Yes, you can touch your toes – you’re just not doing it right.

I never used to be able to touch my toes. It was just one of those things that I just assumed you could either do or you couldn’t.

Then last year my wife and I went to a local yoga class – after our free trial session we never went back – but I remember seeing some of the people who were there, some of the older people, and being amazed by their flexibility. I didn’t know that old people could bend like that! They always seemed stiff and fragile.

Surely if these old people could do touch their toes then so could I?

Without bothering to learn any more yoga I wanted to see if I could train my body to be able to do it. Using some of the basic principles I learned at the class, I started off standing tall and then slowly folded forward at the hip.

The key for me was sending my attention to the various parts of my body. I imagined my toes and the arches of my feet slackening, felt my ankles loosening and my knees relaxing. I consciously felt the stretch move up the back of my thighs, into my lower back and then spread to the rest of my back. I let the weight of my head pull my torso down further and as I did that I felt my neck lengthening. All the time I heard the instructors voice in my head softly guiding me through it.

Somehow, without forcing anything – without even really trying – my palms were resting, flat, on the tops of my feet. I felt no pain or discomfort. The longer I stayed in that position the more comfortable it seemed to become.

Practice makes perfect

Ever since that day I have done the same exercise every night before bed. It takes at most one minute of my time, but something about it seems to bring about a deep relaxation. Maybe it’s the rush of blood to the head?

None of my patients can touch their toes

When people come in to see me with back pain one of the things I get them to do to assess their range of movement is to try to touch their toes. None of them try very hard. Not because of pain – they often walk in and sit down without any problem – but because of the fear of pain.

When I ask them to touch their toes, almost all make a feeble attempt and most do not get far past their knees. They will make excuses or place a hand on their back even before they have started to move. When I ask them to do it more slowly and to let their body-weight do the work they will often go a few inches further.

Yes, you can!

Unless there is something physically stopping you, you can touch your toes. Maybe it won’t happen straight away like it did with me, but if you do it every day, religiously, you will soon be able to do it.

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