As we mentioned in our previous blog, the second set of Tree is actually a different pose altogether, but you pick up the posture where you left off with Tree.
Toe Stand (Padangustasana in Sanskrit- you really should be fluent by now) requires patience, concentration and a strong set of knees, which as a runner, you might not possess.
Don't fret, however, you can build up to Toe Stand in stages, strengthening your knees as you go. If you've got tight hamstrings/ calves, take this pose slowly, as it requires flexibility from both sets of muscles.
Padangustasana: Step by Step
1. Set up as Tree, but find a point on the floor about three feet in front of you where you can fix your gaze, and don't avert your eyes from that point throughout the whole posture.
2. When you're in the full expression, bend at the waist, keeping your standing leg straight. It's essential your leg is locked or you could strain your knee. It doesn't matter if you're still holding your foot, you bend at the waist (keeping your back straight) until your foot feels stable, and then let your centre of gravity fall forward until you can place your hands on the floor about a foot in front of you, putting all your body weight in your hands.
3. Only when all your body weight is in your hands, and your leg is still locked, can you inhale, exhale and slowly bend your standing leg and crouch down so that your bum is either hovering just above your left heel or, if you can, actually sit your bum down on your heel. Bring your hands either side of you to stabilise yourself. Remember to keep your gaze fixed on the point you chose at the beginning of the posture.
4. If you're able to keep your abs strong, straighten up your spine, lifting your right, then your left hand into prayer pose in front of your sternum. Only if you can balance here can you lift your gaze and look at yourself in the mirror.
5. To come out of Toe Stand, bring your hands in front of you, push your body weight in to them, and reverse out of the posture the way you came in. Repeat on the other leg.
Padangustasana: The Benefits
"Toe Stand requires mental toughness," says Olga Allon, Director of Hot Bikram Yoga in London. "Fixing your gaze on one single point throughout the entire time is challenging enough.
"Trust yourself and allow your torso to hinge at the waist. It's essential you don't bend your standing knee at this point. If your knee starts to wobble, come back up and start again. This posture exposes weak knees, but also weak minds. If you don't believe you're strong enough to do this pose, just try it little by little. Trust yourself but be realistic; if your knee hurts or wobbles, don't push it.
"When you've reached the crouched stage, there's a deep stretch across your knee and up your ITB, more intense than the one you felt in Tree. Runners need that stretch, and it will deepen when you contract your abs and attempt to straighten your back. Take Toe Stand slowly, it can take years to get to the full expression, so forget about rushing it and enjoy the stretch."
Bikram specialist Olga Allon teaches at London's Hot Bikram Yoga.