Our writer spent a day with Annie Carpenter at YJ LIVE! and came away with a newfound respect for the architecture of the foot. Use this sequence as your owner’s manual.
I recently had the opportunity to study the anatomy of the feet with Annie Carpenter at Yoga Journal LIVE! Colorado in Estes Park. (Get tickets for this year's event on Sept. 22-25.) The full-day workshop was rich in information and detail, and one concept stood out clearly: the human foot is an incredibly complex and sophisticated piece of design.
The Functional Design of the Foot
The functionality of the foot relies on both tension and flexibility. As such, it’s a wonderful representation of sthira and sukha: the necessary balance of steadiness and ease. Tension in the arch of the foot is what gives us speed, the spring in our step as we walk and run. This arch is also a shock absorber, however, and too much tension leads to instability: Think of a tennis racket that has been strung too tightly, creating an overly taut surface with no elasticity and give.
The Consequences of Imbalanced Feet
Keeping all this in mind, we can begin to see how an imbalance between stability and flexibility in the feet can create problems elsewhere in the body. The anatomy of the feet is closely connected to the health of the lumbar spine, and floppy, collapsed arches can be the cause of an achy low back. Conversely, excess tension is linked to inflammation in the soft tissues of the arch, a painful condition known as plantar fasciitis.
Foot-Stabilizing Muscles To Know
Because our feet are such tidy, compact bundles of bones, there isn’t much room for housing large musculature in the foot itself. Instead, most of the muscles controlling the feet are in the calves and shins and connect to the feet via a network of tendons. This presents an interesting challenge: In order to refine the actions of the feet, we need tap into awareness and engagement in the lower leg. The peroneus longus, specifically, plays a major role in stabilizing the foot. This long muscle runs down the outside of the calf to the outer ankle. From there its tendon weaves under the sole of the foot and attaches in two places at the inner arch. The peroneus longus helps maintain the transverse arch of the foot, as well lift the inner and outer arches. These actions, when combined in a mindful and balanced manner, allow the leg to steady itself on top of the foot, particularly in one-legged balancing poses.
See also 11 Calf and Forearm Openers
4 Poses To Fine-Tune Foot Stability
Use these poses to encourage both flexibility and strength in the feet.