Let’s FREE YOUR FEET!!
I mean it – they will thank you immediately and deeply. Below are a few simple exercises and movements you can integrate into your daily lives without taking up too much time or energy and which will in turn ease up lots of stored tension patterns in your feet and further beyond. Through these simple practices you will learn to feel more in your feet and release bounds of energy throughout the body. You will see changes and positive results in just a few weeks or months (no time at all when you think of the number of DECADES we have imprisoned our feet in inappropriate footwear).
Try to do these exercises barefoot (or at the most, sock-footed) in a patient and gentle way – especially if you have serious foot issues to start with. Make sure you are in a comfortable and safe space – with a yoga mat or towel or blanket underfoot at first and a chair nearby for balance. If you suffer from diabetes or peripheral neuropathy, make sure that your floor space is clear of any sharp or unexpected objects before you take off your shoes.
Begin by straightening your feet and bringing them pelvis width apart (measure the space between your two ‘hip bones’: the bony markers in the front of your pelvis also known as your ASIS – anterior superior iliac spine to get all technical and stuff – and keep that distance between your heels). To really get in touch with what ‘straight feet’ actually means, find a straight egde (edge of a yoga mat, block or a book) and line up the outer edges of your feet against these, drawing an imaginary line from the bump under the pinky toe down to the point directly underneath your outer ‘ankle bone’.
If you are used to lining up the inner edges of your feet, this might feel weird and you may find that your toes are now steering toward the midline – rest assured that the position will feel much more natural in a short amount of time and your toes will eventually migrate back to pointing straight ahead (which is actually where they have been trying to steer you up until now!).
Now use your newly aligned base of support to align your pelvis and legs like we did last week. Check to see where you are carrying your body weight and let the pelvis float back over your heels (lift your toes up for a few seconds and that should help you let your pelvis move back and find the plumb line from the center of your hip through the center of the knee and ankle).
Feel your connection with the ground through your feet (you can even imagine tiny roots extending out of the soles of your feet and toes!) and take in the grounding of this position, where your feet and legs are providing a stable foundation for your spine and head above – and a prime position to allow you to move when you decide to.
Now let’s evaluate the actual state of the neurology of your feet (how much they are actually communicating with your brain). Can you lift all 10 toes off the mat? Can you spread them out as you lift them up? Now can you try again to just lift the big toes and leave the rest down on the ground?
Don’t worry if you can’t – most of us have pretty atrophied intrinsic foot musculature (the muscles that live only in the feet and move the foot relative to itself). To wake these guys up, go back to the ‘top of the foot’ stretch we did a few weeks ago.
Now we can move on to reconnecting with some of the extrinsic muscles of the foot (ones that have an attachment beyond the foot and move the foot relative to the leg) that live in the lower leg – hello calf muscles!
To help restore the length and space in these muscles, rest your forefoot on a rolled up yoga mat or towel, keeping both legs straight (no bent knees). Your opposite foot can stay behind the stretching one if you feel like you are going to fall over or if you find yourself bent over at the waist. Try to keep that pelvis-width distance between both feet here too…
And now you deserve a lovely little foot massage…
To wake up the lovely little foot muscles and the arches of your feet even more – and to juicen up the fascia and connective tissues in the soles of your feet – you can massage the sole of your feet (one at a time please!) against a tennis ball (or other soft-ish small ball). Keep the heel down as you move the sole of the foot against the ball and try to pay particular attention to the spots between the base of the toes (the metatarsals),adjusting the amount of weight you decide to load according to how sensational you want this to be…
If you’ve got bunions (like me!), try to gently insist on the sensitive point between the first and second metatarsal head.
You can dial this massage up (or down) by choosing balls of different sizes and levels of resistance/textures. Play around!
Check in again after completing these exercises (try cycling through them at least a couple of times) to see how much your feet and toes have woken up (or not!) by trying once again to lift and then spread your all of toes.Try to raise those big toes one more time. Did they answer this time? Keep working on this series of stretches and exercises throughout the next few weeks and see how much you are able to recoup in terms of movement and responsiveness in your toes – maybe by the end of the month you’ll be able to lift not only your big toe, but one little piggy at a time…Let me know!
Stay tuned next week for even more ways to spoil and cuddle your feeties! Check us out on our Facebook page too – you can follow Mindful Movers over there and find out all about the latest goings-on at The Yoga Place… and this month, our links to Katy Bowman’s fab Walking Advent Calendar!