In yoga you’ll often here phrases like ‘ground down through your feet’; ‘press into the four corners of your feet’ etc. These instructions are to create a solid foundation for ideal alignment, balance and integrity in the pose. When we build our postures from the ground up we are working with the biomechanics of the feet. Did you know, however, that the foot is also an important neuromuscular structure?
The skin on the bottom of our feet has many unique design factors and is our main skin to earth connection. Our feet are packed with nerve endings that are sensitive to texture, skin stretch (adapting to different surfaces) and vibration with 70% of nerves on the bottom of the feet sensitive to vibration. NB impact forces or ground reaction forces are perceived by your nervous system as vibration. If we can’t sense vibration (because we are wearing cushioned shoes that inhibit and insulate our feet from sensing this vibration) the body is unable to receive the messages to effectively and safely alter our movement patterns, posture, balance, nor adjust your movement patterns for efficiency. This has the potential to negatively impact our bodies from the feet upwards affecting our knees, hips, backs and our centre of gravity often resulting in stress to our joints, pain and inflamation.
Here are two exercises you can do at home to ‘reset’ the feet and effectively open the neural pathways between the soles of your feet and your core to total body conditioning and support.
FOOT RELEASE - SENSORY CONDITIONING
Using a golf ball placed under the sole of your foot, roll it back and forth and side to side to stimulate all parts of the foot. Do this each day for 5 minutes morning and night to reset our feet to their natural state and stimulate sensory conditioning.
FOOT TO CORE SEQUENCING
Standing in bare feet, one foot at a time (you can hold onto a chair or other support for balance as needed):
1. With toes pointing straight ahead, centre of knee in line with your middle three toes, softly bend the right knee slightly so that it is not locked. Take your weight onto the right foot evenly distributing the weight between the four ‘corners’ of your feet i.e. press down into the big toe and little toe balls (first and fifth metatarsals) of the feet and both sides of the heel evenly.
2. lift all of your toes, spread them as wide as you can then press the pads of each of your toes into the ground. This activates the Abductor Hallucius muscle on the sole of the foot. Relax the toes.
3. Press the pads of the toes into the floor noticing activation of the Abductor Hallucius in the sole of the foot. Notice the reciprocal affect this has all way up the inner thighs, glutes (buttock) and abdominal (core) muscles as you dig your toes in! Repeat 5 times.
4. Change feet and repeat steps 1-3.
Optional progression to add a single leg squat.
5. Follow steps 1 above then move into a squat position bending the knee a little deeper.
6. At the bottom of the squat press the pads of your toes into the ground. All the muscles then ‘switch on’ right up to your core.
7. Relax your toes and push back up to standing.
8. Repeat 5 times then change feet/leg.
* This advice is not meant to replace medical advice specific to your own foot/body's needs and never do anything that causes you discomfort or pain.