Ultimate Guide How to Supine Hand to Big Toe Pose + Anatomy Break Down

Beginner YogaYogaYoga Pose
August 9, 2022

Pop quiz: what’s the safest way to stretch your hamstrings?

I’ll give you 3 Clues

  1. It’s not a standing pose
  2. It’s safe for those with herniated discs
  3. You can do variations of this pose standing, seated, and probably kneeling (if you’re talented 😜)

Did the blog photo give the answer away? You’re smart. You knew the answer before the clues, didn’t you? 🙌

Supine extended hand to big toe pose or Supta Utthita Hasta Padangusthasana (it’s a mouthful in any language 😅) is the safest way to stretch out the hamstrings and many other  muscles of the legs, especially for those of you with herniated discs, stenosis, or osteoporosis (more on that later).

The pose is actually 3 poses-in-one and all 3 are safe for almost EVERYONE. If you’re a budding yoga instructor, or an avid home yoga practitioner, this is one you should do regularly too. 

And to save some reading of words I’ll use “Hand to Big Toe Pose” but know (unless otherwise stated) I’m referring to the supine extended version. Got it? Good!

Hand to Big Toe Pose: Is it for me?

This pose is 3 poses in one. You have the straight forward (strictly) hamstring stretch, the abducted (out to the side) adductor stretch, and the cross-body abductor stretch.

And Hand to Big Toe Pose can literally be done in all the ways:

And as you already know, this post is about the safe version: Supine.

You can take all the principles discussed here for the supine version and apply them to the other positions. Though the stability, safety, and accessibility of the pose will change.

Who is the pose for?


Don’t do it if…

The only contraindication is if you can’t lie flat on your back for any reason. You can elevate your head, or torso, as needed to make this pose accessible for you. If you have any of the following (not an exclusive list) elevate your head/torso as needed:

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101: How to set up Supine Extended Hand to Big Toe Pose (Supta Utthita Hasta Padangusthasana)

“All the cool kids use props”


There are a lot of neurological and physiological reasons to use props to deepen your practice (I show how in the video). For hand to big toe pose a …

So, what do I need?

Optional equipment:

Don’t you want to be cool? Grab those props! And let’s get started!

Let’s Get Into It: Moving In and Out of Hand to Big Toe Pose

In previous posts like child’s pose, crow pose, and tree pose, this is the place where I tell you what the pose looks like while you’re in it. Then I go on to tell you how to *ideally* get in and out of the pose. But, since hand to big toe pose is 3 poses, I combined the two sections and move you from one to the next as if we were in class together starting with the right side.

The basics:

  1. To start lie on your back (aka supine)
  2. Have your strap (or any other props) within arm’s reach
  3. Your legs can be long on the floor, or (my preference) soles of the feet on the mat with knees pointed up at the ceiling.
  4. Position Check: For this pose we want the spine to be (and feel) long. 
    1. Tuck your pelvis under (so the low back comes towards the floor) to lengthen your lower back
    2. Walk your shoulders down the back
    3. Tuck your chin slightly to lengthen the back of your neck

Part 1 – The Medial Bit 

  1. Grab your strap
  2. Bend your right knee in towards your chest
  3. Place your strap over your right foot hold one side of the strap in the right hand and the other side in the left hand
  4. Begin to straighten your leg allowing the strap to slide through your hand so you still have tension in the strap but you’re not yanking on your leg
  5. You can close your eyes or gaze up at your leg
  6. Once your leg is straight: pause, breath: and notice what you feel
  7. If you would like to intensify the stretch, gently use the strap to pull the right leg closer towards the face
  8. Breathe and relax everything else

Important notes

Part 2 – Out to the Side 

  1. Starting where we left off above in Part 1, take both sides of the strap into your right hand.
  2. Keep a little tension on the strap
  3. Allow the right leg to move out to the right side of the body
  4. Left arm goes out to the side. Traditionally the arm is extended straight out from the shoulder. (But if that doesn’t work for you see the notes below.)
  5. Move your right hand up or down the strap into a position where your right arm and shoulder use minimal effort
  6. Feel free to keep your gaze up, turn it to the left, or turn it to the right
  7. Breathe

