We have a tendency to forget about our feet. Unless we stub our toes or wear uncomfortable shoes, we don't really give much thought to them. Let's bring some attention to them and work on keeping them flexible and active.
Here are some simple exercises to keep our toes moving and strong.
Stand in Tadasana (Mountain Pose) either on a mat or on a non-carpeted floor, legs straight, with your big toes just slightly separated, arms alongside your body with hands about 3 or 4 inches away from you, palms turned in. Scoop your tailbone under and roll your shoulders back bringing your shoulder blades down your back towards your waist. Continuing to stand in Tadasana while you try the following:
- Lift up all your toes, and try to place them back on the ground one at a time, starting with both pinky toes at the same time and lowering your toes one by one until you get to the big toes. It's not as easy as it sounds, is it?
- Next, lift up all of your toes except for the big toes. Keep the big toes pressing into the ground. Lower all of your toes one at a time.
- Now lift up only the big toes, leaving all the other toes on the ground. Lower your big toes.
If you find the above practice difficult, a bit challenging, or your movements stiff, give it time. Maybe you are finding yourself struggling to move the toes independently. You might not be able to do it at all the first time you try. But keep at it. It will happen. As you practice you are building muscle memory which will lead you to perform these exercises without much thought. Eventually this will become second nature, like moving your hands over your keyboard. Remember the fist time you tried to type? After awhile, your fingers begin to fly across the keyboard without you giving it much thought. The same thing will happen with your feet. Your body will learn the new movements. This is not something that is actually happening in your muscles, it's happening in your brain. Your brain grows and connects neural pathways as you repeat the movement over and over. As you practice, something that felt almost impossible becomes easy. A simple exercise (like those above) is actually rewiring the circuitry in you brain. It might take a lot of repetition but once the pathway is created in the brain, it stays there forever, just like riding a bike, you'll never forget how to do it.
Before beginning any exercise program, consult with your doctor to make sure that you are healthy enough to start. You should be aware that there are risks with any form of physical activity, including yoga, and you, the participant, assume all risks involved.