March 7, 2014

Toe-Ga: Yoga For Our Toes. ~ Eliza Whiteman

Erika Mastny running

Spring is just around the corner and that means that everyone is anxious to dust off their running shoes and hit the road.

Our feet take a beating from our workouts and can wreak havoc on our lower body and posture. Our feet do all the work supporting and balancing our bodies while rarely getting any appreciation or love.

Irregular pronation, either overpronation where the foot rolls inward or underpronation where the foot rolls the weight to the outside edge, may lead to problems in the ankles, hips and low back. Even the slightest over or under pronation can lead to gait and posture misalignments. Using yoga to keep our feet strong and flexible is a great way to stay ahead of any problems down the road. Enter yoga for your toes and feet

Toe yoga works by lifting and flexing specific toes, which correlates to a part of the foot either to stretch or strengthen and can be incorporated into all yoga classes. Everyone can reap the benefits especially pre/postnatal women, runners and those in physical therapy (coming back from a leg, foot, hip injury). 

 Eliza B Whiteman Image 1

Foot and ankle circulation: From a seated position, bend your left knee up and then cross your right ankle to the top of the left knee, this is a gentle hip opener so take a moment here. Interlace your fingers and toes and rotate the ankles around, this helps to loosen the ankle and promote circulation. You can also do a little foot rub to squeeze and massage the foot up through the shins (more-so in prenatal yoga where fluid retention is common). Release and repeat on the other side.

 Eliza B Whiteman Image 2

The arch of the foot: Bend the knees and pull your feet in closely then shake the feet and toes out. Next lift all 10 toes and spread them out as wide as you can, try to keep the toes lifted and spread while pressing the big toe down to the mat (yes, use your fingers to help out until you get the hang of it). See if you can lift and lower just the big toe about five times then shake it out. This promotes a strong arch and helps prevent the collapsing of the instep or overpronation.

 Eliza B Whiteman Image 3

The outside of the foot/shin: Again, lift and spread the toes but this time press the pinky toe down to the mat (use the fingers as needed). See if you can lift and lower just the pinky toes about five times. This helps tone and strengthen the outside of the feet and shins; it will also assist in rotating the knees to the outside and help prevent them from buckling in. 

 Eliza B Whiteman Image 4

The ball of the foot: It’s the grand finale! Once again, lift and spread the toes. This time both big toe and the pinky toe presses down (definitely use those fingers to help out) while the three middle toes are still lifted up. There is too much going on to pulse up and down so just hold for five breaths. This is great for toning up the ball of the foot— where we stabilize and find balance.

Eliza B Whiteman Image 4

Toe scrunches: This can be done while seated or even standing. You can ripple your mat or use a towel so your toes have something to grab on, scrunch and lift your toes up and then back down about 10 times. This is a great toe and foot workout to top off all of the other work we just completed.

For a bigger challenge, try doing all of these standing. Another challenge is trying to lift and pulse either the big toe or the pinky toe while in Warrior I or II. Just like with anything in yoga it takes practice to get the hang of it. You will come away with a new appreciation of your feet and they, in return, will pay you back toe-fold (pun intended).


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Editorial Assistant: Lauryn DeGrado/Editor: Catherine Monkman

Photos: elephant archives, Courtesy of author

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