Supta Padagusthasana (Reclining Hand-to-Big-Toe Pose) is a great go-to pose for lower-back pain, tight hamstrings, and the ever so pesky iliotibial (IT) band. Its actions help create traction in the lower back, which can relieve compression and tension. Doing the pose on the floor allows you to safely stretch your hamstrings without putting much stress on your vertebrae. The floor supports your back and prevents it from rounding or pushing backward, an unhealthy movement for many back problems.
Do you ever feel like one side of your back is tighter than the other? The nature of this pose can balance the two sides of the body. For most of us, one side of the body is dominant, which causes that side of the back to become tighter or stronger, distorting posture. Over time, these asymmetries can become the source of back pain or disk damage.
The 3 part series flows as follows:
- Lying on the floor, legs strongly extended, exhale bending the right knee and draw the thigh into your torso. Hugging the thigh to your belly, press the front of the left thigh heavily to the floor, and flex the left heel. Loop a strap around the ball mound of the right foot under the big and baby toe, and hold the strap in both hands. Inhale and straighten the knee, pressing the right heel up toward the ceiling. Walk your hands up the strap until the elbows are fully extended, making sure you broaden the shoulder blades across your back, widening the collarbones away from the sternum to keep the chest open.
- Exhaling, press through your right heel to straighten your knee, extending your heel towards the ceiling. Keep your foot flexed and your pelvic bones equally balanced on the floor. As you pull down slightly on the strap let the head of your thigh bone (the part of the bone that connects in the hip socket) release and rest in your pelvis. Place the strap in your right hand, and your left hand on its hip, and let your leg lower outward to the right. Keeping your left thigh pressing down, let your right toes hover a few inches above the mat, and try to bring the right toes in line with the shoulder joint. Inhale to bring the leg back to up to vertical.
- As the right leg is now back to being perpendicular to the floor, switch the strap to your left hand, and you press the right palm into the ground. As you lower the right leg towards the left side of the body, you will start to negotiate how far you can lower the leg while still keeping your right shoulder pressed into the ground. Pushing through the sole of the right foot and lengthening through the heel, make sure you elongate the right side body. Inhale, bring the leg up to center, bring the leg into the chest, and remove the strap.
Before switching to the other side, do you feel noticeably longer on the side on the right side of your body? Does it feel like you’ve been stretched a few inches taller? Does your right sinus feel clearer?
It not only aligns the pelvis, but also ignites core stability, stretches all of the major muscles in the lower body, and alleviates stiffness in the lower back. Although this hip happy stretching series may seem fairly basic, it has many benefits that you have to feel to believe!