I can stand on my head, but honestly what I’m more interested in these days is noticing how I’m standing on my feet. “Heyam dukham anagatam” – Yoga Sutra 2.16 translated as, “The pain that is yet to come can be avoided.” With 52 years of standing with my fallen arches and who knows how many hours spent driving in the car, is hip or knee pain just standard wear and tear? Is replacement inevitable? Maybe, but is there preventative care – something now – to create more freedom and stability in the joints?
I’ve been practicing Mountain pose with a new awareness of how to lift up out of my arches. As someone with fallen arches, slightly knocked knees and bowed calves, this is quite a challenge. Exploring how to work skillfully with the feet will affect the knees, legs, pelvis and the spine – all the way upwards to the crown of the head.
Try out this short sequence at home
Place a brick between the feet and pressing the inner edge of the foot firmly down, lift the arches and ankles away from the brick. At the same time resist the outer ankles and calves in towards the brick. The ankles should not “hit” the brick and the inner edges of feet should stay firm. The opposition creates stability.
Position the brick between the knees and from a bent knee position, work the arches/ankles in the same way as you straighten the legs pulling up through the inner ankles and inner knees.
Brick in between the thighs. Same work from ankles to knees to inner thighs, lifting upwards. Feel yourself lifting out of feet, legs, pelvis as you take your arms overhead.
The work of the feet and legs are the key actions we’ll explore in other poses.
Do standing poses like side angle pose (shown here), Triangle or Warrior 2 pose with the back foot at the wall. Watch the changes in the legs, pelvis and spine when you recreate the lift of the back arch. What do you notice in the back leg and what else is affected? Is there a response in the forward leg hip?
Stability and spaciousness in balance poses
Try out a balance pose like tree pose standing on one leg. Do with one hand at the wall to take balance out of the picture. The discovery? For me – not only do I feel more stability in the standing leg but I feel a sense of space coming to the joints – ankle, knee, hip. The result feels as though I’m lifting up out of the joints rather than just collapsing and sinking into them. Space, freedom, openness and stability.
“Ascend to descend. Descend to ascend.” BKS Iyengar
Complete the short practice doing Wide-legged standing forward bend. When the legs are wide apart you have work the lift of arches, knees and thighs even more. Find out if you continue to have a sense of lifting up from the base rather than just collapsing down into it. BKS Iyengar would often say, “ascend to descend and descend to ascend.” When you have both of those things together then you have a balanced action in your practice.
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