If you have bunions that are inflamed and painful, you may not think to turn to the yoga mat for relief. But yoga can help to both slow the progress of bunion development and manage symptoms like pain and pressure when used holistically with posture support, lifestyle changes and supportive footwear. If you suffer from bunions, speak to your podiatrist about whether yoga is appropriate for you before starting a yoga practice.
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A bunion is a bony bump that develops on the side of the foot as a result of years of compression of the five long bones in the middle of your foot, called the metatarsals. Iyengar Yoga teacher Julie Gudmestad explains that "gait compensations and tight shoes can contribute to the formation of a bunion, at the joint where the big toe joins the sole of the foot." Individuals who perform occupations where they are on their feet, such as dancers, are more likely suffer from bunions and may need the holistic help that yoga can provide.
Working with the toes and foot muscles is a great way to not only help prevent bunions from forming, but also to slow the growth of developing bunions. New students in a yoga class might find it strange when the teacher asks them to spread their toes wide. But there's a reason behind this odd request -- spreading your toes allows the flexor tendons and dorsal and plantar muscles of your upper feet to grab a much needed stretch. In every yoga pose and whenever you aren't wearing shoes, concentrate on stretching your toes away from one another, creating a widening stretch along the base of the foot.
Poses to Alleviate Symptoms
Two yoga poses that can give you a great stretch along your entire foot are Downward-Facing Dog pose and Garland pose. To activate the stretch in Downward-Facing Dog, position yourself on all fours. Press your palms into the floor and lift your hips toward the sky in an inverted "V" position. Draw your heels down toward the floor and stretch each foot individually by bending one knee and then the other, pulling your heels down to the floor. Garland pose is a deep squat that stretches the entire bottom of your foot, especially the flexor tendons of the toes and the plantar muscle group that runs along the ball of the foot. Lowering into a squatting position, balance on your toes and the balls of your feet. If this pose is too difficult, you can place a rolled up towel or rolled yoga mat under your heels for support or a yoga block under your buttocks.
Alignment Issues With Standing Poses
The alignment for some yoga standing poses -- like Mountain pose, Forward Bend and Chair pose -- asks you to place your feet together, with your big toes and the insides of your feet touching. But if you suffer from bunions, this alignment might be difficult to achieve. Marcia Monroe, yoga teacher and author of "Yoga and Scoliosis," offers a postural cue, recommending that you either place your big toes together and allow your heels to spread apart slightly or create space between your feet and stand with your feet slightly apart. If you choose to keep your feet apart, make sure that your feet spread no wider than hip-distance apart.