It’s holiday party season and you are going to look fab in your outfit and party shoes. But your feet are going to hate you. Why? High heels, baby, high heels. There’s a reason your feet sigh with relief when you kick your shoes off. But I’ve got you with a quick, effective post-party yoga stretch routine for all levels that will decompress you from head to toe – and counteract the negative effects of your skycrapers.
(And gents, you aren’t necessarily wearing heels, but your dress shoes are also making your feet cry. Just saying…)
Have you ever noticed that when your feet hurt, other parts of your body are affected in kind? An example of this is that when we wear high heels, there is a tendency to slightly stick our bums out. It’s a counterbalance thing, but it compresses the lower back. So not only are your feet wondering what you put them through while you were drinking spiked eggnog cocktails, so is your back.
Top Tip: When your standing around chatting or people watching at your parties, think about standing evenly on both feet and pulling your your tailbone down (not tucking ). This will engage your pelvic floor and pull your navel in. You’ll lengthen both your back and front body, look at least an inch taller, and a quick rollback of the shoulders will let you wear that sparkly dress like you mean it!
Doing a full sequence of the below takes about takes about 10-15 minutes, depending on how long you want to hold a posture. So kick off those heels and do some damage control. Happy stretching!
I do this when I come home from work, after an event, being out walking walking with The Brit, whatever. It’s my favourite.
Method: Lie down on your mat and reach your hands and feet up in the air. Keep a slight bend in the elbows and knees to allow the shoulders and lower back to fully settle on the mat. Wiggle the fingers and the toes; roll the wrists and ankles. With every exhale, invite your head, shoulders and lower back to settle a little bit more onto the mat.
Option to transition into Happy Baby (Ananda Balasana). An even more supported version of this is legs up the wall.
Benefits: Kickstarts circulation; decompresses lower back and shoulders.
Supine Twist (Supta Matsyendrasana)
My spine really loves a twist. I could stay in this pose all day. Just set me a timer so I switch sides!
1. Lie down on your back with arms out in a ‘T’ shape or in cactus/goal-post arms.
2. Bend your knees and put the soles of your feet on the floor or bring your knees up to 90 degrees.
3. Slightly lift your hips off the floor and shift them approximately an inch to your right. This is an important step because it sets your hips up to stack one on top of the other when you move into the twist.
4. Cross your knees over your midline to the floor on the left side of your body. Your hips will now be stacked.
5. Rest your left hand on your right knee or hip.
Yogi Tip: It is more important for your shoulders to be even on than for your knees to touch the mat. Prioritize keeping the shoulders down and let the knees float up a bit. If your knees are far from the floor, you may want to place a cushion under them for support.
6. If it’s available for your neck, turn your head to the right, bringing your gaze over your shoulder to your right fingertips. Skip this if it doesn’t feel good in your neck.
7. Inhale to lengthen and create space, exhale to come a little further into the twist. Hold for 5-10 breaths before rolling onto your back and shifting the hips back to centre. Repeat steps 1-6 on the other side.
Benefits: Stretches the glutes, chest, and obliques. Improves spinal mobility and can aid digestion.
Cat-Cow is really wonderful for your spine. I always teach this at the beginning of a class and it is a mainstay in my own practice.
Method: Come on to your hands and knees. Make sure shoulders are stacked on top wrists, and hips stacked on top of your knees. As you inhale, tilt your tailbone up to the ceiling, arch your back, bringing your stomach towards your mat and your gaze (gently!) up to the ceiling. As you exhale, tilt the tailbone down as you pull your belly button into your spine; push down into the mat with your hands and knees with your gaze to your belly button. Slowly repeat 10-12 times.
Benefits: Spine health and mobility. Stretches the front and back body.
Open Twist (Anjaneyasana) with Shoulder Stretch
Also a nice prenatal twist option (no, I’m not pregnant, just providing options!), Open Twist is a nice way to open up the chest. Threading the needle will open your upper back and stretch out your shoulder.
