When you think about getting strong, you may think about building muscles at the gym. Bicep curls, leg presses, pull-ups, and cardio on the treadmill – these all help you reach your workout goals. There aren’t, however, many well-known exercises for your feet. Why is that? If you think about it, our feet do so much for us each day keeping us stable and mobile. Shouldn’t we give them the respect of exercising, stretching, and strengthening to keep them healthy and injury-free?
Well, we’ve got a great workout for your feet! When practiced mindfully and regularly, your whole body can benefit from the different poses and movements in Yoga. For your feet in particular, there are a few poses that will help you become more aware of your feet’s balance, flexibility, strength, and alignment.
Stand up tall with your feet about hip distance apart (or alternatively, you can try it also with your feet together). Face forward, spine tall, shoulders back, and belly in. Let your hands fall at the sides with the palms forward. Now take notice of your feet. What parts of the feet are holding the most weight – the inside, outside, front, or back? Are your feet facing forward or are they pigeon-toed? Do you tend to over- or under-pronate?
Do you eventually shift your weight to one leg instead of standing on both? Now try lifting the toes or raising the heels. Do you see how even the slightest movement can throw off your stability?
Start standing, with feet together and hands in prayer position in front of your heart. Raise your right foot and rest the bottom of your foot against your left ankle, balancing on one foot. How was that? Easy? Now try lifting your hands above your head and spread them like branches of a tree. Note how your balance may have shifted. Still too easy? Then move your right foot up to the inside of the left knee or even up to your inner thigh.
How has your body shifted to compensate? Try spreading your toes and “gripping” the floor to increase strength in your left foot. Your feet and ankles will have increased balance and strength if you keep practicing tree pose with its variations.
You will be on both hands and both feet so that your body makes an upside-down V shape. Push through your hands so that your face get lower to the earth, while your butt raises higher into the air (as if someone is pulling you up by the belt). Most likely, you’ll be on your tip toes, but pedal the feet, one at a time so that the heel touches (or almost touches) the ground. When you’ve warmed up your ankle and feet muscles, straighten the legs again.
Try to press your feet down (at the same time) so that your heels get closer to the ground. You will feel a stretch along the plantar fascia, as well as on the Achilles tendon, calves, and hamstrings.
Nagler Foot Center, in the Texas Medical Center / Museum District in Houston, can help and your family have healthy lives for many years. www.FootHouston.com or 713.529.1010