Friday, December 3, 2010

Yoga in the Time of Foot Sprain

I'm hesitant to publish this post, because I don't want to be seen as giving specific or "one shoe fits all" advice and also, frankly, while ya'll are reading it, I'll be at the hospital verifying the current status of my injury (managed lo these last 9 days, primarily, with yoga).

Having said that, I can't say how much I'd appreciate a thoughtful post by a long-time practitioner of yoga, designed to address foot injury, if I were (say) surfing the net while suffering with a bad sprain.

Mega Disclaimer: This post is not intended for new practitioners of yoga, those without a strong home practice or those who do not own props / have a good practical understanding of the Iyengar method. All yogas are good yogas, but with injury, it's my opinion that you are high on drugs to practice without the use of props and the anatomical and structural awareness that the Iyengar method mandates.

It is not intended for couch cupcakes (so much nicer than potatoes, no?). Foot injuries are as complex and varied as the foot itself. This practice is designed to address some serious tissue damage as it presents on my outer foot specifically (no one else's), top of the metatarsals / moving towards the toes. It factors in an outer ankle injury I sustained at the same time, which isn't a core complaint. It presumes a fairly strong and flexible body, pre-injury.

Core Goals: To diminish swelling, strengthen the foot and ankle, restore mobility, maintain and develop upper body fitness (in light of an inability to put weight on the legs and a need to use arms more in facilitating movement), maintain symmetry in a body compensating for lack of mobility on one side, control anxiety and depression (which can occur after an injury that limits mobility, particularly at the darkest time of the year).

Duration: I don't set a specific length of practice but I've discovered that, each time, I practice for about 75 minutes - and I do mix up the poses. I have done this daily since the day after the injury occurred. I feel it's key to practice daily because it's my main form of movement. In general, I spend 10 minutes in each supported pose and do the more active ones over a series of repetitions...

Format Below: Name of Pose (with link, if available): Yogic Action, Family of Pose, Notes as relevant
  1. Savasana 2 over bolster / Savasana 2 over blocks: Chest Opener, Supported Backbend. Helps to relieve arm tension (crutches hurt armpits!), neck tension, anxiety, promotes circulation in upper body
  2. Viparita Karani: Chest opener, Partial Inversion, Supported Backbend, same as above but also reduces swelling in legs and feet, improves heart function, tones adrenal glands, reduces anxiety
  3. Legs up the wall, no bolster: Leg Stretch, Partial Inversion, Reduces swelling in legs and feet, promotes relaxation. Do variations such as widening legs apart, bringing feet to wall, crossing legs (if possible), baddha konasana legs (if possible)
  4. Ardha Matsyendrasana (keeping the lower leg straight, on the injured side so there's no pressure on the ankle or foot): Balancer, Twist, Maintains mobility and tone in torso, stretches the muscles, tones the kidneys and adrenal glands. Twists work on those neurotransmitters that make you stressy or hungry. Give you a sense of your core mobility.
  5. Navasana: Balancer, Seated, Ain't no better pose for core strength (except for,maybe, a push up). You can balance the back of your head against a wall if it makes you feel more secure about maintaining balance i.e. not falling forward. Do not fall forward on that foot! You can also bend your knees if the stretch is too intense for either leg or for the injured foot.
  6. Dandasana: Chest opener, Foot stretch, Seated. A wonderful pose for bringing minute action into the foot. Use wall for back support if necessary. You can also use the wall for your feet, depending on the nature of your injury.
  7. Inverted Dandasana (Legs lifted (not against a wall), arms overhead): Chest opener, hamstring lengthener, abdominal stengthener, Prone/Partial Inversion: You may need to put something like a thin plank under your tailbone if your hamstrings/groins are tight and your abs are not strong enough. Cycle this into a few (non-yoga) ab poses - bicycle legs while doing crunches, legs up while doing crunches.
  8. Gomukhasana, arms only: Chest opener, arm stretch, Seated.
  9. Chataranga Dandasana, on knees: Who am I kidding, this is the only version I ever do! Prone, Core strengthener.
  10. Sarvangasana / Halasana / Karnapidasana Inversion, Chest opener (if you don't know these poses very well, don't even consider trying them now...) You need enough abdominal strength, flexibility and balance, to get into and out of a full inversion without touching your toes to any surface (except a wall, and only do halasana if your injury is up to it). Not gonna show you karnapidasana - if you don't know it, walk on by (ha!)
  11. Upavistha Konasana: Groin opener, Forward Bend, Reduces anxiety. Use a prop under your hips if your hamstrings and groins are too tight or bring your head to a chair instead of to a block or your knees. If you raise your hips, you need to be certain that you aren't overstretching your foot ligaments (that can happen). Massage your foot towards your knee, as firmly as you can manage without intense pain. Reduces inflammation.
  12. Paschimottanasana: Groin opener, Forward Bend, Reduces anxiety. See above.
  13. Savasana: Resorative
Update: The foot is fractured (albeit not badly). The more concerning fact is that the soft tissue damage appears to be extensive. Physio begins on Monday. Give me positive foot vibes, please. xo


  1. I can't comment on any of the yoga, as I'm not a practioner of any sort (unless you count the wii... I'm pretty sure you don't). But. I CAN send you all the positive foot vibes that I possibly can and hope that your healing goes very quickly. I've had a couple of foot injuries (not nearly as serious as yours), and they can be so frustrating, not to mention painful.

  2. As you know, yoga isn't part of my world, but I wish you well in your recovery and concurrent practice.


  3. Oh dear. Well, here goes, sending good foot vibes your way.

  4. *Sending you positive foot vibes.*

  5. I too have nothing to add about the yoga( except that I admire your practice) but I can tell you that I am so very that your foot is fractured. I send huge good/healthy foot vibes.

  6. you are just so f**ing impressive -- how you can master whatever it takes to give helpful yoga instructions when you're digesting news of a fracture, I don't know. But I'm def. sending you many positive foot vibes, all across the country. Stay strong!

  7. Hi there,
    I tried to send you a long email right when your injury happened since I have broken my foot twice so have unfortunately gained a lot of experience in this arena. Somehow my silly american email couldn't reach the email address you have listed. if you want my three cents, which is more than the two cents i can put here, let me know at crowrose at aol dot com.
    And it is good news that you have a correct diagnosis!

  8. That doesn't sound good. Sending lots of good foot vibes. I'm glad you have yoga, at least.

  9. Elle: Thank you so much for the vibes! And I think all kinds of yoga count!

    E: Thanks! I'm giving it my all...

    Susan: Thank you!

    CGC: Merci beaucoup!!

    Bel: Thank you. The practice is keeping me sane.xo

    mater: Thank you so much. I don't feel so impressive as I limp around, but this is important work, I can feel it.

    Margaret: Emailing with you has been so helpful. And now I'm giving you positive foot vibes in return!

    Uta: Thank you!

  10. I found this after googling "yoga" and "foot pain" - my foot really hurts (under the toes-ish) and I'm off to the dr. next week, unable to run this week. Needless to say, this has been an amazing help and I've had so much fun reading all your other posts. Great blog!