Balancing has never been an easy feat for me, be it in Judo or Yoga. Being tall & almost stick-thin may seem like an ideal body image most women would want. But trust me; when it comes to sports/activities involving stability, NOT having a low center of gravity is by far my biggest disability and downfall.
The art of “balance” is more than just being able to stand on one foot while attempting an asana. There are postures that involve bilateral lower limbs and appear relatively simple to achieve, yet require that intricate combination of physical fitness and focus to create a mind-body connection for these postures to be achieved (eg. Tadasana).
Our big toes are phalanges that are constantly being overlooked. In my case, they have been thoroughly abused to the extent that bunions have formed beside them from years of high-heel strutting.
According to Ray Long (Yoga Journal Singapore, 2016), in order for our big toes to protect our bodies from instability, they have to be trained to be “dynamically stable”. Keeping in mind that training our big toes not only involves strengthening them, but stretching them out too for injury prevention.
Strengthening poses for our big toes include Uttanasana, Utkatasana and Vrksasana. A mistake I constantly made during my first few yoga sessions was to curl my toes inwards while doing these asanas – a big NO-NO. Like I mentioned earlier on, one’s center of gravity is needed for balance and that cannot be achieved with toes gripping onto the mats. It took me a couple of tries to finally grasp the gist of it all; pressing my weight evenly across my big toes. A simple enough theory, but yet many of us fail to fully comprehend and master it.
Having said that, it is also important for us to be aware of certain postures that put our toes at risk of injury. A common one would be the much-loved Chaturanga Dandasana. For most YTT sessions, we would be doing a minimum of six rounds of Surya Namaskar (just count the number of Chaturangas we would have to complete in six sun salutations and in turn, calculate the amount of weight/pressure inflicted upon our big toes). A sprain to the big toe is an injury I’d personally like to avoid.
As like all other injury precautionary measures, stretching the flexors of our big toes cannot be overlooked or taken for granted. In fact, we do stretch them in yoga classes without even being consciously aware of it sometimes. Adho Mukha Svanasana is an effective way to ease the tension and maintain stability of not only our big toes, but every one of our lower extremities.
With this, may we all view our halluces in a different light and practice with more physical awareness.
Kimberly L. (August 2017, 200hr YTT )