Best Foot Forward
Whether we're standing tall in Tadasana (Mountain Pose) or flexing our toes in Paschimottanasana (Seated Forward Bend), yoga gives us ample opportunity to focus on feet. Unfortunately, it's often the only time we do. Foot care is not something many of us find time for, and when a yoga instructor directs our attention toward our feet, we're often unpleasantly surprised.
According to the American Podiatric Medical Association, eight out of 10 American adults will suffer from some kind of foot problem in their lives—and yogis are no exception. For the regular practitioner, foot problems often go unnoticed until a callus thwarts our stance in Trikonasana (Triangle Pose) or foot odor becomes a source of embarrassment in class. But here's the good news: Simple home treatments can both treat and prevent common podiatric problems.
If you've ever surveyed the feet that walk through the doors of your local studio, you know that certain problems are common among yogis. Perspiration can be one of them, and it's no wonder. With 250,000 sweat glands, your feet can produce as much as eight ounces of sweat daily.
To avoid slipping around on your mat, brew two black tea bags in one pint of boiled water for 15 minutes. Add two quarts of cool water and soak your feet for 20 to 30 minutes. The tannic acid in the brewed tea will change your skin's pH level and help prevent unwanted odor-causing bacteria.
Athlete's foot presents another big challenge. This itchy condition around the toes ranks as the most common fungal infection in the United States. You can pick up the organism that causes athlete's foot almost anywhere—including shared sticky mats—so consider bringing your own to class.
Geranium oil and tea tree oil both have germ- and bacteria-killing properties, making them excellent treatments. Add these oils to your own creams and powders, or look for products containing them as a key ingredient. Athlete's foot germs thrive in damp environments, so also be sure to keep your feet clean and dry, especially between the toes where moisture can get trapped.
While not contagious, corns and calluses certainly cause discomfort. Your body produces these growths as protection against daily friction and pressure, but if they get too large, it's time to smooth and reduce them. Use a wet pumice stone to slough off extra skin, or purchase foot creams that contain ground pumice for smooth, soft feet.
Also, try adding fresh or canned pineapple juice to your footbath. This tropical fruit contains bromelain, a natural enzyme that will help soften calluses and rough heels.