In the words of Dr. Kelly Starrett, physical therapist and author of Supple Leopard and Ready to Run: “In yoga, it’s called tadasana. In life, it’s called standing.” At the base of your whole glorious self, your tadasana self, your standing self, are your FEET, unless you are standing on your head. And please stop doing that. It’s so 1972. I would like to introduce you to your feet.
Stand up on your feet right now. Do it. No, seriously, do it. Please stand up. Stand vertical. Stand tall. Okay. Sit back down. What I’m about to tell you might be shocking. The foot is a very intricate structure containing 26 bones, 33 joints, 100 ligaments, muscles and tendons, and 250,000 sweat glands! (kind of explains the smelly part…) The average person takes 8,000-10,000 steps a day, but no matter how many steps you are taking a day, if your feet are not healthy, your steps are not healthy. Poor alignment, poor movement, poor achy, hurt and mangled feet. But you know who’s not poor? The podiatrist. Don’t be a part of these depressing, downright scary statistics: The number of people with foot care problems is growing with industry revenue expecting to reach $3.2 billion in global sales by 2015. The demographic of 76 million Americans born between 1946 and 1964 – baby boomers – is a golden market for this businesses. The number of diabetics, a major target for this business, is over 25.8 million and growing in the U.S. alone. Take care of your feet, please.
The feet are your bony-structure foundation and have an effect on the entire body from the ground up. They are also your fascial foundation, meaning the muscles, bones, and tissues are surrounded by and interwoven with fascia that is continuous with the fascias of the body. That’s right. Fascia is all over, ubiquitous, continuous, gelatinous, webby, gooey, and it’s the scaffolding of your whole body. If fascia in one area is stuck and hardened, your tissues and muscles are not sliding and gliding the way they should. If you have bunions, overlapping toes, arthritis, diabetes, heel spurs, or any other of the host of possible issues with your feet, start massaging them daily! In Chinese medicine, reflexology is used on the feet to affect the internal organs and glands throughout the body. Circulation, blood and nerve supply and energy levels are affected by the feet. It feels good to massage your feet and it’s so good for you too. In Yoga Tune Up®, we roll out our feet because we know that what’s happening in the feet affects the calves, the hamstrings, and sometimes even farther up the chain.
One of the reasons I became a yogi was because I didn’t have to wear shoes. I have a super duper uber narrow foot that makes it hard to find shoes that fit. I wore shoes that were too short most of my life so they would stay on. When I found yoga, an activity with no shoes required I was beyond thrilled. When I found Yoga Tune Up®, I began to learn the anatomy of my feet and what I could do to make them stronger and more effective as my foundation, both on and off the yoga mat.
Here are a few things you can do to put your feet first:
1. Spend more time barefoot. Remember being young and running around outside over grass and rocks and being barefoot? Now we need pillows under our feet to stand and wash dishes. And sneakers with two inches of cushion. This is not normal. We need to take control of healing our foundation. Spend more time barefoot. Work on balancing on one foot and strengthen your foundation.
2. Get your feet up above your heart once a day for 5-10 minutes. Lie down and put your legs up on a couch or bed or chair and breathe. The is wonderful for circulation and tired achy feet.
3. The alignment or position of your feet will, indeed, have an effect on your knees, hips, low back and overall health. Which effect are you going to choose? Positive or negative? (Hint: Go with the positive.) How should you align your feet?
Stand up. No, seriously. Make your feet look like downhill skis, with the outer edges parallel. (See picture below. I used the wood floor as a guide.) Make these parallel feet your new everyday standing position, walking position, running position, spinning position, etc. When standing, have your feet directly under your lungs and work at stacking your hips over your knees and your knees over your heels. If you are walking like a duck in external rotation, just return to parallel feet every time you notice. Constantly check and return to your new positive choice!