by Steph Creaturo
Improving our posture is a great way to improve running form. By tapping into the power of physical alignment, we can better access our core, be lighter on our feet, and improve the feedback loop between our feet and the rest of the body. All of which are super important in a repetitive stress sport like running.
Mountain pose is yoga’s blueprint. All other poses and work start from the mental and physical strength cultivated in standing tall. This basic, but fundamental, standing pose organizes our bodies, working to and from the spine. It prepares our bodies to find symmetry, strength, and grace in all other postures, no matter how simple or complicated they may be.
We’ll explore mountain pose, starting from our feet. Which, for runners, are often tired, cranky, achy, and the cause of many aches and pains.
1. Place the feet hip distance apart and parallel your inner feet like the yellow lines on the street. The feet aren’t flat (even if you have flat feet!), so make sure not to flatten out the inner arches! Stack your pelvis over your ankles, your shoulders over your pelvis, and lift the crown of the head to the sky like you’re balancing a teacup on the top of it. Draw the spine tall and you press your feet down into the floor. Imagine you’re dropping anchors from the bottom of each heel and draw the spine up from that grounding.
2. Now, maintaining that work, lift all ten of your toes off the ground. Spread your toes wide, like you have a yellow pencil between each one. While keeping the toes spread, place each toe back on the floor without wrinkling the toes up. Do this 3 – 5 times to wake up the toes.
3. Let’s repeat these actions. This time, let’s focus on evenly distributing your weight between the four corners of the feet: the mound of the big toe, the mound of the little toe, and either side of your heel. Notice if you collapse to the inner or outer foot, or the front or back of your foot – and is that the exact same place your shoes wear out? And how does this shift the arrangement throughout the rest of your body? If you’re thinking too hard about this, or are straining to feel it, then close your eyes, focus on the breath, and see what happens when you take the sense of sight out of the driver’s seat.
4. To finish up, lift and spread your toes. Keep the weight on the four corners of your feet. Gently place the toes back on the floor while maintaining the even weight distribution throughout the bottom of your feet. Hold this for 30 seconds, working up to a minute. When you release the pose, see if and how your feet feel different.
Consistent practice of this subtle work can build strong feet and toes over time. It also provides better support for the body during running. In my next post, we’ll look at how mountain pose builds strength in the inner arches of the feet and the ankles, which can help prevent sprains and strains in your ankles.