Feet ... our base of support and connection to the earth
Over one-half of the bones in our body are in our hands and feet.
206 bones in the human adult body
26 bones in each foot
27 bones in each hand
In this post I’m going to focus on the feet. Each set of bones in our feet are designed for specific functions.
The forefoot consists of five toes (phalanges) and five longer bones (metatarsals). This part of the foot is great at extending out to create a solid base and support our arches. The toes also help to propel us forward when walking, running, climbing, etc.
The midfoot bones form the arches of the feet; three cuneiform bones, the cuboid bone, and the navicular bone. These bones help create the lift in our arches to draw the body up against the pull of gravity. They also help disperse the weight of our body forward into the toes and back into the heel.
The hindfoot forms the heel and ankle. The talus bone supports the lower leg bones; tibia and fibula which form the ankle. The calcaneus or heel of the foot is the largest bone in the foot. This part of our foot is meant to bear most of the weight of our body. When we consciously draw our weight back into our heels it automatically brings the head back over the spine.
Looking at our shoes can give us information. If there is more wear on one side it means that the foot is shifted off its central axis and this is likely putting strain on our knee, hip, or lower back.
What did your shoes reveal? If you have wear on the inner heel you may have fallen arches or what is commonly called, flat feet. This means your inner ankle bone in collapsing in and down. Once this happens it often means that the inner groin at the top of the inner leg is also collapsed. The weakened muscles of the inner thigh can leave you vulnerable to low back pain due to compression of the discs in the lumbar spine.
Yoga is great because it gives us a chance to be out of our shoes and consciously move our feet. As we practice yoga we begin to strengthen our arches which creates lift in the body, and activates muscles in the feet, ankles, legs and pelvis in a new way.
Let's try a simple exercise to feel our feet in a new way ...
Stand with your feet hip width apart and extend through your big and little toes and spread out the middle toes. Do your feet feel spread out? Do you feel like you have a wider and more secure base of support? Now try to feel all three arches of your feet. While still standing with your feet hip width apart pick up all your toes. You will feel lift in the inner arch but also lift between your big and little toes (the transverse arch) and lift from the little toe to the heel (lateral arch).
Now let's bring this new awareness into a yoga pose - Mountain pose ...
Follow these steps …
Stand with your feet straight (look at your outer heel through the little toe) and hip width apart.
Pick up your toes and then gently extend and press down the big toe, then little toe and spread out the middle toes.
Activate the muscles in your lower legs by drawing them down into your feet (you may feel more weight in your heels and the big and little toe mounds).
Activate the muscles of the upper thighs by drawing them up into your hips (you will feel the upper and lower leg bones align and muscles around the pelvis engage).
Draw the lower belly in and up to bring the pelvis to neutral (feel your pelvis as a bowl is it holding water or pouring water out the front or back – adjust as needed).
Turn the palms of the hands forward and reach down as if trying to touch the floor (can turn palms in to face the body if palms forward is uncomfortable).
Draw the spine up from the base of the skull where it attaches to the spine (should feel length in the back of the neck and your head come back over your spine and your chin is drawn in).
As you breathe feel the lift in the body from the arches through the legs and into the spine. With each breath relax into the activeness of your body including your feet. 😊 This is just a taste of what yoga can do.
Here are a few other simple toes exercises to practice daily. See what happens to your feet in 30 days. You will love the results.
Lift all your toes, keeping the inner heel grounded and lifting the arch from in front of the heel, without the big toe mound and inner heel coming up away from the floor.
Keeping the rest of the toes lifted, extend just your big toes out and down as if you are trying to push a button as it comes down. This will help to reverse bunions.
Keeping the rest of the toes lifted, extend just your little toes out and down toward the floor. This works the peroneal muscles running from the little toe along the outer shin and even along the outer thigh.
Keeping the middle toes lifted and toes spread, extend only your big toes and little toes out and down toward the floor. This builds the transverse arch at the front of the foot.
Do these exercises once a day - 10 reps big toes, 10 reps little toes, 10 reps big and little toes. Inhale as lift toes, Exhale as press down through toes.