Correct Hand Grip in Standing Head to Knee Pose


Get a Grip - Bikram Yoga Hand Grips

Rina Asks

When doing Standing Head to Knee Pose, how do I keep my 10 fingers gripped together? I wonder if my trouble stems from weak hands/fingers or slippery, sweaty hands?

Bikram Yoga Vancouver Answers

Lisa Pelzer, owner of Bikram Yoga Vancouver, has this to say about the different hand grips for Standing Head to Knee Pose:

In the dialogue and and as a beginner, it is suggested that you interlock all 10 fingers for a strong grip so your foot does not slip out of your hands. This grip may not work for everyone, so try and uncross the thumbs. Personally, I find this more comfortable.

I have been practicing for 16 years and teaching since 1999 and I find grip #2 works better for me. Since I have been able to kick out and straighten my leg, I’ve found it easier to lower my elbows below my calf when I keep my wrists straight. I find that it puts stress on my wrists when I bend them like in hand grip #1. Keeping my wrists straight forces me to kick my heel forward and use more leg and abdominal strength to balance. This also has the advantage of preparing the body for the advanced variation of Standing Head to Knee Pose which uses only the abdominals to keep the foot up parallel to the floor. The hands are not being used whatsoever to keep the leg upright and the foot flexed.

These observations are what I have found to work best with my practice over time. They also coincide with what I have learned from senior teacher, Emmy Cleaves (Principle of Bikram Yoga HQ), who also stresses keeping the wrists straight in Standing Head to Knee to prevent repetitive strain over time. Bikram Choudhury’s book, Bikram’s Beginning Yoga Class, also includes instructions to place your thumbs on top of your foot in Standing Head to Knee. These are finer details you may want to experiment with as you get deeper into your own practice.

Option #1: Beginner Hand Grips – Fingers Fully Interlaced

Incorrect Bikram Yoga Hand GripsIncorrect Bikram Yoga Hand Grips

Option #2: Advanced Hand Grips – Wrists Straight

Instructions on Advanced Hand Grip for Standing Head to Knee Pose

First, wipe your hands dry before you pick the foot up! Do not try to interlace all 10 fingers under the foot. Interlace only your eight fingers together and place your thumbs adjacent to each other – they will not cross. To prevent your hands from slipping, press your palms against the side of foot.

Here’s the key: if you try to interlace all 10 fingers, you won’t be able to press your palms against the side of the foot, and your wrists will bend. Ideally, you want to keep your wrists straight and parallel to each other by interlocking just the fingers. If you try to interlace them to the webbing, your wrists will bend.

This will be difficult to do as a new student, but if you start with dry hands and don’t rush to kick out you will get it! Remember: this is a practice, not a race. Take your time and be deliberate in your setup and movements and precise with your form before you move on. You may need to develop more strength or flexibility in a certain area of your body before you are ready for the next step. Break down the posture step-by-step, and master each step before moving on to the next.

Correct Bikram Yoga Hand GripsCorrect Bikram Yoga Hand Grips

We’d love to do some more posts on proper hand grips in Bikram Yoga postures! Which posture do you stuggle to get a grip in?


12 Responses to Correct Hand Grip in Standing Head to Knee Pose

  1. Rama says:

    I would like to know whether it is alright to take some support of the wall while doing this pose. I am a beginner, and i have trying very hard to do this asana. And for me to interlace the fingers is absolutely not possible. I just together with my thumbs on top of the foot and my wrist straight, though I didn’t know that this also can be done, only by chance I came by this site and found that it can be done too. but you have mentioned it is advanced way of doing it, can you explain?
    Also in the forward bend after the half moon pose, I find it extremely difficult to lift my heel and place my hands under them and keep the little fingers touching, whereas i can almost reach my nose to my knees without going into all this hassle. But i keep practicing the way they instruct and demonstrate, for when I join BY class I would have to do it their way only.
    However, since I am practicing by myself in my home watching the videos with instructions, I do some times as it suits me. But i keep practicing hard to do it their way, for the instructors keep instructing like that only without giving any body any choice of doing it in another way.
    Can you also tell me whether the first breathing exercise that is done in BY class is just another way of doing Bastrika Pranayama or is it different.
    Also , the last breathing exercise is it Kapalabati, but the Kapalabati i know is done with the mouth closed, only breathing out forcefully through the nose, 3 cycles of 30 out breaths?
    Thank you.
    You can email me too, if it is not big trouble for you. My email:

  2. Lara says:

    I would love to hear tips on how to avoid bending the wrists in floor bow as a flexible student. Also, I would love to hear about safe hand grip in camel for flexible wrists and backs.

    • Trevor says:

      I’ll pass this along, Lara! I would love to see a post on these too! Learning how to keep my wrists straight in floor bow has been a bit of a struggle for me over the years, but when I actually feel that I’m doing it correctly, the whole posture changes in the best way! I’ll let you know when we post something.

  3. RY says:

    This question was asked in our seminar/workshop and it turns out interlacing all your fingers, including thumbs, is recommended. If your thumbs will not cross and if/when you are going deeper (actual head to knee) the adjustment is to press your thumbs to your index fingers (as shown in your last picture on the left).

    One of the biggest messages was: breath and proper form but don’t be concerned with what the picture(s) looks like. Also, anyone teaching to what the pictures look like is not teaching THE practice, they are teaching THEIR practice, which is overall incorrect.

    • Trevor says:

      Hey RY, we updated the post to make it clear that the priority is on keeping the wrists straight and that this comes from Lisa’s observations as well as Emmy Cleaves and Bikram’s blue book!

  4. RY says:

    * correct vs. incorrect

  5. RY says:

    I can do standing head to knee, it’s a pose I am great at (Eagle, on the other hand, not so much). Thanks for the photo of correct vs. correct grip. I guess I’m doing it the wrong way but (as someone else mentioned) that’s the way all instructors at my studio cue it! They always say to interlace the fingers and thumbs, never to have the thumbs adjacent. That’s a small tip they can give that a practitioner can apply. They’re usually really good at pointing out the adjustments/corrections you need to make during the pose.

    I do find it interesting though that your photos of the finger/thumb placement has your person seated on the floor and not in actual standing head to knee.

    I’m attending the all day Craig Villani seminar in Toronto tomorrow (April 7, 2013) so I expect to get a lot of information I will apply and refinements I can make.

  6. Juana says:

    Wow!! That makes so much more sense.

  7. Aaron says:

    I got that great tip from Lisa’s Posture Clinic. It helps a lot. It gave me more length in my arms which makes it easier to kick out.

  8. Joy says:

    The hardest part of my practice is interlacing my fingers in standing head to knee…..but I am patient..I know I can’t get to l,m,n,o,p till I master a,b,c,d,etc…..but I can’t wait to practice what you suggest here. I will take all the tips you will give!

  9. Isabel says:

    Jeez, it would be nice if they changed the dialogue then! I seem to recall it being “Interlace all ten fingers right down to the webbing and pick up the foot” or something along those lines

    • Trevor says:

      We updated the post, to make it a little clearer. We didn’t want people to think that the first hand grip was not ok, we just wanted to say that keeping the wrists straight is most important!

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