In all standing Balance Yoga Poses, establishing the connection and energy through the foot is essential. With this proper foundation, Balancing Yoga Poses have increased stability, endurance and overall expression of physical and mental control. Often when people practice Balancing Yoga postures like Vrksasana (Tree Pose), they quickly set the foot position and then allow their attention to be drawn away to other parts of the body. Ample time is required to set the foot in proper alignment, and then one needs to maintain awareness of how energy is being applied by the foot during the entire length of the pose.
To properly utilize the stabilizing muscles surrounding the ankle, one should place the supporting foot in the same line as Mountain Pose – big toe directed forward from the inner line of the heel, and the rest the toes expanding outwards. This alignment of the ankle allows one to take advantage the muscles running along the outer and inner edge of the ankle joint – these muscles act together like a stirrup stabilizing the side to side motion often felt in balancing. As the foot is being placed on the ground, take a moment to expand the toes which brings space and life to the entire foot and arches.
Following this full expansion, RELAX the toes and allow them to brush the ground. Adjust your body evenly into the corners of the foot just before lifting the other foot. At the moment the other foot rises, purposely relax the toes of the supporting foot even more. Often, we suddenly have the supporting toes grip into the ground as the other foot rises. This gripping is even more common when we practice Hatha Yoga classes on thick Yoga mats and/or carpets. This gripping is generated by muscles running along the bottom of the foot.
Very quickly, these contracting muscles develop lactic acid and a burning sensation. This negative stimulus turns the Yoga pose from a place of calming reflection into struggle. Relax the toes. Keep awareness of their light placement on the ground. Use the toe mounts (or bottom edge of the toe knuckles) to connect to the front of the foot instead. With this purposeful placement and use of the foot, we now take time to explore the regions of foot. The arches are open with air and lightness – not tense with overly contracting muscles nor collapsing into the earth.
Just as we don’t push thoughts out of the mind while meditating, we don’t force stillness into our Balancing Yoga Poses. Let the body explore and have subtle sways and adjustments. Dissolve rigidity. Mimic lightness in the toes with lightness in the face. Let the quality in the foot transmit connectness and confidence up the rest of the body ending with serenity in the face and mind.