Supta Padangusthasana (Supine Foot to Head Pose) registers as 13* on Iyengar’s 60* scale of difficulty.
Often, we get so caught up in achieving a perceived “goal” within an asana that we lose sight of the other aspects of the pose. We so desperately want to touch our toes in Paschimottanasana that we’ll round our upper backs to get there. In Urdhva Prasarita Ekapadasana we’re so fixated on reaching our extended leg to the sky that we lose a stable and squared off alignment in our hips.
In Supta Padangusthasana, we often focus so much on grabbing our big toe with our hand or reaching our upward leg as close to our head as possible that we lose sight of the grounded leg’s alignment. As you move your upward leg towards your torso, notice the tendency of your grounded leg to rise away from the earth. The grounded leg lifts to compensate for tightness in the extended leg’s hamstring. So, while you may be congratulating yourself on achieving some perceived goal of reaching your leg closer to your head, you’re reducing the efficacy of the asana.
Iyengar beautifully demonstrates Supta Padangusthasana with his leg touching his head and his grounded leg rooted into the ground. Notice how in my version of this pose, my bottom leg rises away from the earth, especially at the back of my thigh.
For now, I prefer to explore Supta Padangusthasana in it’s more preparatory stage, reaching my hand around my big toe and yearning my shoulder down toward the mat. Even then I must continue to reach my grounded leg back down to the earth. When you reach for your big toe, if your bottom leg lifts off the ground, situate a strap around the ball of your extended leg’s foot and hold onto the strap instead.
Rather than viewing pieces of a pose with a goal-oriented mindset, look at the pose from all angles. Viewing the asanas as the sum of all their parts invites a more holistic approach to the practice.