At SoleScience we’re constantly developing partnerships and collaborating with other health care providers to ensure we offer the best, comprehensive approach to healing your foot and lower limb issues. The following guest blog post comes to us from Ben Stanford of Tall Tree Health; learn how yoga can help you improve not only your foot strength and flexibility, but also your day-to-day life.
Yoga for Healthy Feet
When the word yoga comes to mind, do you think of expensive apparel, pretzel-like postures, and over-heated, over-crowded studios?
Or, perhaps you think of nubile young people who don’t ever really seem to work, or consume calories from anything other than juice?
Whatever your perception of yoga, it’s likely you haven’t been told the whole (pretty ancient) story. In reality, yoga is a system meant to produce a happy and healthy life, not just tight abs and strong shoulders. Yoga Fitness, then, is about being fit for life – in a variety of ways.
The importance of your feet and yoga
In biomechanical terms, your feet perform four primary movements; they pronate (roll in), supinate (roll out), dorsiflex (pull the toes back), and they plantarflex (point the toes). All of our balance in the way we stand or walk comes from a result of an interplay of these four movements. Improvements to your foot function, including muscular strength and joint range of motion can be achieved with your yoga practice. Many yoga postures work the small, postural muscles in your entire body, including the feet. With Ashtanga yoga, you can actually use your yoga workout to improve muscular strength in the feet. For example, you can consciously and repeatedly shift the weight towards the outside of your feet through your practice, this will develop and strengthen your arches.
Get to know your feet, take a look at them in a mirror from different angles, and be aware of how you stand. Deliberately attempt to balance your feet, particularly in simple positions like Mountain Pose, as you begin your yoga practice.
What You Eat
So what do yogis eat, anyway? The media may have you thinking it’s a vegan, raw-food diet or bust, but in truth many dedicated yoga teachers follow an intuitive form of eating and personal care called Ayurveda.
Ayurveda is a 3,000 year old Hindu system that, in general, preaches the importance of eating based on your individual constitution. It believes in using different foods, herbs, and breathing techniques, depending on your unique make up, to find your greatest state of wellbeing.
This may seem a little far-fetched, until you think about it. Ever notice how some people have TONS of energy, while others are always a little sleepy and slow? Some people are just naturally heavier in body mass, while others struggle to gain weight? Some folks have fierce concentration and drive, while others are more prone to day-dreaming and creativity? It wouldn’t really make much sense to tell all of these different people to eat the same kind of diet, would it?
Ayurveda says that there’s a way to eat for each of these types that will bring you into alignment, make you feel balanced, and support your yoga practice. To learn more about where you fall within the spectrum of Ayurveda and the corresponding best diet approach for you, check out Mindbodygreen.com’s “Ayurveda & Dosha Types for Beginners.”
And no, Ayurveda doesn’t say much about juice cleanses.
What You Think
One of the core values of the yogic system is ahimsa—the concept of non-violence.
This is easy to understand in terms of our interactions with others. In the yoga tradition you’re taught to be kind, compassionate and thoughtful, and to avoid causing pain to others wherever possible.
What isn’t always discussed in regards to non-violence is what goes on inside our own minds. The Sanskrit word ahimsa actually includes in its definition the cessation of violent thoughts, not just violent actions or words.
Again, this isn’t just in relation to others, it’s actually aimed at the way we talk to, and think about, ourselves.
One of the core values you can learn through the practice of yoga, then, is how to break thought patterns and cycles that can lead to self-doubt, self-loathing, and even mental health disorders.
What You Feel
We call emotions feelings because they produce a physical sensation…we physically feel feelings in our bodies.
What’s amusing about our management of emotion in the western world is our attempt to rationalize, or out-think, our feelings.
Yoga takes a very different approach: it recognizes that most feelings are experienced in the body, and that only through a system of mind-body connection can we really work through our emotions.
Have you ever taken yoga classes while going through a challenging period in your life, and all of a sudden found yourself close to tears, for no apparent reason? It’s a fairly common experience for people who practice yoga often, and not an unwelcome one. Most will attest to feeling lighter and less emotionally blocked after just such an episode.
You can really see yoga’s effectiveness at healing emotional wounds in the world of trauma and PTSD. Trauma-sensitive yoga has had incredible, empirically-supported, positive results as a treatment for individuals dealing with different trauma-related issues.
The Down Low on Down Dog
Like any other system designed to improve our well-being, yoga only gives as much as you’re willing to put into it. It is, however, so much more than just an exercise class. From now on, try viewing yoga as a type of physiotherapy fitness program that gets you in shape for your whole life.