A short practice to ease the feet and ankles
Bringing awareness to your feet and ankles with a short mobility practice
Have you ever considered how many bones, joints or muscles are involved within the structure of each foot in order for us to be able to move freely in the rest of our bodies? It’s quite incredible really. These small pads at the bottom of our bodies hold our weight evenly and provide us with the possibility of balance and co-ordination whilst helping us to maintain structure and stability throughout. I used to be an athlete and trained on the track 3 sometimes 4 times a week including racing. This really did take its toll on my feet. I had a stress fracture on one foot and I had to protect my arches, heels and front of the feet with support and padding. These days I still run but I am much kinder to my feet and toes and try to incorporate foot care within my daily practice as well as offering them a gentle massage too. Therefore this weeks practice will focus around finding more ease and freedom in our feet with a short mobility and activation sequence.
This is the fourth in a series of practices designed to get you moving mindfully in the mornings through slow stretching and to release common areas of tension that we may experience in our day to day. If you’ve missed any of the previous practices you can find them by going to the following links:
Week 1: Neck and shoulder mobility
Week 2: A gentle Standing forward bend
Week 3: Kneeling lunge to gently open the hips
Our intention for mobilising and activating the feet and ankles is to ease out the feet by freeing the joints that support them. Taking a gentle stretch and rotation in this part of your body will also enable a sense of release around your achilles, calves, knees and your hip area, whilst also providing circulation for the lower legs. Our focus should be with the feet and ankles predominantly during the practices but also consider how these larger groups of muscles and joints will also be involved in supporting them in a fluid way.
As always the sequences that I am presenting to you are designed to be taken slowly and mindfully with the breath. Let the breath support your movement, notice before you begin that your spine is vibrant and alert. Bring awareness to sensations in your body and in particular around your feet and ankles. As you move see if you can direct a sense of opening, or stretching away as you inhale, and then on the exhale bring your feet back to their starting position.
When we practice yoga effectively we should maintain an equal balance of effort and ease. Therefore notice when you are putting in too much effort, what will you need to do in order to allow more sense of ease? Equally, be aware of when it feels too easy, your mind will start to wander and your movements may become careless. What will you need to do in order to bring about more effort?
Notice how you feel before you begin, during each stretch, when you pause, and when you complete. Pay close attention to the way the breath supports and envelopes the movement.
Take the practice with me a few times and then take it on your own in silence. Add this onto the previous practices to increase the amount of time you move mindfully when you awake in the morning, or whenever you’d like to offer your feet and ankles some much needed attention.
Mobilising the feet and ankles, step by step:
- Come to a comfortable seated position with your legs stretched out in front of you. Raise your hips off the ground by using a cushion or a block (If sitting on the ground isn’t possible then you can take this sequence from a chair also.)
- Get grounded and settle into your position, connect more evenly towards the earth. Press your heels into the ground, and activate your feet by drawing your toes towards you. Hands lightly touch the ground beside you, or rest them onto your lap.
- Notice how you feel physically and emotionally without any judgement.
- Find length in your body from your sit bones along your spine to the crown of your head without lifting your chin, shoulders are spacious.
- Invite a sense of vibrancy along your spine and soften your knees as much as you need to.
- Bring your awareness to your breath in and out through your nostrils, and over time lengthen your exhalations and deepen your inhalations.
- When your breath feels steady and long, as you breathe in begin to wave your feet to one side with your legs active. Exhale to bring them back and then let the following inhalation guide them to the opposite side. Repeat this 3-4 times left to right.
- Pause often to observe.
- And then, on an inhalation extend your toes away from you, your legs may flatten here. Let the out-breath bring them back whilst activating the arches of your feet and the toes, knees release. Repeating 3-4 times each way.
- Pause for a few moments, notice how you feel.
- Then, with your inhalation begin to circle the feet out to the sides, then forwards and allow the exhalation to bring them back to centre. Take this 3-4 times one way and then 3-4 times in the opposite direction. As if you are drawing a circle around your ankles with your toes.
- Allow your legs to maintain active and your hips to be involved in the movement too in order for support. Avoid letting your legs flop or swing our or inwards at any stage. Remain focused on your breath and the movement of your toes, feet and ankles.
- Pause once more. Then bend your knees and allow your legs to soften once again, fold forwards, or stretch in a way that feels pleasant.
- Sigh the breath out with a long, soothing exhalation and return to the flow of your natural breath.
- Upon completion, pause and notice how you feel physically by bringing awareness to the sensations around your feet, ankles, legs and hips. Notice how you feel energetically by being aware of your any changes to your breath and notice how you feel mentally by observing the activities of the mind.
I hope you enjoy the practice and time that you provide yourselves with to explore the more subtle experiences you may encounter. If you would like to join me for further explorations of accessible movement supported by the breath, you can do so by joining me in my online classes.
Thank you once again,
“There are thirty-three joints and three arches in each foot, so there is unlimited possibility for discovering the rest of the body through the feet.”
Diane Long and Sophy Hoare