Chair Yoga and the Feet?

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Exercises For the Feet And Ankles: Chair Yoga And The Feet!

Chair yoga and the feet? You may or may not give much thought to your feet throughout the day, but they are working very hard (even when we are sitting down to do chair yoga). Adding in some exercises for the feet and ankles is on our to do list for today. The foot and ankle complex has over 100 muscles, ligaments, and tendons that work together to provide us with mobility, stability, and balance. When we are standing and our balance is challenged, our first line of defense comes from our ankle.

You may not even feel it, but if you have ever had a slight loss of balance posteriorly- like you are falling backwards-  the muscles in your shin contract and this brings your ankle into slight dorsiflexion (toes pointing upward). This pulls your center of gravity back over your base of support.

Alternatively, if you have a slight loss of balance anteriorly- like you are falling forward – the muscles in the back of the ankle contract and help to pull you back to center. If those methods fail to help you regain your balance, the body then moves on to the second line of defense- the hip strategy. For now, we will just talk about the feet.

It is a good idea to bring some attention to this area and add in some exercises for the feet and ankles regularly. You don’t need much space and you can do them pretty much anywhere. If you are looking for a short video sequence for yoga for the feet, look for the link at the end of the post.

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So What Does This Have To Do With Yoga?

Well, in yoga we look at the 3 platforms-Shoulder girdle, the pelvic girdle, and the feet and ankles. The main goal is to stack the 3 platforms of the body. Each platform has 3 actions:

Align- We need to stack the bones to allow the muscles to work efficiently.

Stabilize– We want to create stability around joints. Our bodies like to take the path of least resistance and will find movement where it is soft.

Elongate– After we have found alignment and stability, we want to lengthen. 

In yoga practice, there is the idea that an asana (or pose), should be both sthira (stable) and sukha (comfortable). In other words, we want to have a balance between the effort of maintaining a pose and the enjoyment and ease of that pose. This can be applied to our functional mobility and balance in everyday life. We want to be able to maintain good alignment in our bodies so that we can do things that we need to do and that we enjoy.

When it comes to the feet/ankle platform, the main purpose is to protect the knees. When we have alignment of the 3 platforms, we can have better weight distribution and our joints can move more efficiently and effectively. To protect the knees during seated chair yoga, we can work to align the knees over the ankles, maintain the knees parallel (try not to have the thighs splaying outward), and we can elongate by pressing through all 4 corners of the feet evenly and lifting through the arches.

With yoga, or any exercise/activity, we always want to have stability (and breath!) first before we move.

So What Does This Mean For Function In Everyday Life?

Well, as we previously talked about, our foot and ankle complex is essential for balance reactions, stability, mobility, and protection of our knees. A healthy foot/ankle complex is needed for a safe and proper gait pattern. It is essential for helping us maintain standing balance even when we are not moving. Adding in some exercises for the feet and ankles doesn’t have to be difficult.

Think- standing at your bathroom or kitchen sink and performing a task such as washing your hands. Your feet may be planted on the floor, but there are subtle weight shifts happening that allow you to maintain your balance and have the stability to reach your hands forward and side to side. 

We also may not realize that we need a certain amount of movement in our ankles to stand up and sit down from a chair with ease or to climb stairs. Ankle movement might seem more obvious to us during walking activities. Although walking is a very complex task, a shuffling gait pattern may be the result of having limited dorsiflexion (or the ability to raise the toes up). Even if you are unable to walk, your feet and your ankle joints are helping you get up and down and in and out of all kinds of surfaces. 

When it comes to the body, you may have heard the phrase that “it’s all connected” and that is very true. We actually have a layer of connective tissue called fascia that surrounds every structure inside our bodies- and it is all connected. (Check this article if you want a more in depth look at fascia).

So, if we work the feet we can actually have an effect on the whole body!

A cropped picture of a women's lower leg massaging the bottom of her foot with a tennis ball.

Try This Simple Exercise For The Feet:

  • Get a tennis ball or any small ball. If you do not have a ball, you can use a water bottle or something similar
  • Sit upright with a nice long spine and place your feet on the floor under your knees. Thighs are parallel.
  • Place the ball under the middle of one foot. Now move your foot forward as the ball rolls toward the heel.
  • Then move the foot back as the ball rolls toward the toes.
  • Continue for one to two minutes and then switch sides. You can work up to more minutes as it becomes more comfortable.
  • You can also control the pressure you apply. You may have more sensation in some areas than others.
  • Take 3 Deep Breath!

There, you just did something good for your whole body and got a bit of a release in the hamstring muscles without even realizing it. So, it really is important to pay attention to the feet and ankles. A proper foundation is necessary to support the rest of the body. If you start to notice any issues with your feet, be sure to check in with your doctor. Good footwear is also really important – see this quick Footwear Guide before you head out shoe shopping.

You may be interested in these trigger point balls: Massage Lacrosse Balls

Want More Exercises For The Feet And Ankles And More? 

Check out this short video on Chair Yoga and the Feet: Chair Yoga for the Feet

You may be interested in these 5 Seated Exercises With a Yoga Block to add a little variety to your routine.

Take a look at 5 Exercises Using Ball.

Take a look at the  The 7 Day  Chair Yoga Challenge if you would like to add some gentle movement to your day.

Here you can find some tips on Breathing For Better Mobility.

Or, you may be interested in Chair Yoga For Assistive Device Users.

Visit The Peaceful Chair YouTube Channel for more videos.

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Disclaimer: The Peaceful Chair and strongly recommends that you consult with your physician before starting this or any exercise program.The information provided on this website is for informational purposes only and is not to be used in place of medical advice or information from your healthcare provider. Neither The Peaceful Chair, the, nor any of its contributors shall be held liable for any improper or incorrect use of the information described and/or contained herein and assumes no responsibility for anyone’s use of the information contained in any links, videos, or any content on this website.