Reclining Big Toe Pose (Supta Padangusthasana)
Note: Until you become quite flexible, practice this pose with a strap over your foot.
- Lie on your back on the floor, with your legs extended. If your head doesn’t feel comfortable on the floor, place a folded blanket under it. Exhaling, bend the left knee, and draw the thigh into your torso. Hug your thigh to your abdomen. Press the opposite (right) thigh into the floor, and push actively through the right heel.
- Place a strap around the arch of the left foot. Hold one end of the strap in each hand. Inhaling, straighten the left knee and press the left heel up toward the ceiling. Walk your hands up the strap until the elbows are fully extended. Keep the hands as high on the strap as possible, while pressing your shoulder blades lightly into your yoga mat. Widen your collarbones away from the sternum.
- Extend up first through the back of the left heel. Once the back of the leg between the heel and sitting bone is fully lengthened, lift through the ball of the big toe. Begin with the raised leg perpendicular to the floor. As you release the head of the thigh bone more deeply into the pelvis, draw the left foot a little closer to your head, increasing the stretch on the back of the leg. You should feel a gentle stretch. Back out if you feel any pain.
- You can stay here, for a great hamstring stretch. For more advanced students, turn the leg outward from the hip joint, so the knee and toes look to the left. Pressing the right hip to the floor, exhale and swing the left leg to the left and hold it a few inches off the floor. Continue rotating the leg. As you feel the outer thigh move away from the left side of the torso, after much practice you may bring the left foot in line with the left shoulder joint. Inhaling, bring the leg back to vertical. Lighten your grip on the strap as you do – use the muscles of the inner thigh and hip to lift your leg.
- Hold the vertical position of the leg from 1 to 3 minutes, then the side position for the same length of time. Once you have returned the leg to vertical, release the strap. Hold the leg in place for 30 seconds or so, then exhale as you release slowly. Repeat on the right leg for the same length of time.
Reclining Big Toe Pose benefits:
- Stretches hips, thighs, hamstrings, groin, and calves
- Eases backache, sciatica, and menstrual cramps
- Strengthens knees
- Improves digestion
- Stimulates the prostate gland
- Therapeutic for high blood pressure, flat feet, and infertility
Reclining Big Toe Pose cautions and tips:
- If you have high blood pressure: Raise your head and neck on a folded blanket.
- If you’re especially tight, practice this pose with the bottom-leg heel pressed into the wall for stability.
- It’s also helpful to position a block just outside the raised-leg hip. When you swing the leg to the side, the thigh can rest on the block. This support under the thigh will allow you to relax the inner groin.