On Friday, I did a self-directed practice to the a mix of Glee on random. My hips, hamstrings and quads were all painfully tight, so I spent a lot of time nursuing them back to loose with various versions of this prone extended leg stretch, or Supta Padangusthasana 2 (reclining big toe pose). I used a towel around my foot (where she uses a strap in the photo) and then eventually opened up to my index finger and thumb around my big toe until they stretched.
As I have learned (both from teachers and my own practice), rooting the prone leg done is crucial to getting the full hip and hamstring opening (as well as some thigh tightening). As one yogini writes:
First, just a few points of form. Remember that the leg on the ground is just as important as the extended leg in this pose. It must stay grounded for the extended leg to, well, extend. Something must always root for something else to recoil. So, for the grounded leg, maintain tadasana in the foot by pressing out through the inner heel then draw up the inner line of the leg and soften the inner thigh down. As to the extended leg, first make sure that the hips are level, the sitz bones are in parallel alignment and the sides of the waist are even.
The focus for today with this pose is to notice the foot and knee placement of the extended leg. Is the outer edge of the extended foot parallel to the ground or is the heel farther away from the floor than the pinkie toe? Where is your knee pointing, slightly in or out? For today, practice externally rotating at the hip socket so that your knee is in line with the center of the foot and the outer edge of the foot is parallel to the floor.
I find that external rotation of the foot and the knee really makes the stretch deeper and more accessible to me. Without it, the hamstrings take the full brunt of the force and it can be a lot too much for them.
This is a good prep stretch to warm up the hamstrings.
And then move to this and hold for at least a song. Sometimes two. The long hold opens the ligaments, tendons and facia (getting a little yin in) and feels awesome after a long week.
Once you are very warm, grab the toe.
And take it as far as you can to the side WHILE keeping the prone shoulder and hip pinned to the ground. Really shove those into the ground.
If you do this first with strap or a towel, try holding it for a song or two and let those hips open (even consider adding weight).
Or try it supported against a wall (a fave of mine).
Come back again with your toes after the long hold, for a more muscular pose.
Finish with Happy Baby and enjoy your hips, legs and back!