Yoga for the Feet

Feet are a very important part of the body yet they are often overlooked, even neglected. In fact often we do not pay attention to our feet until they give us a reason to, such as pain. We stuff our feet into socks and shoes and forget about them. We abuse and neglect our feet by wearing uncomfortable or improperly fitting shoes. The feet are victims of fashion, especially when it comes to women’s footwear.

Because our feet are hidden in shoes we do not pay as much attention to them as we do to other parts of our bodies such as our hands. Being out of sight it is easy to not immediately notice such things as ingrown toenails, that is until be experience pain. Common foot problems associated with improper fitting shoes include, flat feet, bunions, hammertoes.

Our feet are important; they are our foundation for the body. As the foundation for the weight of the body our feet need to be level, balanced and stable to support the legs, spine, torso, arms and head. When the base is tilted or out of balance the whole structure will be misaligned. The body aligns itself from the feet up. So when a foot goes out of alignment the ankle, knee, pelvis and back will follow. It is also important to note that while our feet are the base for our structure they are not static, they have the added complexity of being mobile with the necessity being flexible and strong.

Our feet and toes are essential to body movement for walking, running and standing. Our body reflects everything we do with our feet, if our feet are tight and clenched then the whole body will mirror the tension. When our feet are tired, the whole body will be tired. Our feet are also referred to as the mirror of our bodily health. Often by examining the feet we can see signs of such things as diabetes, arthritis, circulatory issues and even neurological diseases. Proper foot care is essential not only to our feet but to overall health.

Feet are complex mechanisms and each foot contains 26 bones and 33 muscles (intrinsic and extrinsic) there are 31 joints and over 100 ligaments in the foot. A quarter of the bones in the body are found in the feet, 52 bones in a pair of feet. There are 250,000 sweat glands in each pair of feet these glands release almost one cup of moister daily. That is more sweat glands per inch of our feet than anywhere else in the body.

Thus it is extremely important to care for our feet and one of the ways we can do this is by incorporating specific poses that help to strengthen the feet and the lower leg muscles. Proper alignment of the feet in all yoga poses is an important part of any practice. Because the body aligns from the feet up it is important that we take care and have proper alignment of the feet in all of our yoga poses.

There are particular poses that will help improve foot problems as well as increasing circulation, reduce swollen ankles and create stability in the body. Listed below are specific yoga poses that benefit the feet.

Virasana – Hero Pose
Vajrasana – Thunder pose
Adho Mukha Savanasna – Downward Facing Dog
Baddha Konasana– Cobbler Pose
Squat with Toe Stretch (Knees on the floor)
Squat (knees up, heels on the floor)

It is important to pay attention to the alignment of the feet in all yoga poses, especially in standing poses when the feet are not only the foundation of the pose but also the connection to the earth. Proper alignment of the feet, includes grounding though the four corners of the feet (the big toe mound, the baby toe mound, the outer and inner heel) lifting the arches and distributing the weight equally between each foot.

By experimenting in our standing pose, gently rocking backwards and forwards, side to side we will come to find that perfect place. Finding that place also facilitates finding the neutral posture of the standing body. When you find this place your will experience a sense of weightlessness freedom “Neutral Posture” refers to the resting position of each joint-the position in which there is the least tension or pressure on nerves, tendons, muscles and bones. It is also the position in which muscles are at their resting length-neither contracted nor stretched. Muscles at this length can develop maximum force most efficiently.

By lifting the toes up when standing and reaching them to the sky, spreading them wide then placing them back down, we lift the arches and ground through all four corns of the foot. Yoga poses increase muscle tone and stretch the muscles and connective tissue in the feet. Creating and maintaining good muscle tone in our feet improves overall good foot health. Yoga poses that help flexibility and strengthen the feet, toes and ankles contributes to better alignment of the feet and therefore better body alignment.

Lynda Lafond

References: sun&moonyogastudio
From the Ground Up – Yoga Journal
Feet First – Yoga Journal
WebMD – Pain Management
Foot exercises for PF – Ed Davis, DPM 6/05/04

Lynda is currently in the Feel Good Yoga Teacher Trainingprogram.