I have been setting myself 2 – 3 goal poses each year since I had started my practice yoga asanas about 3 years back. One of the goal poses which I am currently / have been trying to achieve for a while now is the hanumanasana or front split or also known as the monkey pose; which I term the “in-hanuman-asana”.
Hanumanasana is a pose that requires a lot of warm-up and stretching of the hamstrings and hip flexors, which are the 2 key groups of muscles involved in hanumanasana.
However, I have been blessed with extremely tight and wound up hip flexors from sitting all day in the office. I was also never able to do a split even when I was younger/a kid. Nevertheless, approximately 20 years later and 20 years stiffer, I am still optimistic (perhaps a little deliriously) about achieving this goal pose!
In order to achieve this asana, I learnt this weekend with Hui Yan that there would be a group of muscles to strengthen and another group to be stretched. Let’s say if you do it on the right leg in front, the right hamstrings, right glutes, the left hip flexors and left quadriceps need to be warm and stretched! They are the muscles facing the ground in this pose. The other set of muscles that need to be strengthened are the muscles that face the ceiling – the left hamstring, left glute, right hip flexors and right quadriceps. These are the muscles that help to pull the hips closer to the ground and the legs wider apart.
The asanas I have been practicing to build up towards this pose are two types of poses. One type to open the front of the legs and hips –> lizard, pigeon, and lunge with a mermaid variation or a quad stretch and reclined hero pose (or the one-legged variation) – all of these assist with opening up the hip flexors and stretching the quads.
And the second type to lengthen and warm/stretch the hamstrings –> paschimottanasana, janu sirsasana, thread the needle and supta padangusthasana (reclined hand to big to pose) to stretch out the hamstrings.
So, here’s my progress in the pose thus far:-
Mel's front split progress
As you can see, my problem with this pose is my hip flexor.
I figure I need to incorporate into my practice the focus on the breath, so that I can work through the pain that seems to be stopping me from any further progression. In my practice of getting to this pose, I’d usually move from a baby monkey, try to push lower and edge the front foot more gradually, and not realise that at some point, the pain has taken over and that I was already holding my breath in a bid to stop/ignore the pain. A few seconds later I’d usually find myself giving up because 1. I’m outta breath, or 2. The pain in my groin is intolerable. I guess I realise now that achieving this pose is not just about asking my physical body to get lower and to get pushed down harder each time. The pain will remain and most people experience it anyway while practising this pose. I just need to learn how to work with it or through it, with BREATH. I think for me, it is the “brick wall” of pain that blocks any kind of landing. Thus the name for this asana – the “inhanumanasana” hahaha. I also believe that a big part of the pain is mental for me. I must remind myself that my body is in fact, much stronger and more malleable than the mind thinks.
Separately, Master Paalu also mentioned another possible area that I might be able to work on (that came up when we were discussing chakras in class) – that perhaps it is the chakra responsible for fear, or the chakra in the lower hip region or my mula dhara chakra is still not yet awakened and/or the disc in that chakra is spinning in the wrong direction, creating a too much tension and fear at the hips / groin area. This could be preventing me from opening the hips up even after practising it for awhile now. Master Paalu suggested kundalini meditation/practice for students like that to try to awaken the chakra.
However, I must still insert a word of caution to anyone trying to master this pose. A couple of my yogi classmates have shared this article :- Why Certain People Can’t Do Some Yoga Poses. Don’t push past your limits if you have been practicing for years and know that your bone structure just doesn’t allow for the pose. On that note, I also hope that article is taken with the right attitude and mindset, and doesn’t turn into an excuse or discourage anyone to keep practising (within safe limits)!
I’m gonna to try to incorporate these things and perhaps also more dedication and discipline into my practice for this pose. Check back for progress on the inhanumanasana a couple months!
XOXO, Mel (200hr weekend TTC)

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