So as I sit here icing my foot it occurred to me that I haven’t ever written about the foot, which is odd since when I teach, no matter what pose I am teaching, the foot and its foundational properties are always at the heart of my classes. I’m applying ice to the foot that I dropped a 15 lb kettlebell on 2 – ish years ago and it still bothers me when I do certain things like lob (sorta like running but not) in the woods or if I try to do jump backs in yoga class, (when I know I shouldn’t) or maybe its just that I forget I am NOT 30 anymore. Whatever the reason some days the feet just require a little extra Love.
Here is your basic foot structure… your foot (and ankle) have 26 bones, 2 sesamoid bones, 33 joints, 19 muscles and 107 ligaments. Not to mention almost countless nerves and blood vessels. It’s a complex thing your foot and it carries the weight of the world around every day.
How is this complex system the foundation of nearly every pose? First the obvious, it is the foundation of all standing poses…Warriors, standing crescent, chair pose, even poses like Crow and Prayer squat. In these poses it is easy to connect to the energy of the feet and ankles. Instructors use cues like “feel your weight in all four corners of your feet” and “spread your toes and then press down through the big toe”… “feel the lift through the arch and into the ankle” ect ect ect.
This is the most common way to access the Bandhas in the feet known as PadaBandha.
I have talked about Bandhas before (check it out here) but it’s been a while so here is a brief overview …The bandhas are subtle uses of muscular awareness to promote strength in the physical body (think Uddiyana Bandha in planks) but to also redirect and to efficiently use energy throughout the body. The Bandhas help us to move with grace and to better incorporate the principle of Sukha (effortless work) in our movements.
PadaBandha on the physical level is all about engaging the muscles in the feet but without gripping or using force. As we stand in Tadasana, Mountain Pose, we first feel the weight of our body, the heaviness of our legs and the pressure on our feet as gravity pulls us down. But lets look at the subtleties of this standing pose. We want to feel grounded and connected but how do we do that without dropping all of our weight down or feeling heavy. We have to engage the muscles in the feet to create a sense of lifting up, especially in the Medial Arch, this encourages stability in the ankle.
The arches are how the foot transfers energy. EX… when your foot hits the ground its the heel (usually) that comes down first, energy then moves up the Lateral arch( the outside of the foot) and up to the transverse arch and kinda of out the front of the foot creating the ‘push off’ then the Medial arch creates support for the action of ‘lifting’. It sends that energy back up into the body. Creating lift, movement, energy transfer. This leads to a strong supple and flexible foot.
So what can we do to keep our foot strong and flexible? Well Yoga of course! You knew I was going to say that didn’t you?
But it’s true, a balanced yoga practise combining standing poses with certain balancing poses allows the foot to move within its full range of motion. Creating a foot that is strong and flexible. A healthy foot contributes to healthy knees, hips low back and well pretty much everything else.
Here is a sweet little practice for the feet and the ankle.… the self massage at the end is very nice to do anytime. The video lost some of its components while being uploaded to YouTube but it is Ok… well except for the fact my hair is in my face and there is a tag showing on the back of my yoga top LOL but no one is perfect. I will try to get the rest of the video corrected and loaded at a later date. For now enjoy and take care of those Happy Feet!