Set Your Foundation

4 Exercises For the Feet & Ankles

 

Walking on the streets of some of my favorite European cities, I took note of how tired my muscles of my feet and lower legs were. I consider myself to be a rather in shape human being but during the winter months, like most people who have cold winter months, I spend more time indoors, on my computer and focusing less on my body than I’d like. Despite my dedication to my yoga practice, and even playing recreational sports like Ice Hockey, the reality is I am just not walking, running, and jumping around barefoot on multiple surfaces throughout the entire year. So I decided to get back in shape, but from the ground up!

Think about this, how much preparation and attention goes into setting the foundation of a home? While many of us want to skip straight to the appliances and decorations, none of that matters if the structure doesn’t hold. So builders spend a great deal of time making sure that the foundation is solid so that the rest of the home lasts for a long time. When it comes to the human body, we also tend to want to focus on the “appliances” rather than our foundation. In my 11+ years of practicing yoga, I have encountered hundreds of ab exercises, alignment techniques for the hips, shoulders, and core, and so on. When I try and think about a class that focused on the feet and ankles, I can literally think of two (aside from my own “Hips” and “Root Down” workshops.) But for real, the feet…I remember two classes. I am not saying they don’t exist, I am sure you have one or two teachers that focus on the feet too, but I think we can agree that it’s a rarity. Could you imagine deciding to build a home and the majority of builders didn’t mention a foundation? 

While I offer many practical techniques to apply to your standing poses in my Hips: Rock & Unlock ‘Em workshop, I wanted to provide some additional exercises that are completely free so you have the opportunity to practice them and focus on your foundation. 

I have been focusing on these exercises lately to rebuild strength and awareness of my feet, and it’s amazing how much better my hips and low back are feeling when I’m walking around, standing and even doing handstands.

So lets get you up to speed with the ankle joint, what joint actions are available to you, and how to strengthen these actions. 

  1. Dorsiflexion - “flexing the feet” 
  2. Plantar Flexion - “pointing the feet”
  3. Inversion - When the outer ankle lengthens, like a “sickled foot”. I don’t use that term much because it only implies that this action is not good, but it is an important action to walking and also maintaining an arch in the foot in the asana practice, which I go over extensively in my Hips Workshops.
  4. Eversion - The Opposite of Inversion - outer edge of the foot is closer to the outer shin than the inside of the foot

Plantar Flexion

Dorsiflexion

Inversion

Eversion

To strengthen these actions I have created four exercises for you to practice. I use a resistance band for a couple of them, which is a helpful prop and tool to have for all different aspects of the body—you can get one online, or in a local pharmacy or sports store, and I highly recommend it. I have also included a fun yogi trick for learning to spread or “abduct” the toes which is super beneficial, especially if you throw your feet in a pair of shoes for most of your day. So lets set the foundation!!!

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5 Comments

  1. Thanks Matt. These feet and ankle exercises are very helpful for me, especially since I pronate and am flat footed. Thanks for the teachings and I miss practicing with you at pure west! All the best to you. Nice to see you in a peaceful grassy habitat! -Dede Lahman

  2. This was such a great and informative video and post matt! My students were just asking me for more stretches for their feet so I can’t wait to offer this for them

  3. Thank you for this video. I have two of your DVD’s (yes, purchased them some couple of years ago 🙂 ) and find them excellent. I like how you explain the movements while doing them and that is just great teaching. I am checking this video since I have been having problems with my feet (used to be a runner, then a jogger now a walker but the pain on my feet started getting on the way… so your DVD’s have been with me in the last four weeks (7/7) and I can only thank you and credit my improvement to your yoga and stretching moves.
    I am glad I found your page and will be visiting often.

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