Thursday, May 6, 2010

Yoga for Feet

Yoga is one of those activities that reminds us, hey, I have feet!  Hard to ignore when suddenly you are staring at them in a forward bend, or they are hovering above you in shoulderstand.  Jamie over at On the Mat blogged about her relationship with her feet in this post a while back, and the comments certainly showed that we yogis are feet-aware!

It's pretty incredible when you think that those two feet of yours walk about 7,500 steps A DAY!  According to WikiAnswers: "The average moderately active person takes about 7500 steps a day. Assuming every day the person walks, an eighty year old person who began walking at one year of age, would have taken 216,262,500 steps in their lifetime. An average person, with an average stride, living to this age of 80 will walk about 108,131 miles."  That's 174,020 kilometres for those of us in the rest of the world.  Woah.

Yoga is great for feet - and your feet certainly deserve it!  So here are few fun-foot things you can try to raise your awareness of your amazing feet:

Foot Awareness Exercises:

1.  Stand normally and start shaking your body - shake out the arms and wrists, the shoulders, the legs and, yes, the feet! (Or just do the hokey pokey and get it over with already. ;) )

Post-shaking, jump up in the air 3 times and then stay still as soon as you land.  No cheating!  Then, look at your feet and observe how they are placed:
  • Are they parallel, or do your toes turn in or out? Does one foot turn out more than the other (if so, this is probably your tighter hip).
  • How is your weight distruibuted?  Do you place more weight on the heel or on the balls of the feet? More emphasis on the inside or the outside of the feet?
2.  Bring your feet parallel, and try to evenly distribute the weight on the feet.  Close your eyes and feel your standing balance until you feel you are evenly grounded.  Then, opening your eyes, lift up the toes on your right foot and try to spread the toes apart.  See how wide they will go!  Then do the left side.

Now, try a Jedi mind-trick.  Keeping your toes spread wide, lift up just the big toe.  Then, try to keep the big toe grounded and lift up just the other toes.  If you are really brave, try to lift up the two middle toes and two smallest toes seperately.  (NB: this would be a REALLY good time to have a friend take a photograph of your face!)  What do you notice?  How do the two sides compare?

Yoga Foot Exercises

Yoga has a few lovely stretches to offer  for our poor, tired feet.  Here is a small selection:

Kneeling Toe Stretch

Begin in a kneeling position (Virasana).  Tuck your toes under, making sure to pull the pinky toe out so it touches down as well.  Spread your toes wide, and gently release your weight down onto your heels, feeling the stretch through the toes.  Breathe.  If you want to intensify the stretch, bring your knees about an inch forwards.  Feel that deep stretch and breathe into it.

Toe Stretching Forward Bend (from The Yoga Bible by Christina Brown)

Sit cross-legged with the left leg in front.  Lean forward and use the right hand to help you interlace the fingers of the left hand in between the toes of your right foot.  Then do the left foot the best you can.  Gently squeeze all the toes with both hands.  (A teacher I went to a class with once said that this squeezing was great relief for hot, achy feet, and also for insomnia somehow...).

Now flex the heels of both feet, and fold forwards, letting the elbows bend out to the sides.  On an exhalation lengthen the body and bring the forehead towards the floor.  Stay for ten breaths, inhale back up to sitting, and then repeat with the legs crossed the other way.

Half Frog Pose

(Caution: this pose can be intense on your knees, so please be very careful to respect your knees if you try it!)
Photo from YogaJournal - NB, she is doing this with the arm extended, the version I describe below is on the elbow.)

Start lying face down on the floor, and then come up onto your elbows with the lower arms stretched out in front of you.  Bring the left hand towards the right elbow so the left lower arm is parallel to the front of your mat.  Then bend the right knee and use the right arm to catch the top right foot.  Point your toes straight forward, and on an exhalation press the foot forward and down, rotating the fingers forward so that the right elbow points up to the sky.  Press the foot down with the palm of the hand so that the foot comes down towards the outside of the right buttock rather than right in the middle.  Stay for 10 breaths, then repeat on the other side.

Viparita Karani: Legs up the Wall Pose

The classic legs-up-the-wall pose is a fabulous refresher for feet!  Scoot your body close in to a wall with your legs up in the air resting against the wall.  Use pillows liberally under your back, shoulders and head.  Stay as long as you like, feeling the blood drain away from those feet.  When you come down, relish the sensation as blood flows freely back down to rejuvenate your lower limbs.


Hope you enjoy these!  Readers, how happy are your feet?  What brings your feet bliss?


  1. I always find that when I lift up my toes my fingers do the same thing. Strange ol' body!

  2. Love this post. Thanks for sharing I'm going to use it for my next class (of course sending kudos your way), the sequence is really good, and I especially like the jumping up and down then checking alignment! how cool is while creating awareness of our own bodies habitual patterns.
    Blessings, Nan

  3. Very cool post! I wear a pedometer and it's amazing to see how many steps we take a day. Even on a lazy Saturday when I do essentially zero minutes of exercise, I get 5,000 steps just walking around my house. Our feet do so much for us. : )

  4. The feet do need our love and respect, don't they?

    I've heard frog pose is a hard one! Maybe I'll start with the half as you've shown here :)

    My feet enjoy being rubbed! That task usually falls to my husband-to-be, of an evening :D

  5. I love the toe-lifting exercise. It's funny to watch students do it, because many of the them work their fingers at the same time (like Rachel). They always laugh and are surprised when I point that out, because they usually are unaware.

    Ah, the little piggies...

  6. @Rachel - our bodies are wired in such funny ways aren't they? I think for me it's my whole face that gets all twisted up when trying to lift various toes.

    @Nan - Please do use the exercise, no credit required! If I know it, it's certainly because another teacher made me do it too!

    @Jamie - I know, crazy isn't it? Gotta love those feet!!

    @Greenink - thanks for stopping by! Full frog pose is very challenging, but the half version is totally accessible to everyone as long as your knees are ok. Enjoy!

    @Brenda - I probably do it too without having noticed! Bless our quirky, lovely bodies and those great little toes!!

  7. What a cute post! I've noticed the same thing with hands AND feet. Connected? All is!

  8. Yay for feet! Love this post, will be playing with all of the above. Gracias!

  9. @heather - yes, it IS all connected! Oh joy. :)

    @YogaGal - Glad you like it... enjoy!!

  10. Foot yoga. Yum. I have a friend who gets a pedicure EVERY month. That sounds divine to me and my dry, gross feet.