Playing with Padangustasana, Toe Stand
Often photographed and shown on magazine covers and social media profiles alike, Toe Stand is a hallmark posture of the Bikram series. Some of it's popularity comes from how impressive it looks, but surely some also comes from the fact that it takes a long yoga path (and a LOT of patience) for most people to be able to come into the full expression of the posture.
The final posture in the standing series, Toe Stand looks like an impossible feat of hip flexibility to some yogis, but there are many stages of the posture and everyone can do some part of it - even if it is going back into the previous posture, Tree Pose. Like Tree Pose, Toe Stand improves posture and balance and the flexibility of the ankles, knees, and hips. One of the most important things to know about Tree Pose and Toe Stand is that if you try too hard, you aren't doing it right (and you can risk injury to the knee!).
Coming out of Tree Pose, you are already in position for Toe Stand. The first step is to shift your eyes to the floor four feet in front of you. If you know that your hip or hamstring flexibility limits you in Toe Stand, come back to Tree Pose, but shift your eyes to four feet in front of you on the floor anyway. The first step is to keep your eyes focused on where you want to go - and in Toe Stand, you want to eventually go down.
The next step is to begin to bring your upper body forward. For some people, this step will result in coming all the way forward to place the hands on the floor in front of the feet. For others, it might look like holding the raised foot while beginning to bend forward at the waist - and here is where patience is a yoga-posture virtue!
Once you can put your hands on the floor, bring the weight forward into your hands and bring your hips to your down heel. The work from here to the full expression of the posture takes a lot of experimentation for most yogis because it requires that the muscles in your foot, hip, lower core, and full spine work together to allow you to balance and lift your weight up toward the ceiling. The very, very last step is to bring your eyes up to the mirror.
Although Toe Stand has much in common with the other Bikram postures in that it requires the body and mind to work very closely together, it also benefits from something else: a sense of play. If you're too serious, it makes it harder - but if you bring a light, playful mindset to the balancing work, your body will more quickly figure out how to do all these difficult things at once and suddenly, you'll be looking at yourself in the mirror in a sweet, balanced Toe Stand.