Yoga poses that will help you touch your toes

Updated: Nov 8, 2021



Flexibility has been one of the hottest topics in recent years. And no wonder why, as science is stressing more than before how important is to stretch regularly if not every day. Apart from feeling amazing after yoga class or simple stretch, flexibility improves blood flow to the areas involved, increases elasticity, and is helping us to stay pain-free. And while some people will be naturally more flexible than others, I am definitely of the latter one, when I first started practicing yoga. And even I am reminded every day of how long I have come by practicing regularly yoga, I can assure you with regular practice you will be able to achieve a greater range of mobility and space within and, oh yes to touch your toes.


With that in mind- can you set 20 mins aside to feel better and improve your mobility? Well, if the answer is yes, keep reading.


As a yoga teacher, I have been asked often how long is going to take to achieve a specific yoga pose. The answer to this question, really depends on your lifestyle, to be honest. Let's say you are an active person who doesn't stretch before or after training, or you are a regular jogger which in a nutshell is great, however, if you don't stretch after training you are not only risking tightening your hamstrings and muscles in general, but you are risking injuring yourself over time. Or you might be on the other side of the spectrum, sitting prolong hours without any physical activity( which is hey no judgment), but might lead to the same results as in the above case.


Check my article on " Health effects of sedentary behavior"

https://www.flexiwellness.biz/post/health-effects-of-sedentary-behavior


In all cases, you got what I mean, which is regular even short movements, yoga poses, or stretches are part of our health management. In this article more specifically I am focusing on the hamstrings and touching one's toes and surrounding areas to support that process.


When we talk about touching one's toes and lengthening the hamstrings we have to include the hips and back too. So let's dive in.


Cat and Cow aka Bitilasana - Marjaryasana


• Come to hands and knees position. Knees hips distance apart, hands shoulders distance.


•Shift the hips from side to side. With inhalation bring the chest forward and arch the back. Lift the tailbone up towards the sky and press the palms firmly.



•Exhale draw the navel in and bring the chin down towards the chest and round the back. Tuck your tailbone under and forward towards the pubic bone. The head is heavy.


•Inhale open the chest forward and slide the shoulder blades back. Exhale round the back. Flow with the breath and continue 5 to 10 rounds.


Benefits:

  • Strengthens the arms and the shoulders

  • Helps to improve the posture

  • Great pose to open the spine and improve flexibility and elasticity


Modifications and contraindications:

  • If you suffer from a lower back injury, avoid arching the spine deeply, instead keep an almost neutral spine.

  • If you suffer from a wrist injury place a rolled towel to elevate the heel of your wrist.


Downward Facing Dog


From Cat and Cow, start lifting the knees of the floor and pushing the hips up towards the sky while pressing the palms actively down. Keep the knees bend if your back is rounding or the calves are too tight. Keep opening the armpits outwardly.


Keep the feet slightly wider than hip-distance. Activate your core, and lengthen the tailbone towards the sky. Stay 10 breaths. Stay 10 breaths.


Benefits:

  • Great pose to stretch the ankles, calves, and hamstrings fully

  • Helps to build strength in the shoulders and upper arms

  • Being gentle inversion helps to improve the blood flow

  • Improves posture

Modifications and contraindications:

  • Bend your knees if your back is starting to round

  • Avoid overextending or locking the knees


Runners lunge


From Downward Facing Dog, drop the knees back down and step the left foot forward, aligning the knee with the hip. Keep both sides of the hips in one line.


•Frame the outstretched leg with both hands, if that's not possible you can use yoga blocks( or anything else at home to be able to reach in a more way comfortable towards the floor ).


•If your knee is sensitive place a blanket under it. With inhalation open the chest and look up, with exhalation fold from the hips. Pay attention to where do you feel the stretch. Ideally, we would like to feel the middle of the hamstrings stretching rather than the back of the knee. Stay 10 breaths.



Going deeper


•If the body allows keeping folding forward from the hips and bringing the chest closer to the outstretched leg. To come out of the pose, come back to the hands and knees position and swap sides.


Benefits:

  • Stretches the hamstrings, groins, calves, ankles, and hip flexor

  • Strengthens the knees, quads, glutes, and hips

Contraindications and modifications:

  • Beginner modification: use yoga blocks or anything you can find at home to hold with your hands if you cannot reach the floor

  • Bend your knee of the extended leg if your back is rounding.

  • Place a blanket under your knee if you feel discomfort

  • Avoid the pose if you suffer knee, ankle, or foot injury



Eye of the needle aka Sucirandhrasana


From the previous pose come laying on your back. Bend both knees and stack the knees over the ankles. Place the left ankle on the top of the right knee, check the hips are in one line. Relax your shoulders and gently press them down towards the floor so your collar bones could move away from the middle breast bone.


•You can stay here or you can lift the right leg of the floor, aligning the shin bone with the hips. Hold the back of the right thigh with both hands.


•Use your breath to mentally relaxed the hips and release any build-up tension there. Stay 5 to 10 breaths and swap sides.



Benefits:

  • Opens the hips

  • Lengthen the hips flexor

  • Calms the mind

  • Great alternative if pigeon pose is not accessible

  • Opens the chest and stretch gently the neck and shoulders

  • Great pose for sciatica

Modifications and contraindications:

  • Knee injury

  • If you have a shoulder problem you can modify by keeping the hands by your side and foot down, instead of perpendicular to the floor.