Method: From your Cat-Cow, plant your right hand on the mat with your index knuckle firmly grounded. Push down on the hand to create length in the right arm as you open to the left side of the room with your left arm in the air. Hold for a few breaths. Bring the left hand down to come under your right armpit to thread the needle. If available, bring your left cheek down to the mat. Hold for a few breaths and switch sides.
Benefits: Spine health and mobility. Stretches the abdominals and back. Upper back and shoulder stretch via threading the needle.
Downward Dog (Adho mukha svanasana)
Often referred to as a resting pose, Downward Dog is the ultimate calf and ankle stretch.
Method: In your table-top position, move your hands forward a few inches, spread the fingers wide, with index knuckle firmly planted; tucking the toes. Inhale deeply, and use your exhale and abdominals to push back to make and inverted ‘V’ shape. Keep a bend in the knees to support the lower back, belly button in and up, and shoulders away from your ears. Walk the dog, alternating your heels up and down. Hold for 5-10 breaths.
If you’d like to incorporate one-legged dog with a hip flexor stretch on each side, go for it.
Benefits: Stretches the calves, hamstrings, and ankles. Strengthens and lengthens arm muscles. Blood flow back to the heart and head.
Top Tip: Get a head start in stretching out your ankles and calf muscles by carrying a pair of flats in your handbag. Your legs and feet will LOVE you when you put them on I have a cheap no-name brand pair, but I have my eye on these adorable (and super portable) ballerina flats from Tieks.
Toe and Ankle Opener
This probably sounds and looks weird, but it feels AMAZING.
Method: Keeping your left leg straight, cradle your right leg. If your glutes are tight, bend your left leg and prop your right ankle. Intertwine your fingers between your toes and gently flex and point the foot while gently rotating the ankle – continue for five breaths. Switch legs and repeat.
Benefits: Aids in ankle mobility and stretches the toes (prep for Thunderbolt!) Stretches the glutes.
Thunderbolt Pose (Vajrasana)
High heels are the best for an outfit, but the worst for your feet! Bunions, plantar fasciitis, shortened Achilles, etc. (From prolonged wear.) Ugh. But since they aren’t going away any time soon, this is THE stretch to help counteract the side effects. But you will feel it – please don’t hate me! There’s a reason it’s called Thunderbolt…
Method: Come up onto your knees; reach behind to spread and tuck your toes – even the baby toes! Sit back onto your heels with a tall spine and hands on thighs. Stay here for one minute. (Again, please don’t hate me!) BREATHE. If the sensation in your feet gets to be too much, come up onto the knees for two breaths and then sit back down on the heels. After a minute, come forward into table-top and untuck the toes. Briskly tap the tops of the feet on your mat. Repeat if desired.
Benefits: Stretches the toes, ankles, and calf muscles.
Top Tip: Try commuting in flat shoes, or adding flats into your shoe rotation. This will provide a good balance for your feet.
Seated Forward Fold (Paschimottanasana)
A seated forward fold is a nice way to decompress the spine – and the mind (especially after Thunderbolt!)
Method: Sit on the mat, or on a cushion or block, with in front of you or in a cross-legged Easy Pose. If you have your legs straight, keep a bend in the knees to support the lower back. Hinge from the hips to bring the upper body forward with a flat back. Once at your edge (you will know), gently round your upper back and relax your head forward. Hold for 10-20 breaths and gently roll yourself back to seated.
Benefits: Stretches the hamstrings. Decompresses the back of the neck and the spine.
And then it’s time for slippers and a glass of water before bed. I’ve become my mama, and I am down with it. 😉 Happy Holidays!
Photos: Jana Josue
*This Post was created in partnership with Orb Clothing and Orb Athletic, but opinions are always my own.
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I bought my red peep-toe heels at a night market in Taipei, but you can find similar ones here:
“You put high heels on and you change.” – Manolo Blahnik