Your body begins and ends at your feet. Your feet carry you, they bear 100% of your being. They are your connection to the Earth and they take you where you need to go. Your feet deserve a lot of credit. Yet for some reason, we tend to neglect them and acknowledge them only when they bother us, say after a long walk, or when we have a blister, or when we wear heels and regret them the moment we leave the house.
Our feet play a major role in our health and deserve daily praise and attention, especially considering the load they have to carry.
Energetically speaking, there is a lot going on in the feet. There are countless meridians, nerve endings and energy points that begin and end in the feet and are connected to the entire body.
The energetic points in the feet are considered to mirror the body and mind. Stimulating these points stimulates the energy flow in the corresponding body/mind areas and can help release energy blocks in the meridians through your entire system. The feet are also our connection to the Earth and they are very sensitive and open to energetic vibrations. If we walk barefoot and touch the bare earth, our feet actually absorb the Earths electrons (this is incorporated in a healing practice called Earthing or Grounding), that's how sensitive they are.
If you look at the feet from an anatomy and bio-mechanical perspective, it becomes apparent that our feet were actually designed to be as mobile as our hands are. The feet count 25% of our body's bones, and together with the muscles and joints that connect the bones, the feet can assume endless positions. Yet, because we always wear shoes and walk mostly on hard surfaces, our feet are enfeebled and profoundly weak.
So weak even, that they often deform to the shape of our shoes, and with enough stress on the joints, form all sorts of problems- such as bunions! Yes, I know you think they are genetic. Sorry to burst your bubble. They're generally a result from daily foot use (or abuse is more like it) where there is so much pressure on the joint, that is grows crooked.
The state of your feet will influence the state of the rest of your body. Problems in the ankles, knees, hips, pelvic floor, back and shoulders often originate in the feet. Typically, when we're in our 70's or 80's, the toes stop working due to lack of proper use, and walking becomes problematic. Correct use of the feet can actually prevent serious conditions like joint degeneration. Luckily, as with all muscles and joints, in our body, one can train the feet back to healthful mobility.
Start with one simple thing. Pay attention to your feet when you walk.
Walk mindfully and become aware of your gait.
Do you cramp up your toes?
How do you place them with every step?
Do you distribute the weight everywhere?
Can you spread your toes and lift them off of the floor individually?
How about your skin- is the callus spread evenly everywhere? Or do you have a few super thick painful spots? (By the way, callus has an awesome function for foot health when it's spread evenly over the skin! Don't cut it away, just moisturize.)
Once you've become well acquainted with how you use your feet. Become more friendly with them. Massage the feet often, especially between the toes. Train the feet daily, outside of the constraints of your shoes. Do foot exercises in which you stimulate and stretch the joints and muscles.
Yoga is awesome for the feet. Being barefoot and placing the feet in many different positions, stimulates and strengthens the muscles and joints and ankles.
Find an awareness for the feet in your practice: let them soften and unfold on the mat. Spread the toes wide in standing poses and feel the weight distribute evenly.
Use props like tennis balls to roll under the feet and release tension deep within the tissues.
Do Broken Toes Pose, and do it often!
This is where you sit on your heels with the feet together, and tuck the toes under so that you're on the balls of the feet, and the heels are straight up as if you're against a wall. This pose works on stretching the muscles, opening the toes and strengthening the ankle.
Take care of your feet. Nurture them and appreciate them.
Becoming aware and mindful of the way you use your feet, can change your body.
If there is only one thing you take away from this article, let it be this: walk with consciousness and intention. Feel what your feet are telling you.
Zen master Thich Nhat Hanh says it beautifully: 'Walk as if you are kissing the Earth with your feet'.
I love it.