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I can’t say enough about how useful tennis balls are for dealing with shoulder pain.  (Watch the video here.)And I’ve recently become a convert to tennis balls to help with sore feet, especially as people ask about dealing with foot soreness, ankle pain and issues like Plantar faciaitis.

Just as you would use a tennis ball (or two) to relieve tension in the upper back/shoulders, you can do the same with the feet.

  • Take a used tennis ball, and put it in a sock.  You can use the tennis ball alone, but I think the sock helps keep the ball from rolling around.
  • Before starting, stand in your socks or bare feet on a flat surface, and check in with how your feet feel.  Notice any discomfort.
  • Sit down in a chair that allows you to sit straight, with both feet on the floor.
  • Start by rolling the tennis ball under that foot that is bothering you (or bothering you more).  Roll the ball slowly–ball of foot, arch and heel areas– , and notice if there are any places where it feels especially good, and stop at those points for a few deep breaths.  If you feel any pain, stop.
  • If you think your foot can bear more pressure, take your foot off the ball, and stand up.  Roll the ball under your foot again; this time put as much weight on the ball as feels like a good massage.  Take a few deep breaths as you bear your weight on the ball.  Touch a wall or furniture if you need for balance.  If you feel any pain, stop.
  • Take your foot off the ball, and once again stand with both feet on the floor.  Notice how you feet feel, compared to before, and compared to each other.  The foot you just massaged with the ball should feel flatter on the floor.
  • Sit back down and do the same with your other foot.  Even if you don’t have discomfort in that foot, or think it needs a massage, spend at least a minute to roll the ball under it.  Following the principle of yin/yang, it’s always a good idea to give attention to the other side.  You’ll likely feel that the other foot feels flatter on the floor, too.

If you’re at home and have the time, you can follow up by giving both feet a massage with your hands.

If you want to get the benefit of this at work, take a tennis ball and roll it under your feet while you work.  You can do it while you’re working, or dedicate a few minutes to the above exercise.  Your feet, the rest of you body, and your mind will thank you for the brief but effective break.

You are encouraged you to seek the advice of a qualified health care provider for questions about a medical condition.

Because of my yoga practice, my awareness of feet has increased in the last few years, and my history of flat feet and weak ankles drives my interest in learning about foot health and its importance in long-term health.

I found some info about yoga poses and other exercises for the feet.

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From Yoga for the Feet:

Feet can also be the root cause of leg, pelvis and back problems. A fallen arch, or flat foot, can cause knee, hip, back and shoulder misalignment and pain. Adult bad posture and back pain can be traced back to lack of muscle tone or misalignment in the feet.

    • One in six people in the US have foot problems.
    • Nine out of ten women are wearing shoes that are too small for their feet.
    • Women are nine times more likely to develop a foot problem because of improper fitting shoes than men.
      • Eighty percent of all foot problems occur in women.
        • Two-thirds of foot problems can be attributed to shoes.
          • At one time or another, 85% of Americans have foot problems serious enough to require professional attention.

            Yoga poses for the feet

            • Virasana (hero post): very therapeutic for flat feet
              • Another article in Yoga Journal focuses on the benefits of the pose; the author does this post 45 minutes every day!
            • Vajrasana (thunderbolt or zen pose): similar to Virasana, helps to recreate or maintain healthy arches, increase flexibility in the ankle as well as reconstruct the alignment of the tarsal bones.
            • Baddha Konanana (bound angle pose)
            • Squat with Toe Stretch, knees on floor
            • Squat, knees up, heels on floor
            • Adho Mukha Svanasana, Downward Facing Dog

            Other foot exercises are also explained near the end of the Yoga for the Feet article, which you can read here: http://www.sunandmoonstudio.com/Articles/feet.html

            Name: Great Surge (Liver 3)

            This point is on the top of your foot and helps address fatigue, headaches, insomnia related to “busy mind”, hangovers, eye issues (swelling, pain) and alleviates pain. It’s also helpful in energizing.  Some people feel a “great surge” of energy move from their feet, up their legs and bodies; hence the name.

            Location: This point is on the top of your foot, in the “valley” at the point where your big toe and second toe bones meet, above the arch of your foot.  See where the dot is on the photo below.  (If you’re familiar with the Hoku point on the hand, you can think of this as the similar point on your foot.)
            liverTop
            As with all acupressure points except the ones that run down the center of your body, this point is bilateral, which means it’s found on both feet.

            To hold: There are several ways you can do this.  It’s important that you are comfortable in your shoulders and arms, so experiment with different ways to hold the point, and see what is most comfortable.

            You can sit on a chair with your feet flat on the ground, and bend down to reach the top of your foot with your index or middle finger.  Firmly press on the point with a steady pressure.  Hold first for 10 seconds or so, and then work up to a minute as long as it is comfortable.  As with holding all acupressure points, take deep slow breaths as you hold the point.

            I find that it can be easier to hold this point by “sandwiching” it between one finger to top of my foot, and another underneath.  See the photos below where I use my thumb on top in one case; the index finger on top in another.

            liver32    liver3 3

            Often, this point can be tender; if it is, release the pressure if it is too uncomfortable.  This point, too, can take a lot of pressure, so experiment with different degrees of pressure. 

