Yoga for Your Feet: 3 Strategies for Improving Your Balance

By: 
Allison Schleck ERYT-500, RPYT

Everyone wants better balance, whether as a means to live life fearlessly or to perform a challenging pose. Balance has been correlated with core work, but one question I ask my students is what is touching the floor? The core certainly plays a role, but balance truly starts with the feet. If the muscles of the feet aren’t able to adapt to the changes in weight shift or after certain physical disturbances, then how can we stay upright? This article explores three ways to improve balance that can be added to your practice to enhance your balancing poses as well as overall stability.

Massage Your Feet for Balance         A woman massaging her foot using therapy balls, practicing yoga to strengthen and care for feet

We stand on our feet, we walk on our feet and play (predominantly) on our feet. The connective tissue of the feet can be stiff and affect mobility, even if it seems that there is a decent amount of movement already in the feet. When the connective tissue softens, the foot becomes more pliable and adaptable. This makes balancing easier. Try this interesting exercise:

  1. Walk very slowly up and down your mat (or around a room). Pay particular interest to your feet. How do they feel? How do they move? How much do your toes bend? And so forth.

  2. Then grab a tennis ball, a broom handle or a therapy ball and from a seated or standing position, roll the object under the soles of your feet from the toes to the heels. Do this for about two minutes on each foot.

  3. Try walking around your mat or the room again and notice how your feet feel. Notice if and how they might feel different after massaging them.

  4. Next, roll the ball from side to side, transversely across the soles of your feet for about two minutes each. 

  5. Again, take a walk and notice how your feet react to releasing the connective tissue.

Strengthen Your Feet

There are many ways to strengthen your feet. Strengthening your feet helps you to balance. When your feet are unable to handle your movements, the rest of your body compensates. Balance is difficult because the feet are unable to properly adapt to the shifts in movement and to sustain longer periods of standing on one foot. Try this short feet-strengthening sequence.

  1. Stand in Tadasana (Mountain Pose) with your feet about hip-width apart. Grip the floor with your toes as if you were going to create a ripple in your mat between your toes and your heels. Release.

  2. From Tadasana, lift onto the balls of your feet. You can use a wall or chair to help with balance, but with each subsequent practice use a lighter touch on the prop so that your feet activate more than the previous time. Count down from five, slowly lowering your heels to the floor. When you reach zero, your heels come to the ground. 

  3. Sit on the floor. Place a Theraband around the tops of your feet and with resistance, point and flex your feet slowly. Do this 10 to 15 times on each foot.

  4. From Tadasana, try picking up your Theraband with your foot 3 times successfully on each side.

  5. Repeat the sequence.

Shorter Holds Ease the Mind

When we practice balancing poses, our mind can often take the stance that if we are unable to hold the posture for five breaths, twenty breaths, or half an hour then we really can’t do the pose and we have terrible balance. Reality check. This is not the case at all. Balance can be thrown off for reasons other than foot strength, core strength, etc. From an inner ear issue to a really tough, emotional day, our balance can be off.            A woman in a balance yoga pose, standing with one foot on a block, to practice foot care and balance.

What’s important is that you practice. Those shorter holds are still challenging the muscles of the feet to make them stronger if that is the issue. Keep balancing, and you will get stronger in the process. Shorter holds also ease the mind. Holding a pose until the teacher says to come down can create stress. When you walk, you balance briefly because both feet are not on the floor at the same time.

Try these shorter holds to improve balance. You can use a wall or a chair, but remember to keep the touch light.

  1. From a standing position, step over a block from front to back. Then try side to side. Do this five times to each side.

  2. Lift your knee up to your chest, pause for a breath or two, and place your foot down. (variation with block shown right)

  3. Lift your knee out to the side as if you are doing Vrksasana (Tree Pose), but without touching your foot to your inner leg. Hold it there for a moment and place your foot back on the floor and change sides.

  4. Repeat these shorter holds and change the surface under your foot. Some examples are standing on the floor, a block, a carpet, a blanket, a bolster, a Bosu ball or grass. The list can keep going.

Versatility in your footwork will improve your balance and make challenging balances more accessible. Let the wiggles and wobbles into your life and make friends with them. When we become intimidated by movements in the feet, a part of our brain shuts down and tries to disconnect from those sensations. But those sensations in our feet are what help us to perceive where we are, to catch our balance and to give indicators that might stop a fall. We cannot always avoid falling because we do not have a crystal ball, but by implementing these tactics into your practice, you will find a better sense of connection with your feet and an improved sense of balance.

Also, study with YogaUOnline and Leila Stuart: Standing on Your Own Two Feet-Experiential Anatomy of the Foot.

Online Yoga Course with Leila Stuart called "Standing on Your Own Two Feet: Experiential Anatomy of the Foot"

More yoga practice tips from Allison Schleck and YogaUOnline - Three Unique Ways To Prop Revolved Triangle Pose.

 

YogaUOnline contributor 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.allisonrayjeraci.com.

 

 

 

 

 

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