- Sanskrit (Original): Pādāṅguṣṭhāsana
- Etymology: Big toe (pādāṅguṣṭha); pose (āsana)
- Fun Fact about the pose: This pose can be found flipped into many different directions – lying down on the floor, standing balancing on one leg and seated. Keep your eyes open for all the flipped variations.
- Asana Type: Forward Fold, Standing
- Main length muscle groups: Spinal muscles, hamstrings
- Main strength muscle groups: Muscles of the feet and legs (for balance)
- Vinyasa Breath: Exhale
How to Cue the Pose: Step By Step
- 1 Enter the pose from a standing position like Tadasana or Ardha Uttanasana. Take your feet hip-width (or even a bit wider) apart and distribute your body weight evenly on the feet.
- 2 Place your hands on your hips and lift your chest on an inhale.
- 3 Exhale to fold your upper body over your legs. Keep your knees gently bent while folding forward and aim to bring your belly in contact with your thighs.
- 4 Use your Peace Fingers (index and middle finger) and your thumbs to take hold of your big toes in Yogi Toe Lock. Place your Peace Fingers under the big toes and the thumbs on top or to the medial side of the big toes. Keep a fairly tight grip on your big toes.
- 5 Maintain the Yogi Toe Lock and move into a flat back position on an inhale. So you are doing Ardha Uttanasana with Padangusthasana. Lengthen your sternum (breast bone) and the crown of your head forwards.
- 6 Exhale to fold deeper into Padangusthasana (Big Toe Pose).
- 7 Very softly pull your torso closer to your legs by pulling your toes. Keep the elbows pointing out to the side, as this will provide more space for your collar bones.
- 8 Be sure to release the head, jaw and the neck completely, so that the crown of the head lowers down in the direction of the ground. This will release any tension in the neck and shoulders.
- 9 On every inhale, slowly lengthen your sternum slightly forward, so that the spine can extend a bit. Then on every exhale, release the spine downward into flexion. This will give the muscles and tissues encompassing the spine a nice stretch.
- 10 If you have the capacity in the back of your legs, you can work towards straightening your legs.
- 11 Lift out of the pose on an inhale.
Working The Details: Alignment In The Pose
- Center the weight towards gravity: Experiment with slowly shifting the weight in your feet to the front and the back. After a few rounds, try to find the center of gravity, so that the weight in the feet is distributed evenly. This will break up habitual patterns and activate new muscle groups to engage in Big Toe Pose.
- Lengthen the backline of the body: Tilt your pelvis anteriorly (meaning tilt it forward) to create a little ‘ducktail’ shape in your lumbar spine. Let the back of the heels sink more towards the ground. Gently draw your sit bones more upwards, as if you were drawing a circle with your sit bones. This will not only help you to extend and lengthen the hamstrings, but also aid the lumbar spine with extending before letting it go into flexion.
- Surrender into the pose: One of the most difficult things for practitioners in this pose is to fully surrender to the pose. Most of the time, when the pose gets a bit uncomfortable after a while (perhaps due to tight hamstrings, or because you are overly flexible and don’t seem to feel anything happening), practitioners tend to fidget, shift weight, twist a little or bend a knee. To reap all the fruits of Padangusthasana, you can imagine yourself hanging like a soft blanket over your legs. Resist the urge to fight the pose or to pull yourself down by overly engaging the hip flexors. The latter will only cause congestion and tightness in the frontal hip joint.
- Relax your toes: As Padangusthasana demands very deep work from your feet, practitioners new to the pose often tend to cramp the toes or really stiffen the big toes they are holding on to. Bring awareness into your feet and work on softening and releasing the toes. Relaxing your toes will help you to find better balance in the pose and prevent your plantar fascia from overworking.
- Soften the belly: A soft belly will help you to create more release and length in your lumbar spine. It is also a great way to direct a prana assist to the most compressed part of the posture (which is your frontal hip joint) and aid to create more space in this area.
Adapting The Pose Through Modifications
- If you feel that your back is really rounded and/or that you are pulling your torso down from your frontal hip joint, you can experiment with bending your knees more. Start with creating the pose in a way that your stomach really connects to your thighs. From here gently see how far you can straighten the legs without losing the length in the spine.
