If you’ve ever taken a yoga class or done some basic stretching before an activity and struggled to touch your toes, you’re not alone. Chronic muscle tension can creep in as we age, especially if we’re inactive and do very little stretching. Even for athletes who use their bodies on a regular basis, if you don’t have a stretching regimen eventually you’ll start to lose range of motion.

Among the most common areas for these restrictions are the back muscles, glutes, hamstrings, and calves. But in order to know which area to target effectively, you need to know where your restrictions are. The Long Sitting Position muscle length test is a simple and easy way to determine this. It may help to do this in front of a mirror or have someone there to observe your position.

First, let’s start by sitting comfortably on the floor with your legs stretched out before you. The hips are flexed, the knees are extended, and the ankles are neutral. Even before we attempt to reach over and touch our toes, see if you can sit up straight at a 90-degree angle without your knees buckling. Believe it or not, this may be a challenge for some. Now reach forward and try to touch your toes. If you can only go as far as your knees, don’t worry. The important thing is to keep your knees straight in order to get an accurate assessment.

The first thing to take note of is the positioning of the hips. Are they at 90 degrees? More than 90 degrees? Less? In the first image, the angle of the hips is almost at 90 degrees but the person is able to touch their toes without their knees buckling. This shows a good amount of extensibility in the back muscles, glutes, hamstrings and calves. Some avid yoga practitioners or athletes may be able to close this angle past 90 degrees and lie completely flat, but for the vast majority of us this is what we should aim for.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The next image shows the hips at similar angle (close to 90 degrees), but the person has a slight buckle in the knees and cannot reach as far forward as in the first image. Here, the hamstrings & glutes are doing fine but the calves are tight, forcing the knees to buckle and the back muscles, namely the mid & upper back muscles, are restricting the forward movement.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Moving on, we see the hips in this image are at more than 90 degrees. The person has pretty good extensibility in their mid to upper back muscles allowing them to almost touch their toes, but their hamstrings & glutes, and most likely their lower back muscles are the major areas of restriction.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In the final image we see the worst-case scenario. The hips are at more than 90 degrees and there’s a slight buckle in the knees allowing for a reach just above the knees. In this case, the back muscles, glutes, and calves are all restricted.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The good news is that the Long Sitting Position is not only a diagnostic test but also the remedy for these chronically tight muscles. The first thing to aim for is to sit comfortably at a 90-degree angle. Forget about touching your toes for a moment. If you can sit in this position for a few minutes every day, you’ll start to notice that it’ll become less and less of a struggle. Once you’ve achieved this goal, start leaning your hips slightly forward in incremental steps. Don’t worry so much about touching the toes just yet and try not to be overly aggressive with it. The important thing is that your legs remain straight while your hips close the angle. The longer you stay in this position and move slowly into the stretch, the closer you’ll come to touching your toes.


joe-azevedo2Joe Azevedo is a New York State/NCBTMB Licensed Massage Therapist, ARCB Certified Reflexologist, Certified Thai Yogi, and an Advanced Reiki Practitioner. He is a graduate of the Swedish Institute and is the owner and founder of Brooklyn Reflexology.