How Do I Find My Elusive Toes In My Yoga Practice?

Author: Charley Hickey is a practicing yoga therapist and senior yoga teacher who runs group and private yoga classes in Applecross & Fremantle, Perth.  She also runs specialised yoga workshops for yoga students & yoga teachers.

A common question I get asked by students when they have been coming to class for a little while is “When will I be able to touch my toes?”.  I often hear it too from students enquiring about classes.  They are worried about coming to yoga because they can’t  touch their toes.  It concerns me that somewhere along the line; this has become a perceived standalone measure of fitness, flexibility and/or health when it really isn’t.

I think it’s something that has been propagated by toe touching as a common assessment tool.  As yoga therapists (and many other modalities too), when we are assessing, we are rarely measuring against a pre-determined bench mark .  So touching the toes doesn’t mean we’ve completed the assessment well or reached the highest standard.  The measurement is used simply to assess a person now compared to later after we’ve done some practice.  That change can then help us to see if what we are doing is working along with other measures.

I will often ask a client to bend forwards as if to touch their toes for several reasons.  Those reasons are rarely to see if they can actually touch them!  One reason is I like to see how you move when you do a forward bend.  Another is to work out whether it appears that your restriction is in a particular area.  Or to find out if you have any pain or discomfort and where that pain might be.   It’s actually more about how it feels then how it looks.   Soo please, take the pressure off yourself to touch your toes!  If it doesn’t happen EVER then that is fine!  If it does happen for you and you’ve made a change in your body somewhere along the line and that’s what you wanted then that is great too!

What you could do instead is ask yourself some much more constructive questions like:

  •  “Why do I want to touch my toes?” (This one could lead to quite a depth of self inquiry!)
  • “Can I already feel a stretch?”
  • “Where is it pulling exactly?”
  • “If I bend my knees a little, is that easier?”
  • “That feels tighter today than last week, I wonder why that is?”

This curious attitude of self enquiry is what yoga is all about, much more so than touching your toes. Most of us can’t touch our toes right away before warming up .   The picture on the right is a much truer representation of how most of us look trying to forward fold.  Focus instead on how it feels, you really can’t go wrong then!

If you’re in the “not able to touch my toes” category, you are most welcome in our classes!  You can learn more about our classes in Applecross, Fremantle and Bateman here and make a booking here.  If you don’t live nearby, we know lots of  yoga teachers to refer you onto, just email us here and we’ll try to help you!