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Reclining Hand-to-Big-Toe Pose I

Oh, your aching back? Or maybe you can't crack those tight hamstrings. Supta Padangusthasana I or Reclining Hand-to-Big-Toe Pose I is for you.

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Reclining Hand-to-Big-Toe Pose I basics

Sanskrit: Supta Padangusthasana (soup-TAH pod-ang-goosh-TAHS-anna)

Pose type: Supine

Targets: Lower body


Pose benefits

This pose stretches your hips, thighs, hamstrings, groins and calves.

Reclining Hand-to-Big-Toe Pose I: Step-by-step instructions

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  1. Begin in a supine Tadasana (Mountain Pose), lying on your mat with your legs together, feet flexed.
  2. Maintain the natural curves of your back. You should be able to pass your hand behind your neck and under the small of your back.
  3. Without flattening the curve in your lower back, bend your right knee and lift it toward your chest. Hold your thigh with both hands clasped near your knee. Simultaneously, anchor your left leg to the mat.
  4. Loop your big toe with the first two fingers of your right hand, and start to straighten your leg toward the ceiling. Keep the muscles in both legs engaged and strong.
  5. Depending on how flexible your hamstring is, you may be able to draw your leg closer to your chest, keeping it straight or slightly bent. Hold this pose for 5 breaths, and then slowly release your leg to the floor; repeat on the other side.

Beginner’s tip

If you are especially stiff, do this pose with the bottom-leg heel pressed against a wall. It’s also useful to position a block just outside the raised-leg hip. Then, when you swing the leg to the side, rest it on the block. The support under the thigh will help you soften the inner groin.

Photo: Andrew Clark. Clothing: Calia

Supta Padangusthasana with a strap

Use a strap to extend your reach. Bring the strap around the sole of your foot wherever comfortable. Hold the strap without straining. If you feel pain or sharp sensations around your knee, either lower your leg down closer to the floor, or slightly bend your knee. Sensations are safest when felt in the center of the back of your thigh (hamstring) or belly of the muscle, rather than in the joint.  If your extended leg does not go all the way to the ground as pictured, you can keep your knee bent.

Photo: Andrew Clark. Clothing: Calia

Supta Padangusthasana in a chair

Sit up straight in a chair with your feet on the floor hip-width apart. Loop a strap around your right foot and hold both ends in your hands. Extend your right leg straight out and use the strap to support your lifted leg.

Why we love this pose

“As a keen runner, this asana is a great way to stretch my hamstrings without feeling that it is ‘too much.’ The spine is supported, which allows me to focus more on [releasing tension in] leg muscles. It also provides a beautiful relief for the lower back and a calming effect for the mind. I enjoy sometimes practicing the variation using a strap because it is [gentler] on my hamstrings and glutes. This protects them from overstretching.” — Miriam Indries, YJ contributor

Preparatory and counter poses

Preparatory poses

Adho Mukha Svanasana (Downward-Facing Dog) 

Baddha Konasana (Bound Angle Pose)

Uttanasana (Standing Forward Bend)

Follow-up Poses

Standing poses

Forward bends