Reclining Hand-to-big-Toe Pose aka Suptha Padangusthasana


Suptha Padangusthasana is a great way to stretch your hamstrings without straining your back. And definitely one of the poses I am recommending to my students with lower back pain, so they stretch in a supportive way.


•From supine position bend the left knee and squeeze it gently in your chest. On inhalation start extending the foot to extend you feel a stretch at the back of the thigh ( we aim to stretch the belly of the muscle at the middle of the hamstrings).


• You can hold the left leg with your left hand or you can use a yoga strap( or anything else at home like a normal belt, or scarf). Pause for a moment here and breathe at the back of the left leg.


• Press softly through your right leg. Relax your shoulders down.



Going deeper


• With exhalation engage your core and lift the chest off the mat and pull the left leg close to your chest. Keep the shoulders relaxed. With inhalation, return back to the floor. Repeat 5 times, moving with awareness and taking time in each stage.


Benefits:

  • Stretches the hamstrings and calves

  • Helps with backache


Modifications and contraindications:

  • For beginners, use a yoga strap around the arch of your foot and hold both ends with two hands. If still tight, bend the knee slightly.

  • Avoid if you are suffering hamstring tear injury.


Reclining Hand-to-big-Toe Pose aka Suptha Padangusthasana B


•While holding your left big toe or using a yoga strap( or anything else at home as a normal belt, or scarf), try to keep the left leg straight ( if not possible micro bend the knee). Keep the right side of the hips glutted to the floor, you might apply gentle pressure with the right hand.


•With exhalation bring your left to left and down towards the floor. Keep the chest open and pause for a moment. With inhalation bring the foot back to a 90-degree angle. Repeat the same 3 times, while you are coming up focus on using the inner thighs. After you finish the last round, hug the left knee in your chest and swap the sides.


Benefits:

  • Stretches the inner thighs

  • Helps with backache

  • Release the groins

  • Open the hips

Modifications and contraindications:

  • For beginners, use a yoga strap around the arch of your foot and hold both ends with one hand. If still tight, bend the knee slightly.


Wide-angle seated forward fold - Upavistha Konasana


•From the previous pose come to sitting. Open both legs away from each other to an extent that feels comfortable, if you have to bend the knees slightly. If your hips feel tight you can sit on the edge of a pillow so they can be elevated which helps with folding forward.


•Keep the knees pointing up and tense the upper thighs. Interlace the hands making a fist, inhale look up, with exhale reach towards the left ankle, then forward and then towards the right ankle and then lean backward, making a full circle.


•You can make the circles as wide as you feel comfortable. Make 3 circles in each direction. Notice where do you feel the pose, and if you feel any tension direct your breath to that area.


Going deeper


•After the circles, lean slightly back and lift the chest, on exhalation fold forward from the hips to a comfortable extend. You can either reach both hands to clasp the toes ( or anywhere along the length of your legs, listen to your body) or walk the hands forward in front of you.


•Press actively through both feet. Keep back elongating, when you feel your back is starting to round, stop there. Relax your shoulders. Stay 10 breaths.



Benefits:

  • Stretches the insides and back of the legs

  • Releases the groins

  • Stimulates the abdominal organs

Modifications and contraindications

  • If you suffer a lower back injury, avoid folding deeper, but rather keep your torso upright. For both beginners and people who suffer a lower back injury, elevate your hips by sitting on a roll towel or pillow.



Standing forward fold aka Uttanasana


•From the previous pose bring the knees together and glide them to a side and proper yourself on all force. With inhalation lift the knees off the floor and start walking towards the top of the mat.


•Spread the feet hip-distance apart, rock gently between the front and back of the feet, so you can evenly distribute the weight. Lift your toes and splash them back down towards the floor.


•Stuck your hips directly and if you feel you are starting to lean back, bring the weight forward.


•Inhale look up, keep your back straight and place your hands on your shins or ankles( if not possible, placed them further up along the length of the legs), and keep your legs straight. If your back is starting to round bend the knees slightly.


•Exhale fold from the hips bringing the chest closer to the chest while keeping the long. Keep eyes that knees are not locking or overextending ( knee joint going in and pushing to the back of the knee). Over time you can start working towards straight legs. However, allow the balance between different body parts to be your priority rather than a single isolated movement.


•Stay here 5 to 10 breaths.


Going deeper

• With exhalation fold from the hips and micro bend the knees. Hold opposite elbows with both hands and allow your head to be heavy and relaxed. Keep elongating the spine with the inhalations and folding deeper with exhalation. Stay 5 to 10 breaths


•Gradually after practicing at least a couple of times, see if you can start making the legs straighter and bring the chest closer to the legs and reach the hands to hold the back of the ankles. And of course " Touch your toes ".


• To come out of the pose, bend the knees, and gently roll up vertebra by vertebrae to standing, moving with awareness.


Benefits:

  • Strengthens the thighs and knees

  • Stretches the hamstrings, calves, and hips

  • Improves digestion

  • Calms busy and unsettled mind

  • Helps with anxiety

  • Stimulates the urogenital and endocrine systems

  • Helps to reduce the symptoms of menopause

Modifications and contraindications:

  • To increase the stretch elevate the back of your foot on a rolled towel or blanket

  • Avoid if you have a lower back injury, hamstring tear, or detached retina

Check my video on YouTube to practise together.




If you need help with yoga or simply would like to book a private session with me click on the link :




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