In yoga our feet, as in life are very important. They are the base for many of our yoga poses, specifically the standing poses connecting us to the earth. Our feet have 26 bones, 33 joints & more than 100 muscles, tendons & ligaments. Correct distribution of weight in our feet not only gives us optimal postural alignment, but also a great foundation in both standing poses & also other poses where our feet are engaged.
When the arches of our feet collapse & our ankles roll in, they do not properly support our body. Like a house on poorly laid foundations, the whole body is affected. Knees rotate inwards, the back sways, making the belly stomach & buttocks stick out. Our shoulders roll forward and the head is forward of the shoulders. Essentially we are off balance, the perfect definition of bad posture. Over time we are causing physical damage to our muscles, ligaments & our joints. So what can we do to stop putting this level of everyday stress on our body?
To begin take time to notice how you stand, A physio, chiropractor or yoga teacher with an extensive background in anatomy & physiology can help. So if you do need to make adjustments perhaps you need to change how you walk. If you notice you walk more towards your instep, the arch of your foot on then work on trying to find the correct distribution of weight & movement in your feet.
The next important step (no pun intended) is to build muscular strength & practice regular relaxation. If the arches of your feet have have fallen, those muscles might be weak, so it is important to work on them with poses that specifically target the muscles in the lower legs. Its also possible that some muscles may be too strong, pulling your leg & or pelvis out of alignment. Work on relaxing those muscles while at the same time building strength in the weaker parts of your legs.
Traction, when done manually by using a strap or belt, is an effective way to gently work on problem areas & bring them back to their optimum shape, strength or position. Another important thing to do more of is walking with bare feet. Putting our feet into shoes with heels or gym shoes brings the foot into an unnatural shape. Despite all the advertising to the contrary, our feet were made to walk just as they are – bare.
Many podiatrists will have customised insoles made for their patients shoes. While they do help to support the feet & make them feel more comfortable when wearing your shoes, they don’t usually cure the root problem.
Treat your feet with respect & kindness. They take you everywhere you need to go in life & in asana practice. Take time to massage your feet to release tension by using a hard rubber ball under the sole & moving the foot backwards & forwards.
Take a look at the illustration featured here & next time you have a little time see if you can use these pointers as a guide with you are standing.