Healthy Foundations: The Feet in Yoga Asanas
Our feet are amazingly strong and provide support for us for most of our lives. This week we will work to widen the balls of the feet and learn how to use the structures of our feet to keep our balance.
Sit in a comfortable cross-legged position so that you can reach the soles of your feet. Start by massaging the pads of each toe, then the ball of the foot, then the arches of the feet, then the heels. Note any areas of pain or tenderness. Then thread the fingers of the opposite hand through the toes with the palm and sole facing each other. Spread the fingers apart so that the bones that make up the ball of the foot are also spread apart. Then use the hand to rotate the ball of the foot while holding the ankle steady.
Supta Padangusthasana (Reclining Big Toe Pose)Lie on the back with the legs straight and the feet against the wall (wall not shown). Draw your right knee into your chest and lengthen the left leg onto the floor.
Variation I: Wrap a strap around the ball of your right foot and extend the leg into the air. Reach the hands up the strap until the elbows are straight but the shoulders are still grounded. Feel the stretch in the calf, if there is pain a the back of the knee, create a micro-bend of the knee. Hold for about a minute.
Variation II: Place strap across the arch of the foot. Feel the stretch in the lower hamstring. Hold for about a minute.
Variation III: Place strap across the heel. Feel the stretch in the upper hamstring. Hold for about a minute.
Release and repeat with the other leg.
Vrasana (Hero Pose)
Sit on block or blanket between heels. Ground front of feet and shins, thighs and sit bones into earth. Lift up through belly, heart and crown of head.
For Ankle Pain – Kneel on folded blanket with crease of ankles at edge of blanket).
For Knee Pain – Sit higher so knees do not have to bend all the way.
Talasana (Palm Tree Pose)
Stand in Tadasana with the arms at the sides. Inhale lift up onto balls of the feet keeping hands on hips or raising arms forward and up over the head. Make sure that the balls of the big toes stay in contact with the floor.
Exhale release weight back into heels as you release the arms to sides.
Repeat 3-5 times with the breath.
Vrksasana (Tree Pose)
Stand with feet hips-width apart. Engage legs and bear weight on left leg only. Draw right foot onto calf or inner thigh (do not press on side of knee). Press foot against leg and leg against foot. Draw belly in and release tail bone towards floor. Inhale and draw arms overhead without gripping shoulders. Hold as long as you can balance with comfort, release and change sides. You can also either lean the back against the wall for support or press the knee into the wall for support.
Virabhadrasana I (Warrior I)Begin standing in Tadasana. Step left leg back about three feet keeping feet hips width apart. Keep right toes turned forward and left foot turned slightly out. Turn hips gently towards front foot and balance weight on both feet. Inhale arms overhead. Exhale and bend right knee. Draw belly up and release tail bone towards floor. Hold 5-10 breaths then release and change sides.
Setu Bandha (Bridge Pose)
Lie on back with knees bent and feet hips with apart. Inhale and lift hips away from floor, rolling onto upper back. Press arms back into floor and lengthen tail bone towards backs of knees.
Hold 5-15 breaths and release.
Viparita Karani (Inverse Seal Pose)Sit beside wall. Swing legs up wall as you lay back on mat. Place either a bolster or long-folded blanket under the lumbar curve, the buttocks should not be on floor. Lay arms out to sides with palms facing up. Can also place a sandbag across the soles of the feet. Rest at least 10-15 minutes, then roll over to release.
Cheryl found yoga in 2001 as a way to ease chronic back pain and became instantly enchanted by the subtle connections between the breath, body, mind, and emotions. She has trained with master teachers from Piedmont Yoga Studio and the Integrative Yoga therapy schools and she blends both traditional Hatha teachings and alignment principles with subtle energy work and healing. As a Yoga Therapist, Cheryl sees clients privately and has taught over 2500 public classes and workshops in studios and cancer centers around the Bay Area. She serves on the faculty of the Niroga Institute’s Yoga Therapy teacher training program, offers workshops and retreats for cancer survivors. She also conducts research on the benefits of yoga for reducing side effects of cancer.