So you've set a yoga pose goal and decided you want to learn how to do a split. The problem is you're so far away from a split you think you might be crazy for setting such a goal. Not to worry. Nearly everything is attainable with mindful practice. Here are five tips for improving flexibility.
1. Be realistic.
Unfortunately, there isn't a yoga sequence I could give you that would magically transform you into Gumby. You most likely will not be able to do a full split after one yoga class. You will, however, be able to get there with lots and lots of consistent practice.
2. Warm up.
Unless you're up for an injury, do not jump right into any pose in its full expression. Always spend time warming up. Try doing a gentle yoga sequence first, then start focusing on the flexibility. Another good practice is doing a few sun salutations. (I explained them in depth here.)
3. Do the work.
For legs, focus on opening up the hamstrings, hips, and groins. These poses for sciatica will help, too. For chest and back, start with heart-opening sequences to warm up and then focus on postures like camel pose and wheel.
It's vital that you breathe full, deep breaths anytime you're doing yoga, but especially when you're working on flexibility. The breath brings space and length to tight muscles. The key is to breath steadily, exhaling all the air out of the lungs as you draw the navel toward the spine. As you inhale, fill up the lungs starting from the bellybutton, to the ribs, and finally into the chest.
5. Find length.
When it comes to forward folds, it isn't important whether you can touch your nose to your knees. What's important is finding length in the hamstrings and length in the back. You don't want to round your back. On the inhale, feel your body elongate, and on the exhale come forward, keeping your head up. When you get to the point where your stomach is touching your thighs, then lower the head toward your knees. But don't rush it!
6. Take pictures.
I am a fan of documenting your yoga practice every now and then, especially when you're working on something consistently. When you're working on something every single day, you'll probably hit a time in your practice where you feel discouraged that you haven't made any progress. That is when you take a picture, and compare it to your day one picture. It will help you to see how far you've come, and jumpstart your motivation.
PS- Poses that will help you become more flexible: