I have rekindled a fascination with the big toe. I mentioned said fascination to my friend, Tzahi Moskovitz, to which he commented, “The big toe is very smart.” Indeed. It’s accessibility allows for a focused attention whose effects permeate up through the legs. In my own practice and exploration I’ve found a direct link between my big toes and my inner thighs. My abdominal work feels more grounded, my inversions feel lighter, and my backbends feel amazing. Here are some exercises I’ve been playing with to awaken my connection to this source of power (who knew)!
Adho Mukha Svanasana (Downdog) to Urdhva Mukha Svanasana (Updog) Vinyasa
Place a block between your feet and ankles. Shorten your Downdog by an inch (or so). Ground down through the mounds of your big toes as you firm your outer shins in. Keeping your knees and elbows straight, inhale and swing your pelvis forward into Urdhva Mukha Svanasana (Updog) with your toes curled under. Root back through the base of your big toes and stretch your inner heels towards the wall behind you. Bury your tailbone between your legs and lift your sternum up! Exhale, lift your hips up and back to Adho Mukha Svanasana (Downdog). Repeat 3-5x.
Navasana (Boat Pose) to Ardha Navasana (Half Boat Pose) Vinyasa
Belt your big toes together and come to sit. Stabilize your lumbar spine by drawing the top of the sacrum in and up while you move your abdominal wall back towards your spine. Place your hands behind your thighs and lift your chest. Press your thighs forward into your hands to extend the legs. Root out through the base of your big toes as if you were wearing Louboutains (wouldn’t that just make this abdominal work so much better?) and reach your arms forward. Inhale into your upper chest. As you exhale, interlace your fingers behind your head and open your elbows wide. Begin to slowly curl your tailbone under as you simultaneously stretch forward through the big toe mounds as if you could lengthen your legs infinitely out in front of you. Work to lower your chest and your feet at the same speed and to the same level. Inhale, draw your sacrum in and up and lift back into Navasana. Repeat 3x. Work towards three repetitions within each vinyasa and repeat 3x.
Sirsasana (Headstand) with Big Toes Belted
I can’t even begin to tell you how this has changed my Headstand practice. I feel light and yet solid, as if I’ve created two foundations—my forearms and my feet—into which I can root and rebound. Getting onto all fours once you’ve belted your big toes takes a little creativity (it will surely make you chuckle)! I encourage you to come up with straight legs for those of you who can, as the memory of your work in Navasana and Ardha Navasana will illuminate your work here in Headstand. Once your up, extend through your big toe mounds and sense that you’re breaking the belt apart. Simultaneously compact your outer ankles. It’s such good work!
Chatush Padasana (Bridge Pose)
I learned this variation a few weeks ago and I’m obsessed (thank you, Carrie, for sharing this little gem). Lie on your back and place a wooden block under your sacrum on the tallest facet. Lasso your belt over your ankles and walk your hands towards your feet, straightening your arms. Externally-rotate your arms and ground your outer shoulders into the floor. Rebound your shoulder blades in and up towards your chest. Hold for a few breaths. Then, place the balls of your feet into the belt and extend your legs forward. Pull the little toe-side of your feet towards your head as you root strongly forward through the big toe mounds. Take a few breaths. This next part takes a bit of finesse but is well worth it. Working one foot at a time, thread the belt between your big toe and second toe. Press the root of those big toes forward and lengthen your entire inner leg. You will feel an opening and connection up the entire midline of your body!
Photo by Jamey Welch