A Few Asanas
Reclining Leg Stretch Series (Supta Padangushtasana)
This Reclining Leg Stretch Series is a combination or cycle of five different poses done one after the other. You'll do the first four poses on the right side and then the left, and then you'll do the fifth pose. Of course, you can do each of these separately, but they flow together nicely like this.
I KNEE TO CHEST
1 Lie on your back with your legs bent, both feet flat on the floor. Bring the right knee toward you, clasp the knee with both hands, and gently pull it in toward your chest. This is not strenuous. Be here several breaths.
Slide the left leg straight.
Start on the center of the back of your left heel, then slide the heel away from you. Roll the left thigh inward until the kneecap faces the ceiling, spread your toes, and push outward through the ball of the foot, flowing energy outward through the leg. The leg line is now a long spiral. Press the sacrum down so there's a slight lumbar curve, pull with your hands, and flatten the shoulder blades into the floor, rounding your chest toward the ceiling. Keep your throat relaxed. Gaze into the sky, into infinity, and breathe smoothly. Be here several breaths.
Lift your head.
Pull with your arms and try to touch your nose to your knee. Be relaxed as you do this. Keep the shoulders down, away from the ears. Be here several breaths.
4 Uncurl your spine, rest your head on the floor and slide the left foot back to starting position.
II LEG PULL
1 Straighten your right leg above your head and clasp the foot with both hands. I like to insert my left thumb between the big toe and second toe and my right thumb between the little toe and ring toe. This gives me a good grip and helps spread the toes. If you cannot reach your foot, use a belt to span the gap, or clasp your ankle, calf, or thigh.
2 Press the right leg fully straight, tighten the quadriceps, and extend the heel toward the ceiling. Then spread your toes and press the ball of the big toe away from you so the leg line spirals inward slightly and is directed outward in the direction the leg is pointing. As you do this, firmly press the sacrum down into the floor and gently pull the leg toward you, flattening the shoulder blades and rounding your chest. Breathe smoothly. Wait for the sensations of stretch to diminish before proceeding. Be here several breaths.
Slide the left leg straight on the floor.
Start on the center of the back of the left heel, as before, and roll the left thigh inward until the kneecap faces the ceiling. Then spread your toes and push outward through the ball of the foot. Continue pressing the sacrum firmly down, keep moving your shoulders toward the floor so the shoulder blades flatten, and press both feet away from you as you gently pull the leg in tighter. Breathe smoothly and immerse yourself in the sensations of stretching. Be here anywhere from thirty seconds to two minutes.
III LEG TO THE SIDE
1 Take the right leg to the right. Do this by letting go with your left hand, holding the right foot with the right hand only, and taking your leg to the right as you sweep your left arm to the left. Your arms will form a single straight line.
2 The tendency here is to tip to the right in the attempt to touch the right foot to the floor. Instead, keep the sacrum pressed flat into thefloor and take the leg only as far as it will go without tipping. Do not allow the right foot to touch the floor unless you are also able to keep the sacrum flat. Prevent tipping by stretching more vigorously down the left leg, pressing the back of the left thigh down into the floor.
3 Lift your chest away from the waist, flatten the shoulder blades into the floor, rounding your chest, and press both feet away from you. Press the right foot into your right hand so the line of energy extends outward through the leg in the direction it's pointing, not backward through the knee.
4 Breathe smoothly, with feeling. Create the perfect degree of intensity, not too much, not too little. Bend your legs if this stretch is too intense. Flirt with it. Gaze into the sky. Be here anywhere from thirty seconds to two minutes.
IV SINGLE LEG RECLINING LUNGE
1 Bend your right leg and clasp the right foot with both hands again. Move the knee to the side of your chest and make the shinbone vertical, positioning the right heel directly above the right knee. Then energize the left leg, sliding the heel away from you, and press the sacrum flat. This will make the left side of your body heavy and prevent tipping.
2 Pull downward with your hands, attempting to touch the right knee to the floor. Keep your sacrum flat and the left leg energized; do not tip sideways in your attempt to touch the floor. Move your shoulders toward the floor as you pull with your hands and round your chest. If this position is difficult for you, bend your left leg and slide the foot backward until it is flat. Breathe smoothly, emphasizing the pulling action as you exhale. Be here one minute.
3 Slide the left foot backward, release the right foot, and return to starting position: both legs bent, feet flat. Pause here a few moments. Absorb what just happened. Continue breathing smoothly. Repeat Poses I-IV with the left leg. Then continue.
V TWO LEG RECLINING LUNGE
1 Catch hold of both feet, legs bent. Fold the outer edge of the right foot with the right hand and the left foot with the left hand. Spread the knees sideways so they come off the chest, and make the shinbones vertical and parallel with one another. Allow your sacrum and lower back to curl off the floor; if necessary, cat tilt in order to lie backward, then rest your upper back and head comfortably on the floor.
2 Press the sacrum firmly into the floor and pull straight down with your hands. Move your shoulders toward the floor as you pull with your hands, flattening the shoulder blades and rounding the chest toward the ceiling. This stretch can be quite strong. Relax with the intensity. Breathe smoothly. Be here one minute.
3 Release the pose. Come back to starting position: both legs bent, feet flat. Relax. Rest. Enjoy.
Benefits: Reclining Leg Stretch Series
Tremendous leg stretch and strengthener. Opens hips, adductors, strengthens abdomen. Especially if your hamstrings are tight, these stretches are some of the best. The floor supports the back as the hamstrings stretch.