Treat Your Yogi Toes with Toe Squat
If there is one pose I can always rely on to give me a sense of release, opening, comfort and challenge – it is toe squat. A simple pose. Definitely not one to overlook.
It is often the first thing I do when I lay out my mat. And I don’t even need my mat – it’s a great pose to just drop into after a hard day at work, a long night out, or simply after rolling out of bed in the morning. As I sink into this pose I naturally let out a long sigh of relief (on a good day you might hear me groan “yeah baby” in an Austin powers voice).
To enter toe squat: come to a kneeling position with the legs together. Tuck the toes under (the pinky toe might need to be manually maneuvered!). Sit the hips onto the heels and feel the weight of the body on top of the balls of the feet. To relieve discomfort in the knees you might like to place a blanket/towel/cushion under the knees or between the heels and hips or behind the knees.
It is good to hold for 2 to 3 minutes. Be wary – it can become very intense very quickly. The longest I’ve ever sat in toe squat was 5 minutes.
This pose opens the feet and toes and strengthens the ankles, while also stimulating 6 meridian lines (the Liver, Gall Bladder, Kidney, Urinary Bladder, Spleen and Stomach). Stagnant or stuck energy in these meridian lines will begin to get stirred up and we really start to really FEEL things shift in the body. The sensations can be powerful. Initially I feel an overwhelming sense of relief and then things start to get a little grittier. Bits and pieces of the internal world start to come to the surface and it can bring up anger, frustration and anxiety. Lengthening the breath helps to release these old pent up emotions. As I sit in the pose and let the waves of emotion run through me – I cultivate patience and tolerance – something I like to take with me into the outside world.
This pose releases tension in the plantar fascia – the band of tissue connecting the heels to the toes. But it gets better. The Superficial Back Line is a line of fascia that starts at the bottom of the feet and travels up the back of the body – over the calves, hamstrings, sacrum, back extension muscles, neck extensors, and the skull, finishing at the eyebrows. When there is tension in one area along this line – muscle tissue further up or down the chain will be affected. Toe squat can surprisingly help to release knee pain, lower back pain and even tension headaches.
Feeling a sense of openness in my feet initiates a sense of freedom in my practice overall. The feet set the foundation for many standing postures so toe squat can be a great pose to start with. You may notice your forward folds get deeper. When you wish to exit the pose, slowly lift the hips and gently lean forward onto the hands. Take a long exhale as the feet are released. AHHH- MAZING.
As our feet are the furthest thing away from our minds it can be a good pose to get us out of our heads and into our bodies. Often bound up in shoes all day, our feet and can be easily forgotten. Giving them some extra attention can be so beneficial to overall wellbeing. So go and treat your feet yogis.
Written for Beginner Yogi by Yoga teacher Hannah Crerar (hannahyogaandsoul.com)