Wanna Touch Your Toes? These 7 Poses Will Make It Happen
Whether you haven't touched your toes since third-grade gymnastics class, or you can't remember ever being able to bend over that far, 2015 could be the year you effortlessly fold yourself in half. You can't force your hamstrings and lower back to open up instantly; you need to gradually increase flexibility in these commonly tight areas, and these are the stretches to get you there. If you commit to this stretching sequence several times a week, you will notice a change in the suppleness of your muscles, making you that much closer to your goal.
Not only will increasing your flexibility give you bragging rights to say, "I can touch my toes!", but it'll also help prevent injuries if you run, bike, or ski. Make sure you're warmed up — after a run or three Sun Salutation B's is perfect — then follow this seven-pose sequence.
- Begin in Downward Facing Dog. Step both feet together so your big toes are touching.
- Shift weight into your hands and your left foot equally. Raise your right leg up to the ceiling. Try to keep your shoulders parallel with the ground, and gaze at your left thigh or up toward your belly to help you stay balanced. To feel the stretch in your left hamstring, try to keep pressing your left heel down toward the ground.
- Stay here for five breaths (about 30 seconds), then lower your right leg down and switch sides.
- Come back to Down Dog.
Wide-Legged Forward Bend
- From Down Dog, step your right foot forward between your hands, stand up, and turn your right foot to the left so both feet are parallel with three to four feet between your toes. Turn the heels out slightly wider than the toes.
- Standing tall, interlace your hands behind you, pressing the heels of your palms together in a double fist. If this hurts your lower back, just rest your hands on your hips.
- Take a deep breath in, and slowly fold forward at the waist, lowering your hands toward the floor. Don't worry how far you can bend; just focus on keeping the legs straight to keep the stretch in the backs of the legs.
- Relax the head, and breathe for five breaths.
- From Wide-Legged Forward Bend, come to sit on your mat with both legs together. Place your palms flat on the floor beside your hips, actively pressing them into the ground.
- Keep both arms as straight as possible, and lengthen your spine, imagining it is a sturdy staff or cane someone would use to walk with. Roll your shoulders away from your ears, and tuck your chin. Engage your leg muscles, and flex your feet.
- Stay here for five deep breaths.
- Hold here, or to deepen the stretch in the hamstrings, fold forward as much as you can with both legs straight, walking the hands out. Hold for another five breaths, then sit up.
Head to Knee
- Bend your right knee, and place the sole of your foot against your left inner thigh, pulling your heel as close to your body as you can.
- Inhale to sit up tall, and exhale as you fold your torso over your left leg. Rest your hands on the floor on either side of your leg, on your shin, or wrap your hands around your left foot.
- Stay here for five breaths, sit up, and repeat this pose on the right side.
Reclined Hand to Big Toe
- From Head to Knee, lie flat on your back. Lift your right leg into the air. Lift your torso off the mat, and hold onto your big toe with the first two fingers and thumb of your right hand. If you can't reach your toe, hold your ankle, calf, or behind your thigh. Feel free to use a strap if you prefer.
- Keeping your torso lifted will engage your core, but if you want to enjoy a more relaxing stretch, rest your torso on the floor.
- Hold for five breaths, and then repeat on the left side.
- From Reclined Hand to Big Toe, sit up and separate the legs out into a wide straddle. Reach back with your right hand and move the flesh of your right bum cheek away from you, and then do the same with your left. This will help your pelvis ground more firmly so you can stretch your hamstrings more effectively.
- Sit tall, reaching your head away from your hips, and draw your belly and ribs in. Keep that length as you fold forward at your waist, sliding your hands down your legs or on the floor in front of you.
- Listen to your hamstrings! Go down as far as you need to feel a stretch, but you don't want to feel pain. Stay for at least five deep breaths.
Source: Jenny Sugar
Standing Hand to Big Toe Forward Bend
- From Seated Straddle, slowly stand up with the feet hips-width distance apart.
- Fold the torso over the thighs, and hold the big toes with the first two fingers and thumbs of each hand. Pull the elbows out wide. If you can't reach the toes yet, rest your hands as low as you can on the legs.
- Actively draw the shoulders away from the ears, using the abs to draw the torso closer to the legs rather than using your upper-body strength.
- Shift weight forward into the toes to intensify the stretch in the backs of the legs.
- Stay like this for five deep breaths, nodding the head up and down and side to side to release the neck. Every time you do this pose, see if you can reach a little lower.