What is Plantar Fasciitis?
Plantar fasciitis is one of the most common culprits of heel pain, causing sufferers to have a sharp, stabbing pain in their heels. Several things can cause plantar fasciitis, such as wearing improper shoes, having a abnormal foot or style of walking (flat foot, high arch, etc.), or being on your feet too much. With plantar fasciitis, the plantar fascia becomes tight and inflamed due to the tiny injuries to the fascia and stress on it. The heel receives the majority of the pain as it is the high-impact connection point for the plantar fascia.
How Yoga Can Help
However, yoga stretches can help to reduce the tightness of the plantar fascia, the Achilles tendon, and the surrounding muscles, which will relieve the heel pain. In many cases of plantar fasciitis, the ankle, calves, and hamstring are unusually tight, further irritating the over-stressed plantar fascia.
Before you Begin
As with any exercising for any injury, be sure to check with you doctor to make sure the heel pain is not caused by something else, such as a pinched nerve, and that you are able to safely exercise. People with plantar fasciitis are generally encouraged to always wear shoes that completely support the foot in order to prevent further pain or damage, but stretching as a part of yoga is an exception. Going barefoot will help you to have a better sense of how far you can push yourself, and what does and doesn’t help.
One of the first things you should do with yoga when you have plantar fasciitis, especially if the pain is severe, is to stretch the surrounding muscles in your legs and lower back. Start with a gentle forward bend; if your hamstrings and calves are so tight that you cannot touch your toes, just bend forward slowly until you can feel the stretch down the back of your legs.
Another helpful pose to increase strength in your feet and ankles is the Mountain Pose. In this pose, you will appear to be simply standing straight with your arms at your sides, but this pose is so much more than that. Pay close attention to how you distribute your weight; make sure you stand evenly–don’t lean on the heels or the balls of your feet, and don’t turn your ankles in or out. Making tiny corrections to how you stand in this pose can over time help correct any plantar fasciitiis pain caused from improper posture or balance. In this, and in all yoga poses, make sure to relax into the pose to avoid causing further injury; tensing up will only aggravate the plantar fasciitis.
A great pose for stretching the plantar fascia and the Achilles tendon is the Downward Dog pose. In this classic yoga pose, you form an inverted V-shape with your palms and feet on the floor. With plantar fasciitis, you will likely only be able to stand on the tips of your toes to start, but with regular practice you can build up to the point where the entire sole of your foot is level on the ground. This stretch is great for the plantar fascia, and in the more advanced stages it is great for stretching your calves and hamstrings to prevent the plantar fascia from tightening up again.
The Hero pose is another helpful pose for plantar fasciitis pain. In this pose, start from a kneeling position and keep the tops of your feet flat on the floor. Slide your feet apart slowly, and sit on the floor between them. If this is uncomfortable or causes knee pain, try sitting on a blanket or pillow, but make sure it is under your sit bones only and not your knees. This pose will strengthen and relax your feet.
Other good yoga poses for plantar fasciitis pain include the Warrior poses, bound angle pose, and the head to knee forward bend. Since the plantar fascia and the leg muscles will be so tight, you will easily be able to determine which poses are having an effect.
The best way to have a positive effect from these yoga poses is to do them a little at a time, but regularly. Don’t stop when your pain disappears since regular yoga stretching can sometimes keep the pain from coming back, especially if the original cause of plantar fasciitis is something you can’t easily avoid, such as long work shifts on your feet. Although these poses target some of the muscles directly affecting plantar fasciitis pain, a complete yoga practice that focuses on and stretches each area of your body is even more helpful as it will give your body an overall sense of fitness and flexibility that will reduce the likelihood of injury to your muscles and tendons.
“Plantar Fasciitis” MayoClinic.com.
“Yoga for Plantar Fasciitis” Yoga Wiz.
“Hero Pose” Yoga Journal.