It’s easy to take our feet for granted. Think about all the things our feet do for us. They carry the weight of our bodies, help us to balance, allow us to walk, run, and dance. Then we cram them into boots, athletic shoes, and high heels all day long. Ouch! The overuse of your lower extremities can lead to strain and injury, inflammation, numbness, immobility, nerve damage, and more.
It's time to give your feet a much needed break. You take care of the rest of your body; why not give some devoted attention to your feet. It may not be the most likely exercise method, but there are some very common yoga poses that have an indirect positive impact on healing your feet. Here are the five best yoga poses for your feet.
- Mountain Pose
- Tree Pose
- Upward Facing Dog
- Warrior 2 Pose
- Toe Stretching Forward Fold
These yoga postures will focus primarily on stability, balance, strength, agility, and flexibility. These are the basics of good foot health. Not only do they pertain to the function of the feet, but the supporting areas, particularly your calves and ankles. Performing these yoga postures on a regular basis will provide positive results.
This may not seem like the most typical pose to practice when it comes to focusing on your feet. But indeed it provides a sense of balance, stability, and strength while holding this pose especially when you focus on your lower extremities.
Stand tall on your yoga mat. Align your feet hip-width apart and stand with your toes pointing directly forward. Be sure that there is an even distribution of weight between each foot. When you think about it, this is not the most natural way we stand in a social setting. More often than not, you're probably gravitating most of your body weight into one foot while having a conversation with a friend. This can create more strain to that overused side of your body.
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In Mountain Pose, with more focus on your feet and ankles, you create a stronger sense of balance and body alignment. Another way to bring more awareness and attention to your feet in this pose is to imagine you have a triangle shape on the soles of your feet. Along the ball of your big toe and the pinky toe, will be the base of the triangle. The heel will be the point of the shape. Press these three points into your yoga mat to create a deeper connection to the ground. Take a moment also to grip the yoga mat with your toes. By doing this, you strengthen the intricate muscles of the feet. The whole process of standing in Mountain Pose enlivens your feet, too. Hold Mountain Pose for at least 10 slow breaths.
To build more strength in your feet and ankles, practice balancing on one foot. Tree Pose is a wonderful standard balancing position. Start in Mountain Pose. Establish balance on two feet before moving toward standing on one foot.
When you're ready, slowly shift your weight onto your right foot. Do your best not to lean too much. Keep the pressure of your foot pressing into the mat. You will feel your thigh muscle engage. Next, slowly slide your left foot up the side of your right leg. Your left knee will naturally bend. Turn it so it is pointing outward. As you're able, slide the foot to your calf. This is a good starting point for this balancing posture. As you gain more strength and balance, place the foot on your inner thigh. If you need more stability in this pose, you can keep your foot closer to the ground. Place the heel of your left foot along the ankle of your right foot. Arch your foot while keeping your toes on the yoga mat.
Not only will you be in a supported balancing position, but you'll also get a bit of a stretch through your toes. Finally, extend your arms into the air. Create a stretching sensation in your upper body; feel as if you will touch the ceiling. Hold Tree Pose on the first side for at least 5 to 10 slow breaths. Repeat the posture on the other side.
This balance activates those small muscle fibers in the soles of your feet, around the ankle joints, and in your toes. And because you’re standing on one foot, the supportive leg, especially in the thigh, hamstring, and calf muscles, strength is obtained. Overall, this will provide more support for your feet so you do not feel so weighed down in your own body. If you're an athlete, for example, that involves running or jumping, practicing a balance posture like Tree Pose will be very beneficial.
Upward Facing Dog
Another common yoga pose that can positively affect your feet is Upward Facing Dog. When fully engaged in the posture, you stretch the tops of your feet providing more mobility and flexibility.
Start the pose by lying on your belly. Place your hands directly under your shoulders. (Your elbows will point to the back of the room.) Straighten your legs and point your toes. (The tops of your feet will make contact with your yoga mat.) With elbows hugging inward toward your ribs, press your hands into the mat in order to lift your upper body. Press until your arms are straight and your torso is mostly facing forward. Also, ensure your belly and hips are off the ground. You will be creating a backbend with this posture.
While holding the pose, press the tops of your feet into the yoga mat. You will feel a lengthening and stretching sensation along the top portion of your foot and ankle. Think of this as a counterpose to standing in a pair of shoes where the front of the ankle and top of the foot can become quite stiff. Lengthening the foot in this fashion will provide great relief. As you're able, hold the posture for at least 5 breaths.
Warrior 2 Pose
This standing yoga pose will provide more agility through your ankles as well as create strength in your feet. Stand sideways on your yoga mat with your feet wide apart. Turn your right foot so it is facing the front of your mat. Bend your right knee; make sure your right knee stays aligned over your heel or ankle bone. Also ensure that your right knee and toes are pointing directly forward. Press this front foot strongly into the ground to generate energy in the foot, ankle, and calf.
Meanwhile, your left leg will remain straight behind you. Press the outside portion of the foot into the mat to establish a strong grounding. You will notice that your left foot, due to the angle of the leg, will also be at an angle. This will allow the ligaments and the muscles around the ankle joint to gently stretch. Further, your left foot will feel more rooted to the mat for greater stability and balance.
To complete the full pose, extend your arms outward over your legs. As a way to bring more energy and attention to your feet, try this action. Without literally moving your body, feel as if you are pulling your feet together toward the center of your mat then pushing away. This will be an intrinsic movement that will activate the muscles of your legs and feet. Hold the posture on the first side for at least 10 breaths. Be sure to practice Warrior 2 on the other side with the same actions.
Toe Stretching Forward Fold
A pose that is more related to the relief in your feet is called Toe Stretching Forward Fold. It is all too common for our toes and feet to feel so bound up, especially when wearing shoes. Your toes need a good stretch to keep them mobile and flexible. Try this posture.
Sit on your yoga mat in a cross-legged position. Fold forward slightly an interlace the fingers of your right hand through the toes of your left foot. Do the same with the other hand and foot. Flex your feet and maintain the gentle forward fold. Hold here for several minutes in order to stimulate the toes and feet. You will experience more life and energy in your feet with this posture.
If you're an athlete, dancer, or business person that is stuck in stiff shoes all day, then you'll want to perform this series of yoga poses for foot relief. After a week or so, check in with the flexibility and strength of your feet. While sitting, circle your ankles to assess the mobility through your ankles. Flex your feet and point your toes to see if the tops of your feet feel more loose and limber. Even practice wiggling your toes to gauge further improved foot functioning. Return to a standing position to check in with strength in your supportive feet. You will feel more grounded, stable, and pain-free.