My mom hates foot massages. Huh!?! I just don’t get it. I think they’re one of the best things ever. I like my feet pampered and free. I can’t wear socks to bed. I don’t really like shoes. I need to wear something that I can take off easily. Flip-flops are great. Going barefoot – ideal. Add a hot beach with sand between my toes and I am in heaven!
We stand on them everyday, sometimes for a very long time. Feet are pretty amazing. With each step, your feet take the impact of your full body weight. And each step recruits a complex network of ligaments, bones, muscles and tendons. All of this happens while keeping you balanced and upright.
Your feet are your foundation.
Strong, flexible feet build a strong physical foundation that supports the legs, spine, torso and head. Proper alignment and weight distribution are also important. When your foot goes out of alignment, the ankle, knee, pelvis and back can follow and cause discomfort and pain. Have a look at this video for an interesting demonstration of this.
Our feet are also our energetic connection to the earth. Having a solid connection helps keep you grounded.
Yoga for your feet
Yoga can help you understand and build alignment, balance, strength and flexibility in your feet.
Standing poses challenge you to keep your weight distributed evenly throughout your feet. The key is to balance it among 3 points of your foot – the ball of your big toe, the ball of your little toe and the center of your heel. (Sometimes it is taught as all four corners of your foot. It’s all about even distribution. Try both to see which cue works for you.)
As you move into standing poses, your weight is distributed unevenly. When you focus on distributing your weight throughout the supporting foot, the muscles of that foot are strengthened and stretched.
You are also training your nervous system to find center in your feet. You are stimulating the feet and creating a more detailed map in your brain. This may help you respond more quickly to changes in surfaces and prevent falling (better balance!)
A Little Yoga Foot Love
Here are a few suggestions to honor your basic foundation and show your feetsome love. Give them a try and let me know what you think.
1. Mountain Pose
Stand with your feet about hip width apart. Imagine rooting your feet into the ground. Engage your thighs and your quadriceps. Relax your shoulder blades down your back.
Foot play: Notice how your weight falls. Play with it by rocking back and forth slightly, lifting your toes and then your heels. Find your center again. Feel strong in your feet (foundation) while finding freedom in your torso. Ground yourfeet, lengthen your spine. Hold for 5-10 breaths.
2. Tree Pose
From standing, draw one foot up and place the sole against the ankle or inner thigh of the opposite leg. Toes of the lifted leg are pointing toward the floor. Bring your hands to your heart. Extend the crown of the head toward the ceiling. Softly gaze at a point about 4 feet in front of you. Extend your arms up and reach for the sky. Hold for 5-10 breaths. Repeat on the other side.
Foot love: Focus on keeping your weight evenly distributed between all three points of your supporting foot. Half should fall on your heel and the other half is divided across the ball of your big and little toes. This strengthens the tissues of your standing foot as well your calf and shin muscles that balance your foot.
3. Tennis Ball Massage
Sit in a chair or use a wall for balance. Place a tennis ball under your foot. Gently apply as much pressure as you can take and push the ball into the floor. Roll it around with your foot from toes to heel. Do it for a minute or two and then switch to your other foot. Love this.
Foot love: This self-massage stretches the bottom of your foot (the plantar fascia which is the connective tissue on the bottom side of your foot that supports the arch.)
Kneel with the tops of your feet on the floor. Sit back on your heels. You can sit on a bolster or block if this is hard on your knees. Rest your hands on your thighs. Close your eyes. Take a few moments to settle in. Lengthen the crown of your head toward the ceiling; chin slightly tucked, shoulders relaxed. Hold for 5-10 breaths.
Foot love: You will feel a stretch on the topside of your feet and in your ankles.
Come out of the pose onto all fours (table top position) and gently tap the tops of your feet into the mat several times.
5. Seiza with your toes curled under
Kneel with your toes curled under this time. Sit back on your heels. Rest your hands on your thighs. Close your eyes. Take a few moments to settle in. Lengthen the crown of your head toward the ceiling; chin slightly tucked, shoulders relaxed. Hold for 5-10 breaths (or less… may be intense)
Foot love: This is another great stretch for the plantar fascia and arches of your feet.
6 Ankle Rolls
Finish by lying on your back. Place your feet flat on the floor, knees bent. Lift one leg, supporting it at your knee. Do a few ankle rolls in both directions. Point and flex your foot a few times. Do the same on the other side.
Try using those limbered-up monkey toes to pick up the dish towel from the kitchen floor … ummm not that I ever do that 😉
Photo courtesy of Pedro Ribeiro Simões