Ben Curtis and Cassie Fireman are the co-founders of Soul Fit NYC. This Manhattan-based mobile wellness service comes to your home or office to teach yoga with a focus on mind-body connection to help people get grounded. So much of being grounded starts with our feet. When you care for your feet, it leads to addressing other structural problems in your body, including those that affect the back, hips, and knees.
Many yoga poses emphasize balance as you work the feet in different ways – for example, rolling, flexing and pointing, standing up on the balls of your feet, and balancing on one foot. Poses incorporating these movements increase blood flow and flexibility. Using props like a chair, tennis ball or belt (more about this later) can help strengthen your feet and, as a result, align your entire body.
Here, Ben and Cassie offer up some easy-to-do, effective yoga poses that specifically benefit the feet:
Start with your legs crossed (Sukhasana) or in the butterfly (Baddha Konasana) and treat your feet to a simple message. Rub your arches with your thumbs to increase circulation. This increases blood flow and energy before you begin your main yoga practice. It also just feels good.
TADASANA “ MOUNTAIN POSE”
Stand up straight, with your arms by your sides. Imagine centering yourself, your feet rooted down into the Earth, while your energy is rising up from the crown of your head. Engage all four corners of your feet, while lifting your arches and spreading your toes.
As you’re standing in mountain pose, check in with yourself: “How am I naturally standing? Where do I feel my weight? How do I walk in my daily life?” Do a body scan. Stand still, and close your eyes while in this pose; gently rock forward and back.
As you feel your weight shifting, notice where your center is and pause. Take a deep breath and remember this feeling. Try to maintain this centered alignment and slowly begin to walk. Checking in with your body in mountain pose will help you remember what it feels like to be centered. If you practice this daily, you’ll find that your alignment will improve. Not only will you feel more centered, but you’ll feel taller and lighter as a result.
ADHO MUKHA SVANASANA: “ DOWNWARD DOG”
This will work the plantar fascia, a band of tissue, or ligament, which connects the heel bone to your toes and is often a cause of pain. Start down on the mat by spreading and engaging all ten fingers, especially in the thumb and forefinger (to protect the wrists). Release the tension in the neck by easing the shoulders and shoulder blades down the back, away from the ears. After all, if we’re going to heal the feet, we should heal the rest of our body too.
In order to engage the feet, spread and engage all ten toes. Pedal the feet up and down, as if you were walking in place, Lift your arches as high as possible while extending the heels down toward the floor. If this pose is too hard on your upper body, try placing your hands on a wall or bench.
VERASANA: “ THE HERO POSE”
This helps elongate the arch and stretches the top of the foot. This pose lengthens the plantar fascia muscle as well. Begin by kneeling down on your matt, touch your knees together and keep your thighs perpendicular to the floor. Slide your feet apart a little wider than your hips while keeping the top part of the feet flat on the floor. Turn the big toes slightly inward to face each other and gently press the top of both feet evenly on the floor.
VIPARITA KARANI: “ LEGS ON THE WALL”
This pose is good for circulation and for restoring tired feet, especially if you have swollen ankles. Lie down on the floor, and put the back of your legs up against the wall. Reach your feet towards the ceiling. Try both flexing and pointing your toes and do what feels best for you.
Elevating your legs in this pose is not only great for your feet but also beneficial for your entire body as it helps stimulate brain activity as well as the digestive system and improves overall circulation. It also aids in sleep and can help relieve menstrual cramps, swollen ankles, and varicose veins. A pillow or blanket under the hips can be a nice addition to this pose.
A tennis ball is a great around-the-house prop that can help stimulate and massage the feet. Simply stand or sit in a chair and place the tennis ball under your foot, rolling it around for a few minutes. A yoga belt – or even a belt from your wardrobe – is another great way to stimulate and stretch the feet, while lying on your back. Wrap the belt around the arch of your foot, while pulling the two ends of the belt toward you. Flex your toes toward you and you’ll feel a great stretch not only in the arch but the hamstring as well.
Ben and Cassie add that yoga is great for stimulating, strengthening and maintaining your feet at any age. However, it can be easy to forget to care for our feet as we get older. It’s particularly important to activate and strengthen our toes (so remember to stretch and spread them wide as often as possible). Foot care is not the kind of thing that many of us make time for, but yoga helps us bring a mindfulness and an awareness of the parts of the body we often neglect.
By giving attention to and caring for your feet, you can not only improve the alignment of your entire body but also reduce your risk of injuries while relieving overall aches and pains. So thank your wonderful feet, as they have accompanied you on your many adventures. If you treat them right, they’ll continue to move you forward on your journey!
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