Happy Friday! Today we’re concluding our look at Supta Padangusthasana, or Reclined Hand-To-Big-Toe Pose. If you missed the previous articles in this series, you can catch up on those here: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3. 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. The second was explore the movement of the leg bone in the hip socket. The third was work your hip flexors. The final exploration you can try in this pose is:
4. Work your hamstrings.
There are different ways that we can use the shape of Supta Padangusthasana to engage with our hamstrings in ways other than a simple stretch. Try them out and see if any of them work well for you!
Flowing through quicksand
Use what you learned in Part 1 to come into the pose in a way that works for you. Following the rhythm of your breath, bend and straighten the lifted leg (the one with the strap if you’re using one) but imagine that you’re doing this movement through resistance: move through quicksand, deep water, cookie dough, or whatever image tickles your fancy. Notice what you feel. (No, this is not just hamstring work, which is fine. It’s just an exploration, so notice what’s happening for you.) Notice if you’re creating tension in the way you’re working, and see if you can keep the breath easy, the pelvis still, the belly soft, and then find the balance between working hard and maintaining ease in the moving leg.
Pressing into an object
Come into the pose with the heel of the lifted leg against a wall, doorframe, immovable chair or other piece of furniture, or someone else’s hand. Ideally, you’ll be able to have the lifted leg in its usual Supta Padangusthasana position, but sometimes we need to be creative with the position to work with the space we’re in. You might also need to bend the knee of the other leg in order to fit in the space.
Soften wherever you can soften: the pelvic floor if you can find it, the belly, the shoulders, the muscles of the throat and jaw, the muscles around the eyes. Feel the thigh bone of the lifted leg sinking towards the earth with the pull of gravity. Take a few breaths.
Then, without adding tension or movement, and without holding the breath, press the heel of the lifted leg into the object. Play with creating work in the back of the lifted leg while maintaining your sense of ease everywhere else.
Which of the ways of working in Supta Padangusthasana has been your favorite? Comment below and let me know.
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.