The yogic toe touch meditation
by Nancy B. Loughlin
Published in News Press on December 2, 2013. Posted with permission.
You’re past Thanksgiving, but the rest of the holiday season can pack a punch.
Just bend over. It’s one of the most grounding moves to make. But it’s not necessarily easy.
Can you touch your toes? I’ve been doing yoga for nine years, and, even for me, it takes some time.
I am, however, very good at sitting, slouching over my computer, standing with tilted posture and dropping my torso into my pelvis. I’m like other people — compressed.
As we age, we lose flexibility. It interferes with our resiliency, and, of course, the stiffer the body, the stiffer the spirit. Inflexibility can lead to athletic injuries and even pitfalls while performing everyday movements like getting into the shower, reaching to the top shelf and carrying groceries.
Begin with the toe touch to keep tabs on your flexibility.
Avoid drama, and start on the floor. Be grounded. Here’s how.
Sit with your legs straightened in front of you; a micro-bend in the knee is wise.
Pull the soft padding out from your buttocks so you are sitting directly on your sitting bones. If you choose, sit on a blanket or towel to lift your seat.
Inhale and lift your torso out of your pelvis, and keep your back straight, your neck in alignment with your spine. Stick your thumbs in your hip creases to help lengthen your torso. Relax your shoulders.
Endgame isn’t hands wrapped around the feet. Imagine your belly touching your thighs as you slowly lower flat back, exhaling as you go. Pause and inhale, and, as you lower again, exhale.
The movement originates in the hips, not the back. With a toe touch, you are connecting the up-body to the low-body, sky to earth, the energetic to the physical. This is why the toe touch is such an important meditative practice.
Be careful not to curl your spine and drop your head. Protect that lower back. If you find your belly doesn’t touch your thighs, bend your knees.
Hold for twenty deep diaphragmatic breaths. Never venture into pain; stay on the side of sensation. Feel your abdomen press into your thighs with the inhale. Perhaps as you hold, you may find that you can slowly straighten your legs while keeping the belly to the thighs.
Be gentle, and practice daily until your legs are straightened. Then you can start monitoring your own progress. Throw down a yardstick parallel to your legs. While keeping your back flat, forward fold from the hips, stretch your torso out of your pelvis and walk your hands down your legs. Mark the yardstick monthly.
Graduate to the yogic standing toe touch. Stand with legs parallel. If you like, squeeze a foam block between your thighs just above your knees adding stability. Instead of tucking your tailbone, direct your sense of awareness to your pelvic floor and lower abs and lift.
Push your thumbs into your hip creases, and as you exhale, hinge forward from the hips, pushing your buttocks back. Exhale as you lower.
Pause when your back is parallel to the floor. You may choose to hang out here, experiencing the stretch in the hamstrings, your head in alignment with your spine. Continue to squeeze the block, rotating your thighs inward. Lengthen the torso, creating more light and space in the pelvis. If you choose, fold completely on the exhale.
Forward bends are restorative, grounding and calming. The very nature of the bend invites introspection and inner quiet. A forward bend practice can be a lifesaver during this holiday season.