If you've got a bony, painful lump on your big toe, it's most likely a bunion. These humps occur when your first metatarsal bone moves around a little too much and puts pressure on the big toe. Surgery is often the only recourse for bunions, but you can slow their growth through other tactics. Good shoes, special inserts and foot exercises can help. Yoga offers ways to exercise your feet that helps improve your foot's structure and stability—but it can't reverse bunions that have already formed.
Why Bunions Happen
Bunions may be an unhappy result of genetics — if they run in your family, you may have the foot structure that is prone to developing them, too. Women who wear high heels or shoes that are especially pinchy or too small also raise the risk of bunions. As you age, arthritis and changes in your foot structure make bunions more prevalent.
Exercising your feet by using your toes helps keep your bones in healthy alignment, even if you're prone to getting bunions. Picking up a pencil with your toes or spreading them on a yoga mat are examples of ways to use your toes and strengthen the small muscles around them. This can help keep your metatarsal from pushing outward, creating the bunion. It'll also help prevent the collapse of your arches that leads your foot to spread and worsens the problem.
Poses to Practice
Balancing poses are particularly beneficial for people who suffer from bunions. The foot with the bunion should serve as the base as you lift through the arch and spread your toes to form a steady base. Lord of the Dance or Tree pose are examples, but a Standing One-Leg Mountain or Warrior III also help.
Avoid locking your knees in standing poses, which may be tempting when you have bunions. Locking the knee robs your foot of its effort, as it allows your arches to collapse, thus progressing the bunion.
Pay attention to how you hold your feet in standing postures to make them stronger and encourage proper muscular control. If you curl your toes under to try and grip the mat, you're doing your feet — and your bunions — a disservice. Instead, place your foot on the mat and raise your toes. Spread them apart as best you can and place them back down, preserving as much of the wideness between them as possible.
Use Downward-Facing Dog and Upward-Facing Dog to stretch through the bottoms of your feet, especially the arches and ankles. Bridge is another strong pose for your arches and toes. Be sure to keep your feet parallel as you lift the hips for the most benefit.
Read More: Yoga and Foot Pain