Flexibility is not only incredibly handy when it comes to reaching that high foothold, but it is also a defining factor of an individual’s overall physical fitness. It promotes good range of motion, good posture and reduces the risk of injury when exercising, or even during day to day activities.
Tight hamstrings can be one of the main culprits when it comes to lack of flexibility, lower back problems and bad posture. Reclining Hand to Big Toe (or Supta Padangusthasana) is a wonderful pose that will help you to develop the flexibility on the back of your legs, stretching not only your hamstrings but also your calves, inner thighs and groin. It is also great for relieving lower back pain!
Traditionally, this pose is done by holding your big toe with your index and middle finger whilst straightening up your leg. But unless you are super flexible, I would recommend to start by using a belt, as it will keep your alignment tip top, by allowing you to stretch the back of your leg, keeping your upper back, shoulders and hips down. With time, as it becomes easier you can start to walk your hands up the belt, deepening the stretch.
Getting into the pose:
- Start by lying on your back, with your legs together, thighs rolling in and feet flexed.
- On an exhale, bend your right knee and bring it towards your chest.
- Place the middle of the belt on the ball of your right foot, hold each end of the belt with each hand, inhale and straighten your right leg away from you. You are aiming for a 90º angle, but if you’re not there yet, don’t worry, keep working (with mindfulness and patience!) on straightening both legs. Also, be careful not to lock your knees.
- Pull gently on the belt bringing your toes towards you and your heel away from you.
- Keep your left leg engaged by flexing the left foot, toes pointing to the ceiling, roll your thigh in.
- Careful not to lift your right buttock off the floor. Keep your right hip in line with your left and press the right thigh bone down towards the hip socket.
- Bend your elbows out to the side, keeping your collarbone and chest open. Shoulders rolling down.
- Keep the back of your neck nice and long. You can use a folded blanket under your head if it tilts back.
- Hold for around 30 seconds.
- Repeat on the other side.
- From centre. Hold both ends of the belt with your right hand and bring your right leg out to your right as you exhale.
- Do not let the leg collapse down, but instead keep straightening the leg whilst gently lifting it towards your right ear.
- Keep your left hip on the floor, pressing the top of your left thigh down. You can use your left hand to assist you here.
- Inhale, bring the right leg back to centre.
- Change the grip on the belt. Hold it with your left hand now.
- Exhale as you bring your right leg out to your left.
- Roll your left leg and foot to the left too.
- Again, try to keep both legs straight. Do not collapse the right leg down. Instead, keep lifting it towards your left ear. It is a lot harder to straighten the legs is this posture. So don’t worry and don’t force it if it’s not happening to you yet. Just keep working towards it!
- Extend your right arm out to the side and keep your gaze to the right.
- Keep your right arm and shoulder down.
- Hold both poses for 20 to 30 seconds (obviously, you can hold for a shorter time if it is too uncomfortable and build up!). Repeat on the other side.