Big Toe Pose (Padangusthasana)

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Big Toe Pose, Padangusthasana, (paa-daan-goo-sh-tha-suh-nuh)

pada (foot) + angustha (big toe) + asana (pose)

Also Known as: Hand to Big Toe Pose, Padangusthasana

Pose Type: Balancing, Stretching, Standing

Difficulty: Intermediate

a woman wearing black yoga clothes doing big toe pose

Generously stretch and lengthen tight hamstrings in Big Toe Pose

Big Toe Pose Fundamentals

Practice Big Toe Pose to create dynamic stretch and length in the entire body. Feel a deep release in the spine, and a generous extension in the hamstrings as you ground and expand simultaneously.

Part of the Ashtanga tradition, this pose is equal parts grounding as it is challenging and is a whole-body experience.

It will wake up tight hamstring and stiff low backs. It will open your chest and front upper body while also giving you a deep stretch in the back muscles that support the spine.

Padangusthasana asks the yogi to exert their will by keeping the chest lifted and open while finding length in the crown of the head all the way to the tip of the tailbone. You must also find integrity in the feet and legs by setting up a strong foundation.

Consider the significance the big toe plays in our yoga practice by stabilizing, activating, and balancing us.

As you bow forward, perhaps send them some gratitude for all that they do for you and feel your body unite from head to toe.

This pose might be cued right as the body is starting to warm or at the peak of your yoga class, if so remember that it is an invitation to go deeper and practice surrender in Big Toe Pose.

Big Toe Pose Benefits

  • Helps with headache pains and is great for tension relief
  • Dynamic Stretch in the hamstrings, calves, and feet
  • Alleviates gastric problems or digestion issues by massaging and toning the internal organs.
  • Created length and space in the chest and shoulders
  • Stretches the spine and hips
  • Strengthens the muscles of the back.

How To Do Big Toe Pose: Step-By-Step

How To Get There:

1. Start at the top of your mat in mountain pose with the feet hip-width apart, and press into all four corners of the feet. Bring the hands to wrap around the hips as you grow up tall through the knees and lift the heart. Draw the navel in and the shoulder blades together.

2. With integrity in the feet, hinge forward at the hips, melting the heart towards the thighs, pressing firmly into the ground. Feel the energy rise up through the arches of the feet. Keep length in the spine and a gentle bend in the knees.

3. Hug your navel into your spine and pelvic muscles up and in for a flat back. Bring your two peace fingers (index and middle finger) to wrap around the big toe. Elbows can be bent here. Wrists will come to face each other. Press your toes down against your fingers. Loop the thumb around the big toe for more stability in a yogi toe lock.

4. Bend the elbows generously and motion the torso to lift up as you keep the fingers looped around the big toes pressing down, working with opposing forces. Straighten the elbows and roll the shoulders back broadening through the chest and opening the shoulders.

5. Practice straightening the arms, your gaze can rest slightly in front of you. Careful not to crank in the neck. The spine is long as you imagine a line from the crown of your head to the tip of your tailbone. Your tail should shine up toward the sky. Stay here for 2-3 breaths.

6. Release the neck and melt the belly to the thighs and bring the gaze between the shins. Grow up tall through the knees, push energy down into the earth and lift up through the yogi toe lock without lifting off the floor. Bend the elbows generously for a deeper stretch in the neck and back.

7. Relax the neck and surrender. Stay here for 5-10 breaths maybe connecting to ujjayi or oceanic breath. Slowly release and come back to mountain pose.

an annotated image of a woman wearing black yoga clothes doing big toe pose

Tips And Tricks:

  • Keep a bend in the knees to ease into this pose and slowly straighten the knees playing with straightening one by one and in time being able to straighten both.
  • Contract your front thigh muscles to lift your kneecaps and stabilize you and be able to release in the hamstrings. 
  • If you can’t reach your toes without overly rounding your back try using a strap to slip under the ball of each foot and hold the straps.
  • Hug the pelvic muscles in towards the midline to help keep length in the spine.

Big Toe Pose Variations:

Big Toe Pose Variation: Big Toe Pose With A Strap

a woman doing forward fold pose with a strap

Bring a strap under the arches of the feet and firmly grip the straps holding them taught to open the chest and assist you in melting the chest to the shins without bending the knees and as if you were gripping the toes.

Big Toe Pose Variation: Big Toe Pose On The Floor

Padangusthasana is one of those poses that can be flip-flopped to meet you where you need to be met.

To take pressure off the legs try this pose seated on the floor on a blanket in Staff pose with the legs extended long out in front of you and a long back, creating space between the shoulders and ears. Tent the fingers to support you or use a wall to find integrity through the spine.

Inhale reach the arms up, exhale hinge your torso forward, bend in the knees if you need to, or use a strap to loop around the arches of the feet for a deeper stretch in the back and hamstrings.

Precautions & Contraindications:

Common Misalignments

Rounding or hunching in the back defeats the purpose of this pose. Practice hugging the shoulder blades together and not forcing into a bend that sacrifices form.

If you have long hamstrings it might be easier for your to bring your forehead to your shins but for short hamstrings pay attention to the degree of your fold and be careful not to crunch the neck and round in the shoulders.

Avoid cranking in the neck when opening the chest.

Shoulder, Lower Back, Knee, Or Ankle Injury:

If suffering from any low back, ankle, or knee pain we recommend skipping this pose as it will put a lot of pressure on these areas.

Related Poses

Ardha Uttanasana (Halfway Lift)

Pachimotanasana (Seated Forward Bend)

Uttanasana (Standing Forward Bend)

Preparatory Poses:

Baddha Konasana (Butterfly pose)

Utkatasana (Chair pose)

Supta Padangustasana (Reclining Hand to Big Toe Pose)

Adho Mukha Svanasana (Downward Dog)

Counter Poses:

Bitilasana Marjaiasana (Cat Cow)

Halasana (Plow Pose)

Salabasana (Locust)

Utthita Tadasana (Backbend or cactus arms in Mountain)

Natarajasana (Dancer)

yogajala break 1000 × 40 px 1

For more in-depth asana resources, check out our free Yoga Pose Library. Here you’ll find complete guides to each and every yoga asana to deepen your yoga knowledge.

Each pose page features high-quality photos, anatomy insights, tips and tricks, pose instructions and queues, asana variations, and preparatory and counter poses.

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Anna is a lifestyle writer and yoga teacher currently living in sunny San Diego, California. Her mission is to make the tools of yoga accessible to those in underrepresented communities.

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