Feet First

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When it comes to practicing yoga, you have to start with a solid foundation

Yoga is a science and a system that teaches us how to systematically to train the body, the mind and the senses, in order to achieve spiritual awareness and freedom. In this system, the practice of asanas, or the physical postures, leads to deep and long lasting physical and mental health benefits.

The Iyengar style of yoga has its roots in the classical form of yoga, with a strong emphasis on proper alignment. Through precise and proper alignment, the regular practice of the asanas brings strength, stability and agility, and builds a healthy body and a strong and happy mind.

Each month, I will write about the practice of yoga according to the Iyengar method and will start this month with the FEET.

The feet are the foundation and the primary base of the body. The entire weight of the body is carried by the feet! They are in reality like the roots of the tree. The weight on the feet has to be distributed evenly and uniformly on the toes, the heels, the outer part, and the inner part of the entire foot. The arches should be well lifted, to support this weight bearing. If the weight is not distributed evenly, the arches may drop or collapse. The toes may get crushed or moved in one direction and the lees may be elevated; these are some of the minor deformities that may start to develop. This affects the muscles of the legs and the strength in the legs becomes uneven, leading to misalignment. This may then lead to weak lower back and lower abdominal muscles. The pelvis is supported by these muscles and when the muscles of the legs, back and abdomen are weak, there is a tilt in the pelvic alignment. Even though the shift is very minute in the beginning, it gradually becomes a habit and then a more serious problem.

As a result of improper alignment and weaker muscles, the abdominal and pelvic organs also suffer from insufficient support and blood circulation. The spine, which has its support in the pelvis, begins to lose its normal alignment and the next structure to feel the effect will be the chest cavity and the lungs. The shoulders, neck and the head also will start to feel the ill effects of poor alignment and bad postural habits. All these can gradually lead to serious health problems!

Hence, great emphasis is laid on learning how to realign the whole body starting from the feet and moving upwards. The proper placement of the feet is taught in detail in Iyengar yoga. This helps to build strong and steady feet, strong legs and a strong support for the entire body. Just as the roots of the tree have to be strong and grow deep to allow the rest of the tree to grow upright and tall, the feet have to be strong and steady and bearing the weight of the entire body. The energy from the ground or the earth is then transferred upward to lift the entire body in its full glory.

Learn to practice TADASANA, one of the most important standing postures, and then build a strong practice with standing postures as the foundation of your practice.

  • Stand straight, upright and tall.
  • Feet together. The big toes, ankles and heels touching.
  • Spread the body weight evenly over the entire feet, the frontal ball mount area, below the big toe, and all along under the little toe area.
  • Spread it evenly on the entire heel, the outer heel as well as the inner heel.
  • Feel the arches lifting.
  • Tighten and lift the kneecaps.
  • Keep the front of the thighs back.
  • Keep the pelvis lifted, and the tailbone down.
  • Keep the spine straight, and feel the spine becoming taller.
  • Lift the chest, widen the collarbones and keep the chest lifted.
  • Roll the shoulders back.
  • Keep the arms straight and down, by the sides of the hips but away from the hips, by about three inches.
  • Keep the neck straight.
  • Keep the head straight.
  • Look straight ahead.
  • Breathe normally and feel the movement upward from the feet spreading into the ground and the ankles lifting the energy upward all the way to the crown of the head.
  • Stay for about 2 mins in this posture learning how to align the whole body straight from the feet.
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