200HR TEACHER TRAINING
The feet do not stand alone, nor do they independently support movement so activation of the feet begins in the legs as we run lines of energy from the top of our femur bones down through our feet. This creates a “rebounding effect.” When you intentionally root down from the tops of your thighbones down into your feet, the muscles in your calves and thighs engage. This not only creates the upward pull on the arches of pada bandha but creates expansion through the joints and a sense of being more firmly grounded yet resilient in your feet while longer and lighter up through your body.
The shape of the bones allows for plenty of forward and backward movement & limits side to side movements.
- Dorsiflexion: the top of the foot moves toward the knee
- Plantar flexion: the sole of the foot moves toward the calf
- Eversion: the outside of the ankle moves toward your hip
- Inversion: the inside of your ankle moves toward your groin
- Abduction: a movement at the ankle causing the toes to move away from the body
- Adduction: a movement at the ankle resulting in the toes moving in toward the midline
When you combine dorsiflexion, eversion, and abduction, your foot pronates; when you combine plantar flexion, inversion, and adduction, your foot supinates.
POINT OR FLEX?
Dorsiflexion causes greater stability in the ankle joint as the wider part of the wedge shaped talus bone is lodged in the space between the tibia and fibula. The particular shape of this bone is highly variable and can determine our ultimate limit to dorsiflexion. Trying to force the talus too deep, too quickly can sprain or rupture the ligaments joining the tibia and fibula.
In plantar flexion, the narrower part of the talus moves into this space, creating less stability but an easier sense of radiating energy out through the feet. The lack of stability is one of the reasons most ankle sprains occur when the ankle is plantar flexed.
Sickling of the foot.
There may be many reasons why this is occurring, and this position of the foot may be quite normal and safe for the student. If you are concerned, ask the student what are they feeling in their knees? If there is discomfort or pain in the ankle, knee or hips, suggest they try straightening the foot and see wether that helps. If they are nicely grounded already, firm and solid in the posture, then why try to correct their natural alignment. Remember the intention of the pose, focus on function not appearance.
FOOT & POSTURE
Basic posture starts at the feet, everything else is stacked above. If our bodies are in good alignment, the line of gravity flows right through the centre of our body. The further our body moves away from this alignment, the more tissues of the body will have to respond to maintain an upright position in relation to gravity. Over time the stresses and strains of misaligned bones can lead to chronic pain.
"A man's tracks tell quite a true story. They inform quietly about ankles and knees, but they shout the news about hips and pelvis. If one foot is consistently everted [tilted onto its inner edge], the ankle, the knee, or, perhaps more likely, the entire pelvic basin is rotated." - Ida Rolf
In standing yoga postures, note where we place the feet relative to one another. How far apart and how they align with one another, where the weight is distributed affects the structure and then the posture above them. Where we position our feet will impact where and how we position our pelvis. The more open our tissues are around the hip joints, the more adaptable the position of the pelvis relative to the feet. Also the body parts above the pelvis compensate for the positioning of the pelvis.
To really tell where the feet naturally point we need to consider:
What is going on at the hip joint
Torsion of the femur
What happens at the knee joint
The torsion of the tibia
The orientation of the ankle
Be careful of lining up students feet. The knees and lower back may be pushed into misalignment and that might in turn cause trouble for your knee, SI joint, and lower back, especially as you challenge them with more difficult asana. To prevent this, most practitioners will be better served by aligning their knees under their hips and back and letting their feet fall where they may. If you line up your feet but one or both knees are twisted on top of this, you are risking long-term trouble. Think of walking: If you aligned your feet as you walked, your knees and lower back would operate like misaligned hinges on a door and start wearing down faster than they should, with bones pressing and grinding on cartilage unevenly.
Variations in tibia torsion greatly determines where the foot will point in many yoga postures. If we insist the foot be straight in standing postures including lunges, students with a high amount torsion will have to accomplish this direction by pronating the foot or by internally rotating the leg either from the hip or at the knee or by doing all 3 movements. The average amount of torsion is 30degrees, so almost everyone has to perform some sort of internal rotation of the thigh or leg to to align the feet parallel, which may not always be the best alignment for their hips.
The orientation of the subtalar joint, the joint between the talus and calcaneus, is quite variable and can have an effect on the foot’s range of supination and pronation. A foot that seems overly supinated or pronated while in Warrior 2 may be due to the orientation of the students syubtalar joint.
For the most of the day, our feet are constricted and cushioned in shoes and rarely experience anything other than perfectly flat, hard surfaces. This prevents us from using our feet to their full capacity. Our proprioceptors in the ankle sense changes in tension and relative position and communicate this information to relevant muscles. With cushioned shoes and predictable flat surfaces, the sensitivity is lost or muffled, muscles are not used and we end up with weak feet. Fortunately yoga is practiced bare foot.