This article discusses the importance of building a strong and supple foundation in our lower body. Let’s begin by by bringing awareness to the fluidity and support of our feet.
Begin in Tadasana.
Bring your awareness into the bottom of your feet. Feel your feet touching the floor or your yoga mat. Feel where the metatarsals join with the phalanges (the toes). Become aware of the calcaneus (the heel bone). Notice how the talus interacts with the tibia to form your ankle joint. How balanced does it feel? Now move into Vrksana (Tree Pose). Notice how each foot is feeling, and how they are contributing to your practice – are you holding your feet with hardness, or is the lift through the arches of the feet happening with effortless effort, with a sense of nourishing ease?
Sustaining the arches with effortless effort and nourishing ease comes from the interaction of muscles and fascia. When the interaction of the muscles and fascia is functional, we are more able to feel the 2-way energy exchange between us and the earth. From us into to the earth, our energy can seep into and spread like roots in soil. From the earth to us, we can feel the return of energy back into our feet and through our body.The Key Players: Muscular Support from Below
Sitting on the floor or on a chair, take one foot onto your knee. Turn the bottom or sole of your foot over so that you can look at it. Take one finger and place it on your calcaneus, in the center of the heel. Draw a diagonal line toward your big toe. That is the medial longitudinal arch. Now take your finger back to the center of your heel. Draw a diagonal line toward your pinky toe. That is the lateral longitudinal arch.
The key muscles that support these arches are the Flexor Hallucis Longus and the Abductor Hallucis on the medial arch and the Abductor Digiti Minimi on the lateral arch. The Flexor Digitorum Brevis and the Quadratus Plantae support both longitudinal arches.
Still in sitting, place your foot on the floor, sole touching the floor. About 1/3 of the way between your ankle and toes is the transverse arch, which connects the two longitudinal arches. The primary muscle that supports the transverse arch is the Adductor Hallucis.
The Key Players: Muscular Support from Above
There are 2 primary muscles that support the arches from above, the Peroneus Longus and the Tibialis Posterior. Together, they are commonly called the “stirrup muscles because they powerfully pull upward. Each originate on the lower leg, with their tendons entering the bottom of the foot from 2 sides – the peroneus longus on the pinky toe side, the tibialis posterior from the big toe side. They both attach at multiple locations on the bottom of the foot, which enables them to give primary support to the transverse arch and secondary support to the longitudinal arches.