By Eric Stewart
These days, a lot of feet are having a hard time. Many foot owners report that their feet are tense, cranky and unhappy. One owner of an unhappy pair of feet sat down and asked them what was wrong. This is what the feet had to say:”A lot of the time we feel ignored, relegated to the basement, so to speak. Out of sight, out of mind. But when we complain, then we’re not ignored, because people see how important it is to be able to stand and move with comfort.”
“We’ve got to say though, not being ignored is as bad as being ignored these days because when people pay attention to us, we are bombarded by all these different ideas about how we’re supposed to work. It seems like every company has their shoe or insert that they say will make us happy. Every expert has their theory, but a lot of the time, it’s just talk.”
“For us, communication is real important. The way we tell you we’re happy is to just quietly go about doing our job, giving you the support that you need. And you’ll definitely know if we’re not happy, but a lot of time, it seems like you’re just not getting the message of what we’re saying.”
“Here’s the big thing: We just spend a lot of the day doing nothing, along with the legs, while our friends in the back and in the abdomen get all tight and overworked from sitting and standing. Normally, we feet have a natural connection with the trunk. We work together, but when you sit a lot, our connection gets disrupted. That’s when we get cranky. You can ignore us for a time, but the longer it goes, the louder we’ll complain.”
When asked about yoga, the feet said, “Doing yoga postures is great so long as it takes into account how we work. What is really helpful about yoga is the awareness part. Learning to pay attention to physical sensations makes a huge difference in folks being able to actually hear what we are saying!”
Here are four very simple practices you can do that can help you listen to what your feet are saying and support overall foot health.
Do activities that coordinate the feet and legs with the rest of the body: Walking, asana, dancing, and swimming are all great. Running can be fantastic as well, but if you have foot, knee or hip issues, it’s best to get them resolved before relying on running. If you sit or stand for long parts of your day, find ways to break that up with periods of movement that engage the feet and legs with the rest of the body.
Massage the feet: This is a great way to begin a practice. It enlivens the feet for what’s to come. While the feet generally like a massage that’s vigorous, make sure that you keep your hands soft. It can be easy for the hands to become tense when they encounter tighter, denser places. The feet, like any body part will release more if the touch stays supple and compassionate. Make sure to spend time on the toes, heels and ankles.
Elevate the legs: Putting your legs up the wall, on a chair or a cuishon helps to drain any built-up, congested fluid that accumulates in the lower legs and feet. If your practice is more advanced, both headstand and shoulderstand also disperse congestion in the lower extremities. If you have high blood pressure or swelling in the legs that’s due to a condition other than just standing or sitting, consult your doctor and work with an experienced yoga teacher.
Explore movement of the toes, feet and ankles in combination with asana: Simple movements of these joints are an invitation for the body to expand and maintain healthy range of motion. This also helps the feet maintain a balance of stability and mobility. Basic movements include: curling, uncurling and spreading of the toes, as well as pointing, flexing, rolling and circling of the feet. This can be done before asana practice or in between different poses. It works especially well with standing and balance poses.