The Monkey Pose, or Hanumanasana, is the pose in yoga that impresses people the most. But to be honest, it shouldn’t receive any praise at all. The right splits is something I’ve been able to do since I was a kid. In fact, when I first started practicing yoga, I found the splits easier than pigeon. This just goes to show you that our bodies have areas of natural flexibility, which is the reason why it’s important to have diversity in your practice. If you only work on the things that you’re good at, then you’ll only develop muscles that are already strong.
I ran into this problem this winter when I severely strained my left hamstring in ballet class. I was only doing ballet, no yoga, for about 5 months. And during that time I took for granted the flexibility in my hamstrings, which caused an overdevelopment in my quads. I liked to jump high, but wasn’t as great with the landings. And after one grand Jeté too many, my less flexible left hamstring forced me to hang up my ballet shoes. Sad times for this old lady body. I’ll be back in the dance room, one day, but next time with more full body responsibility.
Hunamanasana is a pose that you shouldn’t be afraid of no matter the flexibility of your hamstrings. You can always roll up a blanket, or use a block, or prop up your knee and lean over your leg. Either way, listen to your body and breath through the tension. Try as hard as you can to have your back knee facing the floor. It’s tempting to roll the knee to the side to fall further into the posture, but that wont allow you to receive the full benefits of the stretch and you should try to keep your hips in a neutral position. No matter what, let go of your ego, because it doesn’t matter how far or close you are to the ground. Just have fun with it. If you’re doing this pose right, you should feel a wonderful stretch in your hips and hamstrings.