Yoga for Your Sole(s)
If you’ve taken yoga classes then you’ve heard the news: feet are foundation. If you’ve ever walked, run, or even taken a seat in your favorite comfy chair, than you’ve experienced this firsthand. That’s right, even in sitting the feet can provide needed support for your body. In just the same way that nourishing the foundation of a plant goes a long way in supporting its trunk and limbs, how we use and care for our feet can affect not only how the feet feel and perform, but also how everything up the chain of the body responds. Without our feet and specifically the support provided by the arches of our feet, posture, alignment, balance, weight distribution and energy can be affected.
Even as I sit here typing, how I place my feet on the floor affects how I sit on the bottom of my pelvis. If I pull my feet back under my pelvis, I tip my pelvis forward. If I put my feet forward I tip my pelvis back. If I sit in a chair that does not allow my feet to reach the ground, my back begins to work overtime to help support my body. While this may not seem like a big deal, spending time in any poorly supported or compromised position affects the diaphragms of the pelvic floor, the respiratory diaphragm, thoracic and cranial diaphragms as well as the spine in providing overall balanced support within the body. The less time we spend in balance, we affect the musculoskeletal balance, support and energy that it provides our organs.
While there are many arches in the feet, 3 that are helpful to be aware of and focus on while standing are the medial longitudinal arch (inner arch that runs from the inner heel to the big toe), lateral longitudinal arch (outer arch that runs from the outer heel to the pinky toe), and the transverse arch (runs across the top of the foot bones from big toe to pinky toe). These arches in particular are a series of ligaments and plantar fascia that create a triangle of support and structure for the foot, allowing for the springy nature of the arches. Finding the center point within this triangle by touching, imagining and ultimately using it is a good way to experience the support that your arches can provide.
As mentioned above, it can be helpful to think of the arches as another diaphragm in the body that align and behave closely with the pelvic, respiratory, thoracic and cranial diaphragms to transmit energy and forces back and forth from the ground. The more you’re able to lift your arches by lifting up through the muscles of the feet and grounding down through the bones, the more energized and lively a posture can be, creating a sense of lightness and connection through this rebound effect. Without the structure of the arches and their elastic support derived from both the skeletal and fascial connections, our foot foundation would collapse into the ground and each step would create great challenges for our joints over time.
While orthopedic foot supports can be useful when wearing closed shoes, a balanced yoga practice is a terrific way to learn how to feel and use the arches to effectively support your body in standing. If yoga isn’t your thing, simply being aware of these support structures and learning a few exercises to stretch and strengthen the fascia and muscles of the feet can go a long way. As with any new trick, coordinating the action of the feet and learning to lift or strengthen the arches may take some patience and dedication. But with time you may notice improved support and strength in your feet and other parts of your body like your hips and pelvis that benefit from a strong foundation and an upward moving sense of energy.
– Meagen Satinsky MPT, PYT
Join Meagen on Friday June 22, from 6-8pm for Feet First, an all levels yoga workshop focused on integrating the feet and its arches as a source of connecting to your foundation in support of your entire body.