I remember as a beginning yoga student, my teacher telling me that Tadasana
was the foundational position of all yoga asanas. I have to admit, I thought
she was crazy. Then we moved into Vrksasana (Tree Pose) and into Garudasana
(Eagle Pose) then into Virabhadrasana 3 (Warrior 3). Since I was able
to do each of these poses, her Tadasana teachings meant nothing to me.
But I knew something was missing. My teacher would come by and tell me
to feel the rhythm of your Tadasana feet and a sense of softness
and ease will balance your hardness. Still, for a long time
I had no idea what she was talking about. Then just a few years ago, I
got it. I began to understand the dynamic interplay between firmness and
suppleness which together create the rhythm of the feet, the lightness
in the standing pose, and the ease in the inversion.
Firmness and suppleness are often best described in images. In the feet,
firmness is like a pyramid. Strong and stable, its inherent structure
gives a sense of grounding. Suppleness is movement - a fluid rebounding
effect that generates propulsion or shock absorption. Together, firmness
and suppleness bring resiliency, the ability to bear the bodys weight
while simultaneously feeling the energy of floor below.
Firmness: A closer look at the Pyramid
The pyramid of the foot begins at the talus, a bone that, from above,
is shaped like a saddle. Nestled inside the saddle is the tibia. It is
at this articulation that the foot receives the bodys weight.
From the talus, the foot spans out to 3 points which form the base of
the pyramid. The first point, radiating backward and downward is the center
of the calcaneus (the heel bone). The second point is at the head of the
first metatarsal (the ball of the foot). The third point is at the head
of the fifth metatarsal (the base of the pinky toe). See the picture below.
Suppleness: A closer look at the Arches of the Feet
Imagine you have just stepped out of the water and are standing on a wooden
dock. You take a few steps and look behind. You see the imprint of your wet
feet on the dry dock. If you have a normal foot, you wont
see the full bottom side of the foot in that watermark, instead you will only
see the toes, the lateral edge of the foot, the ball of the foot, and the
heel. These are the elements of the pyramid. What you dont see are the
elements of the arches.
There are 3 arches of the foot which together act as shock absorbers. They
support the weight of the body when we are standing still in Tadasana and
bring about propulsion when moving into Virabhadrasana 3. Two of the three
arches originate at the calcaneus and run forward toward the toes. Because
of their direction we call them longitudinal arches. The longitudinal
arch that runs from the calcaneus to the head of the first metatarsal is the
medial longitudinal arch; the longitudinal arch that runs from the calcaneus
to the head of the 5th metatarsal is the lateral longitudinal arch. The third
arch is the transverse arch which connects the two longitudinal arches at
Sustaining the Feet: The Muscles and Fascia
Sustenance is nourishment, and for the feet, sustenance comes from the muscles
and fascia. When muscles and fascia lose their normal functional pattern,
they can shift the mechanics of the feet entirely, causing and irritating
all sorts of conditions from fallen arches, bunions, heel spurs, pronation,
and supination. Muscles and fascia are essential elements to support the firmness
and the suppleness the feet naturally have.
In the next ezine, well delve deeper into the key players that help
support and sustain the contours and strength of the feet. Until then, take
some time to explore your feet, feeling the 3 points, and the space between
the points. Are you holding your feet with hardness, or is the lift
through the arch of the feet happening with effortless effort, with a sense
of nourishing ease?
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They book is almost done, so keep your eye out for it. More sample
drawings coming soon!