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Ardha Hanumanasana or Half Monkey pose is an intermediate yoga posture that stretches your hips, hamstrings, and calf muscles. Half Monkey pose is a half split and is a posture on the way to a full split, or Hanumanasana. If the sound of doing a split or even a half split sounds daunting to you, know that this posture is totally accessible– even for beginners!
Benefits of Half Monkey Pose
This posture stretches, lengthens, and opens up many parts of your body. It is a posture that is not only practiced in yoga, but also as a warm-up or cool down for athletes, runners, or gym buffs.
Some of the benefits of Half Monkey pose are:
- Stretches your hamstrings, lower back, ankles, and calves
- Helps you to find your balance
- Lengthens your spine
- Increases your mobility and range of motion
- Opens your hips
Warming Up for Half Monkey Pose
Before practicing Half Monkey pose, it is extremely important to make sure that your body is open and warmed up. Pay specific attention to opening your hamstrings hips before making your way into Half Monkey pose. Here are some preparatory yoga postures that you can practice:
- Sun Salutation: This sequence opens up your entire body and gets your joints and muscles warm and lubricated. Take at least 3 rounds of a Sun Salutation and focus on moving with your inhales and exhales.
- Standing Forward Fold: Uttanasana or Standing Forward Fold is an essential posture to stretch and open your hamstrings and hips. This is also a great one for your lower back and you can practice lengthening your spine – an action that you want to practice in your Half Monkey pose as well.
- Low Crescent Lunge: Practice this posture on your right and your left side to open up your hips and your hamstrings. Take your time in this pose and stay for at least 5 breaths, focusing on squaring your hips and keeping your alignment safe and precise.
How To Practice Half Monkey Pose
If your hips and hamstrings tend to be a little tight, move slow as you come into this posture and modify with props. This posture can be practiced by beginners, but be mindful as you move and be patient with your body as it slowly opens up.
To practice Half Monkey pose:
- Begin Downward Facing Dog. Step your right foot forward in between your hands and place your left knee on the ground.
- Curl your left toes under and keep your heel off the ground. Check that your knee is below your hip. Your left leg should be at a 90-degree angle. keep this strong foundation with your back leg. If you feel comfortable uncurling your back toes, you can do so.
- Extend your right foot forward. You can keep your hands or fingertips on the floor, or place 2 blocks on either side of your leg for support.
- Keep your hands directly below your shoulders.
- If you can, straighten your right leg completely. Make sure to keep your right heel on the floor and flex your toes up toward the ceiling.
- Square your hips by taking your right hip back slightly and your left hip forward.
- Inhale and look forward toward your right big toe.
- As you exhale, lengthen your spine and bow forward. Instead of rounding your spine, lengthen your spine and keep gazing toward your big toe.
- Keep your core strong by drawing your belly button in. This will help you to balance in the pose.
- Flex your right toes and engage your right leg.
- Relax your shoulders, lengthen your spine, and stay for 5 deep breaths.
- To come out of the posture, bend your right knee, walk your hands forward and plant your palms on the mat. Curl your back toes under and step back to Downward Dog.
- Repeat on the left side.
There are many parts of your body that are engaged in Half Monkey pose. To avoid injury or overstretching, it is important to practice with proper alignment. Stay mindful of how your body feels in the pose and feel for these common misalignments:
- Back leg not engaged: Your back leg is your foundation in the posture. Curl your toes under for more balance and grounding and check that your hip is directly above your knee. Keep this 90-degree angle to keep your leg active and your knee and hips safe.
- Misaligned hips: It is easy to lean too far to one side in Half Monkey pose. If you need to, place your hands on your hips to square your hips to the front of the room. This alignment is important to practice, especially if you are working your way up to full splits.
- Rounding your back: Keep your spine long and lengthened when you fold forward. If you tend to round your back, don’t come down as far and use blocks for support. Keep your gaze forward and your chin away from your chest.
- Front leg not engaged: It’s easy to relax the front leg or the leg that you are stretching. It may feel easier, but you are not stretching and engaging your leg. Check that your heel is on the mat. Flex your toes up toward the ceiling and lengthen the back of your knee. You want to feel your leg muscles strong and engaged.
- Inactive core: With so much to focus on, you may forget about your core. However, a strong core is necessary in Half Monkey pose to ensure that you don’t fall over! Pull your navel to your spine and keep your core tight and engaged.
Modify Half Monkey pose as much as you need! This is a posture that can take some time to feel completely comfortable in. While your body opens up, modify this posture for as long as you like.
Use blocks: You will need 2 blocks to modify Half Monkey pose. Frame your leg with the 2 blocks. Depending on your flexibility, you can keep your blocks at the lowest, medium, or highest height. Keep your blocks right under your shoulders and rest either your fingertips or your hands on them.
Roll up your mat or use a blanket: If your back knee aches while it rests on the mat, roll up your mat or use a blanket as a cushion. Keep a strong foundation with your toes curled under.
Tips for Beginners
- Use props: Whether it’s 2 blocks to rest your hands or a blanket for your knee, don’t shy away from using props. Props can make your body and your posture feel more comfortable so that you can focus on your alignment and breath.
- Don’t forget about your core: With so much to be aware of in this pose, don’t lose sight of engaging your core. Finding your balance in Half Monkey pose can be challenging, but stabilize and ground by drawing your belly button in toward your spine. Engage your core throughout the posture.
- Notice where your weight is: Are you leaning your hips more toward one side? Are you resting more weight on your right hand than your left hand? Finding balanced weight distribution in your entire body can help you to feel more stable in the posture. In addition, you can ensure that you are practicing correct alignment. Be aware of where your weight is and readjust accordingly.
Variations in Half Monkey Pose
If you are looking to play around in your Half Monkey pose, try some of these variations!
Full Splits or Hanumanasana: As your flexibility increases, you may feel comfortable making your way into full splits. Use 2 blocks on each side of your front leg and slowly begin to extend your back leg. Keep your hips square and your front leg straight. There is no need to force yourself down, but eventually, you want your back leg straight, hips square, and fingertips resting on the mat near your hips.
Airplane Arms: Instead of placing your hands on the mat or the block as you fold forward, take your arms out the side like airplane wings. This is a challenging variation and ensures that you are engaging your core. Lengthen your spine, draw your belly in, and keep you shoulders relaxed.
Open Twist: Try a twist in your Half Monkey pose. If you are practicing with your right foot forward, take your right hand to the inside or outside of your right foot. Rest your hand on the mat or a block. Take your left hand up toward the ceiling, stacking your shoulders in one line. Open your chest to the left side of the room and gaze up toward your fingertips as you twist. Repeat on the opposite side with the opposite foot forward.
If you tend to have tight hamstrings or hips, Half Monkey can feel extremely challenging. However, that doesn’t mean that you can’t practice the pose. Take caution and be mindful of your alignment and modify as much as you need. If you have a slipped disc or low blood pressure, take caution when folding forward. Take your time, or if you feel very dizzy or uncomfortable, ask your teacher for a modification.
Half Monkey pose is a great pose to practice if you want to increase your flexibility and enjoy the journey of your practice. While it may feel uncomfortable and even frustrating in the beginning, there is so much that this pose can teach you. Learn to breathe through your discomfort and enjoy your journey toward open hips and greater flexibility!