The Best Leg Stretch
There are several variations of SUPTA PADANGUSTHASANA 1:
The student grips their big toe between their fingers if leg flexibility allows
In the supported version, they loop a strap around the foot.
👉🏼 WHY I PREFER USING WALL / DOOR LEDGE / COUNTER TOP TO SUPPORT THE LEG
The POSITION of the PELVIS is easily felt by the student (Did my left hip lift off the ground when I extended my leg up?)
The WEIGHT / SENSATION of the PELVIS is "quiet", as my Iyengar teacher would describe. What he meant is that there is no fidgeting, shifting around in the posture - it is held sthira sukham asanam (held with steadiness and ease)
The student is not "FIGHTING" WITH THE STRAP. What do I mean? There are several points to note:
If their leg is stiff and cannot be extended straight up at 90° to the ground, they will be holding the entire weight of the leg in the strap. This may tire the arms / shoulders after awhile, and is uncomfortable for the lower back.
To hold with 1 hand or 2? How does this affect alignment of the upper body? Am I creating tension in the shoulders?
Do I pull more? For most, the answer is YES. Pulling the foot towards the face is seen as the goal and if I'm not pulling, I'm not working hard enough.
👉🏼 HAVING THE LEG SUPPORTED AT A WALL TAKES CARE OF ALL OF THIS:
♡ The pelvis is centred, grounded and quiet.
♡ The weight of the leg is fully supported.
♡ The arms / shoulders can be relaxed (either by the sides or bent overhead).
♡ Easy to adjust the posture for different flexibility levels. If the legs are stiff, the student only needs to slide up a few inches away from the wall. The wall and floor will automatically centre the pelvis.
♡ When the body is quiet, the mind can quiet. Instead of obsessing about pulling my foot to my face, I can enjoy the stretch and b r e a t h e 💗🧘🏽♀️🙏🏼🌟
👉🏼 BONUS QUESTION: Why does the pelvis matter?
The position of the pelvis affects the LOWER BACK muscles.
Ideally in this posture, the pelvis is evenly balanced on both sides, so that the lower back muscles too are evenly balanced and relaxed. This is why Tadasana (Mountain Pose) is a foundational posture in Iyengar Yoga. We need to find our Tadasana, before we enter Supta Padangusthasana.
As you lie on the ground, can you find evenness and symmetry in the body in your supine Tadasana? Following that, can you extend your leg upward without disturbing the pelvis?
Don't take my word for it - try entering the pose in all 3 ways mentioned above and see which is easiest to maintain the integrity of your Tadasana pelvis.