‘I’ve been on my feet all day’ or ‘I’ve been rushed off my feet’ are phrases we use to let someone know how busy we’ve been. But have we really been on our feet all day? How much awareness do we have in our feet?
Essential for the majority of our movements, yet so little thought goes into them, until you stub your toe, then the foot gets some attention! Yoga is a practice of increasing awareness, expressed physically, lots of people have a regular practice, where they feel really connected to their body, but I bet they still don't think about their feet.
Why? When language reminds us of the significance of our feet; the phrases ‘put your best foot forward’ or ‘you’ll find your feet’ spring to mind.
'I have arrived, I am home, my destination is in each step.' Thích Nhất Hạnh
So in asana practice, learn to find your feet by gently pressing all four corners of your feet down and draw up through your arches. Like a suction cup, draw up, feel how that action instantly stabilises your dancers pose.
There’s also a natural intelligence in the feet. Our feet tell us a lot about how we practice; do we lean too far into the future (weight in the toes) or hang back in the past (weight in the heels). And there’s an emotional connection (yes, really), it’s common parlance to say ‘I’m getting cold feet’ about a major decision. Right there is the awareness that our feet are more than two fleshy pads that take us through life.
In his book 'Yoga of The Subtle Body' Tias Little has an exquisite quote ‘in the sacred temple of the body, the feet are the foundations of the temple.’
Savour those words for a moment... Your body is a temple, build and support the foundations.
Our feet take a pounding; put into shoes all day means the small muscles in our feet get weak, we lose flexibility, dexterity and strength (think how much dexterity you’d lose in your hands after a week encased in a way like we do to our feet.) Is it any wonder we get bunions, plantar fasicitis or fallen arches? If you play a lot of sports or are a runner, you can multiply the stress feet are put under tenfold. Swollen and brittle feet can't properly absorb the shock of daily movements, so trauma is transferred to the nearest joints; ankles, knees and hips.
Below are my Top Tips For Happy Feet
During a yoga class, always start with what’s on the mat and work upwards. Feel good about the placement of your feet first before you worry about the upper body. You may find your balance improves.
Get involved with your toes! Practice moving the toes independently of each other. Get some space between them, maybe try some toe separators.
Take your shoes off! When you’re at home go barefooted, give the small muscles in your feet a chance to strengthen, they atrophy in shoes all day. There’s the additional benefit of connecting your feet with the earth.
'Take the weight off your feet' and spend 5 minute in viparita karani, legs up the wall pose.
Massage your feet, slough off the dead skin on the soles of the feet, energise and nourish your feet.
Rosie Iles-Jonas teaches public and private yoga classes in Hove and is the Yoga teacher for Brighton and Hove Albion FC.