In my last article, I alluded to the problems of “positive” heeled shoes and most of the time I practice what I preach, shoeless at home and at work – and often “barefoot” shoes when I’m not. I’ve also been dancing tango for the past 17 years or so, so my feet and I know our way around a pair of high heels.
Thanks to my Pilates and Yoga Tune Up® practice, I have a some great tools to counteract the damage I do dancing for hours in 3” stilletos. These are also every effective if you have forefoot and shin tightness from running (especially up and down hills and stairs) or even from sitting in chairs too often.
The Shin-Roll Sequence in The Roll Model: A Step-by-Step Guide to Erase Pain, Improve Mobility, and Live Better in Your Body (Jill Miller, 206-209) is a great way to relieve tightness in the extensor digitorum longus (EDL), as well as all of the muscles that are named in the Embody Map section (204).
As Jill suggests in her book, “Sitting Seza with Strap” is both a great check in and stretch for the tops and bottoms of your feet and ankles. If your feet or toes cramp up when you have your weight pressing into the top of your feet – your EDL’s are likely tight.
After the shin rolling, my go-to list of exercises comes straight from the beginning of Jill’s “Friday Class” sequence that I learned in my Level 1 YTU® training.
Dandasana with Ankle Circles
Dandasana with Inversion and Eversion
Barbie Doll Foot
Big Toe/Little Toe Isolation
I like to follow this routine up with some good old barefoot walking, ideally on a sandy beach or some other uneven terrain.
Here’s a video of Jill Miller demonstrating some movements I mentioned above that will help you both strengthen and stretch your EDL’s. If you don’t love sitting on the floor in Dandasana, sit your self up using a couple blankets or bolster to give your hamstrings a break.
Enjoyed this article? Read Ankle Ball Buster: Regaining Mobility After a Sprain
I think this information about the EDLs will help my husband a lot. He has a sort of permanent-ish barbie doll foot and I am excited to see if this helps. Thanks!
I have been practicing this pose (Sitting Seza) for many years in my regular yoga practice but I have never been directed to strap my ankles together. The alignment of my heels to the inner edge of my ischial tuberosities really changed the sensation in my toes. I also loved playing with pressing into the extended toes and the flexed toetails and noticed how much better my feet felt after that muscle activation in the pose.
A wonderful blog since I get cramps occasionally. Will do Barbie Doll Foot and other YTU feet and toes exercises from now on. Thanks for the great tips!
Many of my private clients have issues with cramping or seizing in the top of the foot during extension in Virasana or resting in child’s pose. It seems to be very sensitive and cause a lot of discomfort. I am curious to see if this practice helps, Specifically my tri-athlete.
An other advice packed blog, so much information love it
I to dance tango and salsa as a man but salsa on a higher heel than is normal I will practice the advice for sure it will help prevent problems with my dancing
This is a great and simple way to prevent plantar fasciitis. I occasionally see this pose being offered in Yin classes. I had minor plantar fasciitis on my right foot and it affected by posture greatly since I had leaned on my left foot to avoid pain on my right foot. I incorporate seiza now, particularly before runs, to avoid this discomfort. I do reinforce though that people with knee discomfort place a blanket underneath their knees. I see too many students in unnecessary discomfort in a pose that is already intense.
This has been one of my favorite sequences. It’s so effective on feet and lower legs. If your feet hurt it transfers all the way up your body.
I love this sequence. I am on a quest to gain more mobility and strength in my feet and ankles by wearing mostly minimal shoes, walking barefoot, squatting more, and generally introducing more natural movements into my daily life. Before starting this journey, I had very weak ankles with a limited range of motion. This sequence floods my ankles with synovial fluid and I feel so much relief and better quality and range of motion.
I feel so great rolling my feet, shins, forearms and neck. It was such a surprise to me how much release was available in these areas for me.
I just finished “the Friday Class” and heading to class 5. I love the ball rolling on my feet and ankles and they just feel “fresh” for a few hours after. I have a student with plantar fasciaitis and look forward to bringing the ball rolling and Sitting Seza with a Strap pose with her.