            You are encouraged you to seek the advice of a qualified health care provider for questions about a medical condition.

            Reflexology is the art/science of applying pressure to the soles of the feet and palms of the hands. While it is not “officially” part of Traditional Chinese Medicine, in the way that acupuncture and acupressure are, reflexology applies pressure–sometimes light, sometimes heavy–so it feels a lot like acupressure.

            And it’s a modality I like to use when I’m working with clients, and also to teach students in classes.

            I sometimes get asked about those reflexology massage sandals. Some of them are made of wood with little pegs or beads for the “points”, and drawings of the mapping. See this example, which is an actual board. I received a similar one as a gift. It’s good as a reference, but is VERY painful to stand on. Plus the foot size it too big for me.

            acu sandal

            However, I have found some plastic sandals with little nubs that stimulate the entire sole of my foot. I love these sandals. I notice I breathe deeply when I put them on, and my feet feel great. I must admit the first few times I put them on, they were VERY uncomfortable after even just 10 minutes. It takes a bit of time to break them in.

            The pair I got only cost about $15 at a local shop (Soko Hardware in Japantown, 1698 Post St., SF, 415 931-5510), but I was told that they are so popular they are difficult to get. Here they are online.

            I found Okabashi, a company that seems to sell a whole line of sandals based on this concept; I don’t know them, but want to offer as a resource, too. If you have used Okabashi sandals, please post a comment to share your experience with them.

            I got through the weekend, and this afternoon’s comfort-cookie crisis with Trader Joe’s Druid oatmeal cookies. As I was savoring the lovely chewiness of my third lovely cookie with tea, I had an “aha!” moment about the sweet-tooth comfort-food connection.

            In the Traditional Chinese Medicine system, sweetness is associated with the Earth element. So when Earth element (associated with the Stomach and Spleen meridians) is out of balance, sweet cravings often ensue.

            When might Earth element be out of balance?

            • The Earth is associated with home, the place we feel “homey”, so a move to a new house, or traveling could cause a tip in balance.
            • Or maybe you have too many ideas flying around your head, and you don’t feel “grounded.” You might reach for a cookie or ice cream.
            • Think about a plant; only when it is strong and grounded in the earth can it grow up and out.
            • For women, the Earth element is also related to the menstrual cycle, which helps us understand PMS sweets-cravings.

            In my case, since I broke my ankle last week, my connection to the Earth has diminished. I can’t put both feet on the ground. I’m hobbling around on my right foot and two crutches. And even though I’m mostly stuck at home, it’s difficulty to feel homey. My foot is up in the air. My energy is way above the floor; I think it’s in my shoulder area because my shoulders are tired from using the crutches. Oy!

            So, a few thoughts on balancing Earth energy:

            • First of all, it’s OK, I say, to eat my cookies! As long as I’m enjoying them, and in moderation. (I’ll run out at any rate, and can’t exactly run down to the store to get some more. That’s the silver lining.)
            • Now that I’ve identified this Earth-imbalance, I can be mindful about other ways to address it:
              • Enjoy healthier sweetness. Fruit. Dried dates. I’ve been eating fruit puree (frozen mangoes and blueberries) with yogurt.
              • Squeeze my muscles; the Earth element loves this. My right leg is working really hard, as are my arms, so I’ll give myself a little massage later.
              • Create routine, especially since I’ve had to adjust and adapt so much of the way I normally do things. I wrote about this, plus other tips in a post related to the Earth element.
              • Energize the Three Mile Point (Stomach 36). Sit down with feet flat on the floor. Make a light fist and rub vigorously along the outside of your shins, a couple of inches below your knee.

            OK. So I now have a plan to help address my un-earthiness, and tame my cookie monster!

            LOVE YOUR TOES! 

            I say this to my clients and students often.  Why? Because our feet work so hard for us, and are often neglected, as so much swirls around our heads.  Love your toes and ground yourself.

            If you’re having a hard time sleeping because your mind’s racing, spend some time rubbing, squeezing and massaging your toes and feet before you go to sleep.  Do this yourself, or ask your partner to do this for you.  Even a few minutes will feel wonderful.

            I haven’t liked my toes or my feet much; my feet are flat and not cute in the dance shoes that I wish I could wear.  But that changed with yoga.  Now I spend a lot of time looking at my toes, and they’re kind of cute! 

            So, one way I love my toes is to dress them up once in a while with nail polish.  But I’ve been reluctant to do this too much because the nail polish and nail polish removers are gross.  They smell like chemicals and unhealthy.  Forget about going into a nail salon! 

            I finally did something about this. 

            Yesterday, I bought non-toxic biodegradable nailpolish remover ($9.99) and a water-based nail polish–desert sunset color ($8.99) from Sun Coat.  (Bought at Real Food Co. in San Francisco, on Polk Street.)  No chemical solvents such as toluene, acetates and alcohol; no pthalates; no formaldehyde.  And no smell!  The conventional nail polish I had on my toenails came off well.  I’ll say it again, No Smell!  I’ll paint my nails again later and will report back.  (My friend told me about another line of healthier nail polish: No Miss Nail Polish.)

            PS: Back to a busy mind.  One way to deal with this is to turn it upside down.  Try legs-up-the-wall yoga pose.