Sarah Court is a Doctor of Physical Therapy, Yoga Tune Up® Teacher Trainer, and the creator of Quantum Leap. She teaches public workshops, anatomy for yoga teacher trainings, and trains Yoga Tune Up® teachers worldwide. She developed and teaches her Quantum Leap continuing education program to make sophisticated movement science easy for movement teachers to understand and apply to their teaching.
Sarah received her doctorate in Physical Therapy from Mount St. Mary’s University. She brings significant clinical experience to her teaching, attracting clients and students with a desire to move intelligently, regain mobility, or manage chronic conditions.
Sarah is an award-winning graduate of Princeton University, and edited the Yoga Tune Up® blog for 5 years. She has been featured on exercise.com and The New York Times. Find her Yoga Tune Up® schedule here or go to her full website.
Love it. Such an accessible exercise that anyone can work toward, no matter how immobile or tight the feet and ankles are. I’m imagining my mother lifting her knees or using her hands on support to decrease the load, and if body permits, doing it just as Jill demonstrates but by holding for a shorter amount of time. And all you need is a strap or necktie or bathrobe tie!
This video is very helpful. It is SO important that we care for our feet. I work with a lot of aging students and this is so simple and will help keep their toes and feet healthy.
Having taken the Hips Immersion training with you, I think you are a brilliant and inspiring teacher, and I was happy to read this post on stretching the plantar fascia of the soles of the feet with Sitting Seza (In Japanese, as you know, Seza means “proper sitting.”) Since it also reinforces spreading the toes and keeping them pointing forward, inner seams of ankles, feet and legs joined together, makes Sitting Seza a pose that, for me, hurts so good! Intense!
Having taken the Hip Immersion training with you, I think you are a brilliant and inspiring teacher, and was happy to see this post and video on stretching the plantar fascia on the soles of the feet with Sitting Seza (“proper sitting” in Japanese). The fact that it also reinforces spreading the toes and keeping them pointing forward, inner seams of the feet, ankles and legs joined together, makes Sitting Seza a pose that, for me, hurts so good! Intense!
This is a posture I’ve done a great many times in yoga, but never had I done this stretch with a strap. It changed the entire experience and made the stretch along the base of my feet, achilles, and shins much more intense. I should know better but wearing flip flops is my modus operandi in Los Angeles. This could be my saving grace! Thank you for the post!
Great information on this simple but effective pose to keep the feet healthy. With more and more people suffering with Plantar Fasciitis/ Fasciosis it is wonderful to know that stretching the extensors on top of the foot can bring some freedom from the pain.
As a runner, this is a helpful alternative stretch to help prevent plantar fasciatis.
Thank you for your explanation that Sitting Seza stretches the plantar fascia and for helping me recognize the importance of incorporating it into a regular routine.
This pose was a game changer for me and all the athletes I teach. I’ve had numerous runners who take my workshops talk about plantar facitiis and foot pain and suffer in silence. Our feet are AMAZING and do so much for us that we have to give them some TLC. I love this sequence and also enjoy seeing the positive impact it has on my students.
Very simple way to reduce plantar fasciitis! I’m going to use this on my runners in class! I already do this without strap , never knew there was a strap version ! Thanks
Love this sequence! I have shared a version of this pose in many classes that I have lead over the years, but the YTU approach with with strap is wonderful. It truly keeps the alignment where it needs to be, and the benefits of not cheating the pose(without the strap and letting the heels pull apart are quickly felt to help release those crunchy under bits of the feet. Cheers and thank you!
Thanks for the post Sarah. My daughter and I hiked the JMT this past summer. Her feet were okay on the trail but when she got home, she experienced severe plantar fasciitis. After regular use of toe spreaders, sitting seza and rolling her feet every day for two weeks, the pain went away. Happy to say she’s back hiking the trails and takes her therapy balls with her on overnight trips.
