Article originally appeared in the Winnipeg Free Press (co-authored by Helen Maupin, Candace Propp, Stacy Schroder)
In the beginning years of a yoga practice, much emphasis is placed on standing poses, which were designed to develop strength, stamina, flexibility and balance. Through their continued practice, we build a firm foundation starting with the feet and ankles and moving up through the legs and knees into the spine and torso. In today’s workplaces, most people have become knowledge workers using their minds far more than their bodies. This primary focus on mental activity can leave us feeling disconnected from our bodies and out of balance. To counter such imbalance, we ground our awareness and energy into our feet and the earth below while simultaneously reaching up through our spine, torso and arms.
This two-directional rooting and reaching is first accomplished by firmly grounding into the feet. Nothing lasting can be built on a weak foundation. When there is support from the feet, space is created in the ribcage and shoulder girdle allowing the breath to move. Yoga invites us to recognize how important our feet are. As our main mode of transportation, they carry the weight of our bodies and hold us up. During colder seasons, the constant wearing of shoes and boots tethers the feet restricting them from breathing. As we move into warmer weather we often wear flip-flops and sandals, which may not provide enough support. Furthermore, footwear that encourages your toes to grip can cause plantar fasciitis and heel spurs. Caring for your feet requires more than a monthly pedicure. Moving about barefoot massages muscles and tendons, and strengthens bones. The health of your feet migrates up the legs to the knees, hips, pelvis and spine.
So kick off your shoes, feel the earth beneath your feet, and experience how alive your feet can be as you use this week’s Action in the following poses.
Action: Find the four corners of your feet—the balls of the big and baby toes, the inner and outer edges of the heels. Begin in Tadasana (Standing Mountain pose). Gently press into your big toe mound, then move across to the baby toe mound and repeat the downward press. Maintain this and gently press into your inner heel, then move across to your outer heel and repeat. Balance your body weight equally across all four corners of your feet.
For more advanced yogis and yoginis, once you have found the above action, sense the rebounding lift of energy up the centre arch into your legs and even higher.
Utkatasana (Queen’s Chair)
Stand with your feet a comfortable distance apart and pointing forward. Bend your knees keeping them in line with your feet. Fold at the hip crease and sit back as if onto a chair. Find the balance of your weight between the four corners of your feet. Hold for 5 to 10 breaths.
Ardha Parsvottanasana (Intense Side Extension Pose)
Stand about an arm’s distance away from the wall. Keep your right foot where it is and step your left foot back. Turn your left leg and foot out slightly. Find the action in both feet. Fold at your hip crease and reach your palms to the wall. Hold for 5 to 10 breaths. Repeat to other side.
Dwi Pada Pitham (Wedge)
Lie on your back with knees bent, toe mounds (balls) on the floor and toes up the wall. Press into the four corners of the feet and the back of the arms to lift your pelvis away from the floor. Hold for 5 to 10 breaths.
For more yoga actions, refer to Helen and Candace’s Creating Space: Yoga Actions for Feet & Ankles.