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Spread the Joy

Yoga toes: It's never too late to learn to spread our toes. We have muscles in our feet that are designed to spread the toes just as the muscles in our hands spread the fingers. If your toes stay glued together no matter how much you try to spread them, the muscles are probably atrophied from lack of use, and the toes themselves may have lost flexibility.

Sitting barefoot, in any way you find comfortable, put the palm of your right hand onto the sole of your left foot. Insert your fingers between the toes. (The ends of the fingers are narrower and will give a gentler stretch than the bases of the fingers.) Bending your fingers onto the tops of your feet, gently squeeze your foot as if it were a sponge, then squeeze your fingers with your toes in the same way. Repeat for a minute or two, then remove your fingers and try spreading your toes again.

Have patience, even if you don't notice a big difference immediately. Over time, this exercise will begin to wake up your toes. Try massaging in this way as you wait for class to begin, your toes will loosen up; your muscle control over plantar flexion, dorsiflexion, supination, and pronation will improve; and your feet will become part of the healthy whole that is a yoga pose. Yoga toes or "flointing:" In class, we point the foot and spread the toes every time the foot is lifted off the ground.