Good Job! You set aside time to do your own practice. You’ve got your props, your hour or so, your motivation, and bam! What the heck to I do now? You say to yourself “I’m too tired for standing poses, my back, hip, shoulder (etc etc) is sore.” Stop everything, grab a strap, and do Supta Padangusthasana (reclined big toe pose).
Why would I suggest this pose? I have found in my own practice Supta Padangusthasana does many things. You are lying down, so it’s not that energy draining. You address those stiff hamstrings that were victimized by your day of sitting (or from a night of sleeping). But more than anything it is an excellent “diagnostic” pose. By doing Supta Padangusthasna in my own practice, I can tell fairly quickly what I need to work on it terms of stiffness, in terms of energy expenditure, and in terms of inward balance. Like magic, an internal guide kicks in when I am in this pose to try out things I have recently learned in class, or to get after my tightnesses from the previous yoga session.
Here is a quick “how to” for Supta Padangusthasana I:
- Lie on the floor on your back in Supta Tadasana (reclined mountain pose).
- Keeping the left leg straight, bend your right knee and place strap around ball mound of right foot.
- Press the right “big toe” mound into the strap to straighten the leg.
- Hold the belt in each hand and keep the arms straight like you are trying to reach your foot.
- If you can reach the foot, grasp the big toe with the right thumb, middle, and index fingers.
- Top leg should be straight. Arm or arms should be straight.
- Keep the bottom leg straight with toes pointed toward the ceiling. Put the left hand on the left thigh and press down if you are using one arm.
- Do one minute per side and repeat several times.
The shoulder should not travel up toward the foot, but should be rooted on the ground. If the back the neck curls up, place a folded blanket to fill the space behind the neck to the floor. The forehead should be slightly above the chin.
This is considered and “abdominal pose” and not a “forward bend” as it may appear. Therefore, when in the pose, make sure your abdomen is soft and deep. How deep? Look at Mr. Iyengar’s pose above. You can see his ribs are very pronounced from his abdomen deepness.
As I said in my previous post. The buttocks should be soft enough that the back thigh can touch the floor. You can see in the “mere mortal” pose her back thigh has plenty of light shining through.
When I first started my teacher training, my mentor took one look at my bowed legs in standing poses and gave me a never ending homework assignment to do this pose daily. It started bringing life into my forward bends.
When I was recovering from my prostate surgery a year ago. I did this pose after getting okay’d by my doctor to practice yoga. Coupled with Supta Padangusthasana II, and Supta Baddhakonasana, I feel it aided greatly in my recovery.