Actions of the Feet

The very wonderful teacher Donald Moyer, author of "Yoga: Awakening the Inner Body," came to share some of his ideas in a workshop at Yogasana Center in Brooklyn a few weeks ago. It was an intense three days of practice and observation that has left me with much to ponder. I thought I would share with you some of his ideas from this year and years past. There was a LOT of information, so I’m going to have to break it down. Here is some information about the feet:

1. Broaden the toes and metatarsals from underneath.

We often work very hard from the tops of the feet, causing the muscles to harden and pop up, creating a deep groove across the top of the feet. Better to work the feet from underneath so that the top of the foot and the ankle can remain soft.

So as not to over work the little toe and sap the strength of the outer foot, think of broadening across a line spreading out from the big toe mound to the fourth toe.

2. Roll the metatarsals.

To broaden the body of the foot, and to bring weight into the inner foot where the bones have evolved to support it, think of rolling each of the first four metatarsals inwards along its axis while turning the fifth metatarsal, connected to the little toe, outwards, spreading the bones like a fan.

Interestingly enough, B. K. S. Iyengar has apparently been teaching a similar idea, only turning the fifth metatarsal inwards along with the rest.

3. Stretch the neck of the big toe forward as you draw the inner foot (1st metatarsal) back and the outer foot (5th metatarsal) forward.

These actions together strengthen and support the ankle, and become the base of a wrapping motion in the leg that can translate all the way up into the hip and lower abdomen creating strength, stability and release. Stretching the big toe forward stabilizes and anchors the movement of the metatarsals so that the foot does not turn in.

If the feet are naturally very wide, the outer foot can lose strength. Rolling the outer foot/5th metatarsal forward can contain the spread, sharpen the outer edge of the foot and bring the lost strength back.

I have found that if you have a tendency to press into and over work the inner knee this combination of actions can aggravate this. Narrowing the inner thigh by bringing the hamstring forward (coupled with taking the inner quadriceps back to stabilize) can balance this out. Look for for more information on this in an upcoming post.

4. Ground the neck of big toe.

Sometimes we over work the big toe mound. Instead of pressing down hard into the big toe mound, soften the action by grounding the neck of the big toe itself. This can be experienced most effectively in Adho Mukha Shvanasana (Downward Facing Dog Pose) by lifting the heels, or in Uttanasana (Intense Stretch Pose) by putting a slant board under the toes.

5. Firm the ends of the arches.

It is possible to over lift the arch and throw the ankle off balance. Activate the arch instead by strengthening either end, just behind the big toe mound and just before the inner heel.

If you are not sure how to achieve this, press the fingers into these point to bring awareness there while in Uttanasana (Intense Stretch Pose).