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Photo by K Vernon

Feet are a big deal. They help us stand, walk, climb and dance. They keep us steady and balanced. They help us reach for something beyond our grasp. They are the solid foundations for so many Yoga postures. Heck, they even help us pick socks up off the floor! But how often do we really pay them any mind? Unless they’re giving us grief, do we consider looking after them as diligently as we do, say, our backs or our hair styles?

When was the last time you actively stretched your toes? I mean stretched them in order to maintain their suppleness and ability to spread wide? I have the great honour of working with people who have matured in years. It means I get to see firsthand what happens when we ignore our feet and our toes over long periods of time.

~ bunions ~ hammer toes ~ plantar faciitis ~ pronation ~flat feet ~ decreased balance ~ diminished circulation ~ toe adhesions ~ PAIN

The list goes on.

There is so much we can do to take care of our feet – pedicures; chiropodists; foot massage.

Have you considered toe spacers to keep the muscles, tendons and ligaments of the feet supple and flexible?

Photo by K Vernon

Toe spacers come in various shapes, sizes and compositions. The ones above happen to be made of silicone. They’re my personal favourites because they’re easy to keep clean. These were purchased at a life-assisting devices store; ie, the place where they sell walkers, ice packs, canes…..and toe spacers. They may also be purchased at pharmacies or online. According to my student, however, they don’t seem to be easy to find at this time of writing. If that is the case, foam pedicure spacers can work, or anything that fits easily between your toes – like your fingers. No kidding. If your toes have very little space between them, start with the smallest knuckle. You can progress down your fingers as your flexibility improves. Thread your fingers between your toes and voila! Instant space. You can keep whatever spacer you’re using in place for as long as is comfortable, but please stop if there’s any pain. As a frame of reference, I keep mine in for about 10 minutes. Ideally, work with them every day, or as often as you can.

Over time you may notice an increase in flexilibility and toe mobility, improved balance due to a broader foot base, decreased pain, and the prevention of further bunion development. Plus, it feels pretty nice. 🙂

Consider looking after your foundation, your feet and toes, so it can look after you for many years to come.

Yours in space(rs),

Tabitha

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Photo by D Barnes-Boniface

As a Yoga teacher, one of the questions I get asked the most is, “How did you get into this?” When I hear that question, I smile, I take a deep breath…

AND I LIE.

I start to tell the story how, when I was in my 20s, my neck went out. In search of relief, I found a Yoga video and VOILA, here I am today. It’s not entirely a lie. It is the truth in that it really happened. But it is not “how I got into this”. More accurately, it is not why I am here. What I conveniently forget to mention every time is the mysterious-looking purple and pink book that still sits on my shelf that talks of Kundalini Yoga. That book, more than any neck spasm, is what catapulted me into this vast Yogic world. That book, when I first laid eyes on it, sent shivers down my spine (or up my spine if we are to speak of Kundalini). Even today as I write about it, it takes my breath away. I had to touch that book. I had to hold it. And when I cracked the spine on it, I began to cry. All very mysterious for a woman who had grown up in a Catholic household.

Within the pages of the book were photos of a man dressed all in white, contorting himself in the strangest ways. There were odd (to me) poems speaking of the powers of the postures. Certain breathing patterns, chants and lifestyle habits, when put into play consistently, could bring about a spiritual awakening and transform a life. It was the word “spiritual” that ignited a spark deep inside of me.

HERE IS THE TRUTH

I came to Yoga to find God.

I did not honestly arrive at the mat to become limber or to fix my crooked neck. Those were glorious byproducts of what I was genuinely seeking. What I really wanted was a way out of the icky, dark experiences I was having as a human, and a way back to the experiences I had had since I was a child, experiences where I knew, unmistakably, that something larger than the everyday had just taken place. And please don’t think those moments involved parting clouds, angels singing, and ethereal symphonies. No. They were split second moments in time as I peered into the eyes of an animal or really saw the vulnerable insides of a flower. Those moments sparked, and re-sparked, a longing that I could not describe. I still can’t. And the longing is still there. I feel every day like I’m reaching out for something that is just beyond my grasp. Whatever it is, I know in my heart of hearts, that it is there and it is possible to touch. No one and nothing can convince me otherwise.

Stepping onto the mat, I feel closest to this “thing” for which I ache. I return again and again and again so that I may feel that closeness. I want to feel that closeness every…single…day. That is what truly sustains my practice.

So, I came to Yoga looking for God. And it all began with a purple and pink book. There, finally, is the truth.

Namaste.

Tabitha

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“Chewie” by J. in Kingston

In Ayurveda, the sister science of Yoga therapy, “Food is medicine.” If we take in nourishment that is correct for our particular nature, and if the body is able to efficiently and effectively break down and assimilate that nourishment, we can stave off many unpleasant conditions and diseases. This process of breakdown begins in the mouth. Most of us consider the mouth on a daily basis. We brush and floss our teeth. We may rinse with mouthwash. But how often do we consider our tongue?

The tongue seems to be a neglected part of the anatomy, something of a flap that hangs around and delivers unto us the delightful and detestable tastes of various foods and drinks. In Ayurveda, the tongue is so much more. It is an assessment tool, a mirror for the internal organs and an indication of the health of their functioning. Yes, the tongue. The lowly tongue can indicate such things as curvature of the spine, inflammation of the liver, and constipation. I’ve seen it with my own eyes and I’m blown away every time.

But how?

Tongue assessment is a study unto itself so I won’t get into the nitty gritty of it all. But let’s talk about digestion. As Vaidya Nitin Shah, my teacher and Ayurvedic practitioner, says, “If nutrients aren’t broken down well, or if they can’t pass easily out of the end point of the digestive system (He’s talking poop here.), then bacteria and waste begin to build up towards the front end of the system (He’s talking the mouth.)” The primary indicator of difficulty in the digestive system is a coating along the tongue. No doubt you have seen it in your own mouth. Maybe you’ve tried to brush it away. There’s something that works even better – the tongue scraper!

The tongue scraper is a U-shaped tool that you run along the entire tongue, from root to tip, gently, and a number of times. They can now be found in regular drug stores, although these are usually made of stainless steel. Ayurvedic practitioners and Yoga therapists alike prefer the traditional copper tongue scraper as it is softer on the tongue and is considered to be anti-bacterial. These can sometimes be found in a South Asian grocery store. In a pinch, you can find them on Amazon. Look for a long-handled, wide U-shape, something like this. Traditionally, the tongue is scraped after brushing the teeth in the morning, as a way to wake up the digestive system and to help “get things moving”.

To clean: Wash with soap and water after every use. When the copper turns a deeper shade in colour, pour a small amount of salt into the palm of your hand (the size of a quarter, at most). Onto the salt pour vinegar or lemon/lime juice, not so much as to dissolve the salt but enough to thoroughly moisten it. Then rub the scraper with this concoction until it looks shiny and new (This takes less than 30 seconds.). Rinse and voila!

Consider this another tool to add to your healthy living toolbox. 😉 I use it every day and can honestly say that it works. I sincerely do not leave home without it.

I wish you all the best, and the cleanest tongue!

Tabitha

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