Our feet take a daily pounding from the shoes we wear, the way we walk, the activities we enjoy (e.g., running), or simply from inactivity. Most of us underestimate the effects tired, tight, misaligned, and inflexible feet, ankles, and toes can have on the rest of us. Arch, hip, and back pain are only some of the side effects of neglected feet. Those with tight leg muscles such as the calves and hamstrings might want to give some TLC to their tootsies too if they want to improve their flexibility.
How to love your feet
Here are a few basic tips and moves you should do on a daily basis to help improve circulation and mobility in your feet. The rest of your body will thank you.
Toe lifts: Sit or stand while you ground evenly through the four points of your feet: big toe mound, little toe mound, and inner and outer heel. Slowly lift your toes off the ground and spread them out. Bonus tips: lower the toes one at a time, working first from the pinky inwards and then try it again by lowering the big toe first. Or, try to lift only your big toes off the floor, then only your little toes. Will them to lift and watch that your hands and fingers don't try to help.
Toe abduction: Ground in the feet as you did above and now gently work to move the big toe outwards away from the other toes. Bonus tip: If you can do so comfortably, while seated, bend over and place your hand along the inner arch of your foot. Feel the muscles along the arch contract as you gently work to abduct (move away) your big toe from the rest of the toes. When you touch the area you want to activate, you send a signal to your brain to get that area moving.
Release ball: Using a tennis ball, gently and slowly roll out the undersides of your feet while standing. Use a chair or wall for balance. Keep your foot and toes relaxed throughout. Stop rolling and release the foot down onto the ball when you feel a tight or sore spot. Bonus tip: Once this feels easier, graduate up to a golf or tiny release ball.
Toe separators: Why not release the muscles of your toes and feet while you do other things! Use corks or toe separators (think the things you use for a pedicure) between the toes to gradually realign the bones of your feet. Bonus tip:cut the corks in thirds or halves to start and then gradually increase the width of the corks as your feet release. Don't force large separators between your toes so you feel pain.
By spending a 10 minutes on the above every day, you will release the connective tissue in the feet that connects up the body to the legs, hips, and back, thus increasing your flexibility and reducing your pain throughout. You will enjoy a nice massage that stimulates blood flow in the feet and helps you de-stress. You be able to treat bunions, plantar fasciitis, and other foot aliments. And finally, you will be well on your way to keeping your feet and toes healthy which in turn will have an effect in the entire rest of your body.
Kim McNeil has over 14 years of practicing and teaching yoga and specializes in working with those living with arthritis and stress. Her Iyengar-based approach to yoga therapy helps clients manage their arthritis symptoms, chronic pain, stress, anxiety, and fatigue—allowing them to get back to doing the activities they love.
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