Yoga and the Feet

Erica
RYT-200 Hour Certified Yoga Teacher. Erica started practicing yoga daily to bring herself flexibility, strength and balance. She enjoys doing yoga on the mat in the room, in nature and at the sea side. Erica brings yoga from the mat to everyday life and it helps her to be balanced, non judgmental and to learn new things. She likes learning and challenges, and encourages students to challenge themselves, learn new asanas, practice and enjoy every minute of yoga.

Our feet are our foundation and ironically, the most overlooked part of our bodies. We would notice every blemish on our face but the feet are stuffed into shoes, hidden from the world, unnoticed. Until my mid-twenties, I had run kilometers, over-pronation as they are, without feeling a twinge of pain or remorse. I couldn’t figure out how the compensation for this misalignment happened, but I didn’t have the common issues of joint or heel pain that often accompany over-pronators.

It was during my second pregnancy that the over-pronation worsened visibly, but only an episode of sciatica and the sight of a sixty year old lady hobbling on the insides of her feet made me I realized what I may become.

In over-pronation, the knee turns inwards, and the piriformis overcompensates to prevent the knee from over-rotating. Overactive hip flexors (iliopsoas, iliacus and rectus femoris), contracting constantly to bear the weight that collapses towards the midline in overpronators, becomes shorter.

With overly tight hip adductors and disproportionately weak hip abductors (the gluteal medius and minimus), the synergists to the gluteals (the hamstrings, adductor magnus and piriformis) have to overcompensate, and so contract and shorten disproportionally.

Looking at the anatomy of over-pronation and sciatica explains both the challenges and the benefits of some basic asana poses.

Trikonasana/ Virabhadrasana II/ Pasvokonasana

In these positions, the iliopsoas and illiacus are stretched. The wide stance with hip aligned to each other and tail bone tucked in also stretches the adductor magnus. Weight is to be evenly distributed between the two feet and, at the same time, to prevent the back foot from over-pronating, the outer edge of the back foot has to be pressed down.

The contraction of the gluteus group is essential to stabilize the asana. The eccentric contraction of the vastus lateralis and tibialis posterior assists in distributing the weight down the back leg and pronating the back foot towards the outside. In rolling the back foot to its outer edge, the peroneus longus, antagonist of the tibialis, originating along the fibula on the outer calf and pulling down on the arch of the medial arch of the foot, stretches.

The piriformis muscles are held in eccentric contraction if tension is applied to draw the legs towards the core, or in a passive stretch if relaxed. In either case, this position counteracts the effects of over-pronation on the piriformis muscles.

Held in isometric contraction, the above poses are effective counterposes for the misalignment of an over-pronator. The foundation of the trikonasana, virabhadrasana II and pasvokonasana is explored in relation to over-pronation. The following article will look at the poses in relation to lordosis.

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