Sunday, May 10, 2015
Get Happy Feet with Yoga
Give your feet just a little attention, and your whole body will feel better. They hold us up all day long, they get us everywhere we need to go, and they connect us to the earth some even call the feet the "roots" of the body. Yet for all that our feet do for us, we don't do much for them in return. We cram them into tight shoes, pound along on them all day, and generally ignore them unless they're giving us serious trouble. 7 of 10 people will suffer from foot problems, many of which are entirely preventable ranging from inflamed bunions and hammer toes, tendinitis, and plantar fasciitis. Those aren't just minor ailments; some foot problems can alter the foot's structure and trigger pain elsewhere in the body. In fact, experts say one of the most important reasons to treat foot problems early is to prevent them from throwing the knees, hips, back, and shoulders out of whack.
One of the best ways to take care of your feet is with yoga. When you treat foot problems with yoga, you end up treating back pain, hip pain, all kinds of structural problems. Not only does it stretch out the muscles and lead to a greater range of motion, but it helps heal the root issue of inflammation as well. In fact, yoga gives feet a healthy workout that they rarely get any other way. Here are some tips from the experts on how best to use yoga to prevent or treat foot pain.
Throw Your Weight Around
The first place to begin building awareness of your feet is in standing poses such as Mountain Pose. Before you start the pose, think about how you naturally stand. Do you tend to put your weight on the inner edge of your foot, which tends to make your legs bow inward, or on the outer edge, which tends to make the knees bow out? (If you can't tell, check the bottoms of your shoes—you can often tell from the way the soles are wearing.) Notice how your weight falls, and then play with it by rocking forward and back, lifting first your toes, then your heels. If you tend to stand leaning a little forward, try shifting your weight back a bit, and vice versa. Next, try lifting the arch of your foot while pushing down around the edges, creating both a sense of rooting into the earth and lifting energy up from the center.
Work Those Toes
One great way to limber up stiff, underused feet is to work on the movement of the toes, most of us have lost some range of motion in the toes. In standing poses, focus on elongating the toes to stretch the sole of your foot. Press down into your heels at the same time you press forward with the base of the big and little toes, grounding forward with the ball of the foot. This can improve circulation, pumping blood and lymph back toward your heart, and potentially stave off edema and varicose veins.
Paying attention to and correcting the way your feet connect with the earth can correct foot and ankle problems that have repercussions throughout your body. For example, pronated feet (which roll inward from the ankle down) tend to cause knee problems and back pain. One way to think about foot stability is to think of your feet as having four corners: the big and little toes, and the outer and inner heels. Distributing your weight evenly across your feet is central to healthy alignment. And that, in turn, may lead to a surprise: By resolving foot problems, you may discover you've resolved your knee, back, hip, and shoulder problems as well. Look down to make sure that the second toe, shin, and knee are all in alignment as you start a pose.
Stretch for Strength
Any pose that stretches the arch or the sole of the foot improves flexibility and loosens tension. Stand on a tennis ball and roll it back and forth under your foot, working the toes, the ball of the foot, the arch, and the heel. Hero Pose stretches the top of the foot and elongates the arch, while kneeling with the toes tucked under. This is the best way to lengthen the plantar muscles on the sole of the foot, which, when contracted, can become inflamed, leading to plantar fasciitis. Downward-Facing Dog is another way to give the feet a good stretch; lift the arches of the feet as high as possible, then extend the heels toward the floor to work the plantar fascia. At first it feels impossible when you try to lower your heels, but it just takes practice. And it feels so good when you do.
Make these exercises part of your life, and your foot bones (not to mention your leg bones, hip bones, and maybe even your head bone) will be forever grateful.
To learn more about how yoga can help feet, knees, hips, back and shoulders contact Ony Antonucci at 832-8249, or email . Additional information is available at or Facebook onyyoga. Ony is a E-200 hr Registered Yoga Teacher and Kripalu 500-hr RYT and is certified in the Meeks Method and Positional Therapy. Private and group classes are available on South Shore Road in Edinburg. Chair yoga classes are on Monday and Thursday mornings in Edinburg and Northville. Gentle yoga and yoga for athletes are on Tuesday evenings at the Johnstown YMCA.
May your feet stand firm on the ground and bring good things your way - Namaste