This exercise is such a good one for me especially. I am a bit bow legged and have a history of wearing high heals, so the muscles in my lower leg, such as my anterior tibialis, fibularis longis and brevis, extensor hallucis longus, gastrocnemius, soleus and peronious longus (just to name a few…there are of course others involved) are extremely overworked making this position a really tough on for me! When we practiced it the other day in class, I’m not going to lie, I was in agony. Especially my left big toe! Which surprised me. I’m right side dominant and would have though that side would have been the more painful side. I practice this position regularly, but not with the strap. So I’m definitely going to be adding the strap in on a regular basis to improve my ankle mobility and foot and calf flexibility more. If I work hard enough, I think I’ll even be able to correct some of my bow-legged ness, which would be awesome!
Wish I had known of this 20 yrs ago before I had bunion surgery. Even though the doctor did a great job and I have no complaints with my feet, I find when I do sit on my heels/toes, it is painful – work in progress.
I thought I had relatively open feet until I tried sitting seiza, wowsers…talk about intense! Definitely one I will be adding regularly to my practice.
Great pose for ankle and toes in Vajrasan
Hey Sarah! Can you explain the necessity of the strap other then keeping your legs together. What if you don’t have a problem keeping your legs together without the strap? Is the strap supposed to be aiding in adduction or triggering a muscular action here to affect the plantar fascia other then the toes being curled underneath?
How long you sit depends on a lot of things, but see if you can get to 30 seconds and work up from there. Make sure you give your feet time in plantarflexion as well (sitting on feet with toes pointed back) for recovery.
Thank you for sharing this video clip. I suffer from toe cramps and am showing signs of bunions on both feet. It’s easy to forget that our toes need stretching just like the rest of our bodies. How long do you suggest sitting in this position?
Holy moly, sitting seiza! This feels great after my feet have been imprisoned all day in shoes. I think this is a new favorite that will be added to my lift of daily YTU practices. I don’t even wear heels! I can’t imagine the level of relief this pose can offer high heel wearers.
Excellent! I have actually been looking for a proper stretch to help prevent those nasty foot cramps. I tried this with a scarf in my bedroom. An easy stretch to get into and very rewarding.
sitting seza is sooo intense for me, but i know i need it. I throw it into classes i teach just so i can practice it myself more often. I also really like how it makes you painfully aware of the difference between the two feet, helping you to determine which side might need a bit more Yoga Tune Up Therapy Ball love.
i have come to enjoy this exercise after being so uncomfortable for many years. In different healing modalities the feet are a map of the organs and the stress we hold in our bodies. They, too require attention. I know many people who do not like feet their own or others-really I say, “Would you rather not have them?” When new students come to practice yoga,I tell them to start to love their feet and be kind to them.
I’ve done this posture in a yin yoga practice and, due to the intensity of the compression of siting on my feet while flexed, I pad the space with a block as a regression. I like the idea of using a strap to ease the work of the calves and ankles in squeezing ankles and knees into the mid line–I’ll have to give it a try. As someone who suffers from bones spurs in my heel, it’s nice to have a simple, yet effective move that stretches the oft forgotten connective tissue and muscles of the sole of the foot.
Rolling my feet out on YTU balls and wearing five-finger shoes a couple hours a day have pretty much transformed my feet, BUT I Still find this pose brutal! Ouch! Guess I need more of it, huh? 🙁
Btw, a 10-yr-old, and rather convincing study on Plantar fasciitis has recently gained new traction. By Harvey Lemont, it looked at 50 chronic cases, in surgery, and found no signs of inflammation in any of them, which means after a few weeks, it’s NOT Fasciitis. It’s Fasciosis = circulatory problem and tissue deterioration, which means common Fasciatis treatments are not appropriate. Summary of the working theory is that shoving the big toe laterally (tight shoes), or over extending it (running shoes), over stretches the adductor hallucis, which compresses on the blood supply in & out of the heel, hence dying tissue. The recommended conservative tx? Stretch the extensors on top of the foot (the 2nd part of the above pose), and Spread the toes! How great is that?!!
