This week in my public classes, we've been focusing on the feet in the yoga poses. I get really excited about these classes because your feet are SO important in any pose where the feet are the primary connection with the earth - they are the foundation so they affect the alignment of your whole body. Beyond the physical alignment of your body, the feet also strongly connect to the energetic alignment, and are a fundamental component of the proper engagement and use of mula bandha, which keeps the energy of the body light and contained (I'm going to be writing a longer more detailed post on mula bandha soon, or if you're super interested, theres an entire book on the topic Moola Bandha the Master Key).
Energetically, your feet also connect to muladhara chakra through mula bandha, which is considered to be connected to the earth element. While the base chakra (muladhara) is considered to be the most connected to earth, technically the bottom three chakras of the spine, including sacral and navel are also considered to be connected the earth (the sacral connecting to the element of water and the navel connecting to the element of fire). The heart is the meeting point of earth and spirit, which we can connect to through deep breaths. When we look at the colours that correspond with the lower earth chakras; red, orange, and yellow, they are the colours of autumn. Autumn is a season that naturally draws us back down to the earth, the feminine, the yin side of things. Connecting to these lower body chakras through the feet and legs as we shift towards the season of Autumn can help us attune to and utilize this grounding energy, which is especially nice after all the excitement and movement of summer.
Along with the energetic connections in the feet, they are also the start of the fascia system in the body. By releasing the tension in the feet, you release tension through your whole body.
You can start to notice how the positioning of your feet affects your body by coming into a simply standing forward fold. As you let your head go and your spine relax forward, start to shift where your weight is in your feet. In a forward fold, the tendency is to lean back into the heels. See what happens in your spine and how much you are able to let your head relax by shifting your weight a bit forwards into your feet, whilst still keeping your heels grounded.
Because the feet carry us everywhere we go, they can be quite tight. Like anything in the body, they need a balance of flexibility and stability, both of which you can work on in your yoga practice.
These poses work on opening up the feet:
Flexibility - Vajrasana
Vajrasana means 'little thunderbolt' - whether that is due to the shape of your body or the sensation in your feet, thats up to you. There are many variations - however these three are a good place to start, especially if you are new to them they will be more than enough as far as intensity goes. For the first variation, tops of feet come to the floor, and your heels and knees work towards each other. The goal is to sit on your heels, and place them between your sitting bones, however if this causes discomfort in your knees, its a good idea to support your hips, and place a pillow or a blanket in between your hips and heels until there is no discomfort in your knees. If there is discomfort in your feet - you're doing it right. Notice your upper body while you're in the pose - try and relax your ribs in towards your spine and let your hips be heavy on your heels. As always breathe deep!
The second variation, toes are tucked, and there is the same goal of bringing the knees and heels together. Again, you can place something between your hips and heels if there is any discomfort in your knees.
Third variation, tops of feet come to the floor, take right knee a bit further back than your left. Bring the top of your right foot into the arch of your left foot. Start to walk your hips back to your heels. Eventually right heel will rest in the inside of your right sit bone, and again you can aim towards letting your hips be super heavy on your heel. Make sure your repeat on your left side.
These poses can be super intense, but its good to think of them like giving yourself reflexology. After you've done one or all three, come back into a forward fold and notice the difference, and how opening up your feet has affected your whole body!
Stability - Standing Poses
Standing poses are a great way to build stability in the feet, which is just as important as mobility!
A good way to stabilize your feet in standing poses is by lifting and spreading your toes in standing poses:
While lifting the toes, keep the big toe mound grounding down. Lifting the toes in standing poses is a great way to build stability in your feet through strengthening your arches. You can actually build arches in your feet if they've fallen using this technique. You can lift the toes in almost every pose, lunges like this one, warrior one or two, and if you really want a challenge, single leg balances, like tree pose or half moon.
Another way to build stability in the feet is standing on a block for your standing poses.
You can do any standing pose on the block, however tree pose is a good place to start. Doing the pose standing on a block will really challenge your foot to stay steady. Focus on a feeling of lifting up through the foot (I find lifting the toes helps with this) and feel all those wonderful stabilizing muscles working hard to keep you steady!
Give these a try and let me know how they feel - hope you all have a wonderful day!