Don’t do it. End of blog.
I’m kidding, to a degree. Doing yoga with any sort of injury or pain is a gamble. Of course, I’m really not one to talk but I’m working on it. I’ve also learned the hard way that practicing yoga with a foot injury might not be the best idea.
That being said, let’s your adamant about trying to do yoga. Whether it’s an at home practice or in the studio, a few things are going to have to happen before you even get to practicing. If you’re at home go ahead and roll out your mat. Plop yourself down in the middle.
The first thing here is to identify what your foot likes and doesn’t like. While being careful about this, slowly move your foot around by itself first. Keep your hands out of the equation. If we immediately jump in with forced range of motion, whatever injury we have will only get worse.
Point and flex and floint (check this out) the toes. Roll the ankles around. Move the foot in every direction you can. Take very careful note of any motion that might feel tense, irritated, or if anything hurts. Even if you know what hurts, it’s good to do this exercise on all parts of the foot on both feet. You might find an area that you’re hurting because you’re compensating.
After you’ve gone through this, and committed to memory what hurts, you can get your hands involved.
Starting with the toes, manually move them around. Use the hands to point and flex the feet, maybe adding some resistance if it feels okay. Feel around the arch and bottom of your foot with your thumb. Perform a gentle massage all the way through the lower leg and feel for any spots that might hurt.
From there, come onto all fours. Begin to put pressure on the feet and ankles in this position. Move the toes around, add more or less pressure. Straighten the legs. Go slowly and listen to your body. Just because it isn’t screaming in pain doesn’t mean you aren’t hurting it.
Take some time to figure out your feet. They are arguably one of the most important parts of yoga.
If you’re sore…
Good news! You get to do everything. To avoid injury, properly warm up the feet and then in today’s practice maybe incorporate a little bit more stretching. Poses like downward facing dog are a great way to start. Maybe avoid high lunge, triangle, and chair pose. But feel free to try things out and see what feels good to you.
If the top of your foot/ankle hurts…
Be very careful. There are a lot of positions that aggravate this. Upward facing down is out. Try knees, chest, chin, variation of chaturanga. All fours might aggravate it as well. Be careful of crescent lunge or any pose where the top of your foot is against the ground. Other dangerous poses are cross-legged poses or anything that involves a pull on that top of your foot. It may be wise to take a few days off yoga and heal up.
This one is a dangerous one.
Keep in mind that most any position will hurt in yoga. Time to try a restorative flow!
If you’re arch hurts…
Be careful with balancing poses but in the future, when your foot feels better, turn your attention to balancing postures. They will help strengthen the arch or your foot and your lower leg muscles.
High lunge and plank might need to be sidelined today. However, feel free to play around and find what feels best on your body!
If your big toe hurts…
Don’t mess with it. Give it time to rest and do not compensate. Come out of poses that put pressure on the toe. Take time to warm up the feet. Avoid chaturanga. Do not pop the ankle out to the side but do take the pressure off your feet by using your upper body. This might be the time to begin a careful inversion practice or work on flexibility and core (side plank and stuff from your back is a great way to go).
If the ball of your foot hurts…
Take a day off. While there are plenty of modifications that can be made, the ball of your foot hurting is no joke. Think about walking more upright and more lightly on your feet. This is a perfect time to adjust how you are in your day to day life rather than just on the mat. Remember, shoulders pull together, natural curve of the spine, belly pulls in and up, etc. There’s a lot to work on just by walking!
If your heel hurts…
You’re good to go too! If you do find pain, shift the weight to the ball of the foot and try variations of everything with your heel lifted. This will also help strengthen your arch.
Most importantly, don’t be afraid to take time off. Don’t be afraid to take several days of restorative practices or no practices at all. Our bodies tell us what’s happening. Listen.
A major aspect of yoga is to listen to the messages our bodies are trying to convey instead of the one our minds are screaming. I’ve been through injuries enough and I’m sure I have more ahead of me. It isn’t to sit back and take a minute. It isn’t easy to listen to your body but it’s so important. If you don’t stop when your body asks, you will stop when your body forces you.
That’s to be avoided at all costs.
So, instead of being on the bench for two months, take a day or two off. Learn to work with and around any pain or injury you have. Sometimes that means taking two days off, practicing for a day, and then taking two more days off.
Your body is telling you things for a reason. It needs something from you and it’s your job to provide that. Don’t ignore your body. Don’t choose to do something it doesn’t want. Be good to yourself, listen to yourself.