The hands and feet are the organs of action in the body. In Sanskrit this is called - Karma Indriya. The action in the feet has a direct effect on the alignment of the spine and body and it also influences how we breath. Refining the action in the feet brings clarity towards an experience in the stretch of the whole abdomen in all the standing postures. If the right action occurs, and the pose is done correctly all imbalances start to dissipate. In order for this technique to work effectively it is vital that the stretching of the toes is done in conjunction with the pressing down of the centre of the heel. The entire sole of the foot is felt through stretching the toes up and this action makes the centre of the heel more accessible.
The big toe is connected to the inner foot and the inner leg. By stretching only the big toe and keeping the other toes inactive there is a direct effect on the rotation of the knee joint. Consequently, the awareness moves from the big toe to the inner leg. All this effect is coming from the simple action in the stretch of the big toe, which is the cause. The next step in the teachings is to press the heel down. In this situation where the awareness is only on stretching the big toe, the result is that one can only press down on the inner heel and not the centre. Without the centre of the heel connecting down, the pelvis will not correctly tilt.
Similarly, the four outer toes are connected to the outer foot and outer leg. Stretching only the outer toes and ignoring the big toe will have the opposite effect. The awareness will shift to the outer leg and cause the knees to roll outwards. This uneven stretching in the foundation has a direct effect on the breath and how is moves in the abdomen and chest. If only the outer toes are stretched the chest will not rise up or fully expand as a result. The simple action of which toes are stretched has all over consequences throughout the body.
Stretching only the big toe, which effects the inner foot and inner leg creates a small lift in the chest but doesn’t allow for the full expansion to be felt across the chest area. The breath is therefore not able to flow so freely. One will only experience a lift sideways and outwards but not an upward movement. The whole body can be aligned from the feet, how simple!
Himalayan Iyengar Yoga Centre
October 2015, Himalaya Shanti Ashram, Dharamsala, India