What is it with being in your 40s that all sorts of little things start to bother you physically? Your hormones go out of whack, it's harder to lose weight, and you suddenly need bifocals. Now it's my right foot. I have to confirm with a podiatrist, but the plantar fasciitis I have been told I have (by a yoga teacher/physical therapist as well as a massage therapist) is acting up. It's a pain in the arch. It comes and goes. I'm not sure what I did to it, but it just had a "twinge" one day, and now it will randomly act up.
Yoga is often sold as a cure-all for all the body's ills. It's also supposed to be a magical flexibility pill. No, it's not. Years of doing yoga, and an entire 200-hr training, have done nothing to help some of my basic structural problems. The problem with my foot originates in my tight calf muscles and "bound up" ankles - muscles with "adhesions" to the fascia, according to several massage therapists I have worked with.
Part of my issue is a genetic prediposition, but shouldn't yoga have loosened everything up for me? After all, aren't the calf muscles stretched in downdog? Well, from my own personal experience, nothing gets really "stretched" back there if your heels are inches off the ground and the legs are tightening just to keep some balance.
For me, however, I suspect the problem is that my "cross-training" has consisted primarily of swimming. I also used to surf regularly. I did not know until recently that the kicking that you do in swimming (with the toes pointed) can lead to tight calf muscles. Had I been doing any calf stretches after getting out of the water? Nope.
Things have a way of catching up to you in your 40s. It's become clear, after various conversations with yoga teacher trainers and qualified massage therapists, that the answer to my plantar fasciitis problem is not yoga. It's massage and myofascial release.
I do have one nice yoga teacher in Bikram yoga who noticed that I was tending to put my weight on the outsides of my foot and pressing down evenly. It's true that we often start to create more imbalance in the body by unconsciously adjusting to a structural problem, thus making it worse.
I'd also spent the summer wearing cheap sandals without much arch support. I've noticed now that even the slippers I wear at home aggravate my foot. Surprisingly (or not), going barefoot or wearing socks around the house seems to make my feet happier. I've gotten some plantar fasciitis heel and arch supports available at the local drugstore and they have helped quite a bit (and aren't that expensive!).
Having plantar fasciitis limits my yoga somewhat. I can't stand up on my toes because that can really hurt my right foot. Surprisingly enough, I can actually balance on the right leg as long as it's not for too long. I have to be much more careful in a pose like Warrior I, and doing a lunge is iffy. (If I do a lunge, I need to keep my hands on the ground and use the opportunity to stretch the back foot...but coming up into Crescent is not a good idea.) It's funny. It's not necessarily standing straight up on it that causes the pain. It might be some seemingly gentle movement or twist of the foot that sets the arch on fire.
I now have a lot of learning to do about how to care for my foot. In doing some research online I found the following videos showing home stretching exercises for the foot and calf. Learning about something as complex as foot and arch care takes time. I'm now on a mission to learn about good shoes, including whether or not anyone makes any decent slippers that provide some foot support. Between the massage therapy, orthotics, and fancy shoes, I have a feeling this is going to get expensive. Sigh.
If only I had known when I was younger to take better care of my calves. I thought yoga would be enough. It was not.
Here are some other links on the subject you might want to check out: