Yogi Toe Lock

Yogi Toe Lock
Yogi Toe Lock. ZenShui/Sigrid Olsson/PhotoAlto Agency RF Collections/Getty Images

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Though it sounds like yoga's version of thumb screws, yogi toe lock is just a simple way of taking hold of the toes in poses where that is necessary. Bring your first two fingers under your big toe while bringing your thumb on top of the same toe and you should get a pretty good grip. Some teachers will call this grabbing your toe with your "peace fingers." It's the same thing.


When to Toe Lock

The toe lock allows you to get some traction in poses where you're stretching the hamstrings pretty deeply. Standing big toe pose (utthita hasta padangustasana) and its reclined counterpart supta padangustasana are examples of poses where holding your toe while extending the same leg provides a stretch along the back of your leg. Another pose where this technique is often used is in standing forward bend (uttanasana), where holding both big toes while forward bending gives you an anchor point from which to deepen the pose.

What If I Can't Reach My Toe?

If you can't easily reach your toe, just give up and go home. No! Don't do that! There are a lot of alternatives to a yogi toe lock. One thing that I don't endorse is keeping your knee bent in order to hold your toe. This defeats the purpose of connecting your hand to your foot in the first place because you are no longer stretching the back of your leg.

Likewise, if your shoulder is coming out of its socket or your posture is rounding forward just so you can hold that toe, you need to find another approach because your determination to keep a grip on your toe is causing you to compromise other parts of the pose.

The best thing to do is to get a strap and wrap it around the ball of your foot.

Then hold the ends of the strap in one hand, giving yourself as much length as you need to do the pose with integrity. The strap is basically acting as an arm extender. If you don't have a strap handy (and their are lots of ways to hack a strap), the other option is to get a hold of another part of your leg, for instance the ankle or calf. This works but it can be awkward since it's a bit more challenging to hold securely on to your big calf than your small toe. 

More Uses for a Yogi Toe Lock

In addition to the poses mentioned above, holding your big toe (or using a strap to create the same effect) is an option in revolved head to knee pose (parivrtta janu sirsansa), where the connection of hand to foot allows you to open your chest toward the ceiling. In full side plank (vasisthasana) or sleeping vishnu (anantasana), the connection creates some stability for your raised leg. Though grabbing your toe may look cool, it's never done for the visual effect alone. There's always a postural alignment reason behind it, which is why it's important to use a prop when necessary.


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