Yoga And Its Usefulness
Yoga, the ancient Indian system of holistic well-being is more than 5000 years old. It includes body postures, exercises, breathing exercises, meditation techniques for physical, mental, and psychological benefits.
There are various systems for performing yoga. In modern times, yoga has gained tremendous popularity all over the world for the immense benefits offers.
Interestingly, the ‘Yoga Sutra’ written by an Indian sage Patanjali, some 2000 years ago, is the oldest treatise on yoga. It is not about physical fitness only, but it is also about controlling the mind and emotions to grow spiritually.
Yoga: An Overview
From the physical point of view, yoga has the following benefits to offer as the Medical News Today says:
- It improves the flexibility of the body. It is because of the intense stretching and bending movements associated with yogic poses and exercises.
- Yoga also makes the muscles and ligaments strong
- It significantly strengthens the musculoskeletal systems. And hence the body posture and balance improve significantly.
- It makes the body joints strong and increases their range of motion. Hence, the bone and joint injury significantly reduce because of yoga
- It improves the posture, and the back also strengthens. Therefore, the spine gets protected from injury and disorders.
- The blood circulation increases substantially because of the various poses, twists, headstands, etc.
- Immunity of the body increases because of efficient lymph drainage.
- Yoga improves cardiac health, lowers blood pressure, and also lowers blood sugar.
- It efficiently regulates the hormonal flow in the body. As a result, it keeps the person happy, confident, and positive.
- It relaxes the body and mind to a great extent and improves focus and concentration
- It keeps the digestive system healthy.
- Yoga reduces the effect of allergy on the body.
These are some of the general benefits. In addition to these, every yoga pose or exercise has its advantages.
Historically the standing split exercise termed as “Urdhva Prasarita Eka Padasana” in Sanskrit, which means ‘upward expanded one leg pose.’
This exercise is of moderate difficulty level. Therefore, it is not advisable to do this exercise with a cold and unstretched body. One should at least do a couple of ‘Surya Namaskar’ (Sun Salutation) before attempting the standing split. Typically, Surya namaskar is a relatively simple yoga exercise. It exercises the whole body and warms it up.
Once the body is warmed up and flexible enough, then you are good to go in for the standing split.
Step By Step Instructions: Standing Split
To begin, stand straight with your leg comfortably wide enough (not more than the shoulder width). Let the hands be at the sides, relaxed and straight.
- Then, take deep breathes and concentrate on the exercise. This exercise is Tadasana or the mountain pose.
- Now from Tadasana, go to Uttanasana step by step.
- Inhale and raise both your hands over the head.
- Next, exhale to bring your hands straight down, slowly touching the ground in front of your feet. However, to do this Asana, you will have to bend your body at the hips.
- Straighten your legs as much, but do not lock the knees. This new pose is
Into The Standing Split
- Now with proper concentration and focus, shift the body weight to the right leg and the two hands.
- Raise the left leg behind moving it from the hips. Besides, do not bend the knees.
- Breathe normally, and find your body balance.
- If your hands are away from the right foot, bring it closer to the right foot and try to place it on either side of the right foot. Breathe normally.
- As you move your hands towards the right foot, gradually, try to raise your left leg still further. Feel the stretch in both the legs.
- Then, push your torso towards the right leg and tuck in your chin. Now let the shoulders relax.
- It will help you push up your left leg still further.
- Slightly rotate the left leg in the air, to enable the hips to come straight forward.
- Hold this position for five deep breaths.
- Then gradually lower the left leg down to assume the Uttanasana
- From Uttanasana retreat to the tadasana pose.
- Stay there for a few breaths.
- Then repeat the whole process, but with left leg on the ground and right leg lifted.
Benefits Of Standing Split
If you pay attention, you will come to realize that to do a standing split or Urdhva Prasarita Eka Padasana. One has to perform two more asanas (poses). ‘Tadasana’ and ‘uttanasana’ when done in sequence, will lead to standing leg split.
Like all yoga poses and exercises, multiple muscles are worked and benefited. The concept is very akin to the modern-day idea of performing compound exercises.
Standing Split Offers The Following Benefits According To Yoga Outlet
- The hamstring and the quadriceps of the standing leg engage and get exercise. These muscles get stretched and loaded appropriately. It makes them flexible and strong. These two muscles manage the balance of the body in the pose and the whole weight of the body.
- Along with the hamstring and the quads, calves and the ankle also engage and gain strength and flexibility.
- The gluteus maximus of the raised leg get exercised intensely.
- The execution of this exercise engages the shoulders and arms also. As a result, they improve their strength, endurance, and flexibility. The hold and pull of the arms and shoulder exercise the chest muscles also.
- The muscles of the abdomen get pulled in, every time you do a standing split. This exercise makes it strong and flexible. Along with the stretch of the lower back improves the muscles there. A strong lower back muscle is a great asset for the spine. Similarly, the strong abdominal muscles support the organs in the abdomen and keep them healthy.
