Show Your Feet Some Yoga Love: 5 Poses to Strengthen and Soothe Tired Feet

Allison Schleck, E-RYT 500, RPYT
Updated: 
January 25, 2018

Poses to Strengthen and Soothe Tired Feet

The feet are often the underdogs of our yoga practice. Sometimes the hips and the shoulders receive all of the attention and our poor feet barely receive an honorable mention. Our feet are constantly adapting, stabilizing and giving us a sense of grounding in our bodies. That’s not only happening during our asana class but every time we stand up, walk and move around on our feet. Naturally, the muscles of the feet tire and become sore. We need to strengthen the muscles of the feet, as well as give them some much due TLC.

Your Complicated Feet

The feet are a complex and important structure of the human body. The feet carry the weight of the rest of the body and absorb the shock from the ground every time you take a step. Each foot contains 26 bones, 19 muscles, 33 joints and a whopping 107 ligaments. Complicated, right? With so many components working together, the slightest change in our feet, such as favoring the inner edge or outer edge of the foot can cause pain in the feet and structural problems in the rest of the body. By taking care of our feet, it is possible to relieve pain further up the chain in the knees, hips and lower back. Here are five ideas for poses and pose variations to give tired feet some TLC.

Yoga Pose #1. Two Peas in a Pod: Tadasana and Your Feet     

Tadasana (Mountain Pose) is the superstar when it comes to the feet. To practice Tadasana:

  1. Stand with your big toes parallel to each other, with your feet either together or apart, no wider than hip-width apart.

  2. Press the tops of your thighs back and stack your hips over your ankles and your shoulders over your hips. Center your head between your shoulders.

  3. Notice how you bear your weight in your feet without altering the natural distribution of your weight.

With your body standing stationary, the focal points are your feet. What are they doing? Which parts of the feet do you feel firmly pressing on the floor and which parts feel lighter? Do your inner feet touch the floor or lift entirely up? It is useful to ask yourself these questions one foot at a time and then to ask yourself again while aware of both feet.

Once you have more awareness of what is happening in your feet, place a block lying flat on the floor on its lowest height and oriented between your feet horizontally so that you can feel the inner edges of your big toes against the block. 

  1. Press your big toes against the block and feel what happens. Can you feel the arches of your feet lift and the inner legs engage?

  2. Widen the outer edges of your feet away from the block. There may not be any obvious movement. Visualizing a wider sole of the foot can help to soften the skin, fascia, and muscles.

  3. Root your heels actively down into the floor and observe how this action affects the entire back body, from lengthening the backs of the legs to lifting the back of the skull.

  4. Continuously work on finding balance between your feet until Tadasana feels effortless, almost as if you are not even standing.

Yoga Pose #2. Virabhadrasana II for Strengthening Your Feet            

All standing poses strengthen your feet. By using the information you discovered while practicing Tadasana, you can do the same in your practice of standing poses such as Utkatasana (Fierce Pose) and Virabhadrasana II (Warrior II Pose).

You can further strengthen the feet by adding this action: In Virabhadrasana II, for example, make your front heel heavy and lift and lower the toes and the ball of your foot away from the floor multiple times. This creates dorsal flexion of the foot against gravity. You will feel the muscles along the front of the shinbone and down to the toes contract and release. You can also practice this movement in lunges with your hands on blocks and in Virabhadrasana I (Warrior I).

Yoga Pose #3. Unwinding Tired Feet with Virasana (Hero's Pose)   

To unwind from pulsing the feet in Warrior II, come down to the floor for Virasana (Hero’s Pose).

  1. Kneel on the floor with your knees together and your shins slightly angled outward so that the tops of your feet point straight back.

  2. Lengthen the fronts of the ankles and feet on the floor.

  3. Sit your hips back between your heels or on top of a bolster, block or blanket.

  4. Bring your torso upright over your hips.

This position stretches the muscles that were used in the pulsing action. If you are unable to place the tops of the feet all the way down, and it feels intense, kneel on a bolster with your ankles and feet hanging off of the bolster your toes reaching the floor. The angle will provide relief for tight ankles and feet. This way you can gradually work to lengthen the fronts of the shins, ankles, and feet onto the floor. For extra TLC, stroke the soles of your feet with your knuckles. Circularly massage your heel and wiggle each of your toes.

Yoga Pose #4. Stretch the Fascia on the Bottoms of the Feet

  1. Lean forward from Virasana, lifting your hips away from your feet, and place your hands on the floor.

  2. Parallel your shinbones and keep your knees together.

  3. Tuck your toes under so that the toes and the balls of the feet press into the floor.

  4. Pressing your hands into the floor, move your knees back towards your toes a smidgen.

  5. Sit your hips back towards your heels without moving the heels out to the sides.

  6. Stay here or walk your hands up blocks or your thighs. Again, stay here or continue to sit upright.

  7. Stay in this position for about 30 seconds and repeat after a 45-second break in Virasana.

  8. Return to Virasana with the tops of the feet on the floor and massage the feet.

Yoga Pose #5. Restore Your Feet with Viparita Karani (Legs Up the Wall Pose)

Since your feet take the brunt of the work in movement, turning upside down can do wonders for the tootsies. The feet are entirely released from gravity and can dangle. You can also circle the ankles and point and flex the feet while they literally hang out.

  1. Sit with one shoulder close to the wall and lean back, guiding your back and hips down to the floor with your hands.

  2. As your back moves closer to the floor, lift your legs up and onto the wall.

  3. Simultaneously spin your pelvis so that the sit bones point toward the wall and your head and torso face away from the wall.

  4. Rest here for 5 and up to 20 minutes.

The Complete Package

Taking care of your feet is vital for any yoga practice, and incorporating foot care is possible in every yoga class. It’s important to make it a point in your practice to balance the structure of your feet with mobility. After all, mobile feet are healthy feet. In the words of Leonardo Da Vinci “The human foot is a masterpiece of engineering and a work of art.”

 

Author and Yoga Therapist Leila StuartWould 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.

 

Allison SchleckAllison Schleck, E-RYT 500, RPYT is a vinyasa based yoga teacher, fascinated by the intricate relationship between the mind and body. She offers a range of alignment-focused classes touching on anatomy, philosophy and creative propping with a mindful approach.  In addition to teaching group classes and managing the Yoga Culture studio in Danbury, CT, she also teaches at Open Door Family Medical Center in Westchester, NY empowering mother's to be with prenatal yoga classes and childbirth education. You can find her @allisonschleck on Instagram and www.allisonyoganidra.com.