By Joe Flemming
While yoga practice physically involves gentle stretching, deep breathing, and meditation, it also builds on foundational principles of positive thinking, mindfulness, truthfulness, self-discipline, and kindness.
In the same way, your body requires a steady and strong foundation with which to move and flow through the world. On a very physical level, you may consider your body’s foundation to be your feet – the magnificent pieces of evolutionary machinery which allow you to walk upright, run, exercise, stand, jump, you name it.
Feet take a beating over a lifetime. According to a 2004 study, a somewhat active person walks over 7,500 steps a day. That means, over 80 or so years, your feet are carrying you over 110,000 miles by the time all is said and done. Positive self-care activities should always include the feet, and luckily, regular yoga practice helps.
Check out these powerful foot benefits yoga has to offer:
It might be hard to think about your feet being flexible, but the elasticity of foot muscles and tendons is important to preventing injury and powering strong body movements.
Can you sit cross-legged and pull the toes back on one foot towards your ankle? Can you flex to bend and point your foot without pain? The flexibility of foot tissues like the plantar fascia, which runs along the bottom of your foot from your heel to your toes,
helps keep them long, limber, relaxed, and more readily responsive to impact or force. Tight, stiff foot muscles and tendons don’t allow for full range of motion and can inhibit or strain some movements.
The gentle, flowing stretching of yoga practice is a lesson in flexibility – not just for your arms, back, and legs, but for your feet as well. The Cleveland Clinic shares, “Yoga postures that stretch and strengthen the legs and feet can help reduce and even relieve plantar fasciitis.” Poses like Prancing Feet, Downward Facing Dog (Adho Mukha Svanasana) and Extended Hand-to-Big-Toe Pose (Utthita Hasta Padangustasana) help stretch the calf and feet muscles, like the Achilles tendon and plantar fascia.
Strengthens Muscles & Tendons
With more than 100 muscles, tendons, and ligaments per foot, your feet make up a comprehensive structure, which requires regular strengthening and toning. Ankles are especially susceptible to sprains and breaks because they are a major synovial hinge joint which can roll and strain with impact or even a simple misstep.
Yoga stretching and poses help strengthen the joint tissues as well as build newer, stronger muscles and tendons, which steady and stabilize foot and leg motion. Practitioners with previous injuries may benefit from wearing an ankle wrap, like a brace for sprained ankle, while taking part in yoga, or should ask for specialized instruction to avoid future injury.
Builds Bone Mass
Did you know your body does not naturally produce calcium?
Bones require calcium to remain dense and it is important to incorporate calcium-rich foods into your diet. How do bones use the calcium you eat though? When you place additional stress on bones through exercise, like yoga, it cues the body to stimulate bone formation as well as to hold on to the existing calcium in bones, which are bearing weight. A 2016 study even revealed that a 12-minute yoga regimen actually reversed bone loss in some people suffering from osteoporosis.
Relieves Joint Pain
Arthritis in the foot can be a particularly painful experience, especially for older adults. It can limit mobility and prevent arthritis sufferers from staying active and exercising regularly. Yoga has been shown to boost blood flow to feet (which because of their distance from the heartless readily receive circulating blood), which can aid inflammation and soothe joint pain. The Arthritis Foundation shares result from multiple studies, which revealed significant improvements in measurements of various arthritic disease activity with routine yoga practice.
Where will your feet take you this year? For practitioners young and old alike, keeping feet and legs in the best shape possible means staying mobile and independent. With regular yoga practice, stronger, healthier, more flexible feet are but a pose away.
Joe Fleming is the President at ViveHealth.com. Interested in all things related to living a healthy lifestyle, he enjoys sharing and expressing his passion through writing. Working to motivate others and defeat aging stereotypes, Joe uses his writing to help all people overcome the obstacles of life. Covering topics that range from physical health, wellness, and aging all the way to social, news, and inspirational pieces…the goal is help others “rebel against age”.