Costa Rica Yoga JournalMark Goldstein

Yoga and your Inner Barbie

Barbie Foot
Barbie Foot

By Mark Goldstein 

Like a long, strong dancer……

I’ve used this description many times while teaching yoga. More exactly, I will say, “More like a strong dancer, and less like a body builder.” Think about it, imagine in your mind a beautiful ballet dancer, man or woman. They are elegant and strong, often peaceful and powerful at the same time, and they are effortless and liquid in their movements. As well, ballet dancers are asked to make themselves as long as possible, therefore, “a pointed toe, is a pretty toe.” Chances are if you look at their faces, their features are smooth and relaxed, and there is intention in their expression; a certain amount of concentration. 

Playa Yoga

Maybe we don’t all want to be dancers, but I can imagine that most of us would like to feel in our bodies the same that they seem to. Now picture a body builder on stage, again male or female. Strong and powerful. Very defined bulging muscles. Now let’s look at the body builder’s face. Perhaps it’s all bunched up, trembling, maybe their eyes look like they’re ready to pop out. Hey, maybe that’s where “Popeye” got his name, come to think of it…… Body builders are, for the most part, shortening their muscles to make them larger and stronger. That’s basically how it works. Now, many of us would like to have more definition in our muscles, be more powerful and strong. 

Boat Pose
Boat Pose

I have a third one, one that will surprise you, but one that has inspired yogis for many, many, years. Well, since 1959 anyway. In 1959 Barbie was born. Does that matter? Yes. Did I have to look that up on line? Yes. I was a G.I. Joe kind of kid. However, what a couple of my G.I. Joes did in private in their own tent was their own business, but I digress—Barbie. We have a term that some of us use when instructing yoga and that is to use “Barbie Foot”. Barbie Foot is amazingly useful, and has a wonderful “yin/yang” quality to it, as many wonderful things seem to. We are using the elongation inspired by our dancer, the shortening taken from the body builder and the strength that both use. There’s our yin and yang. Nice. 

Barbie foot will make your yoga practice stronger (body builder), more elegant (dancer) and keep your legs in the air longer (Barbie….sorry couldn’t help it). In all seriousness, this will help your practice tremendously if you are not already using it. I always love to see the look on someone’s face when I get to introduce Barbie Foot to them in a class. There is always a reaction that says, “Wow, this makes so much sense.” We can use Barbie Foot whenever we lift our leg, especially if the leg is meant to be straight, and not bent. Poses such as, headstand, shoulder stand, boat pose, locust, or warrior three. Any of these poses will greatly benefit from this very cool concentration that we put into our feet. 

Warrior III
Warrior III

Why can’t it be “G.I. Joe Foot” for us guys? Because he never wore high heels. It’s totally cool if he does, but he doesn’t. He’s a flat footed army boot sort of guy, not that that ruins the whole premise that we are after, here’s why. Barbie Foot could just as easily be named “high heeled shoe foot”. 

Here’s the simple “how to”. Sit on the floor or a chair. Take one leg and straighten in out in front of you in the air. Now, engage all of the muscles in your leg. Especially your calf muscles (gastrocnemius) and front of the thigh muscles (quadriceps). Now, point your foot AND your toes. Don’t forget to fully engage your calf and thigh muscles, and really reach out long with the ball of your foot. You need to include all of the parts together. 

OK, so keeping all of that, ALL of that, bring your toes back. Not your foot, just your toes, and push forward with the ball of your foot. The “ball” is the part made up of the bases of all of your toes. When you look at your foot, it will look like your foot is in an invisible high heeled shoe. This is Barbie Foot. 

Barbie is in this pose eternally, she never comes out of it. She is very devoted to this pose. This is why you will see her included in many of the great yoga temples throughout the world. 

Next time that you are in a yoga pose that has your leg or legs in the air, try it with and without this engagement, and see if your legs are much lighter, stronger and longer when you utilize your Inner Barbie. 

Barbie Foot will serve as the pose of the month for August, and we will be including a focus on perfecting it in our classes. I offer private yoga classes here at our PranaVida retreat in the rainforest here in Manuel Antonio. I have individual and group sessions available. Whether you live here year round and would like to come every week, or if you are visiting and would like to set something up for while you are here, I would live to work with you. We also offer various types of massage therapy for couples and individual session, including deep tissue, and Thai Yoga Massage. Yoga can be a wonderful part of your life, and I hope that I get a chance to be a part of your journey.