3 simple ways to reach big toe pose
Teaching yoga slipped into my life through the subconscious, through dreams. I was teaching in dreams before I was teaching in waking life, and that seems fitting. As a teacher, I believe I am effective only when I am out of my own way and recognize myself as the conduit for shared experience, a cosmic energy, and information that has been delicately handed down and ardently protected throughout thousands of years.
Ubhaya padangusthasana | big toe pose
Ubhaya Padangusthasana, or ‘Big Toe Pose”, (because let’s face it, it’s a bit of a mouthful) can be reached in 3 very simple yet effective ways. The shape of ubhaya padangusthasana is, to me, an organic embodiment of the yogic journey toward light, bliss, samadhi. With the face and feet lifting in the same direction, reaching toward the sun like a flower, the feeling is noble and forthright yet humble. Wrapping my fingers around my toes awakens both the animal and child spirit, and the excitement of holding the balance or risking a backward summersault is always exhilarating and comical.
Strengthening of the abdominals, lengthening the hamstrings, opening of the chest and shoulders and toning the internal organs are some of the benefits of ubhaya padangusthasana, not to mention learning to balance! Ubhaya padangustasana is like a shot of hope to the nervous system and once one is able to truly breathe in the pose, the stira (steadiness) and sukha (joy/ease) that are at the heart of the asana fill the yogi with a fragrance as delicious as the sweetest flower.
Here are 3 different ways Ubhaya padangusthasana can be realized.
1. Begin in paschimottanasa (seated forward fold) and grab hold of the big toes with “yogi toelock,” then bend the knees. Rock back on the sitz bones, firming the belly. Maintain a lift in the chest. and extend the legs skyward. It is important to keep the chest lifted and not allow the upper back to round, or you will find yourself flat on your back lickety split.
2. If you do end up rolling over, you can simply enter the pose from another direction by continuing all the way back to halasana (plough) and with the momentum of an inhale, engaging the core, rock up to the sitz bones, quickly tone the abdomen on an exhale (what I call belly brakes) and extend the legs.
3. A third way is to begin in baddha konasana (butterfly or cobbler’s pose). Hold the toes in yogi toelock, rock back with a lifted sternum and stretch the legs up. A steady drishti gaze up past the toes helps to maintain balance. Once there, savor the pose for 30-60 seconds. A beautiful variation is then to bend the knees and slip the arms under the back of the knees, bringing the fingers into jnana mudra, flexing the toes and truly embodying the spirit of a blossoming flower.
We are all at our most authentic and most powerful when we embrace ourselves completely as the miracle we are, without needing to claim credit for the miracle. A flower only needs to be seen, held and smelled to be appreciated. It needs only to be itself to be recognized as extraordinary. I consider it the greatest blessing and gift to be part of any process that gives human beings a glimpse of their potential and then a tangible path to reveal it.
Have fun practicing ubhaya padangusthasana!
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