“Create fluffy toes, spreading your toes into the earth" is something I constantly say to my yoga students weather they are in mountain pose (Tadasana) or Warrior II (Virabhadrasana II). Sometimes I am unsure if they truly know why it is so important to do so and I wanted to write an article about it. Here are some reasons:
↳ POSTURE: Spreading toes into the earth is fantastic for posture. Our feet are our foundations for walking, running, yoga, hiking, etc. If our foundation is tight and scrunched up, our posture will be as well.
↳MORE SPACE: Spreading the toes gives us more space (even in the lower back). In my opinion taking the little toes away from the other toes, creates space in the sacrum. Just like the NYC apartment I used to cram myself into the feet are crammed into shoes. We all love our Jimmy Choos! It is nice to take up space and feels fantastic!
↳ GROUNDEDNESS: It is nice to take off your shoes and ground into the earth, feeling connected. You get a sense of stability on and off of your yoga mat when you spread your toes and root into the earth, just like the roots of a tree. Trees that can spread their roots will grow taller and you can feel taller when you allow yourself to that space.<
↳ STRENGTH AND STABILITY: When you ground the feet properly into the earth, you may notice you can hold balance poses more easily such as Warrior III (Virabhadrasana III). You feel stable and in control of your situation when you can ground into the floor.
My students ask me how they can spread the toes. I have a few suggestions:
↳ TOE SOCKS: Wear toe socks during your practice. They not only grip the floor, but also help you to spread your toes. I even wear mine on my runs. I wear my Injinji toe socks everywhere. An added bonus is that I wear my toe socks to pedicures even in the wintertime.
↳ FOCUSED YOGA POSE: Begin your yoga practice seated, interlacing the right hand to the left foot (imagine your hand and foot are shaking hands). If your lower back is tense, stretch the other leg out in front of you with an active flexed foot and inner thigh rolling down to the earth (spread those toes too). Begin to point and flex your foot and create ankle circles in both directions. Then write your name with your toes (if your name is too short write your middle or last name). Then squeeze your toes with your hand and release a few times. Repeat on the other side.
↳ SPREAD TOES WITH PEDICURE SEPARATORS: You can practice spreading toes by using a divider between them and walking around your house, even making your chores fun. You can even use paper towel between your toes.
↳ SPREAD TOES ALL THE TIME: Focus on spreading your toes in your daily life and rooting your toes into the earth. I used to do this on NYC Subways (anything goes on the subway, I never even got strange looks). Practice spreading your toes while waiting in line at the grocery store , at your desk at work, while watching television or anywhere. Stop, drop and spread your toes J.
Stay tuned for yoga poses for the feet and yoga articles each month! Melissa Weiner is a yoga teacher, athlete, blogger, spinning instructor, water aerobics instructor, and senior fitness instructor living in Ithaca New York.