Happy Friday! Today we’re continuing our look at Supta Padangusthasana, or Reclined Hand-To-Big-Toe Pose. If you missed Part 1 of this series, you can catch up on that here. While this is a pose we often think of as a hamstring stretch, there are a lot of other things you can explore in this shape. Having more options is always helpful!
Four things to do besides stretch your hamstrings
There’s nothing wrong with stretching your hamstrings if it feels good, especially when we keep the principles of yoga in mind.
And stretching the hamstrings might not be the right thing to do in Supta Padangusthasana for all sorts of reasons. Maybe it triggers your competitive nature and sends you to a place of ego and comparison. Maybe it aggravates an injury. Maybe it creates a lot of tension or interferes with your breathing.
Even if stretching your hamstrings feels fantastic, introducing more variety into your practice is so good for the body and mind. It breaks us out of our habitual patterns. It gives our tissues different kinds of input. And sometimes it can help us gain new insights.
In this series, I’m discussing four things you can do in Supta Padangusthasana besides stretching your hamstrings. The first was Figure out the set-up that gives you the most ease. Here’s the second one:
2. Explore the movement of the leg bone in the hip socket.
Use the insights you gained from last week’s post to set up for Supta Padangusthasana:
- Lie on your back with the knees bent and the feet planted on the floor at the distance that feels right to you.
- Draw your right knee in towards the chest. If you like extending the left leg, do that. If you like doing the pose this way, strap the right foot and send it up towards the ceiling. Hold the strap in the way that feels best to you.
- Find a place of mild sensation in the right leg. Remember: this work is not about a hamstring stretch.
- Scan the body and see if you need to make any adjustments to support a sense of ease today.
- Take a moment to imagine the right thigh bone getting heavy and settling into the hip socket. You might imagine the pelvis is made of clay, and the thigh bone is slowly sinking deeper and deeper into the pelvis with the pull of gravity.
Now, we’ll work on moving the leg bone in the hip socket. To learn more about the hip joint and how it moves, you can check out the Movement Monday series here.
When you’re working on movement, I encourage you to do pure movement of the thigh bone in the hip socket. What I mean by that is to make the movements small enough that you can just move the leg bone and not anything else. No rocking or tilting through the pelvis, no moving the ankle, no breath holding, no gripping or tension in the belly, buttocks, jaw, hands, feet, or anywhere else. Explore just the amount of movement you have in the hip itself, and don’t worry about how big or small that movement is. Just get curious and notice what happens.
Take the leg from side to side
Moving from the right hip, take the foot an inch or two to the right. Continue to observe as you take the foot an inch or two to the left. Be diligent about making the movement small at first. Notice any sensations, gripping or bracing, and parts of the body that want to “help” by moving along with the right leg.
If everything is staying pretty quiet and easy, then you can gradually make this movement bigger. You cannot go too slowly with this work. Continue to notice what happens as you do the movement.
Don’t go so far as one side of the pelvis wants to lift up or you have to start to brace to keep the pelvis still. Note that it might be OK to move further sometimes, but that’s not the same as exploring movement in the hip socket.
Rotate the thigh bone in the hip socket
Now bring the right leg in line with the right hip. Keep the leg lined up with the hip throughout the following movements. Picture the right thigh bone coming down into the hip socket, and from deep in the hip, rotate the right thigh bone to the right. This rotation is like turning a door knob – the leg doesn’t move from side to side. Now, take the right thigh bone and rotate it to the left.
As you’re working on this rotation, notice if your pelvis wants to move, if your leg moves from side to side, or if you are using your feet to help. Don’t worry about making the movement big. Keep the movements, easy, slow, and smooth.
Feel this movement coming from deep in your hip socket, and notice whatever there is to notice. Breathe easily throughout.
Draw circles in the air
Now, use the foot to trace small circles in the air. Although the foot is moving, keep your awareness in the hip socket and drive the movement from the hip. Start with very small circles and move slowly. If some parts of the movement seem jerky or not quite round, slow down more and see if you can smooth the movement out.
If everything feels good, you can gradually expand the movement, staying within a range where your pelvis remains still (use your hands to feel what the pelvis is doing if that’s helpful) and you’re not holding your breath or gripping or bracing anywhere.
Then explore circles in the other direction.
When you’re ready to release, come to stillness for a moment, then remove the strap from the foot and rest either with both legs extended or both legs bent. Notice any sensations that come up and invite any areas of tension to soften before doing the other side.
Looking for other work to do in Supta Padangusthasana? I’ll be posting about two more ways to work in this pose in the coming weeks. Use the buttons below to subscribe to the blog, or follow along on Facebook or Instagram.
The information, instruction, and advice contained in this post are in no way intended or implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. All content is for general informational purposes only. Not all exercises are suitable for everyone. Consult your doctor before beginning this or any exercise program.