Considering that our feet provide a foundation for our entire body, if we are working with less than healthy alignment from our heels to our toes, our frame can be thrown off balance leading to poor postural habits, eventually pain and possibly injury. Whether you stuff your feet into shoes for the sake of fashion, or you rely on them to carry you through many miles of impact while running or walking, it is time to consider how much your feet do for you and how much you actually do for them. Even those of you who resist fashion and running altogether, but have been plagued with some unfortunate foot DNA, these tips will help you, too. With just a little bit of effort, these 5 simple exercises will increase flexibility, improve circulation, and fine tune your balance, ultimately bringing a little more health into your life and joy into your feet.
Basic Weight Distribution
There are two common instructions when it comes to weight distribution in the feet: the four corners and the triangle. Both are correct, it is just a matter of which instruction resonates best with you. If you aren’t familiar with one or the other try them both and see what fits.
1. Start standing with your feet parallel to each other and hip width apart.
2. To try out the Four Corners method, start by establishing an even distribution of weight between the inner and outer heel, the little toe pad, and the big toe pad.
3. To try out the Triangle instruction, distribute your weight evenly between the center of the heel, the little toe pad, and the big toe pad.
4. Now, press down through the 3 points or 4 corners, and lift through the very center of the foot to engage the arch. If this is tough and your arches are unresponsive, lift and spread the toes and the arches should activate. Try to set the toes back down. If the arches disengage as you release the toes, keep the toes lifted for a few moments to begin training the arches to stay involved. Practice a little everyday and you should see some improvement rather quickly.
**This may seem pretty elementary for some of you yogis out there, but how much do you check in with your feet when you are off the mat? Try to establish even distribution of weight as often as you can….when you are washing dishes, when you are folding laundry, when you are waiting to cross the street. There are infinite opportunities to work on this simple instruction, and the more it becomes our default standing alignment, the healthier we will be.
Toe Piano…This is one of my faves.
1. Find a lunge position and lower the back knee to the floor. Put padding under the back knee if it is sensitive.
2. Establish an even weight distribution in the front foot leaving the toes free from any gripping.
3. Slowly peel your toes from the mat one toe at a time…little toe first, then the fourth toe, then the middle and so on. The key here is to go slow, so you can start to develop strength in each toe separately instead of grouping them together as a whole.
4. Now, try to set them back down on the mat one at a time. Slowly.
5. Repeat a few times.
** For an extra challenge, try and see if you can peel the toes up and set them down in a different order. Egad! Keep trying, it gets a little easier. Hopefully.
1. Start on an all fours. If you have sensitive knees put a blanket under them to provide some padding.
2. Adjust the feet to parallel and tuck the toes under so the toes are flat and the heels are lifted. Try to tuck all five of the toes if its possible, even the little guy.
3. Start to sit your hips back on your heels. If it’s helpful, keep some weight in the hands. If your knees become sensitive as you bend them, put a blanket or pillow behind them to maintain space between your hamstrings and your calves. If there is still discomfort, don’t sit back.
4. Hold the arch stretch for at least 30 seconds. Release.
**If you get a cramp, drink more water. Word on the street is that most of those awful cramps we get in our feet are a result of dehydration.
1. Stand with the outer edges of your feet parallel to each other, and set your feet hip width apart.
2. Set a focus point for you eyes to help your balance. Keep your gaze still.
3. As you Inhale to a count of 5, slowly lift your heels off of the floor. Try to lift the heels as high as possible.
4. As you exhale to a count of 5, lower the heels to the floor.
5. Repeat for a minute or so, and keep the breath very slow. Try to pause after each inhale and balance with the heels off the ground.
**To help with balance, you can raise the arms in front of you, shoulder height, shoulder width, palms down. If you do lift the arms, however, make sure the shoulders stay down and away from the ears. You want to keep the neck tension free. If your balance is still a little shaky, stand with your hand on a wall for support.
Give your self a foot massage
A trip to the spa for a pedicure is a great idea, but we can also provide some relief to our feet without having to pay a penny.
1. Take a seat on the floor or in a chair and rest your right ankle on your left knee
2. Interlace the fingers of your left hand with the toes of the right foot.
3. Take hold of the right ankle with the right hand, and with the left hand start to wind the foot into ankle circles.
4. Switch directions.
5. Release the toes and take holds of the sides of the foot with both hands. Twist the foot in both directions.
6. Squeeze the foot. Squeeze each toe.
7. Set the foot flat on the ground. Take your fingers and rub in between each of the tendons on the top of the foot.
8. Massage around the achilles tendon and the bottom of the calf muscle.
9. Switch feet and repeat.
**Don’t think too much about doing it right, just do what feels good. Listen to your intuition.
***Food for thought… Our toes are connected to our diaphragm. Yup, it’s true. By way of the fascia. Fascia is a thin, slightly mysterious layer of fibrous connective tissue that wraps around muscles and tissues providing a structural integrity to our bodies as it holds everything in it’s proper place. A very gentle tug on the little toe would travel through the body eventually reaching the lower lobe of the diaphragm. Kinda crazy but true. So, if it is in fact connected, can tension in our feet affect our breath? Hmm….
Tags: alignment, balance, Feet, health, massage, self care, toes, wellness, Yoga, yoga basics