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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
Why we love it: “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
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This pose stretches your hips, thighs, hamstrings, groins and calves.
Reclining Hand-to-Big-Toe Pose I: Step-by-step instructions
- Begin in a supine Tadasana (Mountain Pose) with your feet at the wall and a bolster to the outside of your right hip.
- Press your big toe mounds into the wall to encourage the neutrality of your legs.
- Take a strap with a small loop, and place the loop around the ball of your right foot.
- Press your right foot to the ceiling while using the wall to gently resist the movement with your left leg.
- Manually descend your right hip down and in toward your left foot in order to bring symmetry back to your torso.
- Hold for anywhere from a few breaths to a couple of minutes, then thread the long part of your strap behind your neck from right to left.
- Hold the end of the strap with your left hand, and straighten your left arm out to the left, palm up, to make the strap taut.
- Take an inhalation, then open your right leg out to the side for Supta Padangusthasana II (Reclining-Hand-to-Big Toe Pose II).
- Use the bolster beneath your right outer thigh and left hand on the strap to control the opening so that the stretch of your inner thigh is neither sudden nor intense.
- Keep using your left foot at the wall to gently maintain the resistance of your left thigh.
- Hold for anywhere from a few breaths to a couple of minutes, then, use an exhalation to recommit to the rootedness of your left thigh, and on an inhalation, bring your right leg back to center.
- Release, then repeat on the other side.
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.
Variation: Reclining thigh stretch 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. After taking several breaths with the foot in center above, you can bring your leg out to the side, opening your hips. Your leg may not go all the way to the ground as pictured, and that is OK. Simply bring your leg out to the side until you feel the stretching sensation shift to your inner thigh.