Show your feet some love
20th November 2019
Yesterday, my son twisted his ankle in PE at school. It’s a bit sore, but luckily nothing serious. He is prone to this sort of injury though and I did remind him again (I’ve said it before, but because I’m his mum, he doesn’t pay much attention!) that he needs to make sure he strengthens his feet and ankles so he can avoid a worse injury in the future.
He’s young right now and he will heal well, but as we get older our ability to bounce back from injury begins to reduce. Whatever our age, prevention is always better than a cure. So in our classes I always make sure we spend some time paying much-needed attention to our feet and ankles.
The feet are the foundation to our bodies. To support our full body weight every day they need to be balanced and sturdy. To propel us forwards when we walk or run they need to be flexible and adjustable. Astonishingly, our feet will cover around 75,000 miles by the time we turn 50. Along the way, they can become prone to a wide range of injuries and bio-mechanical problems.
Humans evolved to walk barefoot (or with basic foot coverings made from supple animal skins) over variable terrain. Our feet needed to be responsive and adaptable. Contemporary lifestyles see us constraining our feet in unsuitable, restrictive footwear. Most of us rarely enjoy the freedom of walking barefoot.
Much like the roots of a tree, the feet form the foundation of any standing yoga pose. Establishing a firm footing in tadasana is vital for life and ideal preparation for any balancing pose. Build your pose upon a weak foundation and you’re more likely to wobble and fall.
In standing poses, it’s important to work on grounding down equally through the four corners of the foot. These roughly correspond to lymphatic drainage points on the foot. Engaging and stimulating these points, as we spread the toes and activate the arches, could be beneficial to lymph circulation. It certainly increases the area of the foot, making balancing much easier.
Initially it may be tricky to engage those neglected and underused muscles. For runners particularly, as they experience a huge amount of impact to the feet. But it’s never too late to start. Begin by just sitting down and paying your feet some attention. Wriggle, bend and flex the toes. Explore your range of movement with some ankle rotations. With straight legs, draw the toes in towards the shins and push your heels away. These movements will all increase blood flow, warm and activate the muscles, as well as lubricate the joints.
Often people imagine that there’s only a limited range of movement within the foot and toes but one look at the intricate art created by many talented foot artists shows just how much potential there is for movement, accuracy and dexterity in the foot. When we work barefoot in asana we are positively enhancing our feet’s natural ingenuity as well as our overall health and wellbeing.