If you only do one yoga pose, do this one…….

Supta Pādāṅguṣṭhāsana I and II (supine leg raise upward and sideways)

This is a great pose to do on a regular basis. There is so much to this pose.
1) it lengthens and stretches the hamstrings of the top leg
2) it works on the trunk muscles, specifically the abdominals in a stabilising action to control the movement of the leg
3) it creates an awareness of spatial directions, horizontal, vertical planes
4) using concentration and awareness one can practice paying attention on the supporting leg, the leg that is on the floor, keeping attention focussed on what is still and steady, not so much on what is moving (the top leg)….

In the beginning, if the hamstrings are stiff use a belt, later on the big toe is held with the fingers.

a) Upward
Lie with the feet pressed against a wall.. bend the right leg and loop the belt around the sole of the foot and hold each end of it separately in the 2 hands. As you hold the belt, be mindful to keep the shoulders relaxed, do not create unnecessary tension, (which has to be undone at a later point).
Straighten the right leg, by beeping the quadriceps active. Press the right thigh back, away from your trunk, as you think of bringing the foot and back of the ankle more and more over your face. Keep the right hip down and draw it away from the trunk in the direction of the left heel. The right hip has a tendency to hitch up. Press the back of the left leg to the floor. It is this leg that controls the movement of the top leg.
Keep the chest open and expanded. Breathe smoothly, evenly.
- if the back or the legs are stiff, support the raised leg against a wall, by doing the pose through a doorway.
- stay in the pose for 30 seconds to 1 minute and repeat on the other side

b) Sideways
Lie with the feet pressed against the wall, repeat the actions of the previous pose, then hold the 2 ends of the belt in the right hand. Take the right leg outward and to the side. Keep both legs straight. Note the work in the abdomen as you keep the pelvis as even as possible. Keep the left frontal hip bone down as you take the right leg out to keep the pelvis level.
Keep the shoulders relaxed and the breath even.
- stay in the poe for 30 seconds to 1 minute and repeat on the other side.

In both these poses the primary line of extension and elongation is along the inner leg, from the groin to the inner heel. To maintain the clear line of energy, keep the inner edge of the knee firm.
This stretch of the inner leg gives a sense of lightness and spaciousness to the legs. This fundamental action is applied in all standing forward extensions, as well as inversions. This is an easy place to learn this action in the legs and then apply to more difficult poses.