As a yoga guide I'm often asked “What are the benefits of yoga?” The answer is both simple and complex. Most situations call for a laundry list of sorts and others invite more in-depth explanations. My intent is to answer some questions and raise others, hopefully encouraging you to conduct deeper research into the topic as your journey towards healthy living begins or continues.
The Yoga Foundation
About three months into my first teaching gig, I found myself in a conversation with a gentleman that frequented my class. He complimented my class and revealed that he was podiatrist. He went on to tell me that before he would recommend or conduct a surgery on a foot or feet, he encouraged his patients to join a yoga class for a few months to see if pain diminished. His standard practice was to recommend yoga to all of his patients whose feet were healthy enough. He reported that several of his patients found relief from the pain and stiffness in their feet and were able to opt out of surgery. He continued by explaining that yoga counters the stress we put on our feet by wearing shoes every day. I was pretty new to teaching and had not thought much about yoga’s impact on feet. It was at that moment that it occurred to me that MY feet did not hurt anymore!
Now in my youth, I was not good to my feet—quite the opposite in fact. I was pretty abusive to my body’s foundation! Daily I wore high heels for work and switched to higher heels for every evening event. I crammed my feet into pumps that were too small, too high, and not the right cut for my big wide feet. By the time I started my yoga practice, I was making better shoe choices but had a career that had me on my feet constantly. Achy feet were just part of how I felt most days. When the podiatrist finished his story and I experienced the ‘My feet don’t hurt anymore!’ revelation, I started comprehending the important and healthy role a yoga practice can have on one’s feet.
I will share that synthesis with you now. A yoga practice increases the foot’s muscle tone and stretches the foot muscles and connective tissues. Exercising the foot improves posture as it encourages even body weight distribution and proper foot alignment. It can also lift the arches and reduce or eliminate foot pain.
In conclusion, it’s important to acknowledge our feet. They get us around. They hold us up. They ground us to the earth. They are our foundation. And they get us away fast in the face of danger. We work them hard every day so pay attention to them. Honor them. Pamper them.
I include foot work in each class I lead. There are several yoga poses and exercises that improve foot health. These exercises are a great start:
Toe Lifts — Stand with your feet hip-width apart with your feet and toes pointing straight ahead. Shift your weight into your heels and lift all of the toes; then release them into the floor. Repeat this several times. The second set of toe lifts are similar. This time keep your big toe planted and just raise all the others toes. Repeat this several times.
Rotations — Flex and point your feet several times. You may exercise one foot at a time if you are standing, or both feet at the same time if you are seated. Then rotate your foot or feet in a circle inward several times then outward several times.
Feet Up the Wall — Relax with your feet against the wall or extended in midair.
Foot Massage — This is my favorite way of honoring my feet. I bequeath you with permission to pamper yourself! Enjoy….
I leave you with,
Meaning peace for all…