One of the most common cues heard in yoga classes is “lift the arch of the foot”. To some, this action comes naturally, and / or makes kinesthetic sense. To others, not so much.
We’d like to clear something up before going on: there are all kinds of learners out there, and all kinds of feet! We at Yoga Anatomy Academy like you, your body and your foot exactly the way they are. And if the cue above didn’t click for you, hopefully breaking it down into two more parts will.
Why lift the arch of the foot?
Regardless of your arch height, your feet will benefit from having strong intrinsic muscles and stable ankles (stabilizing requires muscular action), not simply inside of yoga class or yoga asana, but also while going about your days here on planet Earth.
Solid, strong, muscular feet are like a magical elixir that can help reduce knee pain, back pain, and even neck pain.
We made a video that breaks down two distinct muscular actions that lift the arch of the foot intrinsically and extrinsically. We hope it will help both yoga teachers who are trying to extract a certain action from students’ tootsies, as well as yoga students ready to throw their hands up in the air if they hear “lift the arch of the foot” one more time.
The main extrinsic (outside of the foot) muscle that supports our foot’s medial arch (there are three recognized arches in the foot) is Posterior Tibilalis or Tibilalis Posterior.
It loops behind the medial malleolus (the inner ankle bump) and under the plantar fascia to oomph up (the technical term) the stability of your ankles when upright. The muscle itself is embedded in the inner calf, but the tendon – which holds muscle to bone) is long and loopy and anchors under the foot.
Posterior tibialis is activated when you shift your weight to the lateral edge of the foot. A common cue you may hear in yoga classes that helps to create this action, and thus contract Posterior tibialis is “Root through the outer edge of your back foot [in Warrior I or II].”
The intrinsic muscle responsible for medial foot arch lift is called Flexor Hallicus Brevis.
Hallux is the big toe. The action of flexing the toes is to curl them down away from the top of the foot (into the floor if you are upright). Brevis means short, and usually if you see a “brevis” in a muscle name, there is also a “longus”, which is the case here.
Flexor hallicus brevis is activated when you push the big toe down into the floor while keeping the base of the big toe down as well. If you place a finger or two just to the undersurface of the inner (medial) arch, you’ll feel a muscle contract and bulk up. That’s flexor hallicus brevis doing its thing to support your medial arch.
There you have it: the two simple muscular secrets to “Lifting the arch of the foot.”
P.S. If you are wondering what the heck are those funky snowflake patterned socks I’m wearing in the video — they are from ToeSox. ToeSox are lovable because they are organic, toasty and grippy, and they are my version of an eco-friendly pedicure :).
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