Big Toe Pose, or Padangusthasana, is a forward fold, and a spine and shoulder stretch all in one. It is named after its signature move of grasping the big toes with the thumbs, index, and middle fingers. It is beneficial to both beginners and advanced yoga practitioners, stretching the entire body, especially the hamstring and calf muscles.
Big Toe Pose has many benefits, including stimulating the digestive and reproductive systems, strengthening the thigh muscles, and providing an accessible inversion that can calm the mind and reduce headaches. The pose utilizes gravity to invert the upper body gently, release tension, and then adds the challenge of grasping the big toes with the fingers to anchor you into a deep, invigorating fold.
Break down this pose step-by-step by listening to your body, stretching the correct areas, and practicing a little bit each day. You will be touching your big toes in no time.
Poses to Prepare for Big Toe Pose
Getting into Big Toe Pose requires your body to be warmed up and ready to bend. Do a few rounds of your favorite Sun Salutations, and try out these additional poses to prepare the body.
Adho Mukha Svanasana is a gentle inversion that also stretches the hamstrings, calves, and shoulders. Find stability here to warm up the body for deeper folds.
Box on the Wall
Find a wall or structure that can support your weight without moving. Press your palms into the wall and begin to walk the feet back, eventually placing the hands, shoulders, and hip in one line. Keep the feet hip-width distance apart, and under the hips to form a 90-degree angle.
Press away from the wall, while simultaneously straightening the legs and pushing the hips back. This move gently stretches the hamstrings as well as the shoulders, preparing you for Big Toe Pose.
Uttanasana is your first step toward entering Big Toe Pose. Once you feel comfortable here, you just need to add the big toe grab and deepen the fold.
Ardha Uttanasana is halfway to Big Toe Pose, and is a great place to explore your hamstring flexibility. Adjust the hands to rest on the thighs, calves, ankles, or feet, and be mindful of what feels good to you.
Seated Forward Bend
Paschimottanasana is essentially the seated version of Big Toe Pose. It allows you to stretch and explore the hamstrings while bringing your hands to your feet—all while seated on the floor. Work toward gripping the toe by reaching the hands out and toward the feet. Place the hands on the soles of the feet, or work your way up to grasp the big toes with your thumbs and first two fingers.
Wide-Legged Forward Bend
This posture not only stretches the hamstrings, it also works on your hip flexibility. Start by placing the hands on the hips and take it a step further by bringing the palms to the ground.
Finally, grab the big toes with your thumbs, middle, and pointer fingers. Bend the elbows and pull them outward, folding forward.
Tips to Break Down Big Toe Pose
1. Go Slow and Be Consistent
Flexibility in the hamstrings is a key to getting into the pose and maintaining good alignment, but it’s important to note that this takes time to develop. To avoid an injury, it is imperative to start slow and build up only as much as your body allows.
It’s also important to be consistent. Stretching the hamstrings and the rest of the lower body each day will prepare and help you to enter various poses over time.
2. Extend the Arms with a Strap
Some of us are blessed with short legs and long arms, allowing Big Toe Pose to occur without much strain. Tight hamstrings and short arms and long legs, however, require you to be creative.
Place a strap under your feet, allowing for an even amount of slack on each side. As you fold forward, begin to grasp the strap with the thumbs, pointer, and index fingers, just like Big Toe pose. Allow the elbows to come out, deepening the bend and moving you closer to touch your big toes.
3. Explore What Feels Good by Bending and Straightening the Elbows
If you struggle to enter the pose, find gentle movement to allow the hamstrings to acclimate. In the fold, bend the elbows and grasp the big toes. Then, straighten the elbows, similar to a forward fold. Try this flow for a few minutes, loosening the hamstrings and breathing deeply to stay relaxed.
Once you are able to access Big Toe Pose, your body and mind will be able to enter other poses that require flexibility in the hamstrings. Always listen to your body, adjust to your needs, and work toward folding forward and touching the toes one day at a time.
Image credit: Alissa