Supta padangusthasana, which is also known as Supine hand to big toe pose, is an excellent pose to lengthen the hamstrings, open the hips, and challenge core strength. As with many yoga poses, the simplistic looks are deceiving.
To reach a leg toward the ceiling requires quite a bit of core strength, and to keep the pelvis from rocking as the leg opens to the side requires even more work. The first time I did this pose, it felt like a surprise party. I started the pose, things were going well, I started to wobble, and it felt like my core muscles all hopped out and yelled, “Surprise!”
If you have tight hamstrings, have a yoga strap, belt, or some other item that you can loop around the arch of your foot nearby. When you reach the sole of your foot toward the ceiling, if you find that your upper body wants to lift with your foot, grab your strap and get your upper body back in neutral on the mat.
Before practicing this pose, I recommend warming up with Knee to chest pose. This loosens up the hips.
- Use ujjayi breathing.
- Begin on your back with your knees bent, heels in line with your SITs bones.
- Engage your abdominals, drawing your belly button to your spine.
- Press into your feet to slightly lift your hips. Lengthen your spine and lower it, one vertebrae at a time, onto the mat. Your low back should feel lengthened against the mat.
- Lift your right knee toward your chest. Take a moment to hug it toward your chest.
- Reach your right hand on the inside of your right thigh. With your pointer and middle fingers, grab your big toe. Use your thumb to close the loop.
- Double check that your abdominals are still engaged, and slide your left leg straight along the mat. Make sure that your foot is flexed. Press the back of your heel firmly into the mat once your leg is straight.
- Again, check your abdominal engagement. Then, reach through the middle of the right foot as you extend your right leg and press your right foot toward the ceiling. If your hamstrings are tight, use a strap around the arch of your foot. This way, you will still be able to keep your upper body in neutral.
- Hold and breathe. You can hold for 5-8 breaths. As you breathe, think about lengthening and softening.
- If you want to do the Supta Padangusthasana Variation (see the directions below), do it here.
- To come out of the pose, bend your right leg and return to starting position. Bend your left leg and return to starting position.
- Now, do the other side. Follow all of the above steps, reaching the left leg toward the ceiling instead of along the floor.
Supta Padangusthasana Variation
You completed steps 1-9 for Supta padangusthasana.
- Your right leg is reaching toward the ceiling and your left leg is straight along the floor, reaching for the wall.
- Rotate your right leg open from your right hip. This will turn your right kneecap away from your body.
- Check back in with your abdominals. Then, lower your right leg to the side. Don’t let the leg go so far that your left hip lifts. Instead, keep your abdominals working to make sure that your pelvis stays balanced throughout the pose.
- To finish, engage your core and bring your leg back to center. From the hip, rotate the leg back to center.
- Follow steps 11 and 12 (listed above) to completely come out of this pose.
Supta Padangusthasana Video
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Here is a video for visual learners.
Can you think of any other surprising core exercises? Let us know in the comments below.