Reclining Leg Stretch Series Reclining Hand-to-Big-Toe Pose Sanskrit name: Supta Padangusthasana
This delightful series of supine movements stretches and releases the muscles in the back, inside seam and outside seam of the thigh (the hamstrings, adductors and abductors of the hip) as well as working and releasing the deeper muscles of the hip joint. The first variation strengthens your abdominal muscles and wakes up sensation in the face as a kind of added bonus! For a sister challenge, the whole series can be practiced in a different relationship to gravity, standing up and balancing on one leg (Extended Hand to Big Toe Pose or Utthita Hasta Padangusthasana)
Reclining Leg Stretch Series - step by step
There are four stretches in this series. You could time yourself for about five deep breaths or a minute or so in each variation. Or what works best for you!
• Lie down on the mat, with your legs straight and settle evenly.
• Bend your right knee and draw the knee towards the chest and loop your strap over the ball of the foot.(Some people say over the arch. I’m a ball person, still feel free to experiment!) Reach as high up the strap as you can while keeping your shoulders on the ground. The strap just extends your reach if you can’t hold your big toe.
• Raise the leg up towards a vertical position. You’re working towards having the raised leg straight. Still if your hamstrings a little tight and straightening your leg raises you hips of the ground, it’s fine to keep the knee as bent as you need to to keep the hips grounded. Flex the raised ankle - push out through the heel as you draw the toes towards you - to stretch the calf muscles.
First variation Challenging the abdominal core as you stretch the back of the leg Left leg can be straight or bent (bent is a lighter challenge.) On an exhale, draw the leg towards the body as you raise the head and trunk towards the leg, lifting the upper body off the ground. You can hold, or raise and lower a few times. Keep breathing, long slow and deep through the nose.
Second variation Stretching out the muscles on the inside seam of the thigh Bend the left knee and drop the knee out to the side to help weigh down your left hip a little as you release the right leg out to your right side. Towards the floor. Just as far as it’ll go. Our intention here is to stretch out the inside seam of the thigh. Bend your right knee as much as you need to to keep right thigh bone at about 90 degrees to the spine. Again working towards having the leg straight.
Third variation Stretching out the outside seam of the thigh as you move into a twist Swap the strap over to the left hand.Take the right arm to the side, wrist about level with your shoulder, palm turned down if that’s OK for you. Your right arm will help to weigh down the right shoulder which often lifts off the ground at the next stage. You want the left leg straight for this variation, so you can roll over more easily. Roll over onto your left side, taking the right leg over towards the ground to the left. The right hip lifts off the ground and stacks over the left. You’re in a reclining twist now. Encourage the right shoulder to soften and relax down towards the ground, so far as it will.
Fourth variation Stretching out the back of the thigh Roll back onto the back. This variation is the same as the first, but you keep your head and back n the ground. Where as the first variatiion works your abdominal muscles as it stretches your hamstrings, this variation focuses on the hamstrings (the muscles at the back of the thigh) in particular.
Return to the starting position and come into savasana for a few breaths to notice the sensations you’ve created. You may notice how wonky you feel and the need to repeat the practice on the opposite side to balance yourself out.
Stretches and releases the muscles in the back, inside seam and outside seam of the thigh (the hamstrings, adductors and abductors of the hip)
Works and releases the deeper muscles of the hip joint.
The first variation strengthens your abdominal muscles and wakes up sensation in the face.
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.
For a challenge, try playing the edges of your stretches, or holding the postures for a longer period of time ( counting in minutes or breaths.)
It can be nice to position a bolster to the side of you to support the leg you're working on when you release to the side. The support under the thigh will help you soften the groin.
Usual rules apply! ‘Boobar’ discomfort (soft around the edges) is fine we can work with that! ‘Kiki’ discomfort (sharp pain, especially in a joint) back off straight away, this is your body’s warning signal you risk hurting yourself.
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