Yoga and flat feet

As a flat foot, I’ve been subjected to teachers telling me to ‘lift your arches’. I even had one teacher sitting at my feet and basically shouting at my poor arches. It has spectacularly failed to produce the slightest change in my body.

 

It’s a pity because I really needed someone to help me with my feet. I’ve been wondering why that advice didn’t work at all. I’ve realised with my feet, it is not the shape of the foot which produces the problems so much as my response to the ground through my feet.

First of all, there’s quite a debate as to whether flat feet are just another variation in the normal range of the human condition or if they are a problem which needs to be corrected. Some people with flat feet have no problems at all and are able to lead very active lives, being capable of walking long distances. My father was one such person. Take a look at the wikipedia report on flat feet.

Secondly, the foot is an immensely complex part of the human body and each foot has a unique path towards ease and good use.

Thirdly, it is not the shape of your foot which produces the problems so much as your foot’s response to the ground when weight is put through your foot. In my case, I’ve realised that my foot has been chronically stressed over the years and has been even more over-stressed by trying to lift my arches.

 

So, my strategy has changed and I’m now looking at what I actually do when weight goes through my foot. Gripping with the soles of my feet and clenching my toes seem to be one of the things I do on a regular basis. Now imagine gripping your soles of your feet, clenching your toes and then trying to lift your arches. It makes me tense to write about it, let alone do it. You’ll see why I’m reaching for my gun.

So what might be more helpful advice? Well, asking all students to get in touch with how they put weight through their feet is a really good start. I’ve had students who have very well formed arches and whose feet are as dead as a doornail. Their feet are permanently cold and they have lost almost all sensation in the foot. Giving students a chance to explore how weight going into their feet plays out in the whole rest of their body is an approach that I’ve started taking and I’ve found it a much more supportive approach then trying to get students to correct ‘problems’.

Asking students to relax their jaws (or some other part of their body that they have better contact with) and then notice the effect on their balance and their feet is an approach which seems to work for some students. It gives them an idea that everything is interconnected. It gives them something real and practical to work on rather work directly on an area they already have poor contact with.

And of course, as a yoga teacher, I’ve never given students well meaning but rather superficial advice that a senior teacher has passed on as a revealed truth to be applied in all circumstances!

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© Kevin Saunders, Yogaground 2011

One Response to “Yoga and flat feet”

  1. jamie says:

    hi kevin – thanks for this blog; i have totally flat feet too and agree with everything you say especially getting tense by being made more conscious of it …