by julee snyder
The foot is an amazing structure of twenty-eight bones comprising thirty-three joints. It is a structure that allows for extraordinary mobility and stability combined. The bones of the foreleg meet the talus to create the ankle. The heel is made of the calcaneous. The midfoot includes the cuboid, navicular, and three cuneiforms. The forefoot is comprised of the five metatarsals, the fourteen phalanges, and the two sesamoid bones.
In yoga, we often talk about the box of the foot – the four points of the foot that root down into the earth. These four points include the big-toe ball, little-toe ball, inner heel, and outer heel. You can think of these four points as footings to the arches of the foot. The four arches include the medial longitudinal arch, the lateral longitudinal arch, the distal transverse arch, and the proximal transverse arch. Pada bandha is created as the four points of the foot root down into the earth so that the arches can lift, carrying the energy (or lines of lift and rebound) from the ground up the center of the foreleg.
In the Body-Mind Centering work, we refer to the ankle-foot as the bones of the first three toes into the navicular and the talus. The ankle-foot forms the medial longitudinal arch. The heel-foot consists of the outer two toes into the cuboid and calcaneous to form the lateral longitudinal arch. You’ll notice that the ankle-foot is more medial and has a higher arch than the heel-foot. This allows for there to be both dynamic rebound in the lift and arch of the foot combined with weight distribution through the foot into the ground.
If you have the luxury of waking up slowly, begin your morning practice by waking up the feet. This can be done while sipping your morning tea or lemon water. A natural facebrush is a great tool for brushing the skin of the feet. This increases circulation and enlivens the skin and the nervous system. Begin to caress your feet, feeling the contours. Massage your feet, distinguishing muscle from bone. Take hold of adjacent metatarsals and begin to move them in opposite directions to encourage movement between the bones. Trace the toes from the proximal head of the metatarsal to the tip. Grab hold of the toe and circle it before moving on to the next. Clap your feet. Friction them. Slip your fingers between the toes and hold them while circling the ankles. Stand on a ball – an old tennis ball will do though a textured ball is exquisite – massage the plantar fascia moving slowly. Take out your strap (or a lightweight theraband) and do your toe push-ups – slip the strap around the tip of the toe and keep the toe long while you press into the strap. Try to isolate each toe so that it initiates the movement. Any part of this sequence is a treat for your feet. Once you are complete, your feet are ready for practice.
Whatever pose you choose, begin to notice your feet. How alive do they feel? Are some points more awake then others? Does the weight distribute evenly through your feet? Begin to notice your habits. Notice if there is a natural lift to all four of your arches or if there is collapse or over-effort. Begin to see your habits and how those habits travel upstream to cause pain or dysfunction in the knee, hip, low back or breath. As you shift your habits, you are shifting your samskara.
Seated symmetrical sequence: seated bound angle pose, inverted table, bound angle forward bend, egg pose, staff pose, inverted plank, staff pose forward bend, egg pose, boat, wide-leg boat, bound angle.
Standing symmetrical series: mountain pose, chair pose, standing forward bend, monkey pose, forward bend, chair , mountain.
Standing asymmetrical series: mountain pose, wide mountain pose, warrior 2, triangle, side angle, lunge, mountain pose.