How to Do Toe Stand (Padangusthasana) in Bikram Yoga

Proper Form, Variations, and Common Mistakes

Toe Stand - Padangustasana
IAN HOOTAN/Science Photo Library/Getty Images

Targets: Hips, feet, core

Level: Advanced

Toe Stand (Padangusthasana) originated as a balancing pose in Bikram yoga but has been adopted by other yoga practices as well. While the Sanskrit name translates to Big Toe Pose, don't confuse this pose with the Ashtanga Vinyasa variation of the same name.

Benefits

Toe Stand is a great pose for improving balance and core strength and can be used to alleviate joint pain, especially in the knees. The pose opens your hips as well as strengthens your core and feet.

There aren't a lot of yoga poses that require the foot strength necessary for Toe Stand, making it a great pose for giving attention to a neglected area as well as challenging your balance.

Step-by-Step Instructions

You'll enter Toe Stand from Half Lotus Tree Pose (Ardha Padmasana Vrksasana), so make sure you're comfortable with that pose first. You may also want to do some hip stretches before getting started.

  1. Begin standing on your right leg.
  2. Inhale as you bring the top of your left foot toward your right hip. Take several breaths here to establish your balance.
  3. Exhale as you bend your right knee, anchoring your left foot on your right thigh.
  4. Inhale. When you've reached a squatting position, lift your right heel so you are up on the ball of the foot.
  5. Exhale. In your squat, be sure the heel of your right foot is centered under your body rather than off to one side.
  6. Inhale. If needed for balance, allow your fingertips to come to the floor in front of you. Engage your core muscles and, once you find your balance, lift one or both hands off the floor.
  7. Exhale and bring both hands to a prayer position in front of your chest (Anjali Mudra). Try to hold the pose for 5 deep breaths.
  8. When you're ready, release with slow, controlled movement. Inhale as you rise back to Half Lotus Tree. Breathe here for a moment and shake out both legs before repeating this on the other side.

Common Mistakes

You Haven't Mastered Tree Pose/Half Lotus

To start your yoga practice strong and continue to build, it helps to be comfortable with the foundations, like Tree Pose. That said, you don't want to rush through getting to know your standing poses. Achieving the strength, focus, and core stability you'll need to balance in Tree Pose (usually one of the first balancing poses you learn in class) comes with time. Once you've mastered it, you'll be able to get the full benefit of other standing poses.

You're Forgetting to Breathe

Your muscles require adequate oxygen to achieve top performance as well as your safety. If you forget about your breathing in yoga, you'll also miss out on other key benefits of the practice, like calming and focusing your mind.

If you find yourself holding your breath frequently, take a pause and refocus. If you're unsure about where to breath or tend to lose track, ask your yoga instructor to show you how to practice breathing awareness.

Your Alignment is Off

If you're consistently struggling to keep your balance in any standing pose, always check the position of your feet. If your feet are off from the centerline of your body, your balance will shift. Try to keep your feet as close in line with your center as you can.

Modifications and Variations

Need a Modification?

  • If your hips don't allow you to do Half Lotus, work on balancing in a squat with the heels lifted and knees together.
  • To help you find your balance and gain strength, try doing the pose with your back against a wall.
  • If you can't quite bring your foot up to your hip, let it rest against your standing leg as you work on increasing your flexibility.

Up for a Challenge?

  • Try getting in and out of the pose without letting your hands touch the floor.
  • Stay in the pose for a longer period of time. Try focusing your gaze on a single, fixed point to help maintain your balance.
  • One of the easiest ways to make Toe Stands more challenging is to simply close your eyes. This makes it much harder to maintain your balance, so you'll need to heighten your focus. To avoid injury to yourself or others should you topple over, it's best not to try this variation in a crowded studio or without someone to spot you the first time.

Safety and Precautions

As always, it's best to check with your doctor before starting or changing up a yoga routine. If you have certain conditions, injuries, or are recovering from surgery you may need to avoid standing poses that rely heavily on balance, including Toe Stand.

Skip the pose if you:

  • Have knee problems or the pose causes knee pain
  • Have low blood pressure (hypotension)
  • Have an injury to your feet, hips, legs, knees, pelvis, or ankles or have recently had surgery involving any of these areas
  • Are experiencing dizziness, lightheadedness, or balance problems

Some yoga teachers may caution students to avoid balancing poses when they haven't been sleeping well, have headaches or migraines, or aren't able to focus enough to achieve balance safely.

Try It Out

Toe Stand can be a challenging yoga pose to master, but once you do you'll really feel the benefit of improved balance and strong feet. To get the most out of the pose, try adding it to a yoga sequence with these complementary poses:

Was this page helpful?