We focus some extra special recovery attention on our feet. These all important parts of our extended limbs bear both weight and movement, take us places and all the while keeping us firmly planted on the ground.
As a rockclimber, parent and experienced yoga teacher, Kate Towers talks us through the why, how and do's of caring for our feet through yoga for overall physical wellbeing.
Why Our Feet Matter
“We sure do abuse our feet, don’t we? I spent a LOT of my twenties and thirties forcing my feet into high heels … feeling the pressure to power dress at the office given I am a small female. I also took up rock-climbing, which entails wearing tight, banana shaped shoes to allow climbers to place all our body weight through a small part of the foot. It’s only now, a lot further down the line that I’ve come to really appreciate my feet and understand what an important job they do for my whole body.”
Our feet form our foundation – foot issues/poor gait can translate further up the kinetic chain into knee, hip and back problems. It’s so easy for our toes to become inert, particularly the naughty pinkie toe, refusing to move. All four corners of the foot should contact the surface, activating its (3) arches. The web of connective tissue/fascia that knits the many small bones together can become tight and, if not released, may develop into problems like bunions, fallen arches, clawed feet. Spreading our toes and attempting to move them individually can strengthen our feet and reinforce the most important foot arch, the medial arch, which is found on the inside edge of foot, stretching between the ball of the big toe and the heel:
Yin yoga stretches like these, although not comfortable can be a game changer. Rolling a tennis ball, squash ball or rubber bouncy ball while standing across the sole of the foot can also be a very effective way of releasing tension.
Maintaining balance in our bodies is key to functional movement, especially as we age. The World Health Organisation use balance as a measure of our physical age of our body. Yoga postures practice can really help challenge our balance using asymmetrical yoga poses like Tree (Vrikshasana), Warrior 3/ Aeroplane pose (Virabhadrasana III) or Extended hand to foot/ belt (Utthita Hasta Padangusthasana), strengthening our feet and our foundation.
Connection – an Indian perspective
Our feet connect us to the Earth; our mother, our source of nourishment. In Yoga Philosophy, the Earth and all creation forms part of Prakriti. As human beings, we are connected to Earth; delicately interwoven into the fabric of it! Muladhara chakra translated as ‘base support’ is the first energy centre in our body, located above sitting bones at the base of the spine. It is literally our earthing rod as it draws energy/Prana up through our feet and legs, as we root ourself down/Apana. This prana/energy continues upwards towards our crown of the head (Sahasrara chakra) where it connects us to Purusha, pure consciousness. Keeping ourselves grounded through our feet and legs, is a good anecdote to stress during challenging times and, over time builds resilience, physically, mentally and emotionally.
A Traditional Chinese Medicine Perspective
All our lower body energy channels (meridians) begin in the feet and work their way through the body. If you’ve ever experienced acupuncture, you’ll perhaps be familiar with points used in this area as they are source points – where the energy is strongest. Inevitably, foot issues can block the flow of energy through these meridians. There are too many meridians to list here but one fundamental to our overall wellbeing is that of the kidney. The kidney is thought to be a support for all other organs as it houses our own Jing (inherited energy, our essence). The kidney channel/meridian has its source point in the centre of the sole of the foot just beside the ball … striking the Earth with the whole foot, especially barefoot, charges the energy through this channel, strengthening and grounding the body in a holistic way.
PROFILE: Kate Towers is a 200 hour YA registered Yoga Teacher, based in Wimbledon who offers dynamic and yin yoga in group classes and individually. She has a passion for anatomy and a functional movement yoga practice. You can find her at www.KateTowersYoga.com Facebook Kate Towers Yoga or @yogiclimberkate (IG).