“I can’t do yoga because I can’t even touch my toes”.
This is one of the most common reasons why people don’t practice yoga. BUT you don’t practice yoga because you can touch your toes. You practice yoga so you can touch your toes.
Toe touching is important because bending forward is a common movement in everyday life. If you can touch your toes without pain or injury on the yoga mat, it means that when you bend over to put on your shoes or pick up that £5 note you dropped on the floor, you won’t pull a muscle or do your back in.
Why can’t I touch my toes?
If you struggle to touch your toes it will be because of at least one of the following reasons:
- tight hamstrings
- tight lower back
- tight calves
- weak abdominals
- tight nerves (often due to stress or overtraining)
How do I touch my toes?
In the same way it takes time to build strength, you need to be patient when it comes to building flexibility. Use the Yoga Gym video tutorial below and follow these five tips:
1. When you’re in a forward bend make sure you keep your spine long to protect your lower back. It is better to take hold of your knees with a long spine than strain to reach for your toes with a rounded back. Start off by a) reaching for your shins, then b) take hold of your toes, and then as your body begins to open see if you can c) step on your palms.
2. Engage your abdominals (imagine drawing your belly button to your spine) to help release any tightness in your lower back through a process known as a reciprocal inhibition. This works by the contraction of muscles one side of a joint causing the muscles on the other side of the joint to loosen and lengthen.
3. Pull up on your quadriceps to straighten your legs and lengthen your hamstrings through reciprocal inhibition.
4. Contract your biceps to pull yourself deeper into the pose.
5. Relax and take a break from strenuous exercise. If you get a shooting pain down the back of your neck and your spine every time you fold forwards or reach for your toes, it’s a neural response which is common when your body is stressed, tense or fatigues. Focus on breathing exercises and relaxations to take your body out of fight-or-flight mode and allow your nervous system to relax.