Padangushthasana, also known as "Big Toe Pose," relieves tension all the way from the calf muscles, the back of the thighs, the hamstrings and up into the lower back as well. This pose is an excellent preparation for more advanced forward bends.
(Pronounced as "PAAD-AANG-goosh-TAAH-sanna")
Pada means "foot," and angushtha means "big toe." Hence, the pose is literally to stand on your feet and hold your big toes.
Stand up straight and put your feet about one foot length apart. The outside edges of your feet should be straight so that your feet are perfectly parallel to each other, and you can turn the toes slightly in. Now squeeze your thigh muscles to pull them up from your kneecaps, and you need to keep your thigh muscles active for the entire duration of this pose.
Inhale, then exhale as you bend down over your straightened legs and grab your big toes. Grip your toes tightly by placing your index fingers and middle fingers underneath your big toes and then wrapping your thumbs around the tops of your toes. Press the weight of your toes down onto your fingers.
Now without releasing your grip on your toes, straighten your arms and bring your head up to look straight ahead. While lifting your head, push your pelvis slightly back as you pull your chest forward. Extend your whole back straight. Let your stomach drop down as you gently arch your lower back.
Lift up the top of your chest sternum high enough so that your chest can expand fully as you keep breathing. Lift your head up, but do not lift it up so much that you push it back and compress your neck. Breathe in a relaxed way, and don't tense your forehead.
Expand your chest even more by opening your shoulders, rotating them away from each other. On each inhalation, pull your chest forward and elongate your spine. On each exhalation, let your belly drop down further and make your lower back more concave until it feels like you can touch your upper thighs with your belly.
Now with one long exhalation, bend forward and down from your pelvis. First your belly will begin to press against your thighs, then your chest comes down, and your head comes down last. This order is important so that you reach the full extension from your lower back. Let your elbows bend outward from your sides as you pull your toes.
If you have the flexibility to go deeper into the stretch, then pull your forehead against your shins. Otherwise, just hold the stretch while keeping your back as straight as you can. Do not force yourself to stretch more if your back is hunching because that means that your hamstrings are not getting the full benefit of the pose.
Remain in the pose for up to one minute. Then on a deep inhalation, keep your thigh muscles engaged and knees straight as you roll up your lower back first, then your middle back, then your chest and finally raise your head last.
Do not practice this pose if you have neck injuries, a recent back injury or inflammation in your lower back. Women who are menstruating should also refrain from doing this posture.
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