- Because of the standing split exercise, the spine stretches appropriately. It helps de-stress the spine and improves the posture of the body. Generally, the spine suffers the most because of a bad lifestyle and poor sitting postures. This exercise helps put it back in place.
- Since it is an inverted position exercise, it energizes the Anja Chakra (third eye chakra, situated between the eyebrows on the forehead.) It tremendously improves focus, concentration, and confidence. The person feels in charge of himself and his emotions and behaves in a very balanced and justified manner.
Though this pose is very beneficial to the body, extreme care and precaution are advised while doing. It involves the whole body. Hence if there is any injury, pain or stiffness in legs, hips, back, shoulder, knees, or any other parts of the body avoid performing this pose.
People suffering from high blood pressure should stay away from standing split. This pose loads the heart and lungs, and it does not go well with the patients of high blood pressure.
Standing split is not good to advise for migraine patients as seen before this pose activates and increases the blood flow to the third eye point. That will increase the probability and intensity of a migraine attack. So, such people should say clear of standing split.
Urdhva Prasarita Eka Padasana demands extreme poise and balance of the body. If someone is not confident of holding himself steady on one leg, then it is best to avoid this exercise. Otherwise, it may lead to a fall and injury.
This exercise stretches the lower back, spine, and glutes to the extremes. Sciatica is pinching of nerves in this region. Hence this exercise may aggravate the condition of sciatica. All those who are suffering from sciatica or are sensitive to develop sciatica should avoid standing split.
Other Things You Should Remember
To do warm-up sufficiently before performing a standing split. Loosen up the whole body either by doing jumping jacks, or Surya namaskar.
Perform the exercise with lots of grace and balance. Also, avoid any kind of jerky movements. Focus on proper and regular breathing.
If you feel uncomfortable, dizzy, or painful, STOP immediately. Check with a doctor to find if this exercise suits you.
Always perform the yogic exercise in airy space. Since it helps breathe better with a good concentration of oxygen. It is best to do yoga exercises early in the morning. Evenings can be the next best time. Avoid eating anything at least 2 -3 hours before doing yoga.
Standing Split Variations
Standing split is an exercise of moderate difficulty level. Hence there is always a scope of coming up with variations to make it either easy or challenging.
Modifications to simplify or make it easier:
Using The Yoga Blocks
- In case it is difficult to bend down enough to touch the ground with a finger, one can use the yoga block. These made out of wood or some polymers. You can keep the blocks in front of your legs.
- As you bend down to perform the Uttanasana, instead of touching the ground, hold the blocks with your hand. That will reduce the forward stretch from the hips and will be easier to perform.
- Now continue to lift your leg up in the air and follow the sequence of the standard standing split.
Using A Chair
It is a more relaxed version than the above. Suitable for people not used to exercise, and the body is yet to develop flexibility.
- Keep a sturdy chair with backrest in front of you. The backrest should face you.
- After the tadasana, hold the chair backrest and stretch one of the legs behind.
- There is no need to bend the back.
- This pose is not that of the standing split.
- But gradually, it will train the body into that pose.
- Once this variation is comfortable to do, go on to the Vir Bhadra asana III
Other Variations To Make It More Challenging
- Once you reach the point where your extended leg is vertically right above your head, stretch it a little more to bring it ahead of the head, when looked from sideways.
- This stretch is extreme, and all the involved muscles get a hard and intense workout.
Once you have thoroughly mastered the standing split, one can try the Trivikrama asana. It is also a tougher variation of the standing split.
The extended legs come in from the front, and the torso remains erect in its normal position.
- Stand normally in the Tadasana.
- Pull up your right leg by bending it at the knee.
- With both, your hands hold the knee and pull it to your stomach.
- Hold it there for a few moments.
- Then hold the heel of the leg with both hands and straighten the leg.
- Gradually pull the leg up till it reaches in line with your face.
- Hold it there for a few moments.
- Return slowly.
Tips For An Effective Standing Split
With patience and practice, you can learn to do the standing split with reasonable finesse. As you try to master this pose, remember the following points. It may make your effort easier and worthwhile.
- Do not skip the warm-up. The hamstrings, in particular, need proper warm-up and stretching before the standing split.
- When bending down in the Uttanasna, do not bend or curl your back. Remember to bend from the hips only.
- Do not be concerned about how high your leg goes up in the split. Focus on the stretch and form of the exercise. The range will increase with practice and perseverance.
- In case balancing your body becomes a challenge, focus on a point in front of you on the ground, as you execute the exercise. It brings balance and poise in your practice.
- If needed, take the support of the wall to support the stretched leg.
Standing split, like any other yoga exercise, is very effective and beneficial. Yoga is not just about physical exercise, but it involves breathing and mental involvement also.
It is always better to approach the exercise gradually and systematically to avoid any injury. Find a knowledgeable yoga trainer or institute to guide you through the nuances of yoga exercise. But it is undoubtedly worth all the efforts.