shin as parallel to the front of your mat as possible.

Pigeon pose

Lower your hips and body to the ground, stretching your left leg back behind you. If this causes too much pain/discomfort, pull your right ankle in closer to your body to relieve some of the strain.

Pigeon pose

Once you feel comfortable, walk your fingertips out in front of your leg and lower your chest to the floor.

Stretches the thigh, groin, abdomen, chest, shoulders and neck. Stimulates abdominal organs. Opens the shoulders and chest.

5. Straddle pose

Straddle pose

Sit with your legs extended straight out in front of you, place your hands behind you and allow your legs to open as far as they will go. From here, bring your hands to the empty space between your legs and begin to walk them out in front of you until you feel like you can't reach further.

Straddle pose

Once you hit this point, try to lower your head and chest closer to the ground.

Straddle pose

It's also beneficial to stretch each leg individually while in straddle pose. To do this, bring your left arm overhead and stretch over toward your right foot, trying to grab your toes with your fingers. Hold here for about eight breaths.

Straddle pose

Next, turn your head and chest so that your body is now facing your right leg and begin to lower your nose to your knee. Again, hold for around eight breaths and then repeat on the other side.

Stretches the spine and insides and backs of legs. Stimulates abdominal organs. Releases groins.

So there you have it, yogis, my secret poses to mastering the splits. Keep stretching those limits (and ligaments), and I promise you'll be splitting in no time! And remember — the more flexible you are, the less life will bend you out of shape. Until next time, namaste.

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