Foot wave: An essential, quick and fun mind-body movement break to take during your day by Jenny Chao, Registered Yoga Alliance instructor who specializes in Vinyasa yoga, Meditation, and Restorative yoga
As the 2020 fall season settles in, many of us may be (re)adjusting to WFH conditions, returning to an office, or re-calibrating ourselves to continue on in our non-office workplaces. With the onset of cooler weather, our feet are impacted by these shifts via more structured shoes, layers of socks, and long static hours at a desk after a summer of flip flops, bare feet, and carefree play outdoors. All these changes, and more, can greatly influence the health and mobility of our feet and upwards to the rest of our bodies.
Why consider your foot health
We want to strive to have “open and reactive” feet, meaning feet that are adaptable and responsive to any piece of information they receive. Why is this important? One crucial reason is that our feet are our foundation and being receptive to the messages our feet receive helps provide an optimal environment for efficient movement patterns and minimize potential injury. Resilient feet will help support the overall foot and total body health.
Effective short breaks for the win
One way to cultivate an adaptable foot is to move it as often and in as many ways as you can. Being immersed in the constant barrage of Zoom meetings, sitting for endless hours at the computer or even nonstop standing can disconnect us from feeling our feet. Taking mini-movement breaks is a realistic and achievable way to sneak a little health into your schedule every day. 5 minutes a few times a day is really all you need. One of my favorite beneficial pauses in the day is to move my feet with intention. Foot Wave is my go-to for a quick, total-appendage movement.
6 key benefits of practicing foot wave
Foot Wave is a short movement break that mobilizes all muscles and joints in the foot and ankle. This exercise stretches foot and ankle fascia and assists in developing intrinsic foot strength. It can help relieve muscle tightness, release cramped toes, and aid in blood and energy circulation. Practicing Foot Wave also strongly promotes the ability for dorsiflexion, which can be difficult or painful, especially for high heel wearers. It strengthens neural-connections with the brain, therefore helping to optimize future movement because we are taking time to focus on this rather unusual movement that includes important small muscles and ligaments. Foot Wave brings in the mind-body connection component into simple actions, optimizing them to be an opportunity to become present and attentive to ourselves. Practicing mindfulness in any capacity serves our lives in so many positive ways beyond just bringing health to our bodies.
Instructions to practice Foot Wave
Removing your shoes and socks. I prefer to do this on the ground in a sitting straddle leg position (legs into a “V” shape) with a little support under my bum. You might find that another sitting or lying position works better for you. Wherever you land, I encourage you to be in a place where you do not collapse your spine and can breathe well. Aim for ease in your jaw and steady breath while practicing this. Notice the internal commentary in your head as you try.
1) Begin with a neutral foot and observe how your toes, foot, ankle, and leg feel. Strongly dorsiflex your foot, meaning pull the toe-side of your foot towards your shin as much as possible. Spread your toes apart and stretch them back towards the top of your foot (this is toe extension with toe spreading).
2) Start to slowly move your foot towards plantar flexion (also known as pointing your foot) by initiating the movement from the ball of your foot (as if you were going to step strongly on the gas peddle). As you mindfully move your foot towards plantar flexion, keep spreading your toes and pulling them back towards your shin for as long as you can.
3) Once your foot is in plantar flexion, complete your toe point by imagining you’re going to grab a pencil with your toes and move them together into toe flexion.
4) Now reverse this whole movement with the same mindful pace as you got into it. Imagine you’re pulling that pencil back towards your shin and articulate the whole sequence of movements backward until your foot is back in dorsiflexion. At the very end, envision letting the pencil go and spread your toes wide.
5) Repeat as many times as you would like. Once you have completed the movement, take a moment with your foot in neutral, and note how your foot feels.
This movement can be deceptively harder than it looks, especially if this is your first time trying it. The wave may or may not come more naturally for you with practice. Don’t worry if some days your foot feels like lead and the movement is difficult. We are imperfect human beings and every day will be different. The more important takeaway is that you are taking time to mindfully move and improve the function of your feet. I highly encourage no judgment of yourself while trying this and have a little fun. Enjoy and here’s to happy, adaptable feet!For info on Jenny go to http://www.jennyhchao.com/