Poses I Love to Hate: Standing Hand to Big Toe

Okay, so I secretly love to hate pretty much all standing balances. Basically, I am not inherently graceful, and standing balances — as opposed to, say, arm balances — offer a long and spectacular way to fall.

That said, standing balances are a good way (or a variety of good ways, since there are a lot of them) to practice activating and lifting the pelvic floor and other core muscles.

All that said, working on consciously aligning the pelvis and pelvic floor muscles has helped to stabilize my standing balances a lot (though not unshakably), much as I love and hate to say it. Love it because it’s awesome to be less fearful of falling on my ass and/or into the person next to me. (The latter is actually a bigger source of apprehension and embarrassment.) Hate because now there’s just one less excuse to shy away from standing balances. I still haven’t edged over into not hating them, in case you couldn’t tell.

Anyway, the standing hand to big toe series, with excellent detailed instruction:

[Video featuring Fiji McAlpine of doyogawithme via YouTube.]

Some tips that have helped me in the sequence:

  1. It’s okay not to do the whole thing. In fact, it’s okay to start with just the knee lifted in front, to stay that way as long as you want, and to progress as quickly or gradually as works for you. On a related note, it may make sense to keep the knee bent while bringing the leg to the side even if the leg is extended when it’s in front.
  2. In terms of keeping my pelvis on a neutral tilt (which helps to keep the pelvic floor lifted), I find it helpful to place one hand — not the hand that would grasp the big toe or the knee — on my sacrum. Since my natural tendency is to arch my lower back, sending my pelvis into an anterior tilt, it’s much easier for me to feel what = neutral with my hand than it is to feel it directly in my spine and pelvis.
  3. Visualizing drawing into the midline — thinking about hip point connecting to hip point and front ribs and navel connecting to spine — isn’t perfect, but it can help.
  4. Know what can also help? Using a wall or chair for balance, particularly for getting used to how a particular expression of the pose should feel for you — and then gradually peeling fingertips away for the lightest touch that still works for you.

For me, a lot of these tips also apply to other standing balances. I think. But bear in mind, this is coming from a person who considers it a modern day miracle when she doesn’t topple forward or sideways in warrior 3 or any other balance pose. So I still think one of the most helpful tips here is to say: Falling is normal. It means you’re stepping outside of your comfort zone. When you don’t fall in one expression or one pose, that means it’s time to try falling in another.


I'm here. I like stuff. Some other stuff, I like less.

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Posted in asana, balancing

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