I am constantly encountering new realizations about yoga. Sometimes this takes the form of new understanding of my own body and this most recent case is my feet. I noticed some alignment issues when I was practicing dance in front of a mirror and traced the problem to my feet.
Our feet are our are physical foundation, and our whole body depends on their health! Poor alignment in the feet can cause knee, hip, and back pain. Unfortunately, our feet often go neglected. As a dancer, my feet require extra-special care, especially since I am a victim of chronic foot pain. I bring to you today my favorite healthy feet practice:
Basic Feet Warmups: (do at the beginning of every yoga or dance practice, at the end of a long day, or whenever you think it would feel good!)
- Interlace your fingers between your toes like you are shaking hands with your foot.
- Draw circles, rotating your ankle one way, and then the other.
- Point the toes down and hold for two breaths. Flex the foot and hold for two breaths.
- Give each toe a little twist and tug.
- Massage the sole of the foot, starting at the base of the toes, and working your way toward the heel.
- Gently pound the sole of the foot with your fist.
- Give the foot friction, warming it up by rubbing briskly between the hands.
- Clap the foot between the hands (I call this the standing ovation!)
- Extend your foot next to the other, enjoy the difference in the feet, and repeat with the other foot.
General Feet Tips:
- In Tadasana, your feet should be directly under the bony part of your hips (towards the inside, not the outer fleshy part of your hips).
- To ground the feet, lift and spread the toes. Press through the four corners of the feet (mound of the big toe, inner heel at the base of the arch, mound of the little toe, outer heel).
- This action will lift the arches away from the ground and fire up all the muscles in the legs, providing a strong foundation for your standing poses.
- Try practicing all your standing poses with your toes lifted and spread. See how it feels, and notice if it improves your alignment.
I'm also a huge fan of of Yoga Toes. They help bring space and circulation to tight feet, and it feels so good. I have a pinched nerve in my foot and it really helps relieve the pressure if I'm having a painful flare-up.
For further reading, check out Yoga Nerd on "The Ground Beneath You for great instruction on how to work the feet in various asanas.