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Reclined Leg Stretch (supta padangusthasana)

Reclined posture that relieves tension in your lower back.
 

Reclined Leg Stretch (or supta padangusthasana) is an excellent pose for stretching your hips, groin, hamstrings, calves and ankles. This pose can also strengthen your legs, relieve tension in your lower back and improve the circulation in your legs. You may find this pose useful to warm up your hamstrings before performing forward bends.
 
If you are a beginner, you can loop a yoga strap around your foot to perform Reclined Leg Stretch. If you do not have a yoga strap, you can use any cloth strap, such as a bathrobe belt. Make sure you do not hold the strap too tightly. You should only use the strap to support your raised leg.
 
While performing Reclined Leg Stretch, focus on pressing the hip of your raised leg into the floor and lifting your raised heel up toward the ceiling, as you visualize your raised leg lengthening.
 
If you have high blood pressure, you should rest your head on a folded blanket. Make sure you use caution performing this pose if you have problems with your hips or legs.
 
Steps:
Lie on your back with your legs flat on the floor and your feet hip width apart.
Bend your right leg and draw your knee toward your chest. Keep your left leg straight and flat on the floor.
Loop a strap around the arch of your right foot and hold an end of the strap in each hand.
Relax your arms and shoulders. Keep your head and shoulders on the floor throughout the pose.
Inhale as you straighten your right leg, lifting your heel toward the ceiling. Press your left leg into the floor.
Press your right hip into the floor and your right heel toward the ceiling. Then flex your right foot and gently stretch your toes toward your body.
(Make sure both your legs are straight, but your knees are not locked.)
Hold the pose for 30 seconds to 1 minute.
To come out of the pose, exhale as you lower your leg back to the floor, keeping your leg straight.
Repeat steps 1 to 8 for your other side.
 
Modification:
If you have lower back problems or you find it difficult to straighten your leg, you can perform Reclined Leg Stretch with one knee bent. Perform Reclined Leg Stretch, except bend your left leg and place the bottom of your left foot flat on the floor.
 
How can I vary Reclined Leg Stretch?
Perform the pose as described above, except lower your raised leg to the side until you feel a comfortable stretch in your inner thigh. Then raise your leg back up until it is perpendicular to the floor. You can also cross your raised leg to the opposite side of your body and then raise it back up until it is perpendicular to the floor. You should hold your leg in each position for an equal length of time, making sure both of your hips remain in contact with the floor. These variations strengthen your pelvis and open your hips.
 
How can I deepen the pose?
To deepen the pose, perform the pose as described above, except without a yoga strap. Instead, grip the big toe of your raised foot using the hand on the same side as your raised leg. Use your index, middle fingers and thumb to grip your big toe. This variation requires a great deal of flexibility.
 
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