How to Do Pistol Squat, or Toe Stand

Amber Scriven
How to Do Pistol Squat, or Toe Stand

Padangusthasana is a yoga variation of a traditional Pistol Squat. This shape has picked up a ton of different names across the globe including Toe Stand, Duck Beak, Shoot The Duck, Single Leg Squat... the list is endless!

Below you'll find some of the benefits of the pose, how to do it, and some different entries into the pose to help you along your way.

Benefits

Whatever you want to call it, this posture is great for runners and people who tend to trip a lot. It engages all the proprioceptive muscles in your legs and core, opens your ankles, and engages your concentration completely.

It helps with balance and strength, and boy, can it be a challenge!

The Basic Posture

Hovering in a squat over your heel, sit upright with your hands at heart center. Have one foot flat on the ground, the other leg extended out in front of you, with the foot flexed.

Here's some preparation you can do to get into the pose:

  • Open your hamstrings with a few long Pyramid holds.
  • Make sure your core is completely engaged with a few Boat Poses. Try rocking up from Boat to your flat feet squat a few times.
  • Prep your hip flexors by raising your leg up and down 10 times on each side in a standing straight leg raise.

Modifications

There are a lot of ways to modify your Pistol Squat.

Start from a seated position:

  • Stay on your toes, Toe Stand, for more of a balance challenge, and less of an ankle stretch (great for plantar fasciitis).
  • Wrap your extended foot in a strap for a little leverage, or use your hands to clasp that foot. This provides a yummy hamstring stretch that takes some of the weight out of your hip flexor.
  • Take the pose with your extended leg or foot on a block in front of you.
  • Use blocks under your hands on either side of you until you are comfortable balancing.
  • Try the posture leaning up against a wall.
  • You could even be sitting on a block to take some of the stress out of your thighs and help your body get used to the hip opening aspect slowly.

Various Entries

Entering this posture is often the hardest part and is key in nailing it. Here are a few ideas from seated:

  • From seated with your feet flat on the floor in front of you, use your hands on blocks to push yourself up to a two legged squat. Eventually work up to the one legged squat.
  • Try rocking up from reclined to a two legged squat with your feet flat. Over time make your way towards rocking into a one legged squat. This improves your core strength and opens your ankles.

Or try these entries from standing:

  • A Standing Split entrance is delicious. From Standing Split, bend both knees until your lifted knee squeezes into your navel. Push your hands into blocks or the floor, and come up to your standing foot (flat or on toes). Now begin lengthening your leg out in front of you (maybe it starts on the ground, maybe it stays lifted). One day you rock back onto your heel. One day you lift your chest and your hands come to heart center.
  • Take your straight leg stretch using a strap around the extended foot, or holding your big toe. Begin to slowly lower your seat until you can sit on your heel — holy mama, that’s a tough one!
  • Beginning in a Bikram’s Tree Pose, or Standing Pigeon, lower your seat towards your heel and take the Half Lotus variation of the squat on your toes or a flat foot. In Bikram Yoga this is known as Toe Stand.

Now that you are a Pistol Squatting, Duck Beak, Toe Standing pro, go ahead try it out!

This scrumptious pose is ridiculously good for you, and super impressive even in its modified formats. Have fun, yogis!