What does it mean to have active feet on a yoga mat? When properly grounded in standing asanas, the feet connect the spine to the flow of energy from the earth. Here are a few tips to check whether you’re getting maximum energy moving through your feet & body. In any standing asana, such as Pranayama Deep Breathing & Half Moon (Bikram’s 1st & 2nd postures), visualize 4 corners of your feet as setting roots through the floor. Not 3 corners. Not 2 corners. When paying attention to your feet, very likely you will notice tendencies to roll inward collapsing into the arches. Hone into developing strong active feet. Check out your awkward pose. When you sink your hips, does your weight roll into the arches? Even a tiny bit?
This collapse tendency becomes more pronounced in 1-legged standing postures such as Eagle, Standing Bow, Balancing Stick or Tree. Once the feet collapse in a posture, it is virtually impossible to lengthen and strengthen your core. And you will collapse in your feet. It will happen. Even when I’m paying full attention to my feet, I still sometimes notice subtle collapse. Lifting out of this collapse is a cornerstone in the foundation of drawing energy from the earth up the spine.
What do it mean to have active feet? Bring the attention of your mind into your feet. Visualize strong roots growing wide & deep through the 4 corners of your feet into the floor. Just like a healthy tree growing from the inside out, discover how to extend toward the radiance of sunlight from your cortex. As part of hatha yoga practice, yogis learn to generate lift out of the arches of their feet, the spine, etc.
This arch lift is where root lock (mulabandha) starts with emphasis on inhalations. One of the beauties of Bikram yoga & other hot yoga spin-offs (such as HotCore Yoga … my variation) is the absence of jumping around making it easier to establish this foundation. Think 4 corners as Roots & Lift out of the Arches. Wake up your Feet.
One more awareness … widen the knuckles of your feet across your yoga mat. In my early years of hot yoga I would work so fiercely on my mat that I would clench this area of my feet when I was trying to get strong or open. Don’t confuse strength with unconscious clenching. Avoid fighting to get supple. Spreading soft tissue between bones is essential for developing awareness in the feet. If you can’t feel your feet, keep practicing. Or you feel yourself collapsing but feel unable to correct it, keep practicing. Direct your mind toward the feet. And get your foot massages. Or massage your own feet.
A few years ago a studio member asked if hot yoga could correct her flat feet. Frequently after classes
she sobbed quietly on her mat from the pain. I told her there was no guarantee but that I had witnessed
many miracles happen as a result of dedicated practice & that yoga would not damage her feet. Then
one summer day she was waltzed into Yoga Passion thrilled to describe walking with wet feet on
a boardwalk & seeing dry spots on her footprints where arches had never been. At age 40 she had
developed arches in her flat feet.
To the degree we ground, the earth sustains our lives. Our bodies become vibrant when our feet become more alive. What are your feet saying today? BTW: This fall Peter is offering an 8-Weekend 200 Hr HotCore Yoga Teacher Training in Beverly Farms, MA.