Do you have a tight lower back? If your lower back isn't happy, chances are nothing in your life is happy, either. I've struggled with lower back pain. When that tightness comes on I always do lots of reclined hand-to-big-toe pose. It's a restorative yoga pose that's subtle miracle worker to release tension in the hamstrings and reset the pelvic joint which can alleviate lower back soreness tremendously. Like all things that are effective, this stretch is best done daily; preferably after you are warm.
Let's just do this one together. Hit the orange play button in the player below and I'll talk you through it. If you can't reach your big toe with your foot raised from a lying down position, grab a towel or a yoga strap.
RECLINED BIG TOE POSE * supta padangustasana I
1. Prep: If you have tight hamstrings, grab a towel or yoga belt. Lie down on the floor with your legs straight out in front of you. Bend your knee, grab it with your hands and hug it strongly into your chest. Pressing the opposite thigh into the floor strongly.
2. Loop your towel or strap around the arch of your raised foot, or grab the big toe firmly with the same hand. Inhale. Try to straighten the knee; pressing the heel up toward the ceiling. Apply gentle tension with the strap/towel. If using hand to grasp tow, gently bend the elbow. Keep your shoulder blades pressing down on the floor; widening the collar bones and pressing the back of the head gently into the floor; maintaining a cervical curve in the neck — meaning that the neck should never lie flat on the floor; lift the chin slightly – enough that you could tuck a tennis ball between your chest and chin.
3. Keeping the tension in the hamstrings, simultaneously extend out through both heels energetically. Kneecaps and quadriceps should be actively engaged.
4. Take a few deep breaths here and see if you notice that your hamstring is opening – it will be a subtle micro-movement that happens with your deep exhale. This is how you connect the breath to the body. Actively relax the hamstring; which will release the head of the high bone (the ‘ball' in the ball & socket hip joint) deeply into the pelvis which stabilizes the entire pelvis. As you do this you'll notice that the foot will come just a bit closer toward your head.
5. As you increase the stretch think about subtly lengthening the space between your hip and your shoulder. Isometrically (internally) move the hip toward the feet of the leg on the ground; lengthening your torso while stretching the hamstring. This stretch should feel good. Don't push past discomfort, but try to hold your edge while creating space in the lower back.
6. For an extra bonus; enlist a friend to give you an assist in rooting down your femur bone into your pelvic joint. Keeping your foot in the air; with the other leg still extended on the ground, have your partner stand directly in front of your raised foot. Have them place both hands on your flexed raised foot and press down with their palms strongly into your foot straight down the leg toward the ground. This should feel good. Take some deep inhales and exhales, and then have them gently release the pressure, and lower your leg down. You will absolutely love them for this!
Repeat the sequence for the opposite foot/hip.