Toe Stand Pose / Padangustasana
Here we are at the last posture of the standing series- Toe Stand. Sometimes fear will come up as a new student when first learning this posture. Once you realize that there is nothing to fear, progress can happen very quickly. This posture is so great for the knees and hips- especially building strength around the knees, which are one of the hardest parts of the body to strengthen. It's also pretty super for developing mental strength.
To do Toe Stand, simply start in a standing position. Find a spot four feet in front of you on the floor. Keep your focus on that one spot. Bring your foot up just like Tree pose, keep your standing leg straight, then bend forward until your hands touch the floor. It is best to have your hands a little forward of your foot so you can lean your weight into the hands. With the weight on the hands taking the pressure away from your standing knee, slowly bend your knee and sit down on your heel, balancing on your toes.
Remember that as long as you try your best you get 100% benefit: if all you can do today for Toe Stand is focus on the floor, or work on grabbing your foot, do that!
Keep focusing on that one spot on the floor. If you look in the mirror there is a greater tendency to lose your balance. Plus, you just spent the entire standing series looking in the mirror! This is a chance to practice feeling your body's position in a different way.
Once you are sitting on your heel, bring your hands back to the side of the hips. At first just bring your left hand up, keeping your balance with the right hand. Next, bring your right hand up and put your hands in prayer position. Stretch your spine towards the ceiling, still focusing on the floor with your eyes. Before you know it, you will be balancing on your toes!
When you are ready, put your hands on the floor in front of you and come up slowly, the opposite way you went down. Give yourself a nice smile in the mirror, then get ready to relax in savasana... you've earned it!
One of the best ways to learn more about the postures is to read Bikram's "Beginning Yoga Class" book. Aim to join class 3 to 5 times a week to practice what you learn, and you will definitely make your body smile.
Itzel Reduces Stress & Relieves Chronic Pain With Bikram Yoga
“Before I started Bikram yoga, my left shoulder would painfully pop every time I moved it and my hips felt unstable with sharp pains. I’m sure my aches were a result of years of bad posture during typing and simultaneously talking on the phone that I tucked under my chin. I was taking ibuprofen every other day for pain, bothered by allergies and was generally feeling like I was dragging myself through my day full of fatigue and overwhelmed.
“I showed up to my first class with full pants, a T-shirt, socks and no towel. I had no idea what it was going to be like, but I knew it was time for me to start taking better care of myself. I was at a point in my life where no matter where I looked I saw lots of chaos. I spent hours behind a desk, which left me feeling achy and stiff at the end of the day. My stress from work followed me home, and vice versa.
“I’ve been practicing at least 3 times a week since I took my very first class at BYSJ last February. I have gained flexibility, decreased stress, improved my breathing, my mood and skin health. My hip, back and shoulder pain have been so reduced that I now rarely take ibuprofen. I also rarely need to use my asthma inhaler or allergy medicine. I feel and see improvement in my posture every day.
“Some of the greatest benefits I’ve enjoyed from Bikram yoga are a regained sense of calmness and compassion toward myself and others. I don’t criticize my actions or my body like I used to- I’ve gained acceptance of my body. I have discovered determination to reach for my goals and embrace my failures as opportunities to try again. I am more confident in big crowds and getting better at initiating conversations. Another major improvement is my relationship with my teenage daughter, who visits the studio from time to time and continuously shows interest in starting Bikram yoga practice once she turns 16.
“I am indescribably thankful for the BYSJ community. I remember telling my teammates at work after my first couple of weeks of practice that I was in love with Bikram Yoga. I was looking forward to going to class, full of excitement. Bikram Yoga makes me feel good! I enjoy all the teachers and their own unique styles, and I recently joined the Karma Yoga team to continue my practice and help clean the studio.
“These days, when I find myself in a stressful situation instead of reacting and feeling overwhelmed I now can remain "nice and loose, comfortable, easy and flexible." I can "return to my breath" and just "let it go". That’s thanks to my own practice in the hot room- and thanks to Bikram yoga!”
The opening line after pranayama breathing in a Bikram's Beginning Yoga Class.
I deeply believe there is something special about the way we work together in class, each of us taking responsibility to develop our lives in a way that is completely unique to each of us. All of us working on ourselves, together. In any class, one guy struggles in cobra pose, a little bit wincing with the pressure and unique experience of healing a bad back. The brunette in the blue outfit next to him gasping for breath, struggling to break through distorted views about what it means to respect herself. The wrinkled woman behind her nurturing an achy shoulder, smiling the whole time...focused single-mindedly on using her pain as an opportunity to become stronger on the inside.
We are all human at the end of the day and every time we walk into that room, we face ourselves head- on, determined to win over our problems, change our weaknesses into our strengths, each day diligently working on ourselves so our lives come to shine like stars in the sky.
Each of us is the protagonist of our own lives and when we shine as our true selves, we become happier and more capable people for ourselves and others. We are clear and genuine so we can do our work and carry out meaningful lives with energy and enthusiasm.