Important notes

Part 3 – Across the Body 

  1. Moving on from where we left off in Part 2 – lift the right leg over the body
  2. Grab both sides of the strap with the left hand
  3. Right arm goes out to the side (traditionally – straight out from the shoulder see the note below)
  4. Draw the right leg over to the left side of the body
  5. Move your left hand up or down the strap into a position where your left arm and shoulder use minimal effort
  6. Gaze can stay up, or you can turn it to the right, or turn it to the left.
  7. Breathe

Important notes

Return and the Other Side 

  1. Draw the right leg back up over the body
  2. Bend the knee
  3. Remove the strap
  4. Repeat on the other side

Important notes

Question: “do you have to do the right side first?”

Answer: “Yes and no.”

This is the most asked question during yoga teacher trainings. I live in the world of “It’s not right or wrong.” In most things, yoga-related, an argument could be made for either side. So here are my answers to that question.

Yes: The reason why you would do the right side first is because your ascending colon (the first part) is on the right side. When you do your right leg first, the movement made in the pose massages that side of the body (colon) stimulating and increasing its motility. When you move on to the left side it continues along the digestive tract moving to the descending side of the colon. This keeps everything in working digestive order.

No: Like all things yoga, doing the opposite side first helps to create new neural pathways by doing something different.

The choice is yours. There is no right or wrong here. If you are a yoga teacher and plan to do the left side first, I encourage you to tell your students WHY you are doing it that way.

4 Powerful Variations to switch up Hand to Big Toe Pose

There are a lot of variations to Extended Hand to Big Toe Pose and I haven’t even gone over the traditional version yet 😅 Since there are a lot of subtle variations, below I show you 4 big ways to change it up.

1. Mix it up: Change your position

As I mentioned at the beginning there are a few ways to do this pose the exact same way but all you have to do is change your physical position. The directions are the same, and because it falls under “variations” I’ll reiterate them here (especially if you skipped ahead 😜). A few ways to challenge yourself in the pose:

2. Traditional: Ditch the Props

Traditionally no props are used to do this pose. I intentionally used a strap in the video, AND in the description, because it’s safer for everyone. And a strap is no hindrance to even the most flexible (all they have to do is hold the strap at the foot). IF you find yourself without a strap there are a few options:

Otherwise, the instructions are the same. 

3. Supported: All the feels

There are a variety of ways to do supported hand to big toe pose. You can combine more than one of these together if it makes sense for you. Don’t forget to check out the video where I show a few of these supported options.

4. Give yourself a hand: What to do with your arms

It’s traditional to have your arms out at a “T,” but there could be a whole lotta reasons why you can’t or don’t want your arms out. The supporting arm for the extended leg doesn’t have a lot of options, but the opposite arm does. Give these a try:

Am I doing this right? What you should be Feeling in Hand to Big Toe Pose

Everyone, and every body, is different. This is a general break down of how you could feel in supine extended and to big toe pose with a strap.

Lower Body


Upper Body

Let’s Nerd Out: The Anatomical break down of Hand to Big Toe Pose 

Need a quick reference?

Here’s a shortened anatomical break down of what happens in this pose:

Muscles Worked

Theoretically, NONE. This pose is meant to be a stretch, and the supine version with a strap should be as restorative as possible. IF someone wants to intensify the stretch and is already flexible then the following muscles MAY be used:

Muscles Stretched

Why is it the safest way to stretch your hamstrings?

In supine extended hand to big toe pose with a strap, your spine is supported by the floor creating a “closed chain” movement/stretch. When the spine is stabilized, it prevents you from rounding (or arching) your spine, isolating the stretch to the hamstrings and keeping your spine safe. This is why hand to big toe pose with a strap is the safest way to stretch your hamstrings, especially for those with herniated discs, stenosis, and osteoporosis

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