Yoga for Bunions?
Yoga for Bunions (aka Hallux Valgus)
One of the most common health problems related to the feet are bunions or hallux valgus as it is known in the medical community. As a massage therapist, I have worked with individuals suffering from this common musculo-skeletal problem. As a student and teacher of yoga, I have witnessed and helped others with the application of techniques to successfully mange pain and even discontinue postural patterns in the foot that perpetuate pain symptoms and degeneration.
A basic premis that I work from is that the human foot has a blueprint provided by nature for development through proper use. Posture and pain have a relationship (see Kendal & Kendal – its old news), this is what many influential giants have understood (Ida Rolf, Tom Myers, BKS Iyengar, and others). Bernard Ruofski, an influential architect and designer saw the arches of the feet as something that would develop when allowed to use the ‘blueprint’ that nature give them. Quite like the way the lumbar spine develops problems of collapse when the back of a chair is relied on habitually, the arches of the feet cannot develope throught the reliance on so called arch support. Joy Colangelo, occupational therapist, yoga teacher and author of ‘Embodied Wisdom’ provides unique perspective on the feet as an essential ‘base’ that bridges structural and energetic realities.
Our feet are the basis for the body’s carriage. They are living tissue comprised of fluid changing tissue that responds to our intention.
Human beings had been walking around without arch and ankle support for a very long time. If the feet are constrained to shoes that are not shaped like the human foot how can they develop to function as they would naturally function without the need of those supports?
So, if you went to a yoga class would it help with your bunions? Maybe, and but maybe not. It depends on factors such as the teacher’s understanding of how to use yoga to help and your interest in using what you learn as well as other factors. With yoga, we actually retrain the feet by opening areas of fascial restriction (tightness) and engaging and strengthening weaker parts of the foot. If you find a teacher that understands this work with them. There are specific techniques that I use to kick-start management of bunions and give access to a healthy pattern of use of both feet.
Where yoga can empower you to actively retrain your feet (which will benefit your whole body and life), therapeutic massage facilitiates complete relaxation while a skilled practitioner gets to the areas of restriction for you. The newfound freedom from massage lets you experience what you are trying to attain with yoga more fully. Consequently, practicing yoga after having the feet ‘informed’ by the massage work benefits the feet more. Hard to go wrong here.
Here is a list for you to get going:
- Go barefoot as often as possible (gradually increase timing if challenging)
- Massage to open and widen tight fascial between all toes and metatarsals
- Remove lifestyle factors that may be contributing to foot problems such as restricting footwear (high heels, shoes that are triangular in shape at the ball to toe area
- Re-engage functions of the lateral, medial and transverse arches of the foot with knee / toe alignment in the direction of your facing/movement
- Drawing the big toe away from the other toes and toward the midline
- Specific foot and ankle exercises (open / close toes, ankle circles and so on)
- Using yoga’s standing poses to retrain the lateral transverse and medial arches of the foot to work on their own
For Shoes, this company got it right: http://www.jacoform.com.au/about.php
More articles on the feet! Below are some additional resources for further reading on foot health:
The Foot by Tias Little: http://www.tiaslittle.com/images/PDF/GroundUp.pdf
Yoga for the Feet by Pam Werner: http://www.sunandmoonstudio.com/Articles/feet.html
Feet First by Julie Gudmestad: http://www.yogajournal.com/practice/1298
Happy Feet by Melanie Haiken: http://www.yogajournal.com/health/2292
Step Lively by Laura Shin: http://www.yogajournal.com/practice/1014