How many times have you come to Tadasana / Mountain Pose and your yoga teacher has encouraged you to feel your connection to the earth, or balance your weight on all four corners of the foot, or to lift and spread your toes? There is a reason teachers like to point out your feet – and it doesn’t have anything to do with your latest pedicure. Our feet serve as our foundation, our connection to the earth, and the platform our skeleton rests on. An imbalance in your feet can lead to problems in the ankles, knees, low back, even as far up as the neck. Yoga provides excellent opportunities to connect and strengthen from the bottom up.
Each foot contains 26 bones, 33 joints and 100 muscles, ligaments and tendons. Our plantar fascia is connective tissue that lies between our skin and muscles, and connects into the Achilles tendon of the calf. There are three arches in the foot, the main arch we are most familiar with on the inside of the foot, one on the outside of the foot, and one running under the ball of the foot. The architectural plans for these puppies were far from simple.
Treat Your Feet to a Yoga Class
Yoga allows us to make a deeper connection with our anatomy, while strengthening, lengthening, and supporting our joints.
1. Walk your Dog
Downward Facing Dog can be an excellent way to stretch and lengthen your calf muscles, which in turn provides more freedom of movement at the ankle, and prevents the development of plantar fasciitis, an irritation of the fascia in the foot.
From Down Dog, bend one knee so that the heel of the opposite foot can move closer to the floor. Hold here for 3-5 slow breaths. Switch sides. Then try bending both knees. This allows you to access the calf muscles that do not cross the knee, creating a deeper opening. Hold here.
2. Find your Balance
Your ankles have eyes, and they are watching you. Well, not exactly, but our ankles have proprioceptors, structures that tell your body where the joint is in space. If you have ever sprained your ankle, these proprioceptors may have been damaged, making balance poses a challenge. When we balance on one leg, we call on all our balance tools: our eyes, our inner ear which acts like a level, and the proprioceptors in our ankles and feet. Challenge your body to improve its ankle vision.
3. Follow the Middle Path
Bringing your awareness to where the weight is distributed in the feet can improve our overall posture. In standing poses, keep the connection with the inner foot, the outer foot, the ball of the foot, and the heel. Find the middle spot where weight is evenly spread out. This might seem like a lot of work, but it is the least you can do for your main means of transportation.
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