The action of the feet in Iyengar Yoga

Wednesday, 05 February 2020 19:39

This week - The action of the feet.

Look carefully at this photo of Doreen and I doing Eka Pada Viparita Dandasana (one legged inverted staff pose). Check out the feet, you’ll notice that Dorz’s foot is in dorsiflexion and mine is more in plantar flexion. Dorsiflexion is where you pull your toes towards your shin so the back of your ankle and calf extend. Plantar flexion is where you point your toes like you’re a ballerina.
When you start learning Iyengar Yoga we begin in Tadasana (mountain pose) where you’re standing firmly on your feet. The foot and ankle are in a neutral position. You go on to learn standing poses, seated poses, inversion etc. Think of all the poses you know, or you’ve been taught so far, and you can see that the foot is in all positions possible, it’s quite astounding.
In Light on Yoga, BKS Iyengar often points his toes (plantar flexion) in asanas, where today we generally may not, for example, in the forward bend Marichyasana 1 (see below). I feel this may be a result of the initial, developmental stage of the asana as the book was first published in 1966.
The presentation of the asana may have been the influence of the gymnastics tradition, bringing it to have a more aesthetic quality. You can see my foot in the other photo is more dorsiflexed and I am pressing through the ball of the foot. We learn to extend our legs, this should be through the action of the legs and not the action of the foot and ankle. 
When your feet aren’t weight bearing, like in an inversion or a forward bend, you can alter the position of you foot/feet. What you already know about Iyengar Yoga is that it is quite specific, we ask of you, our students, to access the form of the asana as closely and accurately as possible. But what we also ask is for you to find out what happens if you do something slightly differently, for example, if you change your foot position from plantar flexion to dorsiflexion. What happens to your legs? Do you find there’s more length in the front of the leg if you plantar flex, for example. Essentially, we have to acknowledge that the possibilities are endless. We are in the constant process of delving and searching, and through our body we find out about ourselves; how we function physically, mentally, emotionally, in fact on all levels.
Annual weekend yoga retreat soon - 15-16 February. Join us for a fun weekend on Phillip Island. Book your place now
See you on the mat :)
Nicole Schroeter
Certified Iyengar Teacher
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