Plantar Fasciitis – Can Yoga Help?

YogiAnatomyAdmin | October 13, 2017 |

Has it ever happened to you?  You are sitting at a meeting, you’re watching a movie, you just woke up from sleep or a nap.  You put your foot down and begin to walk – there it is, a searing, stretching pain in your foot.  You hobble about for a few steps and then you can begin to walk normally.  You hope nobody noticed.  You walk over to your computer and you type into a search bar, “pain in the foot after resting” and the first thing that comes up is a mention of Plantar Fasciitis… ugh, it doesn’t sound good but what exactly is it??

Let’s take a brief step back.  Fascia is a connective tissue found everywhere in the body.  The  fascia connects every muscle fiber, every organ, every gland, every bone, every structure within the body to something nearby. The fascia is charged with keeping our skin connected to the muscle tissue below, the fascia is charged with making sure that our individual muscle fibers bundle together to form a muscle belly, fascia is the tissue that stretches and connects us from our head to our toes.

Now back to the feet.  The plantar fascia is fascial or connective tissue that spreads across the bottom of your foot from your heel bone or calcaneus to the toes.  The plantar fascia helps to support the arches of the feet, allows your foot to adapt to different surfaces, and connects the front or the forefoot and the back foot.

It isn’t entirely clear what causes the plantar fascia to become irritated and inflamed but there are some risk factors to consider:  As much as we don’t want to think about this, age is a meaningful risk factor in developing plantar fasciitis.  And so too is body weight.  An extra 15 or 20 pounds (or more) bearing down on your feet can contribute to overstretching and irritation of the plantar fascia.  Engaging in occupations or hobbies that keep you on your feet for many hours of the day is considered a risk factor.  Poor foot mechanics like walking with an unusual gait pattern or with chronically flat feet can cause an increase in the incidence of plantar fasciitis as can long distance running, hours of dance, Zumba or Aerobics.

We know more about how to help plantar fasciitis than we do what caused it.  To help there are several things.  Icing, resting from the increased forces through your foot, improved support at the arch, and stretching are all viable and useful options to treat the irritated tissues on the bottom of your foot.  So where does yoga come in you ask?   Think about Tadasana, mountain pose.  There is no sloppy standing in yoga.  Legs and feet are engaged, arches are lifted and your body is aligned. The small muscles on the underside of your foot are activated and encouraged to do their job.  And therefore, the fascia, the connective tissue, is relieved of some stress.  There are numerous standing poses that help to strengthen the leg and feet muscle and thus support the connective tissue. Think about downward facing dog stretching the calf muscles and moving the feet into stretched position.  Consider camel with the toes tucked under. When, within an ordinary day of work or school, do any of us come into this kind of stretch?  Tree pose?  How often do you find yourself standing on one leg balancing and strengthening the structures of the foot?

Of course there are other treatments for plantar fasciitis.  There is physical therapy, medical injections and procedures, foot inserts and splints.  But, if you are struggling with plantar fasciitis and wonder if yoga can help, we say emphatically YES!  Work with some of the poses listed below to begin your journey toward a healthier plantar fascia.

Mountain pose (Tadasana)                                          Tree pose (Vrksasana)

Downward dog (Adho Mukha Svanasana)               Camel with toes tucked (Ustrasana)

Plank ( Kumbhakasana)                                                Half moon pose (Adho Chandrasana)

Child’s Pose (balasana)                                                 Hero’s pose (virasana)

Seated Forward Bend (Paschimottanasana)            Warrior Poses I, II, III (Virabhadrasana)

Awkward Chair (Utkatasana)                                      Triangle and revolved Triangle (Trikonasana)

Side Angle and side angle twist  (Parsvo Konasana)

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