"Leg Up Pose", Reclining Big Toe Pose
Even though stretching tight hamstrings is important for posture as well as walking, Forward Bends can strain or cause possible injury. Tight hamstrings pull down on the sitting bones, preventing the hips from tilting forward and can strain your lower back and back of the upper legs (hamstrings).
"Leg Up Pose" is a safer method for stretching the hamstrings. It gives you more control with less strain to your back, pelvis, and hips without gravity pushing your back deeper into an uncomfortable Forward Bend.
By keeping your hips and back against the floor gravity helps stretch the hamstrings without straining your back.
You'll have more control with one leg and can continually tweak the pose with the strap while remaining comfortable in the pose as you continue lengthening the hamstrings and other muscles.
Begin by lying on your back, place a strap or belt around the sole of your right foot, more toward the ball of the foot (helps keep the foot flexed). Then straighten the leg as far as comfortable with the sole of the foot going up like your putting it on the ceiling. Have one end of the strap in each hand and let the strap slide through the hands until your upper arms are on the floor next to your body. This allows for comfort in your arms and shoulders.
You have options with the leg that is on the floor. If you notice pain or discomfort in your lower back with the bottom leg straight you'll want to bend that knee with the sole of the foot on the floor. This will release the tension in the back.
Your head should be resting comfortably on the floor or blanket. Ideally you want the chin even with or slightly below your forehead (both parallel to the floor). One thing you can do is tilt the head with the chin going toward the chest and then relax the neck allowing the head to move where it wants, this should put the head in the right position.
If the leg that's up is shaking, has pain or is uncomfortable, release the strap a little so the leg isn't so high. Don't let the leg drop to far or it will begin to strain your lower back. A better option would be to bend the knee a little to take tension off the leg and it doesn't compromise the lower back.
From this point you have a couple options. You can only work the legs by keeping them straight or you can exhale and bend the knee letting it drop toward the armpit or floor, on your inhalation straighten the leg back to the start continuing this movement.
You can hold the leg up for 20 - 30 seconds to get started and then bend and straighten the leg on each breath 5 - 8 repetitions before moving to the other leg. You can also have the leg straight up on each side first for 20 - 30 seconds to get started then go back to the first leg and bend and straighten 5 - 8 repetitions. Feel free to add time and repetitions as it works for you.
Benefits: Stretches hamstrings, groin, hips, calves and ankles. Works hands arms and shoulders. Allow yourself to continue relaxing as the hamstring is stretching.
Happy & Healthy,