The humble, lowly feet, at the very base of the whole body, like beasts of burden are expected to bear our weight and everything we carry day after day, year after year. They bear this weight while standing, walking, skipping, hopping or running, but are rarely thought about until something goes wrong. With a little yoga forethought we can prolong the health of our feet and hopefully they will see us through without complaining.
The way we stand on our feet has repercussions in the knees, hips, spine, shoulders and neck. For the health of the whole body we should stand evenly on our feet. In the feet there are three points to spread the weight amongst. They are the centre of the heel and two points on the broadness of the foot. One in line with the big toe and one in line with the little toe. When our weight is evenly distributed in this way we have a solid and well grounded base to stand upon. People who tend to weigh down into the inside or outside of the foot not only lose the support of their arches and develop bunions, but also can develop problems in their knees, hips and spine because of the uneven support. Putting uneven weight into the front and back of the feet will have another set of problems for all those joints. When wearing high heels we cannot help but put the weight to the front of the foot which means to stand up straight we have to add more of a lumbar curve and potentially painfully compress the lumbar vertebrae.
After we have identified and activated these three points then we need to activate the arches between them. There are three arches in our feet: one across the broadness, one from the little toe side down to the heel and one on the big toe side down to the heel. When we activate these arches we create a lightness in the feet which sends messages up to the knees and hips to help bear some of the weight too. In other words by activating the tripod (pressing down into the three points and lifting the three arches) muscles around the knees and hips are activated. This brings the legs and feet into their ideal alignment.
A really effective way of drawing this energy upwards is with the help of kirchashira marma. A marma is very similar to an acupressure point. According to ayurveda, yoga’s sister science of health, there are invisible streams of energy (prana) flowing through the body in channels or nadis. At certain places along these nadis there are marma points through which we can access and influence our prana. One such point is kirchashira marma which lies in the centre of the sole of the foot just in front of the heel pad. Activating this point is great for improving our posture and relieving muscular tension especially in the feet. When we spread the weight out into the ball of the foot and create a lift from this marma point we are activating all three of our arches, our toes naturally spread and we create the postural alignment necessary for the health of our joints. We should activate kirchashira marma whenever we are wanting to have great alignment whether sitting at our desk or standing.
One last point to mention in relation to the weight bearing in the feet is that both feet should take an even amount of weight and if possible we should also stand with our feet parallel to each other. For people with certain congenital conditions like bandiness or pigeon toes this may not be possible but this is the general rule.
Joint activations of the feet release stagnant energy which can cause joint pain and swelling. Joint activations bring blood supply to the joint which not only nourishes it but also carries away waste products which if left can build up and trigger all sorts of arthritic type problems. Joint activations help to encourage the release a special joint lubrication known as synovial fluid which helps the joint to work smoothly.
Activations are very simple and include ankle rotations in both directions, ankle flex and extend, and toes curl and spread. Two fun activations are wiggle your toes as if you are playing the piano and lying on your back with your legs in the air shake your feet vigorously as if you have a crab biting your toes. Even though joint activations are so basic and simple they should not be looked down upon but adopted by even the most advanced asana practitioners. They are also recommended for those who travel long journeys, and those who spend a prolonged time in bed or seated. As they say, “look after your feet and they will look after you!” And that’s a big task isn’t it!
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