Julie Gudmestad: A Short Yoga Practice For Waking Up the Feet

Most of us have grown up and spent much of our lives wearing shoes. This is a problem. When we come to yoga and are required to take those shoes off to practice, having to use our unsupported feet, develop their strength, flexibility, mobility, and simply our awareness of them is a big part of the learning curve. But it’s also a vitally important healing and rehabilitation process.

Having our feet cooped up in shoes makes us lose flexibility and mobility of the little joints in our feet. We also lose strength in the muscles that operate the toes because they can’t move in our shoes. We also tend to lose strength in the muscles that support the arches of our feet.

Yoga and Foot Sensitivity

Sporty woman practicing yoga, doing exercises for stronger feet and toes

But perhaps most dangerously, we tend to lose sensitivity and awareness of what we’re doing with our feet because we get into the unconscious habit of depending on our shoes to support us when walking outside. We put our feet down the same way, hard and crudely, on any surface, without sensitivity toward the ground beneath us, because we trust the shoe to handle the landing. As we get older, this can have dangerous balance implications. We forget how to feel with our feet; we’ve lost sensitivity to where exactly our feet are and what they’re doing.

Feet are Essential for Good Balance

Full length portrait of senior woman in yoga pose Vrksasana or Tree Pose

As we practice yoga over time, we have the opportunity to alleviate some of these problems. For example, we can stretch the toes and increase their mobility toward what should be expected. Toes have more potential for movement than most people have retained or perhaps never adequately developed. We can also create the strength to support our arches and the strength and sensitivity to use our feet to help us balance. This can be highly important, especially as the years pass.

And as we increase our sensitivity and control of our feet, the benefits will feed back into our yoga practice.

So this can be potentially wonderful, especially as the years go by, and it will also help as we increase the sensitivity and control of our feet. It will help us with many yoga poses, especially the standing poses and, more importantly, the balance poses where we’re standing on one foot to control our weight and keep an arch.

Remember that the arch of the foot is essential when we’re doing a yoga pose. The arch of the foot starts the lift, and it’s from that arch that we continue to lift up from the rest of the pose.

Julie’s Short Yoga Practice for Waking up the Feet

Julie Gudmestad, PT, C-IAYT, has been active in Portland, Oregon, as a yoga teacher and licensed physical therapist for over 40 years. She has integrated her western medical knowledge with yoga training into a unique teaching style and regularly teaches anatomy and asana workshops throughout the US, Canada, and Europe.

Julie was a certified Iyengar Yoga Teacher for over 30 years and now maintains Yoga Alliance certification at the ERYT-500 level. In addition to her PT license, she is also a certified Yoga Therapist through IAYT. For many years, she was the author of the Yoga Journal magazine’s “Anatomy of a Yogi” column. She continues to produce continuing education programs for yoga teachers and students, including webinars and videos through YogaUOnline, and online videos through her home studio, Paxson Yoga Center in Portland. 

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