Progress is important, the spirit of always advancing. We come from the earth; we are made of skin and bones, blood and guts. We all think and feel, worry and yearn. We are born and we die, we have ups and downs, we discover and learn, we expand and contract. Being human means we must always grow and seek, always we continue to learn more about ourselves and the world around us.
Like all things that grow reach for the sun, we are just the same! To stagnate is contrary to the nature of life, although it's natural to get stuck. That's why it's important to always set goals for ourselves so we can ensure that we never become deadlocked.
Several years ago, after I discovered my passion for teaching yoga, I was acutely aware of the importance of continuing to develop myself as a yoga teacher and a human being. I was asking the students in class to push their edge, to practice consistently, to trust the process, to never give up. Because we are all human beings and inherently the same, I realized that always setting the bar higher for myself was crucial to effectively encouraging the people around me to also win over themselves and really change their lives with the practice. I believed(and still do!) that the only way to truly inspire change in others was to change myself first. Everybody together, indeed!
I decided to set a goal for myself. One of my Buddhist teachers named Josei Toda once said something like, "Life is short. You can only have so many dreams in your lives...so have a really big dreams!" In the spirit of guidance like that and for the sake of challenging my life, I determined to become a yoga champion on the world stage. Setting a goal like that meant I had to take action to train, seek out teachers who could help me, and commit to living with courage, never succumbing to self-doubt, assiduously teaching myself not to indulge my fear that I am unworthy or not good enough. This has been a huge struggle for me, as the last 12 years I have single-mindedly devoted myself to changing a self-destructive and self-defeating relationship with my life into one of which I am now truly proud.
My journey sent me from Portland to Seattle, from L.A. to India, and recently I've been back in the Pacific Northwest for a year, after a three year stint in the deep south. I was able to learn from yoga champions from all over the world while in India, and learned and trained in a different yoga lineage while in the deep south. Though I let go of my dream of becoming a yoga champion while down south, as it turned out, the dream was waiting for me here when I returned. A good friend encouraged me to compete in the Washington Yoga Asana Regional Championship last November. Honestly I was terrified and exhausted, in transition, still experiencing huge bouts of anxiety from the struggles and experiences of the last several years. The choice to compete meant stretching my mind and mustering a lot of courage in the face of a storm of personal demons and the last thing I felt was prepared. But I did it anyway.
I nailed the routine. I was stunned.
My life was there when I needed it...the courage, strength, the power to stand alone and not give way to my small self...my life was there for me during those three minutes on stage. My life was there for me...just like it's always been.
Despite what the fear says, we can definitely win.
I took second place at Washington State Regionals. I didn't win first place in the competition and simultaneously that was one of the biggest personal victories of my life. Because I chose to win over my small self and move forward in the direction of healing and empowerment. I chose to move beyond the anxiety and fear that once had a strong hold on me. It impacted my choices and the way I showed up with my friends and peers. Having a goal that truly challenged my life was a way to fix my gaze on overcoming the limitations I created that were causing me suffering.
Whether it's modifying your body to fit the posture to achieve a particular asana, or partaking in a yoga competition, we have to choose something to go for so we can activate our lives, always moving forward and expanding our lives no matter what happens.
This was my experience with yoga competition. It won't be yours.
Your life is completely different! Each person comes equipped with exactly what he or she needs to do whatever they wish to do. The lessons, struggles, and the desires in our hearts are totally unique to each one of us. But the beautiful part and the common bond is our shared humanity. Please feel free to chat me up before or after class if the idea of yoga competition sparks your interest. Listen to that voice! If you want to advance in your practice, to open your life to deeper self-knowledge, or if you just want to polish your Hatha yoga practice, the yoga competition will enable you to advance in a way that is unique to you. You don't have to be a super-star super yogi with a fancy practice. A yoga "competition" is for individuals encouraging and supporting one another, together striving towards a common goal to each advance in our own lives.
If you're scared to do it, definitely come talk to me! We'll start training on September 9th.
Have a great week, Everybody!
By the time we arrive at Tree Pose, we are already beginning to slow the heart rate down after the challenging standing series. This posture is excellent for improving balance and flexibility of the hip, knee and ankle joints.
Be sure to pick your foot all the way up so your heel is touching your yoga costume (if you wear longer shorts, imagine you are wearing a little tiny Speedo, or awesome tiger shorts like Orlo's- that's how high up your foot should be!)
At first, or for a while, you may have to hold your foot up with one hand so it does not slip. Your knee may have come up and forward a lot when you picked up your foot- now all you have to do is begin slowly pushing the knee down and back, so that eventually you have two knees in one line from the side.
Bring one hand up to the center of your chest, then the other. Don't discourage if your foot slips when you let go! Just keep holding it for now. When your ankles, knees and hip joints open more, the foot will more easily remain on your hip by itself.
This posture will help you prepare for the next posture, Toe Stand pose, by opening up the hips and strengthening your powers of concentration and balance. It also releases strengthens the internal oblique muscles which helps relieve back pain and prevent hernia.
One of the best ways to learn more about the postures is to read Bikram's "Beginning Yoga Class" book. Attend class 3 to 5 times weekly to put your learning into action and make your body smile!
Bikram Yoga St. Johns' studio owner, yoga-doer and life-lover, Kay D.