- Give your sit bones some extra height and your hamstrings some extra length by propping up your heels. To do this, simply roll up your mat or a blanket and place it under your heels. You could even use blocks to do this. Try this version also if you feel that you have most of your weight in your heels, as this will educate you to bring more weight into the front part of your feet.
- If you feel that your frontal hip joint is too tight and compressed, try placing a neatly folded blanket or towel in the crease of your hip joint. This will create a bit more space. Additionally, you can work on sending your breath into that compressed space of the frontal hip joint.
- Broaden your collar bones and create space for your chest by bending your elbows a bit to the outside. This can help you to let the chest area sink deeper into the pose.
- Give your torso an impulse to fold deeper by leaning your back against a wall. With your spine leaning into the wall, you will automatically bring more weight into the front part of your feet. This will increase the stretch in the achilles tendons and the hamstrings. The wall will also give you a point of resistance, pressing the belly and thighs closer towards each other.
Benefits of Padangusthasana
- Like all forward folds, Padangusthasana has a very deep calming and cooling effect, not only for the body, but also for the mind. This makes it a great pose when struggling with mental turmoil or when feeling overheated.
- Padangusthasana soothes the brain cells and calms down the heart rate, as the whole trunk is basically upside down.
- The pose is also said to refresh the body and the mind and relieve anxiety, headaches, insomnia and fatigue.
- Padangusthasana strengthens and tones the abdominal organs. The slightly compressed state is like a little massage, which can help to improve digestion and overall circulation in the organs.
It keeps the spine and the nerves of the spine long and flexible.
- Padangusthasana improves the flexibility of the hamstrings and the hips as it provides quite a deep stretch. This is great for people who sit a lot and often have a shortened backline of the body.
- The knees and legs build up strength and stability in this pose, as they are the main area of muscle activation.
Pose VariationsSee all Poses
Pose variations can be anything that makes the original pose easier or more simple but also anything making it more challenging or adding complexity.
Reclined Big-Toe Pose
Urdhva Mukha Paschimottanasana
Upward Facing Intense Stretch Pose
Preparatory PoseSee all Poses
Preparatory poses are poses that have a similar shape to the pose you want to prepare for but maybe in a different alignment towards gravity and/or poses that target specific body areas to warm up, stretch or strengthen in order to lead to the final pose. Include preparatory poses when you build yoga sequences.
Counter PoseSee all Poses
Counter poses serve to balance the body back into neutral after a pose or a set of same poses. E.g. symmetrical poses balancing asymmetrical poses, forward folds or twists balancing backbends, balancing challenging poses with restorative poses. Use counter poses to build sequences that feel amazing – you can use our free Sequence Builder tool to get started.
Urdhva Mukha Svanasana
I think Padangusthasana was my first encounter with the Yogi Toe Lock and I was instantly hooked. I love the loop that the body forms in Padangusthasana inviting the body to fold deeper into itself.
Content Creator at TINT | Passionate Yoga Teacher
FAQ: Common questions about this pose
First of all, don't stress about it. A well-known quote about yoga says that ‘yoga is not about touching your toes, it is about what you learn on the way down’. In my eyes this is a great guideline to approach Big Toe Pose with tight hamstrings. With gradual practice, your hamstrings will become more flexible and one day you will potentially be ready to do the Yogi Toe Lock. Until then it is fully legit to practice the normal Forward Fold (Uttanasana) instead. Here you can bring the floor closer to you by using blocks to elevate your hands.
The answer to this question depends on the energetics of the class that you are practicing and the outcome you want to achieve. In more dynamic classes like in Vinyasa yoga, the standing forward fold is mainly a transition pose. Here, you will work with the principle of one breath, one movement. If you are practicing a therapeutic yoga class or want to spend more time working on the details, the recommendation is to hold the pose around five to ten full breath cycles (one inhale and one exhale equals one full cycle of breath).
There is no general answer to this question, as it all depends on the range of motion of your own body. If you have no trouble keeping your spine long when folding over your hips, it can be a great way of working on your hamstring lengths by actively engaging your leg muscles to straighten your knees. However, if your spine becomes round, or if your hip joint feels tight, the recommendation would be to start practicing with your knees bent as much as needed, until you feel that your range of motion has increased.