Do your feet and lower legs get swollen in the summer heat? Do you experience tightness, cramping, and pain in your calves, arches and toes? Have you spent your days and nights traipsing all around the hard city streets with little more supporting you downtown than a thin slice of rubber and a string between your toes?
Show those dogs some love! Follow this simple home practice to refresh, awaken, and bring greater fluidity to your foundation.
Lie down on your back. Ahh, better already.
Give your limbs a little shake-shake. The idea is to loosen up, break up solidity and get fluids moving. Bend your knees and bring your shins parallel to the floor. Keep one leg where it is and use the top of your other foot to slap your calf muscles from below.
Stay loose and give the floppiest part of your calf a hearty smack upward into the bone. Move around from the back of the knee to the back of the ankle. If it hurts, take it down a notch. If it hurts (but in a good way) keep up the good work. Do the other leg.
Reach both legs up and give them another good shake. Shake your hands and wrists while you're at it. Get everything moving all floppy-like.
Roll over onto your side and come up to stand. Retrieve your tennis ball, or better yet get yourself a pair of these
You will only need one for today's practice, but order a pair for future self-massage goodness. Trust me on this. Your body will thank you.
Put one ball under your right foot. Roll forward and back from the ball of the foot to the heel. Roll through the center, the inner arch, the outer arch, get all up in there, front to back, front to back.
Now put your heel on the floor and wedge the ball just behind the ball of your foot. Roll side to side. Move a bit closer to the arch, side to side, using your heel as a pivot point. Finally, roll over the ball to bring the ball of your foot the the floor and wedge the ball just in front of your heel bone. Still rolling side to side using the ball of your foot as the pivot point.
Roll front to back a few more times to smooth everything out. Are you breathing? Please breathe.
But wait, there's more! It's toe time. Still working on the right foot: Wedge the ball between/under your big toe and your second toe. Press the ball of your foot down toward the floor. Step your left foot forward a few inches. Bend you right knee a little bit and attempt to lift your right heel off the ground. Breathe in and out a few times then back off outta there. Repeat with the ball under the second/third/fourth toes, and then the third/fourth/fifth toes.
Take a moment to roll all around the sole of the right foot one last time. Now stand on your two feet and observe the differences. Breathe and be present with your experience. Do the other foot.
Stand in tadasana, mountain pose. Step your feet wide apart and fold forward in prasarita padottanasana. Balance your weight evenly on your wide open and alert feet.
Stay low to the ground and walk your hands over toward your happy right foot. Come into trikonasana, triangle pose. Widen the balls of your feet on the ground. Spread and soften your toes. Walk back to center and linger for a few breaths before repeating triangle pose on the left side. Once more come to center and interlace your fingers behind your back. Stand in tadasana.
Roll up your yoga mat. Make a tidy, tight little roll. Stand with the balls of your feet up on the roll and your heels on the floor. Feet hip width apart. Fold forward from your hips into uttanasana. If the floor is too far away, place your hands on blocks. If the mat roll feels too big, make it smaller by unrolling it part of the way.
Anatomy tidbit: If you practice this variation of uttanasana with straight legs, you stretch gastrocnemius, the muscle close to the surface (it's the one you can clearly see on someone with developed calves). If you bend your knees a little bit you will more effectively stretch soleus, the deeper muscle closer to the bone. Gastrocnemius crosses the knee joint, soleus doesn't. So bending the knees gets gastroc out of the way and allows soleus to join the party.
Finally, adho mukha svanasana, downward facing dog pose. Reach your heels back and down toward to the floor - such freedom in the lower legs! Practice relaxing your toes and spreading the balls of your feet.
Give your legs a final rest by elevating them against a wall in viparita karani. You can lie flat on the floor or place folded blankets under your pelvis/low back for an opening in the chest. Stay in this position for at least five minutes.
Roll to your side and get up. Go drink a big glass of water.