We probably don’t give our feet as much gratitude as we should, yet they guide us through our life journey, provide balance and stability and connect us to Mother Earth. In Yoga asana practice, it all begins with our feet and when our feet are aligned the rest seems to fall into place. You’re probably familiar with expressions like “roots to transcend”. Our feet lead the way, they pave the example for the rest of our body to grow and follow. The reality is that if structural imbalances in our feet are apparent it will likely manifest somewhere else in our body. By not evenly distributing weight on our feet we can hamper spinal elasticity and or bear constricted pressure in our hips. This will manifest itself in physical frailty and also contribute to body and mind fatigue.
To master the art of standing and moving on our feet, we should focus our attention on elevating the arches in our feet (formed by the tarsal and metatarsal bones). Practice by dispersing the weight in equal measure through the right and left side of your heel and balls of your feet, raising your toes and as your practice improves play with lowering each toe down, one at a time. This is what teachers really mean when they say “engage your Yogi feet”. The science behind this will strengthen the ligaments and the tendons to allow the foot to support the weight of our body with minimal pressure. In addition, by keeping the heel and toe in a parallel line, not at an angle but a median plane, we create less constriction in our groins, space in the abdomen and openness in the chest to breathe more deeply and to lengthen our spine. Is there a more fitting beautiful asana to bring awareness to our feet than tadasana, mountain pose which you can practice anytime and anywhere?
Moving with grace, lightness and flowing intent through each step we take forward (or backwards) in life and through each asana, flow or sequence will limit the shudder compression that ripples up throughout the body. Why stomp when we you can skip, glide or float? Stomping only creates tension within ourselves and can bring damage to our environment. Besides, skipping, gliding or indeed floating is much more fun, don’t you think?
Give your feet some love and allow them to be expressive. The value of stretching them and pointing them is untold, stimulating the nerve endings which are more per square metre than any other part of the body. The occasional pedicure to make them happy feet will feel good, look good and stop those unwanted distractions in your Yoga practice when you notice that scabby looking baby toe that deranges your aeroplane/warrior 3 pose.
We all benefit from taking a breather every once in a while and this philosophy also extends to our wonderful feet. Give them a chance to breath not only on but off the Yoga mat. Is it not incredibly liberating to walk around barefoot, be it on a grassy mossy lawn, a sandy beach or at the end of a night having attempted wearing the most ridiculous shoes? Not only can it provide you with a sense of grounding, it also serves as a natural pedicure and encourages good alignment and gets the blood moving.
Your feet are the foundation of your body, so don’t tiptoe around the importance of happy and healthy feet. Incorporate a few of these pointers into your daily life and Yoga asana practice to help bring about lightness into your body and mind.