Start by standing in Tadasana (mountain pose). Stay conscious of your body as you maintain a straight alignment from the top of you head down to your ankles. Think of all the muscles being engaged to keep yourself upright. Now consider the two relatively petite structures of the body on which all that weight is being carried upon. Yup, those are your feet. Unfortunately our feet hardly get the tender loving care as often as they should, given all that with stuffing our feet into socks and shoes and pretty contraptions like ill-fitting heels. We already pound the ground on a daily basis over and over with our feet yet still add to that stress with the compression from our footwear (if you’re in the habit of wearing shoes).
Yoga can help wake up the feet and make you conscious of the intricate working of these amazing structures that we tend to take for granted. When practicing asana we want to “take a seat” in the pose, ideally a steady and comfortable one. To do so we should be able to ground our weight firmly on our feet; that is, body weight is evenly distributed across the surface area of the sole of the foot. The foot is neither pronated or supinated. An rough test to check your gait is to take a look at the underside of your shoes – if they’re worn out more on the outer edge, that’s supination. If the wear and tear is on the inner side, that’s pronation. What we aim for is to press down on the toes and heel while lifting the arch of the foot, to maintain equilibrium and avoid resting weight on either side.
The muscles involved in these actions can be seen from the diagram. The primary mover in lifting the arch is the tibialis anterior, located right at the front of the tibia (the bone in the calf). It originates from the top of the tibia and extends down to the medial side of the foot, attaching itself to the surface of the tarsal bones. Its antagonist, the tibialis posterior located behind the tibia, similarly attaches to the tarsal bones.
To ground the toes we activate the extensor muscles in the leg. The extensor hallucis longus, located next to and slightly behind the tibialis anterior, extends the big toe. The extensor digitorium longus, at the most posterior and lateral part of the front calve, extends the rest of the toes. It divides into four tendons at the dorsal part of the foot, where it inserts into the phalanges of the four toes.
To practice stabilising your balance, the next time you enter Vrksasana (tree pose) really be conscious of how a slight shift in the weight distribution among your toes and heel and make a difference in your rootedness – we don’t want any swaying trees. For a challenge, try to transition between Virabhadrasana III (warrior three) to Ardha Chandrasana (half moon pose). On top of locking the core and working the glutes, your base leg has to provide a stable foundation to enter both poses. Over time, as you develop the strength and length in the relevant muscles the grounding will hopefully become like second nature. So kick off your shoes and go work those yoga toes!
200hr TTC Weekday
 Gray’s Anatomy, 2nd edition.