As far as body parts go, feet don’t seem to get the attention they deserve. After all, they do so much for us. They hold us up, literally. They let us get our 10,000 steps every day. They keep us going when we hit the dance floor from time to time or go full speed on a spin bike. It’s only right that we show them some love. And yoga is one great way to do that. Whether you just ran a marathon or your feet are achy from a long day of shopping, here’s 10 yoga poses and stretches to try. Your feet (and toes) will thank you later.
1. Yogi toes
To help improve your balance and show your little piggies some love, certified yoga therapist Ann Swanson, MS, recommends doing yogi toes. “While standing or seated in a chair, spread your toes as wide as possible and slowly place them firmly down on the ground,” she says. This will feel especially delightful after a long day on your feet or if you’ve been strutting around in heels.
2. Ankle pumps
If your feet are swollen, ankle pumps will offer some relief and promote good circulation. You can either do it sitting in a chair or on the floor or laying down to simultaneously decompress your entire body. All you do is go back and forth from pointing your toes like a ballet dancer and then flexing your ankles. “This activates muscles in your lower legs aiding the return of blood and fluids back to your heart and reducing ankle and foot swelling,” Swanson says.
3. Inversions and eversions
To warm up your ankles, Swanson recommends inversions and eversions. Don’t be discouraged by the fancy $5 terminology. It’s very easy to do. Sit in a chair and simply turn the soles of your feet toward each other (inversion) and then turn the soles of your feet away from each other (eversion) and repeat. “It dynamically strengthens and stretches your inner and outer ankle muscles, improving agility,” she says.
4. Squeeze and release
For ultimate feet relaxation in just seconds, the squeeze and release technique will be your go-to. “Squeeze your foot muscles by curling your toes and then releasing,” Swanson says. “Do this one to three times to help your feet relax. This technique teaches your muscle fibers the difference between tension and relaxation, helping them relax more fully than before the squeezes.”
The cat-cow yoga pose transition isn’t just a delicious back stretch, it’s also good for engaging your feet. “When the belly drops and the gaze rises for cow, students can tuck their toes for a bit of a stretch,” says Sonya Matejko, a writer, yoga teacher, and communications consultant. “When the back rounds and the chin comes to chest for cat, students can untuck their toes and ground down through the front of the toes.”
6. Bound angle
To give your feet some extra love, Matejko suggests coming into bound angle pose for a self-massage. Sit on the floor and bring the soles of your feet together and allow your knees to open as wide as they comfortably can. “Students can use their thumb to gently rub the arches of their feet at the same time, or they can cradle their foot in one hand and do one at a time,” she says. “I especially love using this pose when we’re working on self-love because how often are you really thinking about giving yourself a foot massage?”
7. Tree pose
If you’re in need of some grounding vibes, look no further than the good old tree pose. “The foot of the standing leg gets to experience the sensation of balancing from all corners of the foot,” Matejko says. “While the foot of the lifted leg gets to experience pressing into the inner thigh while the thigh presses back.”
8. Frog pose
To give the soles of your feet a good stretch, Susy Schieffelin, an LA-based sound healer, Kundalini teacher, and reiki master, recommends the Kundalini yoga frog pose. To do it, get into a squat position. Your heels should be lifted as you balance on your toes and your arms should be inside of your legs as your fingertips rest on the ground in front of you. Then take a big inhale as you lift your hips up and straighten your legs while keeping your fingertips on the ground and your heels lifted. Exhale as you squat back down and then repeat 26 times.
9. Reclined rock pose
“Reclined rock pose helps to stretch the toes and tops of the feet and can improve blood flow to the feet,” Schieffelin says, which sounds like a dream after a long day of being on your feet. “Come to a kneeling position with the tops of your feet on the ground. Sit on your heels so that your sit bones press into your feet. Place your hands behind you with your fingers pointing towards your toes. Press into the palms of your hands and elevate your knees off the floor. Breathe here for two minutes then lower your knees to the floor.”
10. Elevated downward facing dog
Schieffelin recommends an elevated downward facing dog to help stretch the arches of your feet, reduce leg pain, and overall balance the body. To do it, she instructs getting into downward dog as you normally would with with your feet hip distance apart and toes pointing forward. Then, here comes the fun part, bend one knee at a time as you lower your heels to the floor. You should feel it in your calves too. Take a few deep breaths through your nose as you do it.
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