Yoga is all the rage lately. The practice of kneeling in front of a chair and balancing on one leg is catching on with everyone from fitness enthusiasts to celebrities. And while there are plenty of benefits of yoga, including reducing stress levels and moderating body weight, it can also cause some aches and pains in the back of the knees.
If you’re suffering from foot pain due to injuries, surgery, or just garden variety aches and pains, try wearing some comfortable shoes and found yourself in more of a yoga studio than a gym.
Yoga is a wonderful way to relax, improve balance, relieve stress, and improve your overall health. However, if you’re regularly practicing yoga and experiencing pain in your foot, it may be due to a common injury.
When I first started doing yoga, my feet hurt after every class. And the wide-legged postures, such as Warrior 2 (Veerabhadrasana II), Elongated Triangle (Uttthita Trikonasana), or the wide-legged forward bend (Prasarita Padottanasana), were the worst.
I couldn’t hold the pose for more than 3-5 breaths until my foot arches started to burn. At the time, I assumed it was due to flat feet, a condition I had struggled with as a runner. Plus, I lived and worked in New York, which meant walking around in high heels.
To make a long story short, I wasn’t treating my feet very well outside of the yoga mat, and it showed on the yoga mat.
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Shoes make feet dirty
It’s not surprising that shoes can contribute to foot pain. In 2008, an article in the New Yorker suggested that we walk poorly because of shoes, citing a South African study of 180 people in which Europeans used to wearing shoes were compared to Zulus who normally walk barefoot.
The most unhealthy legs of the group? Europeans.
Ultimately, wearing shoes weakens our feet. Think about the dexterity of our hands and fingers, then put on a mitt and try texting on a smartphone. In fact, that’s what we do with our feet – limit our range of motion and strength.
The shoes would have us believe that a limb with five arms has now become a clumsy club. It’s hard to imagine balancing on a mat in a tree (Vrkshasana) when you’ve spent most of your life walking on two sticks, isn’t it?
Barefoot, enjoy the freedom and surf
When we are barefoot and can stretch out our toes and grab the ground, we can really be more grounded. Our feet become more agile and flexible, adapting more easily to uneven surfaces, just as our barefoot ancestors did centuries ago. All these properties help strengthen our feet, which helps prevent sprains and dislocations.
In yoga, stable feet help increase stability and ease in standing poses and one-footed balances. Strong, active legs also help with inversions and arm balances. So it is very useful to pay more attention to our toes when training.
Despite the initial discomfort, I continued to practice yoga and, not surprisingly, the stronger and more flexible my legs became, the less painful they were. After a while, I turned my attention to my feet – really. They looked lean and muscular. I could stretch my toes and grab more, as well as bend and release my foot more easily.
My balance improved and I was able to stand comfortably in postures such as the hand extended to the big toe (Uttthita Hasta Padangustasana) for more than five breaths. Warrior 2 has become much more comfortable. I even got to use my new foot skills on the subway: Instead of using sticks to keep my balance as the trains raced through the subway, I could easily surf the wagon without using my hands.
Of course you don’t throw your shoes away, but there are a few things you can do to treat your feet better. The feet, like any other part of our body, need regular exercise. However, since they are in our shoes most of the time, we usually only notice them when something goes wrong or when we expose them, for example. For example, in a yoga class.
So see yoga as an opportunity to make up for all those hours spent in sneakers, heels or boots. Most styles of yoga agree that the posture begins at zero. If you patiently develop anchoring and awareness through your feet, your postures will become much more stable.
Many teachers also mention rooting at the four corners of the foot: the cusp of the big toe, the cusp of the little toe, the inner heel and the outer heel. Their stability becomes much stronger when these four corners are supported on the ground.
Play with your feet
To make practicing yoga, and everything else for that matter, easier, make contact with your feet and outside the mat. At home, you can build strength by crossing your fingers between your toes and squeezing them together. You can also massage and de-stress by gently rolling the bows over a golf or tennis ball.
It can be uncomfortable (even excruciating if you’re kneading the fascia, the fibrous connective tissue that surrounds the muscles), but over time your feet will become more flexible and your foot cramps will diminish if you do yoga.
So spoil her!
I hope you don’t mind being tickled, but rubbing your feet can be a wonderful way to end the day. And if you have dry or rough skin, a foot bath, scrub or even a pedicure can completely transform your toes. Pay attention to how foot care, from firming to hygiene, affects your yoga practice.
Who knows? You will soon be able to ride the train without a stick and barefoot! A lot of people who practice Yoga feel that their feet are the most painful part of their bodies, and they absolutely not but I can tell you, there is a reason. It all has to do with the alignment of your body. Your feet are not supposed to be in the way of your other body parts, all other parts of your body should be able to flow around them. I have a lot of pictures and info below to help you with this.