Feeling grounded is a phrase synonymous with the world of yoga, but what does it mean? On an emotional level it relates to a sense of stability, calm and support. On a physical level, there's a lot of focus on the feet. The feet are our foundation and in yoga we're encouraged to focus on them much more than we would in our regular day-to-day routines - and for good reason! In the same way buildings need strong foundations, our body benefits from a sturdy base. However, unlike buildings, our bodies are mobile and therefore our feet need to be flexible and adaptable to carry us through life. Unfortunately, our shoes restrict a lot of this necessary movement, which is why it's extra important to spend time on your yoga mat freeing your feet. Come summer, some tender loving care and a bit of nail polish often brush over the lack of attention the feet get during snow boot season. Now the sun is shining, it's time to dig out the flip-flops and start appreciating our feet! Here are 10 fascinating facts about the feet:
With every step the feet carry 1.5 times the body weight.
With every step about 200 muscles are being used.
The average person walks 170,000 km in their lifetime – that's four times around the earth!
The soles of the feet are like cushions – this is where the skin is at its thickest in the whole body.
Our body has 206 bones and a quarter of these are located in our feet.
One foot consists of 26 bones, 33 joints, 19 muscles, 10 tendons and 107 ligaments.
With as many as 200,000 nerve endings per sole, it’s no wonder stepping on lego is so painful! This also explains why our feet are often the most ticklish part of the body!
Pada is the Sanskrit word for foot, so Pada bandha means foot lock, and any posture with 'Pada' in the name will have something to do with the feet, for example Utthita Hasta Padangusthasana translates to Extended Hand to Big-toe Pose.
The feet are natural shock absorbers due to their domed shape. This makes it more economical for us to walk and run and also explains why people with 'flat feet' often suffer from ankle, knee and low back pain.
Students used to kiss the feet of their teachers as an act of admiration and respect.
Pretty cool, right? We're probably all guilty of taking our feet for granted, because they function wonderfully without much thought. It's only when something isn’t working that we stop to take a closer look. Here are some simple ways to care for you feet both on and off the mat.
Give them a massage, or even better, get someone else to! With your thumbs or even your knuckles try gently pushing into the sole of the foot.
Soak them for 15 minutes in warm water, followed by a dip in cold water. It will get your circulation pumping.
When standing, split your body weight evenly between your feet and ground them into the earth.
Take your shoes off and walk barefoot as often as possible, on as many surfaces as possible.
The toe dividers invented for ease of putting on nail polish are a great way to stretch and spread the toes apart from one another. Easily done in front of the TV!
Sit in a squat position and focus on the feet, without letting the knees fall in.
Focus on your feet while practicing asana – even when in handstand or headstand the feet are involved. Do you notice a difference when the toes are pointed compared to when the feet are flexed?
Play around with lifting and lowering the toes in Tadasana to give you a better feel for how the ankles and inner arches lift up. This awakens Pada bandha and will strengthen the soles of the feet.
Stretch your toes - this may feel uncomfortable in the beginning so don't force it! Start on all fours, bring the knees and the feet together and tuck the toes under. Then slowly walk your hands back towards your knees and take your body weight towards your heels. Stop before you feel like the sensations are too strong. See if you can stay for a few deep breaths. You might need to use your fingers to tuck your pinky toes under.
Add some heel raises / tip-toes to your yoga practice to strengthen the arch of the foot and stabilise the ankle joint.
So as you can see, yoga is an ideal form of tender loving care for your feet. It’s practiced with bare feet so the toes are able to flex freely, extend and spread, with the soles of the feet connected to the earth. While high heels may look nice on the odd night out, remember that feet function best in their bare, natural state. Walking without shoes as often as possible and strengthening your body’s base will make for agile and articulate feet in the long run (pardon the pun). Most importantly, just love your feet the way they are and try to put your best foot forward in all parts of life.
Written by Bear Mama, published via www.jessicarabone.com