Our feet are pretty amazing. They account for 25% of the bones in our body and have over 250,000 sweat glands. They take us where we need to go and give us mobility and freedom of movement. The feet are among the first indicators of disease. For instance, ailments like nerve and circulatory disorders as well as diabetes and arthritis tend to show the first symptoms at the feet. They may become numb or have a tingling sensation. Only a very small percentage of people are born with foot problems but in their lifetime millions are affected by foot problems. The reason for this is wear and tear as well as unhealthy habits and poor foot care. Yoga poses increase muscle tone and stretch foot muscles and connective tissue. Creating and maintaining muscle tone in the feet will improve overall foot health. Bringing flexibility and strength to the feet, toes and ankles can lead to overall better health and alignment for the body. Any pose that strengthens the lower leg muscles and feet will help improve foot problems as well as increase circulation, reduce leg cramping, help reduce swollen ankles, and create stability in the body. Listed below are a number of specific yoga poses that benefit the feet.
Virasana stretches the top of the foot and ankle while toning the sole of the foot. This pose is very therapeutic for flat feet as strengthening the muscles in the feet helps recreate the arches. Virasana also, over time, reconstructs the alignment of the tarsal bones by having pressure on the tops of the feet and allowing the toes to spread.
Vajrasana has many of the same benefits of Virasana as it helps to recreate or maintain healthy arches, increase flexibility in the ankle as well as reconstruct the alignment of the tarsal bones.
Baddha Konasana-Cobbler Pose
Baddha Konasana is a great pose for feet. While in Baddha Konasana pressing the four corners of the feet together and drawing the toes away from each other strengthens the foot muscles and activates the arches.
Squat with Toe Stretch (knees on floor)
Kneeling with the toes tucked under is a great way to stretch the bottom of the feet. This can be a very intense stretch for beginners as it breaks up tension in the sole of the foot.
Squat (knees up, heels on floor)
Squatting with the knees up strengthens the muscles of the feet, toes and lower legs which help the overall health of the feet.
Adho Mukha Svanasana-Downward Facing Dog
Adho Mukha Svanasana is another great pose for the feet. The feet muscles are working as your arches lift, while stretching the soles of the feet. By lengthening the plantar muscles and fascia the downward extension of the heel to the floor will develop with time.
All Standing Poses-especially Tadasana,-Mountain Pose
It is important to pay attention to the foot alignment and muscle tone in all yoga poses, especially during standing poses when the feet are not only the foundation of the pose, but also the connection to the earth grounding us energetically. Standing poses emphasize establishing a firm base of support through the legs so the spine can be relaxed, light, and free. To create proper foot alignment, evenly distribute your weight between the big toe mound, the baby toe mound, the inner heel and the outer heel. Allow the toes to spread forming a firm foundation and complete support system for your body to maintain health as well as create good posture and a firm foundation for all yoga poses.
Viparita Karani-Legs up the wall
Legs up the wall will restore energy and oxygen to the legs and feet as it allows blood and lymph fluid that has pooled in the feet and ankles throughout the day to flow back into the body.
Other exercises for the feet
Listed below are a few other exercises for the feet to help wake up the feet, allow them to come alive and become more responsive to the more challenging yoga poses involving foot action. These are also a gentle way to work through some of the years of tension held in the feet.
Toe strengtheners can increase flexibility, muscle tone and control of the toes. From standing, drawing the big toe up and pressing the four little toes down. Draw the four little toes up while pressing the big toe down. Draw the big toe and baby toe up as you press the three middle toes down. Draw the three middle toes up while pressing the big toe and baby toe down. Singling out each toe to act as individual entities can be extremely challenging and frustrating.
Point and Flex Foot
From Dandasana, point the toes away from the body and flex the foot by drawing the toes towards the body. This creates mobility in the ankle as well as strengthening the muscles of the feet and ankle.
Slowly take the ankle in circles in both directions clockwise and counter-clockwise. This can be done from sitting in a chair, seated on the floor or standing. This action stretches and strengthens the foot and ankle muscles while maintaining mobility in the ankle and foot joints.
Interlace Fingers between Toes
From a seated position, interlace your fingers between your toes. This stretches the muscles of the toes and allows them to spread. This action can be very challenging for some people due to confining shoes.
Tennis ball roll
Roll the entire sole of the foot on a tennis ball. This helps to warm up the feet as well as breaking up any tension being held in the feet. This exercise also accesses many important pressure points on the sole of the foot. The gentle pressure on the muscles and connective tissue can relieve tension and regain fluidity.
Picking up marbles with your toes
By using your toes to pick up marbles not only strengthens the foot muscles but also promotes the use of using toes as individual entities as opposed to a group.
Give your feet the love and attention they deserve, your whole body will thank you.