ALIGNMENT AND POSTURE IN YOGA STARTING WITH OUR GROUNDING ON THE EARTH
laura yogi feet
In the athletic world of yoga and dance, feet are where it’s at. In my opinion, the feet are highly underestimated. My first yoga class was a Hatha Yoga class with an Iyengar focus. Iyengar is a yoga discipline that believes in precise body alignment. The only picture on the wall of this class was of Yogi Iyengar’s feet…That’s right…his feet (okay, maybe there were other things on the wall…but the feet are what I remember ). Yogi Iyengar’s feet were beautiful…well, yoga beautiful. The teacher described them as expressive. Now, these twenty some years later…I get it.
The feet in yoga are our stabilizers…Our feet must be supple yet firm, balanced and malleable. In yoga, we often compare feet to the wheels of a car…when your feet are in perfect alignment (when in Mountain Pose, lift your toes, all four corners of each foot should press evenly into the earth…your body, even with the eyes closed, should feel like you are standing still and tall with little or no effort…almost like you are floating).
In Hatha, Ashtanga, Iyengar, and the feet when aligned properly then energize the legs into alignment, to proper pelvic (into mula banga), and so on…it all starts with the feet.
Warming up the feet is always a good idea. I like to spread my toes completely apart, like in the picture. I then try to bend each toe independently of the other toes. The little toe is stuborn…fun to try though. When I start a class in a standing posture, which Ali usually prefers, I always pick up my toes, spread them completely apart, and carefully place them back down. This creates such a lovely energy in the feet and legs. I will do it several times in the course of a class. When Ali has us do tree pose in side plank, this toe spreading exercise help bond the foot, with applied pressure thrown in, to the inner thigh a little better. Then when Ali says to return to plank maintaining tree pose you can focus on you foot instead of the fact YOU ARE IN PLANK TREE POSE AND WILL SOON BE IN CHATARANGA TREE POSE…seriously (one can always hope!)! It’s always nice to have a new tool in the ol’ yoga tool belt.
One of the most important exercises for the feet is walking around barefoot (now that’s my kind of exercise!). If you have ever watch a baby learn to walk you will see their toes flexing in what seems a random pattern. This is the body, foot to brain, learning to balance. We disconnect the foot to brain contact when we walk around in hard shoes all the time. So, whenever possible, walk barefoot. Walking barefoot is also important for older people for the retention of balance. Barefoot also encourages better body alignment which is highly beneficial in maintaining a well aligned pelvis , back, and neck.
Getting the feet ready for activity
One effective exercise exercises to use for warming up the feet is to place a tennis ball under the foot pad. Slowly roll the ball the length of the foot along each tendon while applying as much pressure as is bearable. Next, put the ball under the upper foot pad in the center of the foot. Allow the toes to drape over the ball. Once you are balanced, lift the opposite foot and stand only on the foot with the ball…Yikes!…stand for as long as is bearable..hee hee…Your foot is VERY warmed up now!
You should be ready to begin your practice now. The feet and calves are all tingly and have some serious blood flowing through them…As we progress in our practice we will begin to notice that a well muscled foot is the best tools for balancing and for promoting good body alignment… So, here’s to the mighty foot! Happy Practicing and Namaste…xoxo, Laura