Wanted to find blogs about this pose because we did it today. When we were told to grab and strap and wrap it securely around our ankles, I wondered what kind of “weird” pose was this…longest minute ever. I thought I stretched my feet…guess not. Thanks for the article and video.
The more I deepen my practice in Yoga, I find that the more I mind my feet! More pedicures and more YTU ball massages. Seza is a new stretch for me though. Adam Vitolo taught us Sitting Seza the other day so I’m excited to see your version as well, well done! Thank you for this video.
Feet! My favorite body part to tackle for optimal alignment. We stuff our feet into inappropriate footwear all day long and have been doing so since we learned to walk and our caregivers put us in “supportive” shoes. I love this stretch and how it gets right at the toes. The poor toes no longer know how to be toes and are stuck hammered, pushed, smushed and sore. This is a great one to do regularly.
Our feet are used SO much–especially if you’re a city dweller. We wear flip flops, high heels, and poorly fit shoes all of the time and then expect them to support us through our asana practice. It’s the first thing we need to get right if we expect to deepen our practice. We have to start at the feet!
There are several exercises I teach on the Reformer in PIlates that requires the dorsiflexion of the toes. I have been amazed at how many people have been unable to do this! This inability to flex the toes also effects their ability to come up on tippy toes and to take a fully integrated step forward – something we do everyday – walking! No wonder they suffer from plantar fascitis. I’m going to introduce Jills ankle bondage to my clients repeatedly, until they can feel the wonder of fully dorsiflexed toes!
I very much have a love/hate relationship with this pose. Some days it feels amazing and other days it hurts like hell,..all the more reason to keep doing it though! 😉 Opening my feel really does make my whole leg feel better.
A teacher a few years back (probably YTU trained!) showed me this pose and I’ve been loving it ever since. Sitting like this coupled with rolling out my foot on the therapy balls now feels like a gift I can give to my feet and ultimately my entire body because of all the affected nerves and pressure points. I often start my classes like this and am still trying to figure out effective ways to get the students who practically refuse to try it, to really understand the relationship between the pain they are feeling and how that correlates to where they need to practice more self care – I’ll keep trying!
This pose makes me realize how much work I need to do on my feet. Often neglected and packed into shoes all day, our feet desperately need to be stretched out. I find this incredibly difficult to do with the strap, but realize it helps to keep the feet in alignment as you allow the weight of the body to deepen the stretch. I find if I roll my feet out with the Therapy Balls first, this pose is an little less intense pain wise.
I have never done this stretch with the straps before and it made a big difference. It is definitely more challenging this way.
I teach this a lot in class but without the strap. I tried it with the strap and it was definitely more intense and very difficult for me to keep my heels together. The bones of my ankles and what could be very small bunions forming were rubbing together. If I was more prepared I would put a towel between to prevent the pressure of bones rubbing together. When I teach this in class I sometimes add eagle arms to get into upper back. It might be too much to add this when using the strap (already enough to focus on)!
Sitting like this was torturous when i first started doing it years ago. But it didn’t take long for my feet and toes to respond favourably so that it actually felt therapeutic! This is one of my favourites all these years later and my feet crave a good sit in it at least every week or so. The only thing is that when i wrap the strap around my ankles like here in this clip, my inner ankles are sore for a few days after…sore not in a good way, so i engage ankles in without the strap.
I have a love/hate relationship with this pose. I know I need it but it is incredibly uncomfortable. I find that leaning forward with my hands on blacks allows me to stay in the pose longer other wise sitting up puts too much pressure in my toe joints.
I adore this pose and so do my students!! It’s not only great for stretching the plantar fascia and separating toes, but also for stretching the anterior compartment of the leg and across the anterior ankle joint. These structures are usually tight in runners and they find this portion of the pose more challenging than the dorsiflexed portion.
My feet are stiff and sore from wearing high heeled shoes on most days. Sitting Seza was so painful for me the first time I flexed my digits back. I propriocepted and released the pressure by sitting on a block. During YTU training this week since learning the pose, I’ve been trying to perform the pose in class a few times a day. Already I’m seeing a big difference in my range of motion.
