Have you ever wondered why your back is more painful when you are stressed or going through a tough time emotionally? Our physical health and mental health go hand in hand. In yoga therapy for back care, physical practices never work without relaxation and breath work. Together, these yoga tools look after the whole person. Because of the close relationship between back health and peace of mind, this blog focuses on a body part that is relevant to both, our feet! The aim of the different practices below is to help you feel healthier, happier, focused and calm. If you’re interested in back care, this blog is for you. If you’re finding it hard to feel inner peace with what’s going on in the world right now, this blog is definitely for you too.
You may wonder what feet have to do with back health and peace of mind and I hope you are curious, because they are extremely relevant to both. Firstly, the way we walk can give rise to or perpetuate back pain. Secondly, we can use our feet and the way we walk as a focal point for our attention in order to feel calmer. Looking after our feet is also a way of feeling more ‘grounded’ : emotionally and mentally stable. This inner calm and ‘groundedness’ gives us the best possible base to meet life’s challenges.
1. Awareness and touch
Our feet are doing so much work for us, and yet we may find them ugly, forget about them and hide them in socks and shoes. In order to give our feet the attention and love they deserve, let’s start by touching them every day. In fact, you can start now while reading: bring your left ankle on the right knee so you can touch your left foot. Massage the sole and top of the foot, knead the sides of the foot, pull your toes and then do the same with the other foot.
Have you ever had a reflexology treatment and felt that your whole body and mind relaxed? This is how powerful touching our feet can be. So the first task for the coming weeks is to massage your feet: touch the soles of your feet, pull your toes, separate the toes and pinch the outside edge of the foot and heel. Before going to bed, massage a deliciously smelling oil on your feet and around the ankles. You may even fall asleep more easily!
2. Mindful walking
When you walk somewhere, challenge yourself to just pay attention to the way you walk and to your surroundings. If thoughts come into your head, as they will do, return to what you feel in your body. How do you place your feet? What can you see, hear and smell in your surroundings?
Mindful walking can help sharpen our concentration. We walk around most of the time “inside our head”. Thinking is important, but if you want to stay in control of your thoughts, you have to keep hold of the reins. This means we have to be aware of which thoughts come up and able to stop them if they are repetitive or unhelpful. If thoughts are given free rein, stress, overwhelm and forgetfulness are bound to increase. As a form of concentration and meditation, mindful walking can help us foster mental clarity.
Furthermore, mindful walking isn’t only calming but also fun, because there is always so much to observe. We can discover new things on every mundane walk.
The Buddhist Monk Thich Nhat Hahn, the great advocate of mindfulness and mindful walking, the one who sees “peace in every step”, was once asked after one of his talks: “What are we to do after you die?” He paused for a few moments and then said: “just keep walking.”
He is right of course: we can be inspired by teachers, but in the end the only one to help you find peace is you!
3. Walking for back health
The way we place our feet has an impact on our knees, hips and back health. Pay special attention to each step while walking. The instructions below are too much to include all at once. It’s best to focus on one element for a few days, then add another one.
For better back health, your feet should be:
– turning outward at a small angle of about 15 to 20 degrees.
– about 2 to 3 inches (5 to 8 cm) away from the midline (so no in-line ‘model’ walking!)
– making equal strides, so using equal force and equal length.
– coming down on the centre of the heel.
– rolling a little more via the outside edge of the foot.
– lifting off the ground nearer the big toe.
I hope this focus on our feet and walking can be a fun challenge during the coming weeks. How about trying at least one of these practices every day? Do tell me about it in the comments below.
And as always, if you would like your special back care programme, don’t hesitate to contact me here: https://beneyoga.co.uk/book-a-free-consultation-call/.