Happy Feet

No, this is not an article about the perfect pedicure. This post is about giving your feet the much-deserved love and attention they need & require. This is about saying yes to happy feet. 🙂

Looking around my yoga class, I see many students with what seem to be various feet/toe ailments. When asked, the answer is yes – oh, those “painful bunions, plantar fasciitis, neuropathy, turned out feet, flat feet, high arches, collapsed arches”, etc. The list never seems to end. Our poor feet!

As New Englanders, we stuff them in shoes all winter, which are usually tight and have some variation of a positive heel (both tight shoe box & positive heel = problematic for feet, see below). Then, come summer, we wrap our toes around flip flops (not a good solution either, again: see below). Our bare feet rarely hit the ground running or hit the ground at all, let alone meet varied textured surfaces. Yet somehow we expect them to carry us where we want to go, to run, jump, play, walk, stand, square dance (or default dance depending on the generation). They’re somehow supposed to do everything – they are our mobility and our stability.  However, we rarely think of them at all; they are the furthest and farthest from us – until they speak up, and then it’s usually in a “you-can’t-ignore-me-anymore” way.

The cliche ‘if you don’t use it you lose it’ applies here. If we don’t use the muscles in our feet they atrophy. In addition, as we progress in our years, we lose circulation in our feet. That’s the bad news. So consider this a call to action – and there’s hope yet. Because the good news is that we can change our feet (and anything) – ANYTIME, ANYWHERE. We are never too old or too set in our ways. We are generally the way we are because of poor habits, of holding or moving (or lack of moving) patterns. But when we tune in and change the habits that don’t serve us, and find a take on habits that serve us better, then we are on our way to life long adventure and fun.

The key is to move in as many different ways as possible, as often as possible- that includes not only your feet but everything else. It’s all about balance – about checking in and rechecking. For example, when in line at Market Basket (I seem to live there, with 2 active teenagers, a voracious bunny, and hungry husband) – I work to stay aware: am I favoring a hip, are my feet turned out, shoulders slumped forward, head forward, etc? These are opportunities to work our feet (and our head, our shoulders). We can raise, wiggle & spread our toes, bring our head back, open our chest – check in on our habits, be mindful.

Here are some great, easy, accessible exercises to work your feet:

  • walk barefoot, walk on the beach, walk in the grass – use your feet muscles in as many different surfaces as possible
  • raise & spread all 10 toes
  • can you raise just your big toe? how about just your pinky? can you play the piano with your toes? (okay, that last one’s pretty advanced 🙂 )
  • place a tennis ball (or therapy ball) under your feet and roll it – move your fascia!

For more mindful feet & toe exercises, come to my Happy Feet Workshop or contact me. Also, check out Katy Bowman’s foot book (Foot Pain Relief) & web site – she’s a movement queen (www. nurtitiousmovement.com).

Remember, you are how you move. You can change!

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