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Foot Cramps During Yoga

brown and white skeleton foot

Postures to Relieve Painful Feet Spasms

The foot has 26 bones, 33 joints, numerous muscles, tendons, ligaments, blood vessels, and nerves. It is designed to bear weight and to move the body. Hatha Yoga postures warm up and strengthen the feet. Foot cramps occur to both inexperienced and experienced yoga practitioners.

Foot Cramping During Poses

The right foot suddenly tingles while arching the upper back in mountain pose. The toes splay outward and upward seemingly on their own in a reverse claw. They lock into the spasm. The pain breaks through the calming inward breath.

The Cause of Foot Cramping

There are many causes, different for different people and for different poses.

  • Cold bare feet on a floor that have been in high heels or poorly fitted shoes all day. The toes will cramp with 15 minutes of the class. The foot gravitates to a comfortable position while releasing tightened tendons and cramped toes.
  • Locking the knees while over flexing or extending the foot interrupts the fluidity of movement and circulation. This can offset balance and put stress on the joints.
  • Holding the foot too long in an uncomfortable or awkward position may cause it to cramp in protest. Forcing feet into Lotus doesn’t train them but causes them to resist and cramp.
  • Poor balancing technique where the toes try to grip the floor rather than spreading and opening the toes with even distribution of weight on the ball of the foot
  • In warrior position, spread the toes and plant the foot firmly in standing positions. Feel the ball of the foot and the heel on the floor. Be able to wiggle the toes to verify foot balance rather than toe clutching. Don’t pronate the foot or roll onto the outer edge of the foot
  • The foot can be overworked. Relax into child’s pose for a few breaths.

Stopping the Sudden Cramp, Interrupting the Spasm Circuit

  • Stop the posture or flow and take deep cleansing breaths to purify the body and relax the fibers. The cramp may dissolve with each intake of clean oxygen.
  • Move into downward dog pulling the stomach in and back from the wrists, the heels fall to the floor or almost. “Walking the dog” in that position is excellent limbering for one foot at a time. The movement from toe to heel not only massages the foot but also stretches the leg muscles where a cramp may begin. Do this several times, pause for 5 breaths and repeat.
  • Sit in Seated Hero’s Pose with the back of the foot on the floor. This pose causes the plantar fascia to contract, stretches the arch, and massages the back of the foot. (If unable to sit on the heels place a block beneath the hips.) Rise onto knees to release any pressure and then sit and repeat.
  • Violent spasming of the foot must be literally taken in hand. Stretch into forward bend, pashimottanasana, grab the toes holding them wide and pull gently back. Flex from the ankle. There is resistance but it will break the cramp. Once the cramp relaxes, repeat the exercise or posture. Massage the foot.

Preventing Future Foot Cramps

  • Be well hydrated prior to class.
  • Consider yoga socks if coldness seems to trigger the reaction
  • Good nutrition with enough calcium and magnesium and zinc. If foot cramps are primarily experienced during yoga the problem may not be electrolytes. Beware of self-diagnosing by supplementing mega vitamins. Too much of some may actually cause cramping.
  • Modify daily foot wear heels by selecting varying heights of shoes on alternate days so the foot and ankle doesn’t get used to being positioned in the same false position daily.
  • Continuous practice will eventually lessen and alleviate the cramp.

If the problem persists, have a health check to be sure it isn’t a circulatory or non-yoga related condition.