Reclining Big Toe Pose  -Supta Padangusthasana

Step by step

  • Lie on your back, legs extended, feet flexed pressing out through the heels.
  • On an exhalation draw the right knee into your chest, loop a strap around the arch of the right foot, or hook your first two fingers around your big toe if you have the flexibility.
  • Straighten and extend the right leg up to the ceiling until the arms are straight keeping shoulders pressing in the floor.
  • Keep strongly extending through the left leg pressing the top of the left thigh down (with your hand) and extend through the right heel creating a comfortable stretch in the back of the leg.
  • Stay here or turn the right leg out and bring the leg down towards the floor on your right side. Keep the left hip grounded to the floor rather than bringing your leg further out.
  • Stay in each variation for 5 breaths or up to three minutes - repeat on the other side.

Beginners tips

  • When you are starting out in this pose it is common for the leg on the floor to lift or roll out. Keep your hand on your upper thigh and apply gentle pressure to remind you to keep it from lifting.
  • Use a pillow under your head if it's more comfortable for you.
  • When bringing the leg out to the side you can rest the thigh on a block or cushion to allow more release in the groin.
  • If your hamstrings are tight you can bend both legs, put your foot of the outstretched (left in this case) leg on the floor.
  • Then when bringing the bent leg out to the side let the other leg fall out to the other side as well to balance the hips.

Benefits

  • Stretches the back of the legs (hamstrings and calves), the groin, inner thighs and lower spine.
  • Balances the two sides of the back.
  • Stimulates the abdominal organs and improves digestion.
  • Restores your energy.
  • Strengthens the muscles around the knees.

Watch out for

  • Hamstrings - don’t overstretch - using the strap instead of hooking the big toe with your fingers will give you the same benefits. As you become more flexible you can hold the strap higher up.
  • The extended leg on the floor - keep the muscles of this leg active and slightly rotating inwards.
  • Locking the knees - while you’re aiming to keep both legs straight don’t push the knees back so they are locked, instead think about engaging the thighs and lifting the knee caps as in Tadasana / Mountain Pose.

Variations

  • Starting with the leg in the first (vertical) position draw it closer towards your face. On an exhale, engage the core and lift the upper body bringing the chin towards the shin.
  • Starting from the vertical position cross the raised leg across your body keep both hips on the floor to get a counter stretch in the glutes and side of the hip. Or take it further into an extended leg supine twist.
  • Move dynamically between the first (leg vertical) and second (leg to the side) variations to build strength in the core and legs.