How to Do Big Toe Pose in Yoga (Guide to Padangusthasana)

Big toe pose is one of those asanas that looks deceivingly simple when, in fact, it can be incredibly uncomfortable if you haven’t prepared the right muscles.

For this pose, you’ll need a strong breath-body connection, lots of flexibility in your hamstrings, and a whole lot of balance! If hanging your head upside-down is a new sensation for you, we recommend starting slowly and with more support in this pose, as mentioned in our variation at the end of this post.

“This mild inversion can be a wonderfully restorative pose that takes a bit of practice to feel comfortable in,” says Yoga Answered contributor Keira Shepherd. “Before you move into this pose, spend some time warming up your hamstrings!”

Big Toe Pose Quick Look

Sanskrit Name: Padangusthasana
Pose Type: Forward Bend Yoga Poses, Standing Yoga Poses
Difficulty Level: Intermediate pose
Targets: Hamstrings, back body
Benefits: Relieves anxiety and stress and provides a deep stretch down the spine and to the feet.
Preparatory Poses: Reclining Hand-to-Big-Toe Pose, Downward-Facing Dog Pose, Standing Forward Bend Pose, Seated Forward Bend Pose

How to Do Big Toe Pose Step-By-Step

  1. Stand on your mat with your feet hip-width apart.
  2. Inhale to reach your arms tall.
  3. Exhale to hinge from the hips as you draw your belly towards your thighs and your hands towards the ground.
  4. Loop your first two fingers around your big toes.
  5. Release your shoulders and let your head hang heavy.
  6. Let your elbows fall out to the sides.
  7. Experiment with bringing more weight into the balls of your feet and away from your heels.

Beginner’s Tip

Though this pose looks straightforward, it requires an incredible amount of flexibility in the hamstrings – something that even the most experienced of yogis have to work on every day! Don’t rush into this pose without preparing your hamstrings.

When you practice, make sure that you are experiencing a stretching sensation in the “belly” of the hamstring muscle as opposed to at the top or bottom of the muscle. There is such a thing as overstretching your hamstrings, and we wouldn’t wish that on anyone!

Contraindications

  • If you feel any pain behind the knees or at the top of the hamstrings where the muscles attach to your sit bones, bend the knees slightly – this will reduce the stretch.
  • Avoid or take extra care if you’ve had a recent injury to the hips, pelvis, spine, ankles, neck, or shoulders.
  • Take care when practicing this pose if you suffer from migraines, high blood pressure, or epilepsy.

Variation

To work your way towards big toe pose, bring your hands to rest in front of your toes on two yoga blocks. In time, and as you become more flexible, you can reduce the height of the blocks, eventually bringing your hands to touch the floor and then into big toe pose.

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