The big difference between being physically present in a yoga class and practising remotely is that it’s not so easy to check things with a teacher and you can’t take your teacher to task.
….Recognizing tension is the simplest way to substitute for a teacher in your home practice……
I could “hear” some of my students shouting:
“What about the dreadful toe/foot moves?….
“What about 10 sprinters on each side?…..
Certainly, in class there would be some audible moans and groans associated with these and a “beatific” smile on my face as I hold back the words …“no pain…no gain..”
Part of our practice is negotiating our relationship with “effort”. There may be times when more is useful and sometimes less. My 41 day Toe Challenge has required immense effort on my part. Firstly, to do toe moves everyday and then not to give up because it is hard and boring. When I set the 41 days, I thought – “6 weeks, that’s ok”. Whereas, it means just under 6 weeks full time toe waggling , namely, 600 hours. I try to do 5 minutes a day and at day 31, I may have clocked up just over 2 hours. I am noticing some improvement but very small improvement, which means more effort is required!!
So – In my defence :
Foot and toe mobility is absolutely crucial. Problems with the feet can have a detrimental affect higher up the body. Dr Atul Guwandhi, surgeon and author of Being Mortal is one of the many health professionals who highlight this and the importance of foot care as we age:
Geriatricians know how to help keep people from falling: They know how to examine the feet so that you can recognize problems that can make you, as one patient put it, “tippy.”
Older people who “tip” may suffer fractures but for much younger people foot/ankle problems can lead to discomfort further up the body – in the back and even the neck. Many of the muscles in the feet have connections in the lower leg. They are connected by tendons that move the bones of the feet:
Anatomical diagram may help to explain why our foot/toe moves can be so difficult. There’s a lot going one, but you can modify :
We try to sit back on our heels with toes under and toes flat. We balance on our haunches and rock the knees from side to side to stimulate the feet and the muscles of the lower leg. Try instead:
- Sit on a chair or the floor, move your toes and feet and /or use your hands to help.
- Lie down, in semi supine then raise 1 leg or both in the air and move your toes and feet as much as you can. Bend the knees as suits you. Put a cushion or support under your pelvis if that helps.
- On all fours put toes under then flat. Bring the pelvis back towards the heels to increase the “intensity” of toes under and the “stretch” of toes flat.
- On all fours with one leg long – toes under and toes flat. With toes under, rock the pelvis around to stimulate the ball of the foot
- Instead of balancing on feet and haunches – try on all fours with knees and ankles together, move the lower legs from side to side.
- We have also been practising single leg balance and trying to look one way and the other – effectively moving and changing the load over our legs and feet whilst balancing.
Mobilzation that activates the feet is so important for standing and walking but also for many aspects of our yoga practice. Obviously helpful for standing poses and balances but also for bridge pose, dog pose, wheel, plank and many more. Mobilization and modification help us to recognize our boundaries – they key to injury prevention. If toes under is difficult, then lengthening the legs in dog pose may be difficult. Such understanding will help you to accept the need for modifications/props.
I think that reluctance to modify or to use a prop may due to the blurring between our understanding of mobility and flexibility. Flexibility seems to be a buzz word in ynamic yoga classes and mobility seems to be associated more with “senior yoga”; “golden yoga” etc. This is probably due to the emergence of many more Mobility Centres; Mobility Aids, Shopmobility and the like which are an essential part of our ageing population but which may mean that the word has taken on a certain “spin”.
Flexibility is the range of motion that can occur at a joint and this is often the term supported by images of stretch in many presentations of yoga. Mobility relies upon strength, balance and coordination to move a joint within and up to it’s range of motion. When in semi supine you may be flexible enough to able to bring your knees to your chest, rock your knees across your chest ; you may be able to bring your knees wide and bring your feet together or cross them at the ankles but when we balance up on our toes and rock the knees from side to side, our mobilty may not support our flexibility.
Thus the foot/toe moves and the crouched balance plus rocking help us to really use the ground. These mobility drills enable us to push off from the ground.
Somewhat silly but if you bent down and held your toes with your fingers and kept the feet side by side, you would be able to move/hop backwards as much as you desired but you would not be able to move forward. The toes can’t push you off and your load is behind you.
Please don’t do this but I will demonstrate when I next see you.
After 31 days of the Toe Challenge I am investigating a modification, but I need to issue another disclaimer if you are not a lover of toe images: wiggle your small toe separately from the rest of your toes.
This may be “step” too far but when a movement needs “re-wiring” , I have to ask myself if it’s worth the effort. Will let you know on this one since it will increase the Toe Challenge 5 minutes to 7 minutes daily!!
Mobilzation and modification for sprinters in the next issue.