One of the best things about summer is walking barefoot in the sand. Walking barefoot in natural terrain is very beneficial to the health of the arches of the feet. We normally spend most of our time in shoes that are often too tight or even worse… heels, and walking on hard, flat surfaces which are all a great disservice to the health of our feet. Our underappreciated feet are so important to us: they are our foundation, bear the weight of our entire body, and are the building blocks of our posture (and look how cute your toes are!). Energetically, they are thought to have small chakras, or energy centers along with the palms of the hands and the 7 major chakras that line our spine.
Most of us know about the medial arches of the feet. They are the most mobile and shock absorbent of the arches and when dysfunctional contribute to “dropped arches”, “flat feet”, and plantar fasciitis. In actuality, there are three arches of the foot and maintaining all three arches will give you more spring to your step (both literally and figuratively). Think of your foot like the pyramids of Egypt in which all three parts of the base are domed upward. This “dome” so to speak has a facial relationship to the dome of the pelvic floor and the dome of the diaphragm. When collapsed, the other two domes are affected which can lead to major imbalances.
The Medial Longitudinal Arch runs from the base of the big toe to the heel and is supported by fibularis longus, tibialis posterior and flexor hallucis longus. In a healthy medial arch, one should be able to slide their first finger up to the first joint underneath this arch. The lift of this arch should be executed in ALL YOGA POSES (check it out in your back foot in Warrior I!). As an exercise, lift all ten toes while grounding the base of the big toe and heel to feel the arch lift, then gently place all ten toes back down while maintaining it.
The Lateral Longitudinal Arch runs from the base of the pinky toe to the heel and is supported by fibularis longus, fibularis brevis, and abductor digiti minimi. This arch is designed to transmit force when walking or being mobile. As an exercise, stand in tadasana and make your feet seem shorter, which engages all three arches but it’s a good way to feel the lateral arch.
The Transverse Arch runs horizontally along the base of the toes and is supported mainly by adductor hallucis. A very good exercise for this arch is to sit with a towel under your foot, scrunch the toes and the transverse arch repeatedly to pull the towel towards you.
Another great self-care exercise is to thoroughly roll a tennis ball under the foot. If you experience plantar fasciitis, this can be done with a frozen water bottle as the roller. Take care of those precious feet by supporting all three arches in your yoga practice, walk barefoot in Mother Nature and most of all give them love.
Namaste, Shila Tirabassi