For the very first time, I’ve actually “worked out” my feet thanks to these stretches! What a refreshing add to the standard fare of hero’s pose! Thanks for the blog.
Having recently learned bound sitting seza, I can totally attest to tension in my legs I didn’t even begin to understand. This a great post run sequence, and now that I’ve started cycling with clip in shoes, this series is a must! Also, thanks for posting the page numbers and references for The Roll Model book. I added a bookmark just now, and I’ll be headed back again soon. Thanks!
Im going to have to try the technique with the strap pre and post run on different days to see What kind of effect that has on releasing tension from the shins. I’m a little unclear how this can help reduce swelling in the fascia of the heels. A point in the right direction would be awesome.
Some fun stuff to experiment with for sure.
My feet is happy for m’y heart
Thank you for your article and links to video’s. You’ve piqued my interest to get curious with my EDL’s. I wonder if they are a sneaky part of some of my ankle/feet issues.
The poor shins. If there’s one body part we tend to ignore over everything else. YTU brings that awareness to even smallest, thinnest, most mousy of muscles and fascia. And thanks to YTU there’s a methodology for dealing with the shins. Changed my stance, and amazingly my upper body posture. Everything is connected!
Thank you so much for this article! Shins are so commonly neglected and can help create problems in the feet and knees. Such a simple fix for such debilitating problems.
Thank you for sharing the videos. I’m especially looking forward to trying ‘sitting seize with strap’. I’m interested to see how the novel stimulus of the strap keeping the ankles firmly together and if it will change the way the pose feels and works. Ready to disrupt my ruts and my students ruts as well;-)
Sounds like Sitting Seza is going to become my best bud!
I like how it doesn`t take long to do any of these simple exercises.
Thanks for pointing out the Shin-Roll Sequence.
Thank you for the tips 🙂 I agree; this foot sequence is a great complement to ball work, especially prior to a run in my case. I always try to do some foot work before I go train as I notice a huuuuge difference in my performance when I don’t. I observe so many fellow runners complaining about plantar fasciitis and other conditions but they never give the necessary attention required to their feet (o yeah, except stretching their calfs 5 seconds each side hehe). For all of you well informed instructors and students about the importance of complimentary body work to any sports or activities it is still too often ignored by many people so let’s be grateful for this priceless and simple tool we have and keep spreading the good news!! Cheers
This was very helpful! I’ll definitely be using this on myself and with my students. Thanks 🙂
I absolutely love the sitting seiza with strapped ankles! I practice this to help correct my Achilles tendon issues. The right Achilles is drastically shorter than the left. When I teach this in my classes its interesting to see how many people are so tight in their feet and ankles. This is one of those exercises that when you tell people to do it at home; they always find a reason NOT TO DO IT! Lol!
Hi Megan. Thanks for your comment/question. As you know, everyone’s body is different, but from what I have been studying with movement lately, especially NeuroKinetic Therapy® and YTU, is that just doing release work – whether it’s rolling or stretching or massage – is only half of the picture. Sometimes it can be too destabilizing – like why your knees hurt after getting your feet worked on. And sometimes the tightness returns very quickly. In my own practice, and when I work with clients, I like to balance every release with strengthening, and often in rapid succession. Great that you were able to figure out that a little stability work in plantar flexion gave you back your “balance.”
I’ve worked on sitting Seza for 20 years. Just when I thought it was manageable, I was introduced to the variation with the yoga strap. Yowza! That is intense. I’m going to fetch my copy of The Roll Model and work on shin rolling right now!
I have so many students whose feet cramp up in sitting seza or pointing the toes back. I never thought about the extensor digitorum longus and shin rolling to address this. I’m in the TYU training as I write and tomorrow is Friday. I can’t wait to experience all this foot work in class tomorrow and share with my students!
I love footwork! Thanks for posting the videos!
There’s so much written on plantar and shin tension. I actually find I had the opposite problem. My feet and ankles are super flexible. In the past, if a rolfer or massage therapist would work on my feet, I never really felt anything. My gait may be different, but the next day, I couldn’t walk up stairs because it would hurt my knees so much. I was practicing pilates at the time, and I figured out that plantar flexion aided in curbing this result. Any thoughts?