Friday, October 9, 2009

Chin-To-Toe in three easy steps! (Sure.)


First warm up, starting with stretching the left leg:
Stand relaxed with the feet together. Gently shift the weight to the right leg and lift the left leg out into an open toe stance. Keeping your back straight and head up, slowly bend forward at the hips, reaching out with both hands toward the extended left foot. Hold this for at least 20 seconds, but know your body. Don't force it into a painful, moan inducing position. Then, switch sides and do the same stretch for the right leg. After the stretch, massage the legs.

(Note: Some people do this exercise and bounce the upper body toward the extended foot. I am vehemently opposed to this because bouncing can cause microtrauma in the muscle, which must heal itself with scar tissue. The scar tissue tightens the muscle, making you less flexible, and more prone to pain. But others disagree. And I will gladly post any other well written argument/opinion on the subject!)

Second warm-up:

In the same position, bend forward toward the extended toe with the arms crossed. The goal is to eventually (after time) reach the feet with the crossed arms. In the middle of the hold, switch the arms and then continue with the stretch. Do the same thing on the other side. Hold for at least 20 seconds. After the stretch, massage the legs.

In the same position as before, bend forward toward the extended toe, and if possible, place the hands around the foot and gently pull yourself as far forward as possible. In the beginning, try to touch your head to your ankle. Over time, you can work toward extending your chin toward the toes. Hold this position, again, for at least 20 seconds. After the stretch, massage the legs.

Does your school do it differently? Let us know! It'd be great to see all of the different paths to this well-known stretch.

By the way...
Master Y.C. Chiang has published a new Student Handbook for the Wen Wu School. It is a beautifully explicit publication with all of the Guang Ping basic stretches, principles and philosophy, movements and a lovely section on Tea Ceremonies. I believe it may be purchased through the Wen Wu school at


  1. I have been trying to do this stretch for quite some time. But I am having great difficulty getting my toes to bend backwards. I saw a utube video where the person doing it said to both feet facing foward. I am doing it that way, even though it is harder to keep my balance in that posture.

    I saw a book years ago concerning a tai chi Master Kuo. In that book there was a picture of his wife doing it, but not much information concerning the finer points of how to develop it. They called the stretch "phoenix eating it's ashes". I remember reading that when can achieve this stretch, one will feel reborn. I can't say that that is true, since I haven't been able able to do it yet.

    I am a qigong master if anyone cares to contact me. You are welcome to do so.

    Maybe there are some other stretches which will make it easier to achieve the chin to toe stretch more easily i.e. using some kind of aparatus or something else which will help stretch the same muscles and tendons involved. If anyone can make some suggestions, please e-mail me at

  2. One way to loosen the calf muscles so the toes can be brought backward is to place your toes on a stair and let the heels gently descend. This stretches the bottom of the foot as well as the calves. If anyone has any other suggestions - feel free to post them! Happy stretching!