Supta = Reclining · Pada = Foot Angusta = Big toe · Asana = Pose
Safely opens the hamstrings and releases the lower back when performed with a healthy lumbar curve.
- Lie on your back with your legs together, feet flexed, as if standing in Tadasana (Mountain Pose). Breathe steadily.
- Anchor your inner thighs toward the floor; arch your lower back away from the floor enough so that you can pass your hand under the small of your back.
- Without flattening the curve in your lower back, bend your left knee and lift it into your chest. Hold your left thigh with both hands clasped near your knee. Simultaneously, anchor your right inner thigh to the mat to help keep the lumbar curve. Pushing your left thigh away from your chest can help maintain the curve as well.
- Start to straighten your left leg toward the ceiling. If it trembles or if you can’t straighten it easily, use a strap around the arch of your foot and position your leg farther away from you so you can straighten it without strain. Keep the muscles in both legs engaged and strong.
- Test your hamstring flexibility by drawing your leg closer to your chest, keeping it straight while maintaining a natural lumbar curve in your low back. If your back begins to flatten, you’ve reached your edge and should back off slightly. Hold this pose for 5 breaths, and then slowly release your left leg to the floor; repeat on the other side.
Avoid These Common Mistakes
Don’t flatten your lumbar curve or press your lower spine into the mat. Doing so reduces the stretch in your hamstrings and may cause a flattening of your lumbar spine over time, which is unhealthy for your lower back.
Don’t perform the pose with your top leg bent, which minimizes the stretch in your hamstring. Instead, move your leg away from you until you can straighten it comfortably.
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Model and teacher Amy Ippoliti aims to bring ancient wisdom to modern yogis, both on and off the mat, while sharing her passion for earth conservation. A pioneer of yoga education, she co-founded 90 Monkeys, an online and in-person school for yoga teachers. Ippoliti has been studying yoga philosophy, vinyasa, and alignment-based asana since she was 16, and she leads trainings and workshops worldwide. Learn more at amyippoliti.com and @amyippoliti.