I have plantar fascia that comes and goes. Doing this exercise helps to keep the plantar fascia at bay. Using my Yoga Tune-Up Therapy Balls also helps keep my feet nimble!
I tried the method that was mentioned above. And it did help my toes feel good and released some tension. We need take good care of each part of our body ( toes are often ignored ) to live a healthy and balanced life 🙂
Never had problems with foot movement or flexibility until recently when I broke two toes – with the added kicker that they were on separate feet and they weren’t matching toes. You can imagine the contortion went on just to walk down the street! As with anything, you don’t really appreciate what you have until it’s lost or broken, so I never really appreciated how much work my toes do… turns out walking is hard without them. It’s been a surprisingly slow road back to being able to do this pose and I credit the therapy balls with getting me there and returning me my happy mobile feet.
Sitting seza is such an important yoga tune up pose. We neglect our feet so often and forget that they are what keep us moving. This pose is challenging for me but as I continue to do it, my feet feel more comfortable in shoes and I’m more aware of my feet when walking or practicing.
Absolutely love this. It was pretty painful the first time, which just made me realize how much mobility I had lost. I love this after a run or being on my feet all day. I think it’s a wonderful preparation for downward facing dog (dorsi flexion) as well. I think about it every time I put on flip flops or pick my t-shirt off the floor without bending down.
Sitting in seza is an extremely difficult pose for me. I’ve seen an X-ray of the great toe on one foot in which it’s bone-on-bone. Soon after starting to flex it, the pain prevents further flexion. Thanks for this reminder, though. Clearly, as much as I want to avoid this painful stretch it’s something that I must do in order to maintain healthy feet. One way that can assist this stretch is to use Yoga Tune Up Therapy Balls before getting into the pose.
This is such an intense way to awaken the feet and realize how much joint/tendon congestion is there. The feet are so overlooked when we think of self care, yet is the grounding basis for majority of our movement. My feet felt so connected to my body as well as the floor beneath me, and The awareness to where my weight was falling into the soles of the foot came into focus. THe perfect way to increase the flexibility into the toes, which will help the foot mobility when we walk.
Because I injured the flexor hallucis tendon last year, on top of having bunions, doing the Seating Seza is quite intense for me. But, I am determined to keep doing it just because it feels so uncomfortable. As Jill says “healthy tissue doesn’t backfire on you”; so, if there is pain and tenderness means that I need to work with this tissue. I have been doing the seating Seza for the past three days, and although I am not at the point of seating in my heels yet, it has certainly become more tolerable, which gives a lot of courage to continue doing the exercise.
feet are so important!! it continues to blow my mind how so many people just don’t understand or appreciate how expertly designed our feet are. at least once a week I have a student tell me that they have no arches in their feet or that they’ve got plantar fascitis or something along those lines. I really love sitting seza b/c the discomfort feedback that you get is in direct proportion to how little you care for your feet, the more you move them and use them well, the less uncomfortable it gets.
What a treat to learn how to selfcare for my feet. The Sittin Seza was extremlely painful. However, I quickly managed to propriocept and pull back my weight and ease into the pose. It became a dance between my breath and the body weight pressure onto my gluteus, heels & toes. A PRECIOUS moment of rediscovery and conscious conversations with my toes.
Unless you are part of the barefoot movement, everyone in New York City needs this. I did this on Thurs and loved stretching my feet out. Our poor little footsies get so tight walking on stiff narrow shoe soles. They don’t give our toes room to spread freely. Its like they are in foot prison all day long. Over time the toes adhere to one another if we don’t actively do anything about it. Every day adds up. i’m so glad to have the privilidge to work bare foot.
How nice to experience this in training yesterday, and to revisit it again thru the video clip – such nice reinforcement!
holy cow, we did this exercise in teacher training yesterday and i started to cramp up on the right foot. luckily we rolled our feet the opposite direction and it was the sweetest release ever.