Yoga Anatomy: The Longtitudinal Arches of the Feet

By: 
Ray Long, MD, FRCSC

In most fitness and athletic pursuits, the feet are important, due to their weight-bearing function (except in swimming and martial arts, where the feet are used to kick). Yoga practice places a great deal of importance on the role of the feet. For example, the soles are thought to be a location of minor chakras. Additionally, precision movement of the feet affects parts of the body that are far removed. For this reason, it is important to understand their anatomy and biomechanics. 

In this article, we’ll study the structure of the longitudinal arches of the feet. 
 
First, let's look at the anatomy:

1. The Bony Arches
 

 

On the outside of the foot, the talus, calcaneus (heel), cuboid, and lateral metatarsal bones form the lateral longitudinal arch. This is the shallower arch and is the main weight-bearing surface of the foot. Flattening and deepening of the lateral arch occurs through movement between the cuboid and the fourth and fifth metatarsal bones. 

On the inside of the foot, the talus, calcaneus, navicular, cuneiform, and medial metatarsal bones form the medial longitudinal arch. This is the deeper of the two longtitudinal arches. Flattening and deepening of this arch occur through movement between the talus and the navicular bones.

2. The Ligamentous Arch 

 

 

The plantar fascia is a fibrous ligament-like structure that runs from the calcaneus to the bases of the toes. Lifting (extending) the toes tightens the plantar fascia and deepens the arches.

3. The Muscular Dynamizers 

 

 

The muscles that dynamize the arches are divided into the intrinsic and extrinsic muscles of the foot. The intrinsic muscles originate from and insert onto bones within the foot. The extrinsic muscles originate from the lower leg and insert onto the bones of the foot.

In this article, we’ll focus on the peroneus longus and brevis and the tibialis posterior—three of the extrinsic foot muscles. Contracting the peroneus longus and brevis muscles tilts the foot outward (eversion). Engaging the tibialis posterior muscles tilts the foot inward (inversion). All three muscles can be used to strengthen and deepen the longitudinal arch of the foot.

Now, let’s look at these structures in yoga postures.

1. Extending the toes in Paschimottanasana deepens and strengthens the arches.

 

 

2. Contracting these muscles lifts the arches in Urdhva Dhanurasana.

 

 

The arches can be worked and strengthened in many other poses (especially the standing asanas). Gain awareness of these important structures by gently inverting and everting the feet and flexing and extending the toes in various poses. Always practice carefully and gradually build awareness as you apply your knowledge of anatomy to your practice.

Would you like to learn more about the importance of your feet in your yoga practice?  If so, study with writer and yoga teacher, Leila Stuart and YogaUOnline - Standing on Your Own Two Feet - Experiential Anatomy of the Foot.   

And read this article from special contributor, Charlotte Bell: Foot Yoga -Tap into the Power of Your Own Two Feet.

Reprinted with permission from Daily Bandha 

Dr. Ray LongAuthor Ray Long MD FRCSC is a board-certified orthopedic surgeon and the founder of Bandha Yoga. Ray graduated from The University of Michigan Medical School with post-graduate training at Cornell University, McGill University, The University of Montreal and Florida Orthopedic Institute. He has studied hatha yoga for over twenty years, training extensively with B.K.S. Iyengar and other leading yoga masters.

 

Chris Macivor3d Graphic Designer / Illustrator Chris Macivor has been involved in the field of digital content creation for well over ten years. He is a graduate of Etobicoke School of the Arts, Sheridan College and Seneca College. Chris considers himself to be equally artistic and technical in nature. As such his work has spanned many genres from film and television to video games and underwater imagery.