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Yoga for Feet and Ankles: A Yoga Practice to Balance Opposites
One of the keys to a unified theory lies in the name Hatha—sun/moon and balancing opposites. Here’s a tip on balancing them for the foot and ankle during yoga practice.
Major Muscles That Move the Feet and Ankles in Yoga
(Figure 1 Peroneus longus (and brevis in light blue). )
The peroneus longus originates from the head and upper two-thirds of the fibula. It then runs down the outside of the lower leg and under the foot to insert onto the medial cuneiform and base of the first metatarsal at the inside of the foot arch. It acts to evert the foot, plantar flex the ankle, and support the transverse arch of the foot. The peroneus brevis originates from the lower half of the outside of the fibula and inserts onto the base of the fifth metatarsal (on the outer edge of the foot). It acts to evert the ankle (and assists in plantar flexing the ankle).
( Figure 2 Tibialis posterior. )
The tibialis posterior originates from the back of the upper tibia and fibula and also from the interosseous membrane that spans the two bones. It wraps around the inside of the ankle behind the medial malleolus to the undersurface of the foot to insert onto the navicular, cuneiforms, cuboid. A fibrous expansion extends its insertion onto the bases of the second, third and fourth metatarsals. Think “the midfoot” and use the image for reference. The tibialis posterior inverts (supinates) the foot and assists in plantar flexion of the ankle. It supports the transverse and longitudinal arches and is considered to be a key stabilizing muscle of the lower leg (by virtue of spanning between the length of the tibia and fibula).
( Figure 3 Tibialis posterior, peroneus longus, and brevis insertions (underfoot). )
Try this in Adho Mukha Svanasana (Downward-Facing Dog Pose):
After you have engaged the tibiali anterior to release the gastrocnemius/soleus muscles and lower the heels towards the floor as described in a previous post, gently engage the peroneus longus and brevis by pressing the ball of the foot into the mat.
Then activate the tibialis posterior to distribute the weight across the foot to the outer edge. Place the fleshy parts of the toes onto the mat.
I will sometimes engage the peroneii before I draw the heels to the floor. Then I engage the tibiali anterior to bring the heels down. I finish up with the tibialis posterior to spread the weight across the bottoms of the feet and dynamize the arches.
Feel how this stabilizes the feet and ankles.
Remember about the portability of techniques between asanas. Once you get a feeling for this in Downward-Facing Dog Pose, try it in Trikonasana and other standing poses.
More yoga practice tips, this time in a course from YogaUOnline and Anita Boser-Youthful Spine, Youthful Body: The Role of Fluidity in Healthy Aging.
Reprinted with permission from Daily Bandha.
Author Ray Long MD FRCSC is a board-certified orthopedic surgeon and the founder of Bandha Yoga. Ray graduated from The University of Michigan Medical School with post-graduate training at Cornell University, McGill University, The University of Montreal and Florida Orthopedic Institute. He has studied hatha yoga for over twenty years, training extensively with B.K.S. Iyengar and other leading yoga masters.
3d Graphic Designer / Illustrator Chris Macivor has been involved in the field of digital content creation for well over ten years. He is a graduate of Etobicoke School of the Arts, Sheridan College and Seneca College. Chris considers himself to be equally artistic and technical in nature. As such his work has spanned many genres from film and television to video games and underwater imagery.