This pose has an other world quality, as its name suggests the god Vishnu, the Sustainer, asleep on the cosmic serpent at the beginning of time. Vishnu is asleep on his raft in the primeval ocean, deep in his own subconscious. The raft is thought to be a couch (thus the reclined posture) and from Vishnu’s navel sprouts the lotus root that gives birth to all creation. The couch is the maha serpent Shesha, who like the kundalini, gives rise to all matter throughout space and time.
To the best of my knowledge, B. K. S. Iyengar so named this pose when he discovered a reclining figure in a temple in Trivandrum in South India that graphically depicted a lotus root or stalk sprouting from the navel of a reclining figure (the Lord Padmanabha, literally “Lotus Navel”).
This pose is relaxing once you practice it regularly for a month or more. It is typically one of the first poses I do after my floor sequence (SATYA) and before I do standing poses. Typically, in the beginning, the student wobbles and the downward leg fishtails all over. But practicing this pose helps will help cultivate a sense of serenity and relaxation. Like Supta Padangushtasana (reclined Big toe Pose) and Ardha Chandrasana (Half Moon Pose), this pose is recuperative for the inside leg. While side lying, the internal organs are completely supported (unless one tenses due to poor balance) and the lung, kidney, liver, stomach and spleen are nourished. It dynamically stretches the inner groins of the raised leg. In the beginning place foot of your lower leg against the wall to stabilize. Be sure that the raised leg is perpendicular to the floor and not yanked toward your head. Use a strap if need be to catch your upper leg. Sink into the hip, waist and rib that rest on the floor, for this brings the feeling of being on a couch!