By Betsy Kase
The holiday party season is just getting started, and I’m already hearing from students, “My feet are killing me.” Between those extra hours of holiday shopping and standing in heels at this weekend’s holiday parties, our feet take a beating this time of year. Thankfully, yoga can help!
Even though they are our foundation, we too often forget about our feet. Thankfully I was blessed with strong feet, big arches, and toes that spread. But over the past 20 years my shoe size has increased by 1.5 sizes because of yoga. As I look down at my toes on the yoga mat, my feet look more like Fred Flintstone feet, than the small, petite feet I used to have. I have worked my toes almost everyday. And if I don’t, they get stiff really quickly. Whenever possible and as regularly as you can, bend and sit on your toes and point and flex your feet. These exercises build arches and form a deeper ability to articulate the toes, creating a deep and strong foundation for the legs.
In yoga class, we work on building the strength and stamina of our feet, legs and core before we begin with balance poses. This is mainly done with standing poses like Triangle pose, Warrior poses and Mountain pose. By constantly spreading and lifting our toes, we are avoiding the natural progression of the toes becoming stiff and drawing together. These poses activate the feet muscles and integrate them with the muscles of the legs; creating an enormously firm foundation.
If you have flat fee, bunions or feet that have been jammed into shoes that really don’t fit well, start a new foot practice. It is definitely a practice that can cause discomfort, and with bunions, sometimes pain. At first, you may not hold the following foot positions long. That’s ok- try to go in and out of them. Over time you will find the ability to sit longer, in a more comfortable state. Your feet will feel stronger, more flexible, and more stable.
Give these a try to combat your next high heel hangover!
- Kneel on your mat with the tops of your feet on the mat. You can use a blanket to cushion your knees. Sit back on your feet, trying to keep your heels as close together as possible.
- If you have a hard time doing so, you can spread a blanket over the tops of your heels to hold them together as you sit back. Having your heels close together will intensify the stretch.
- Stay here about a minute as you continue to breathe. If the sensation becomes too intense you can always sit up a bit, releasing some of the weight off your heels, and then move back into the pose. You will likely feel the stretch on the tops of your feet, inner arches and perhaps up into the ankle. If the fold is too deep for your knees, place a blanket between your shins and thighs to give you some additional height.
- Next, kneel on your mat or blanket, but this time, keep your toes tucked.
- Sit back, again trying to keep your heels from splaying out. You can use a blanket to hold them together as you did in the last stretch.
- Check that you are maintaining good spinal alignment and an open chest. Try to stay her a minute and breathe.
- You will likely feel the stretch in your arches, up into your Achilles, and maybe your calf muscles.