Put Your Best Foot Forward

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Written by Kristine Owen Wood
Photographed by Caitlin Varrin

 


The Foot Story

 

A while back a gal came to my Hatha class with her boyfriend in tow. New to yoga, they were both lovely, eager participants. We soon discovered that the dude had pretty tight feet, to the point where pressing into the tops of his feet in Cobra pose felt next to impossible.

With my background in ballet and working knowledge of connective tissue, especially fascia, I hypothesized that if we front-loaded the Hatha class with some dance-inspired foot conditioning exercises, it could be helpful for the fellow’s feet. So we gave it a shot. 

Lo and behold, that very same day, the gentleman found he was able to do his first Cobra pressing into the tops of his feet.

Conclusion? Foot primers work wonders.

But don’t just take my word for it. Try it for yourself and see. Give these moves a whirl!

 


DO THIS: Foot Flow

If you want to:

  • Open your feet
  • Strengthen your feet
  • Be able to feel all the way
  • down to your toes
  • Reduce foot cramps
  • Improve standing balances
  • All of the above

The idea is to open up the tops and bottoms of your feet and introduce more mobility and space prior to practice. This will have an awakening ripple effect all the way up the leg.


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Runner's Lunge 

  • Use wall for support.
  • Ensure front knee aligns over supporting ankle.
  • Press all corners of back foot evenly into the earth.
  • Experiment with bending back knee, as well as changing angle of back foot (angling outward like Warrior One, and/or angling inward).
     
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Dancer's Warm Up Part One

  • Stand with feet parallel and hips distance width apart. 
  • Lift Right heel to press into ball of foot (emphasize front and back of arch), then lower heel. 
  • Repeat Left, then continue alternating feet. 
  • Next, add knee bend: lift Right heel, bend both knees, straighten both knees, then put heel down. Repeat Left, then keep alternating feet. 
  • Ensure spine remains perpendicular to earth (no bowing or tipping), that inner and outer edges of feet press evenly (no sickling or ‘winging’), and that movement is smooth throughout - not jerky or staccato. 
  • Use wall for support first, then move away from wall to build balance and awareness.
     

Dancer's Warm Up Part Two 

  • Stand with feet parallel and hips distance width apart. 
  • Bend knees, keeping spine perpendicular to earth and shoulders over hips. 
  • Roll up onto balls of feet without losing depth of knee bend, then straighten knees without locking (engage quads to pull up kneecaps). Lower heels slowly (create resistance). 
  • Rise onto balls of feet with straight legs, bend knees with heels still lifted, then roll through feet to lower heels with knees still bent. 
  • Straighten legs and repeat entire cycle of movement a number of times. 
  • Ensure upright spine, aligned knees (not collapsing in or out) and very smooth quality of movement throughout - no popping or jerking. 
  • Use wall for support first, then move away from wall to test balance and control.

Top of Foot Stretch

  • Use wall for support. 
  • Start with feet parallel then cross pointed right foot over left foot. 
  • Align top of foot evenly then bend knees, pressing left knee into back of right calf. 
  • Ensure foot being stretched is evenly long on both sides and not sickling. 
  • Then uncross foot and step into short lunge, pressing top of arch into earth. Keep the top of the foot even and be gentle. Be mindful of too much compression in Achilles area (ankle above heel). 
  • Repeat Left.

Happy Feet, Happy Life

Now go put your best foot forward. Stand on your own two feet. Dip your toe in. Get off on the right foot. Step lively! … And all that other good stuff.