Pada bandha and the importance of feet in yoga
How many times during the day are you aware of your feet? Do you know what it means to activate plantar arches? Have you been to pada bandha? In summer yoga, the awareness of the feet, the right support and the activation of the plantar arches are critical factors for correct practice.
If one or more of these factors fails, it will be challenging to perform the positions correctly, and the body, alignments, and posture will probably be affected.
In this article, you will find out why feet are so important in yoga, how to place them correctly during practice, what is pada bandha and why plantar arch activation is so important.
Enjoy the reading.
How to start Pada bandha Yoga?
Often we do not consider them at all, we always keep them closed in our shoes, and we don’t take much care of them, but our feet are a complex and essential part of our body.
They are essential for walking, for running, they allow us to stand upright and to be well anchored to the ground. The feet can be compared to the roots of a tree. If they are not secure, stable and healthy, the whole tree will suffer and cannot grow in the best way.
The same thing is the relationship between the body and your feet. If you are not fit, you do not take care of it, and you are not aware of it, the whole body will suffer.
Many problems common to the knees, pelvis, spine, posture, etc. are caused by an imbalance in the feet that indirectly causes many other disorders.
Even if you are unaware of it, your feet are always under stress, and this is mainly caused by something that should protect them instead: the shoes.
That’s why it’s so important to take care of it always. By this I do not mean pedicures, the use of suitable shoes, washes or other care systems that can surely help, but I mean all do the yoga exercises that allow you to regain awareness of your feet, to place them on the ground correctly, to walk better and to prevent/solve all those related problems.
By practicing this ancient discipline, you rediscover their importance, and they become more open, they root better on the ground and gradually rebalance themselves.
They are so important in this discipline that often many students touch the feet of their teachers as a sign of their worship. This gesture symbolizes that the tradition was passed from teacher to student.
Leaving aside the symbolic meaning, the feet are essential when performing the positions because they can change the alignments of the body.
If you have just started doing yoga you probably do not realize how much an asana is affected by the correct position of the feet but, with practice and with time, you will become more aware of these parts of the body and feel it.
As I explain in detail in the premium beginner’s guide (EasyYoga), all position categories, not just standing ones, are influenced by the correct position and activation of the feet.
But what does it mean to activate the feet?
Let’s find out in the next paragraph …
Pada bandha refers to the activation of the plantar arches and this gesture is very important for the correct execution of the positions.
Foot arches you should know that in the foot we can find as many as 3 plantar arches:
- Medial arch: it goes from the base of the big toe to the center of the heel;
- Lateral curvature: it goes from the bottom of the little finger to the center of the heel;
- Transverse arch: it goes from the base of the big toe to the base of the little finger.
These 3 arches form the so-called plantar vault.
How to activate pada bandha?
Let’s see it …
As mentioned above, it is essential to keep your feet active in the areas on the ground, in inversions, in backward bends and the openings of the hips but to learn this gesture the standing positions are undoubtedly the best.
To learn pada bandha follow these steps:
- Take Tadasana, widen the feet as much as the hips and position them so that they are parallel (second finger in line with the center of the heel).
- At this point, lift your toes and try to feel the activation of the foot and the 3 arches of plantar I mentioned in the previous paragraph. The weight of the body should be in the center of the feet.
- At this point, lower the fingers trying to keep them as wide as possible, without losing the general activation of the feet.
That’s all. Activation of the foot and its arches during practice is called pada bandha.
It’s much simpler than you imagined.
If you can’t keep your bows active even with your fingers lowered, you can repeat the exercise several times not only in Tadasana but also in other positions, especially those of balance.
Once you have learned how to activate pada bandha, the next step is to integrate this principle into all other positions.
Initially, it will not be easy because you also have to face other difficulties and usually forget about your feet, but try to keep bringing us attention every time your mind goes elsewhere.
Pada bandha and the activation of the arch of the foot allow to work correctly not only at the feet but also at the muscle chains connected to them, they allow to distribute the weight of the body more evenly, improve rooting on the floor, improve stability and also allow the energy to flow upwards.
If you want to deepen the execution of the positions, their benefits, the simplified variants, and the most critical alignments take a look at yogasana, the guide to the central areas of yoga.
Walking and pada bandha meditation
Another practice that you can use to learn pada bandha and increase awareness of your feet is walking meditation.
Here’s how to do it:
- Take some space where you can walk back and forth freely. You can also practice it on the yoga mat if you have no more space.
- Stay in Tadasana for a few breaths and bring attention to your feet.
- At this point, start walking as slowly as possible, trying to be aware of every slightest movement of the legs, but especially of the feet.
Since you are now using this meditation technique to learn pada bandha, I advise you to do so:
When you lift one foot from the ground, try to lift your fingers and feel the activation of the plantar arch. On the other hand, when you put your foot back on the ground, try to relax your fingers but always keep your bandha active. It is very similar to the exercise suggested above, but this is slightly more difficult because it is done in motion.
From yoga to everyday life: 2 simple tips on feet
Many things can be learned on the mat and in the yoga classes, but the truth is that they leave the time they find if they do not apply them, or at least try them, in everyday life.
First of all, it is essential to stand up with greater awareness of our feet and to do that simply bring attention back to your feet whenever you can. Just like you learned to do pada bandha during your yoga class or thanks to the exercises I suggested to you earlier.
These questions can surely help you: how is the weight distributed on the arches? Is it more externally or internally? More front or back?
Once you’ve given yourself the answers, try to put your weight back in the middle of your feet and keep it there. Try to walk, run and stand more consciously thanks to what you learned on the mat. The awareness of body and mind is essential not only in practice, but it is even more to life.
Another piece of advice I would like to give you to improve the health of the feet that has helped me a lot is to walk without shoes as often as you can.
If on one side shoes protect us, on the other they desensitize the feet, and this, in the long run, can cause musculoskeletal imbalances.
Walking barefoot around the house, on the other hand, helps to regain awareness of the feet, reactivates the plantar muscles, increases balance promotes rooting and improves posture.
It is a small gesture that, if it is done every day, can give great benefits.
If you want to learn more about rooting in yoga and life, you can also take a look at an article on the root chakra or a report on the 5 elements, which also speaks of the earth element.
The feet are a significant part of the body and if you do not take care of them always. In the long run, they can cause various problems.
In yoga, the feet are active in most positions and this activation, called pada bandha, is genuinely healthy because it allows you to increase awareness, improve balance and assume a better posture.
Of course, to get these benefits, it is essential to practice regularly. So practice every day and, from now on, try to do it with more attention to your feet because now you know how important this is.