As we tour my top 10 poses, we’ll start with one of my favorites to begin a yoga session.
#10 Reclining Big Toe Pose (supta padangustasana)
Here are some key elements of the pose:
Begin lying on your back, knees bent, feet flat on the floor.
Hug your knees into your chest and wrap a strap around the balls of the foot of one leg.
Extend the opposite leg out on the floor. Be sure the hamstring area is on the ground.
As you extend the strapped leg into the air pay attention to the leg on the floor. Move the leg in the air to where it is straight AND you have the leg on the floor touching the ground at the hamstrings. Walk your arms up the strap until they are straight. Don’t yank on the strap, just let the action of the arms falling back into the shoulder be what gives you the stretch.
When the leg on the ground is touching the mat, your pelvis is un-tucked and you are really stretching your hamstrings. That may mean that the leg that is in the air is actually only a few inches off the ground. Start where you are and work from there.
If you are super flexible, you may be able to reach up and grab your foot with your hands. (My hamstrings bow to you if you can do this.)
Stay in the pose for 3-5 cycles of breath, or up to 1.5 minutes.
Here’s what you get out of the pose:
Stretched out hamstrings.
Stretched out calf muscles.
Released lower back, relief of sciatic pain.
Sense of spaciousness in your hips.
Ability to do standing hip openers with greater ease.
Variations on the pose:
If you want to play around with the pose a little bit, you can try several variations.
1. Press the strapped foot into the strap like you are trying to bring the foot down the floor, but resisting with the strap. Hold it there, pressing against the strap for 5 breaths, then release the press and see if the leg moves a little closer to your head.
2. With your right leg in the air, hold both sides of the strap in the left hand. Bring the right arm out on the floor at shoulder height, palm down. Slowly drop the right leg across the body to the left. Pause when you find your sweet spot of sensation and breathe!