An ancient practice that is 1% theory and 99% practice. Here is a simple yoga pose to try.
Reclining Hand-to-Big-Toe Pose
Oh, your aching back? Or maybe you can’t crack those tight hamstrings. Supta Padangusthasana or Reclining Hand-to-Big-Toe Pose is for you.
supta = lying down, reclining
pada = foot
angusta = big toe
Reclining Hand-to-Big-Toe Pose: Step-by-Step Instructions
Lie supine on the floor, legs strongly extended. If your head doesn’t rest comfortably on the floor, support it on a folded blanket. Exhale, bend the left knee, and draw the thigh into your torso. Hug the thigh to your belly. Press the front of the right thigh heavily to the floor, and push actively through the right heel.
Loop a strap around the arch of the left foot and hold the strap in both hands. Inhale and straighten the knee, pressing the left heel up toward the ceiling. Walk your hands up the strap until the elbows are fully extended. Broaden the shoulder blades across your back. Keeping the hands as high on the strap as possible, press the shoulder blades lightly into the floor. Widen the collarbones away from the sternum.
Extend up first through the back of the left heel, and 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. Release the head of the thigh bone more deeply into the pelvis and, as you do, draw the foot a little closer to your head, increasing the stretch on the back of the leg.
You can stay here in this stretch, or turn the leg outward from the hip joint, so the knee and toes look to the left. Pinning the top of the right thigh to the floor, exhale and swing the left leg out 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, try to bring the left foot in line with the left shoulder joint. Inhale to bring the leg back to vertical. Lighten your grip on the strap as you do, so that you challenge the muscles of the inner thigh and hip to do the work.
Hold the vertical position of the leg anywhere from 1 to 3 minutes, and the side position for an equal length of time. Once you have returned to vertical release the strap, hold the leg in place for 30 seconds or so, then slowly release as you exhale. Repeat on the right for the same length of time.
Pose Level: 1
Contraindications and Cautions
High blood pressure: Raise your head and neck on a folded blanket.
Modifications and Props
You can make this pose slightly easier by raising the lower-leg heel off the floor a few inches on a block or thick book.
Deepen the Pose
If you have the flexibility, you can grip the big toe of the raised leg instead of using a strap. From the starting position, exhale and bend the raised leg thigh into your torso. Use the index and middle fingers and the thumb to grip the big toe. Be sure to reach the arm inside the thigh when you take the toe. Then perform the pose as described above.
Adho Mukha Svanasana
Seated forward bends
If you are especially stiff, do this pose with the bottom-leg heel pressed against a wall. It’s also useful to position a block just outside the raised-leg hip. Then when you swing the leg to the side, rest it on the block. The support under the thigh will help you soften the inner groin.
Stretches hips, thighs, hamstrings, groins, and calves
Strengthens the knees
Stimulates the prostate gland
Relieves backache, sciatica, and menstrual discomfort
Therapeutic for high blood pressure, flat feet, and infertility
A partner can help you learn how to ground the leg that stays on the floor. Lay a folded blanket on your top thigh and have your partner sit lightly on it. As you extend the leg vertically, release the thigh away from your partner’s weight. Do the same as you swing the leg to the side and then return it to vertical.
In addition to swinging the raised leg to the side, you can also cross it in front of your torso. If the left leg is raised, hold the strap in the right hand, and on an exhalation cross the raised leg to the right side. Inhale to bring the leg back to perpendicular and repeat on the other side.