You Don’t always need to “ lift your arches ”

Don't always need to lift your arches

This muscle Monday post is a bit different than ones you have been used to so far it has to do with the cue “lift your arches” and I felt the story needed to be told. As an aspiring yogini you might have wondered about all of the things said in class by your various teachers. I was in that space once upon a time. It took me a long time to get to yoga and understand how powerful it was for healing body, mind and soul. I started out beating up my body through all of the sports I played, not giving it any rest or attention. (You can check out the rest of my story here) I eventually figured out how amazing yoga can be for your body so I wanted to dig in deeper. I started paying more attention to all of the cues that teachers gave in class and actually trying to create enough awareness in my body to articulate those cues. I was drawn to teachers that were a bit more detail oriented in how they gave the cues. These cues made me feel something, and that was better than nothing. I wanted to feel a shift, or pain because no pain no gain right??? (Stay tuned for my post on how ridiculous I think that statement is in the future….).

 

Why you don't always need to lift your arches
One cue that really always got to me was “Lift your arches”. I would sit in class so stressed because teacher would repeat that cue in Tadasana over and over again. What was I doing wrong? Do I just have no awareness in my feet?? HOW do you lift your arches? Even when I started going to regular Yoga Tune Up® classes and I developed excellent (or so I though until I saw my teacher interlace all 10 toes) awareness in my feet and arches I would still go to other yoga classes and hear those words! “Lift through your arches”. Bah! When will the madness stop?? When will my arches obey me? Lift little guy life!
Sometime later I did my Yoga Teacher Training and I finally got the answer to my question. Unlike a lot of our society (probably because I rarely sat at a desk.. Don’t get too jealous I served before I taught yoga, my feet took a beating) my arches were not collapsed. They were actually very very high and lifted already. Aha! They had nowhere to go, that’s why they couldn’t lift.
I took time to work on my feet and make the arches less strained by releasing my hips (more on that later) and I found myself some time later instructing in a class to “lift your arches”. Whaaaaaaa? Was I doing? The problem was that I picked this cue up somewhere along in my teaching and I seemed to think it was okay to just repeat.
If you read my Speech detox post last Sunday, you’ll know that I am working actively on my language awareness. My “shoulds” in particular. However, I think this isn’t the only thing I need to work on. I need to remember what it was like as a student who didn’t know that the feet were connected all the way up the kinetic chain. Once upon a time I did not know that everything you did to your feet affected what went on in your hips, your shoulders and so on. I need to take the time to teach my students what is right for their body and that some of them “lifting” their arches is not really a goal to strive for.
I need to teach people that the Flexor digitorum brevis, abductor halluces and abductor digiti minimi are muscles that originate in the calcaneus and insert somewhere on the plantar side of our toes. But more than that I need to make people understand that even though they technically begin and end to cover the arch of the foot, their effect does not end there.
The foot has three arches called – the medial longitudinal, lateral longitudinal and the transverse. These arches help us by raising the center of the foot and allowing us to adapt to uneven terrain. Think about how much pressure is exerted on your feet every day. If you do not find the best possible shape for your day to day wanderings, they will end up beat up and you will end up with more problems than you can count.
Having a collapsed arch can mean you knees knock together and that means you are often in a valgus position which is why we, as yoga teachers, tend to try and get our students to lift their arches. However, there is students (like I was) whose arches are already too high and lifting can contribute more to injury because we are relying on the strength of our already strong/tight inner legs. This is why you need to assess your feet yourself (or have a professional do it), without just guessing and potentially contributing to injury.
A general rule I use when checking my feet (however this is not medical advice so please do not take it as such) is whether or not the big toes are rolling towards each other. Almost like the inside of the toe nail is trying to kiss the floor, then “lifting your arches” is a cue that would work for you. If on the other hand the big toe nail is square on or even slightly pointing outwards you may want to rethink when “lifting your arches” comes up as a cue. I was recently watching one of Sadie Nardini’s trainings and she talked about how engaging the arches helps us connect to the deep core line or the deep fascial line. This to me makes perfect sense but personally as a person with inherently high arches I had to find where the break in that deep fascial line was for me (in my case my inner thighs since my adductors are weak). So personally I will be focusing more on engaging all the way up the deep core line and connecting to my center in that way. Instead of sparking that from my feet/arches where my foundation seems to be okay (As I continue to discover my own body in the process my opinion my change)

 

Don't always need to lift your arches
In general the real rule of thumb is: become familiar with your own body so you know what is best for you.
Have you heard any cues you just don’t get? Share with me in the comments! If you found this useful give It a share and while you are on your social media look me up! Let’s talk!

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March 28, 2016
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