If setting down roots is the fundamental act in a yoga practice, then we’d best pay attention to our feet, the primary roots for all standing poses and for much of our life off the mat. The more time we spend increasing the liveliness and connectedness of our feet, the more we can, both literally and metaphorically, take a stand, stand on our own two feet, feel grounded, and create a firm footing for ourselves.
This week’s Five-Minute Yoga Challenge is to spend five minutes a day interpenetrating your fingers and toes. In fact, if there were just one practice you were to take on, for five minutes a day, this one would give you the biggest rewards.
Everything from tight shoes to walking on pavement conspires to turn our feet into lifeless slabs – a process that only accelerates with age. Good yoga feet with active, mobile toes bring life to every pose. They help you connect with the ground in standing poses, and pull your energy upwards in inversions. And of all the Five-Minute Yoga Challenges, this is one of the easiest to incorporate in your day, at least when you’re able to take off your shoes and socks.
Television yoga? It’s a natural. In the bathtub, soapy water makes it easier to work the fingers in between the toes. The same goes for giving yourself a foot massage, or putting lotion on your feet – all you need to do is add a little extra time for opening the spaces between your toes.
Here’s how it goes:
Sit down on a chair or the floor. With the palm of your left hand facing the sole of your right foot, interpenetrate your fingers and toes all the way down to the webbing.
It helps to pull on your fingers with your right hand, as though you were milking a cow.
Now squeeze your fingers onto your foot, and press your toes back toward your right knee. Hold the squeeze for 30 seconds or more.
Then squeeze your toes onto your left hand, curling your toes toward your knuckles. Hold this squeeze for the same amount of time.
Take your left thumb to your big toe mound and press down, so the sole of your right foot faces the ceiling.
Then, with the little finger side of your hand, press the little toe side of your foot, so your sole faces toward the floor. Release your fingers and compare feet. One will be pink, healthy and glowing, the other, not so much.
Then change sides.
Unless you already have exemplary yoga feet, expect some discomfort at the beginning. You might also find that one foot is easier than the other. Know that very quickly the discomfort will diminish until it’s just intense sensation. Eventually, playing with your toes will feel good.
If your toes are very tight, and your fingers are thick, don’t despair. Try using the foam toe separators sold for use in pedicures to start. Or use pencils, which are thinner than most fingers.
Be patient and keep at it. Your feet will thank you, and, as you increase your ability to root down, you’ll be firmer on your feet.
Do you have a tale to tell about how working with your feet helps your poses? Do share.
Photo courtesy of Casey Phalsalakani
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