Did you know according to the Ashtang Hridaya, one of the most authoritative texts on the science of Ayurveda, your feet have four nerves that are related to your eyes? Who would have thought that a nice soothing foot massage can actually help you see better?
The science of Ayurveda treats the human body like an inverted tree where the root is in the head region while the branches are in the feet. Your foot is an important motor organ that enables you to get by your day, move, walk or run and rarely do we acknowledge this gift of locomotion!
Our feet also feature multiple marma points. These marma points are important and any injury or pain at these points can damage or affect the associated organs, muscles, ligaments, or joints. Our feet are also where our body connects to the earth that we belong and return to. The field of reflexology believes that you can release energy blockages by putting a specific amount of pressure on specific nodes in the feet.
Even for those dealing with vata imbalances that give way to dry, rough skin, and dehydration, an Ayurvedic foot massage or pada abhyanga is said to be the solution.
According to Ayurvedic texts, foot massages must be part of the daily dinacharya—or perfected routine.
Why do you need an Ayurvedic foot massage?
Marma points in the feet are where the mind, consciousness, and body meet. To balance all the three fundamental bio-energies, or doshas, you need an alignment of these marma points. Pressing on the specific marma points helps bring the flow of prana or life force in a fine balance, rejuvenating your body and mind. The feet have five key marma points that are associated with five different organ systems.
These marma points include
- Kshipra Marma—related to the heart, lungs and lymphatic system.
- Talahridaya Marma—related to respiratory and circulatory systems in the body. It also supports the body’s immune system.
- Kurcha Marma—this has to do with your digestion, flow of prana or life force that enables sensory experiences, and eyesight.
- Kurchashira Marma—associated with muscles and physical postures.
- Gulpha Marma—associated with joints, circulation of vata, bones, feet movement, and reproductive organs.
Foot Hygiene and Self-Care
Daily foot massages can keep your feet supple, clean, and happy, as well as
- Prevent muscle stiffness
- Reduce pain
- Remove flaky skin and waste, and reduces roughness
- Strengthen foot, joints, and soft tissues
- Improve stability
- Lead to better eye health
- Help manage sciatica
- Improve blood circulation
- Relieve constricted blood vessels
- Soothe the central nervous system
- Reduce fatigue and cramps
- Help manage restless leg syndrome
- Promote better sleep.
Padabhayanga has a deep de-stressing impact on the body and mind, and not just for the feet. It goes a long way in helping you manage daily fatigue, particularly if you are in an occupation where your feet are involved more actively, like sports, dance, etc.
Try the 2-minute foot massage ritual we have shared below every night before going to bed. Studies now show that foot massages can be made part of senior health programs to help them sleep better.
Avoid a foot massage if you have a cold, fever, blood infections, digestive problems, highly sensitive skin, thrombosis, or if your health provider so recommends.
How to Perform the Perfect Ayurvedic Foot Massage
- Give your feet a nice soak in warm water. Add some essential oil if you please.
- Dry your feet.
- Take some oil in your hand and apply it all over the feet up to the ankles.
You can use sesame oil, clarified butter (this helps in cases of vata or pitta vitiation), olive oil, ksheerbala oil, coconut oil, sunflower oil, or jojoba oil.
- Begin with gentle twists. Place your right foot between your palms and hold it with your hands. Now, pull on the right side and push up the left side of the foot and vice versa. As you do this, you can move your fingers up and down the edges.
- Rub the arches. Hold the top of each foot with one hand and rub the arch all the way from the heel to the top, move in the shape of a horseshoe.
- Stretch the toes. With one hand hold the foot from the heel. With the other, pull the toes forward and then push them away, giving them a full stretch.
- Pulling sideways. Here, with both your hands hold the foot and steady the grip. Now move them sideways, gently and with awareness. You will feel the stress leaving the foot region.
- Heel squeezing. Squeeze the heel by cupping your hands around the arch. This is the part of your foot that takes on the weight of your body and does all the walking for you.
- Press your knuckle into the arch of the heel, kneading from the bottom to the top.
- Pulling toes. Pull each toe one by one.
- Place the Achilles tendon between your thumb and index finger and gently massage it by stroking along the Achilles and heel.
- Side circles. Place the foot on the floor, flat. With your thumb, make circles around the ankles on each side.
- End with a nice twist, Take your right foot and place it on your left leg. Hold the foot with both your palms on either sides, and let the ankle rest on the left leg. Now pull the left side towards you with your left palm and push the right side of the foot away with your right hand. Then, pull the right side towards you and push away the left side. As you do this, you can move the palm along the edges of the foot.
This thick and hard outgrowth on the feet should be sloughed off every few days. Here’s how you can take care of your calluses without hurting yourself or ripping the callus.
Soak your feet. As someone who has hurt herself this way, I warn—do not to try to chip off the callus with a scissor or nail cutter. Instead, soak your feet in warm water. This softens your skin and is easier to manage. The soaked skin has expanded outer layers that allow oils and creams to penetrate well. It also hydrates your skin; reduces pain and the warmth helps calm vata excess.
To make the soak, boil some water. Add aromatic herbs like rosemary, sage, and lavender to a washbowl. You can place the herbs in a small pouch made of cotton cloth. Pour the hot water into the bowl. Let it be for a few minutes. Soak your feet for 15-20 minutes and then pat dry.
Scrub, scrub, and scrub. You can use a homemade scrub made from baking soda, coffee, and sugar, or you can use a natural store-bought scrub.
Using a pumice stone. You can slough off the callus and dead skin by rubbing the feet with a pumice stone. This act softens the calluses and corns further and doesn’t hurt you. You can rub in circular motions, move it back and forth, and up and down for three minutes. You can apply light pressure. It might be a good idea to soak the stone before using it and always use the abrasive side for better results. Avoid using a pumice stone if you have diabetes due to higher risk of infection.
Use a foot cream. After removing your feet from the tub, dry them. Apply a moisturizing cream to prevent the skin from drying. You can also apply a moisturizing foot mask after this if you like.
Managing Corns with Ayurveda
Corns are thick and hard bumps on the sides or tips of the toes. One Ayurveda remedy for corn suggests applying a warm roasted clove of garlic to the corn and letting it be for a day. You can also create a paste of aloe vera gel and 1/2 teaspoon of turmeric. Cover the corn with the paste and bandage overnight. Soak in warm water for 10 minutes every morning.
Dealing with Foot Odor
As your feet perspire, it is quite common for them to smell. Try these remedies daily:
- Give yourself a foot soak and massage every day with nice aromatic oils every day in the way instructed above.
- Mix cornstarch, peppermint oil, water, and white clay to make a paste. Apply it to your feet. Let it sit for 20 minutes, then rinse it off with lukewarm water.
- Find a good deodorizer and antifungal spray that contains tea tree oil, or apply the oil to the bottom of your feet at night.