“If toast always lands butter-side down, and cats always land on their feet, what happens if you strap toast on the back of a cat and drop it?” ~ Stephen Wright
A friend in class talked to me about having flat feet. How it affects her practice, her balance, her previous injuries because of them. I had to pause, think, consult my YTT manuals and encyclopedias, research further in the web. Such discussion always drives me to the edge, voracious in learning more to cultivate her practice, as well as my teaching.
We are all born with flat feet. As we grow, arches develop for most. And there are some who kept the flatness as fallen arches all the way to adulthood. There are those who do not experience pain but when the feet are rigid and with less flexibility, pain and discomfort arises all the way to the legs and the back. This causes the imbalance and limitation in walking, running, yoga, or other physical activities.
The condition is caused commonly with the fusion of the tarsal bones. There are many, many bones in our feet, 26 all interlacing each other. During our development years, these bones separate or form a different shape (other than flat) as we learn to walk. When they don’t, the feet remain nearly all bones with less development of cartilages and tissues. It is this bridge of cartilages and tissues that form the bridge; hence, arches.
That’s as far in writing this in layman’s terms. While I’m getting fascinated lately with anatomy, they tend to be hieroglyphics to some degree.
Whether the arches will still develop in adulthood, I am not certain; but we can always work on making the feet less rigid and more flexible. There are still the presence of some cartilages and tissues that we can make stronger yet supple.
Virasana, the Hero’s pose, allows your feet to feel more of a champion with continued practice. This asana stretches the fronts of your feet and strengthens the arches at the same time. While in this pose, allow your thumbs to massage the ‘invisible’ arches. Stay in Virasana for at least 10-15 minutes each day. Longer when you can.
Do Virasana while watching TV. Do Virasana during the beginning and end of a yoga practice instead of other seated poses. Do Virasana while gardening. Do Virasana while reading a book. Prop your laptop or iPad lower and do Virasana. Do Virasana before bed. Do Virasana while meditating.
There are other benefits to this pose but this is concentrated on developing the strength and flexibility of having flat feet. Another form of exercise you can do is allowing your feet to play. Sitting on a chair, place a piece of paper under your feet and begin rolling the paper into a ball with your toes. This may give you discomfort with fallen arches but they strengthen later on. Come into Virasana after this exercise and massage the ‘invisible arches’.
When you feel the need to modify the pose, have folded blankets or blocks to sit on. The goal is to have your buttocks touch the earth. Eventually. A rule of thumb: Never coming down to lay on your back for Supta Virasana when knees are lifting or when your buttocks aren’t glued down. Spread the toes to prevent cramping. I usually use my yoga toes spreaders when meditating. One gets used to the discomfort wearing these and they become your friends after some time. Mine is from Joy-a-Toes… and they give joy to my feet!!
It’s time to give JoY to yours.
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