Posture of the month - reclining hand-to-big-toe pose

Over the last few weeks, we have been thinking about our legs, from the foot and ankle up, and practising one pose in particular, Supta Padangusthasana. I have trouble pronouncing the Sanskrit with this one! So let’s call it reclining hand-to big-toe-pose, which is how it translates.

Except most of us, apart from the most super flexible, would find it hard to hold onto the big toe and straighten the leg overhead (as you’ll see in photos in yoga magazines). 

Start your practice lying on your back, and first warm up gently with knee hugs, ankle circling, hip circling, and badda konasa (butterfly legs). You might like to do one of the breathing sequences we have done in class.

For greater comfort you can put a small folded blanket or cushion under the head if you feel your chin tipping back. Have a yoga strap handy - a belt or scarf will do.  Begin with the right leg: bring both knees into the chest, place the left foot firmly on the floor with the knee bent, and loop your belt over the right foot. Slowly straighten this leg letting the belt slide through your hands.

Keep the left foot pressing firmly into the floor with the knee directly over the ankle as you stretch your right leg. Try not to bend the right knee and work the leg muscles as you start to deepen the stretch on the hamstrings on the exhale. See if you can feel the right leg moving down into the hip socket to ground the hip onto the floor. 

As you do the pose, turn your attention to the left leg, gently extend it out along the floor, pressing down with the thigh into the floor while keeping the upright leg working.

Relax the rest of the body, the shoulders, arms, hands and sink into the posture for a minute or so. Repeat the stretch on the other leg.

Help with back pain

Reclining hand to big toe pose stretches hamstrings, calves and thighs, and can help with some kinds of backache and wear and tear pain in the knees. Its actions help create traction in the lower back, which can relieve compression and tension. And doing the pose on the floor allows you to safely stretch your hamstrings without putting much stress on your vertebrae.