Especially after a long hot summer of jandal wearing, our feet are often neglected. Aching arches, dead skin and bung toenails are just the tip of the iceberg. We also neglect to recognise the importance and how much work our feet do each day.
In yogic terms, our feet relate to our root chakra, muladhara, and help to connect us to Mother Earth. They ground us, provide a strong base for our standing poses and are the crucial basis of our stability in balance poses. What is often referred to as mountain pose (Tadasana) is also called Samastithi. This literally means ‘equal standing’ and is the basis of all poses. The alignment of this position is often determined by the ‘equal standing’ of drawing up through the arches of the feet and the inner and outer ankles to create a strong base. This pose is also strengthened by focusing on the ‘tripod’ of the foot, rooting down through the heel, the little toe and the big toe mound. The key to an aligned downward facing dog pose, starts with the feet and tight plantar fascia will render it impossible for the heels to reach the floor.
Restrictive footwear can cause all kinds of problems for the feet (plantar fasciitis, bunions, tendinitis etc.) so including and consciously thinking of the feet during our yoga practice can have numerous benefits. Stretching through the feet will help your alignment, will ease ankle, knee, hip and back issues, stimulate the energy meridians in the body, need I say more?
Enforcing a ‘no shoe’ rule in the house can increase barefoot time, which is also vital for strengthening your feet. If you have particularly tight feet, try rolling a tennis ball under you foot to massage it out for a couple of minutes each day. Then the following poses can help with stretching out the feet, working up to a toe stand. Think about these poses as some ‘self care’ during the week, and try to fit them in, maybe while watching tv or cooking dinner?
Poses to try:
Samastithi- mountain pose focus on equal standing in the feet
Balance on your toes
Kneel back onto your curled toes
Toe stand - when you feel able
Virasana - Hero pose (kneeling with feet relaxed under you)