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Find your Feet with Tadasana

Most Neglected, Least Loved, Most Indispensable!

Alpha Waves Yoga CoursesWhat do your feet mean to you? I know the phrase 'most neglected' is a generalisation, but how many of us really love our feet the way they deserve to be loved? When we look at the feet of babies and toddlers, we are awe-struck by their sweet little perfection (the patter of tiny feet), we admire them, stroke them and often notice how mobile and strong they are. Then, as soon as a toddler learns to walk, or even before, while they are still in a pram, we strap these delicious little digits into a harness, called shoes! This inhibits the development of the foot muscles because it restricts the child's ability to stretch, push and contract their feet. Ironically, this is the very thing we need to do, to keep our feet healthy and mobile, from birth until we breathe our last.

I've taught, trained and coached people for many years and whenever I ask a group of mature students which part of their body they wished they'd taken more care of, the most common answer is their feet or teeth: Sadly, I can't do anything about teeth, but it is never too late for your feet to feel better!

Many people dislike the look of their feet and think they look ugly. If you are one of these people, why not experiment for a month and start to pay attention to, and appreciate your feet. You will begin to value the work your feet do for you, how they keep you standing, balancing and moving. Of course these actions are mobilised with the help of strong, flexible and balanced ankle, knee and hip joints, which are supported by strong and flexible muscles, but it all starts from the feet. It is safe to say that if your feet are stiff and misaligned, the rest of your body will be compromised – your posture and the way you move and use your body. Yoga posture work is perfect to breathe life back into your feet, no matter how badly you've ill-treated them in the past.

I know that you all have busy lives and for clarity I also believe in keeping things simple. You will be amazed by what you can achieve in as little as 30 days, by incorporating a few simple exercises into your life. In my yoga courses, the focus is very much on health & wellbeing and I go into far more detail, than I do here. But I believe the exercises I have recommended below are a great start and won't take up too much of your time. So, put your best foot forward ...

Tadasana – Mountain Pose:
... from the Sanskrit Tada, meaning mountain

With this posture or asana, it is clear that the feet form the base of your daily balancing act - staying upright!

• Stand with the feet about 2 fist-widths apart.
• Arms hanging relaxed by your sides.
• Spread your toes as wide apart as you can...and then let them relax.
• Take your weight towards your heels.
• Now take the weight towards the front of your feet.
• Then let your body find the weight in the heels and the ball of the foot – toes still relaxed.
• Finally, allow your feet to find their perfect balance and feel grounded to the earth, with equal weight going through the heel, big toe joint, (the one that hurts when you have a bunion), and the little toes.

That's it as far as feet are concerned in this posture, but to make it even better, you can now release the knees, relax the buttocks, allow the tailbone to sink down whilst the upper body moves upwards toward the sky. And now you can focus on a nice, relaxed, natural breath.

See how balanced you feel – and just imagine what it would be like to always stand like this, not just in a yoga class!

Toe lifts – by the wall – perpendicular

This can be done alone or with the help of a partner.

Step One. Use the wall to support yourself and raise yourself high onto your toes. Lift as high as you can (if you do this with a friend ask them to tell you if you are balancing on the toes and the balls of your feet are off the ground). Just be patient, it takes time to stretch these muscles.

Step Two. Stay as high as you are and just bend your knees a little whilst keeping the body absolutely upright! Stay for as long as you can and then repeat between 5 - 10 times.

Meditational walk- rolling feet ...

This technique has recently become quite 'the thing' in the fitness industry. What it really means is that you walk in the way your body is meant to walk. I'm not going to describe this here, as it's very simple to do but extremely complicated to describe. If you've never done it before, it would be easy to get it wrong and a waste of time, to boot! However, I do teach this at my yoga sessions, because it is essential for healthy feet. I promise you that you can re-learn walking as nature intended and with it, promote the return of elasticity and strength to your feet and legs. This is one of the few exercises you can practise without it taking time out of your busy day.

There are several simple things you can do for your feet, including an exercise I learned from the renowned yoga teacher, Peter Blackaby. He gave me this technique for strengthening my quads in preparation for a knee operation. I practice it religiously for 2 minutes every morning while I brush my teeth. I imagine you now have an image of me doing weird and wonderful things with my feet during my morning ablutions! Miraculously, it also cured my dropped arches and flat feet! These simple yet effective techniques are included in the core of my yoga programme.

I look forward to seeing you soon at one of my yoga courses,  when you jump in with both feet!

Antonia Boyle, Alpha Waves, Westerham Kent