Stretches to do if you’re on your feet all day
By Kelley Voegelin, RYT
If you’re on your feet all day, you will surely experience strain, fatigue or discomfort.
Because I’ve learned this the hard way, I’ve also figured out how to nurture my
feet and legs and counteract the effects of standing for long periods.
Our feet are our foundation — they root us to the ground and carry us through the
day. If your feet are unsupported or overtaxed, you’ll feel it all the way up through
your legs, pelvis and back.
Key stretches and movements can offset the daily stress on your feet to help you
stand tall and walk with more ease in the right direction. It’s a simple recipe:
stretch a little bit and then get your legs and feet up in the air to relieve the
effects of gravity.
Step 1: Stretch your feet and legs
Your feet, legs and back are probably tired and tight. Invite an opening and release
of that tension with the following stretches.
Counteract the effects of all the weight and demands you put on the little square
footage of the soles of your feet compared to the rest of your body.
Toes Pose targets the fascia (connective tissue) on the bottoms of the feet, as
well as the joints in the toes and ankles. The sensation can be quite intense —at
first, I couldn’t do it without wincing — but once your feet get used to the deep
opening of the pose, it becomes delicious.
- Sit on your shins, with all 10 toes tucked under. You may need to reach back and
help tuck those little pinkie toes in place. Slowly lower your buttocks to rest
near or on the backs of your heels. You can manage the intensity of the stretch
by staying a little more forward or by using blocks to steady your hands.
- As you sit back, the bottoms of your feet will stretch deeply and your toe and ankle
joints will be in a sharp flexion, releasing any stagnation. Take five deep breathes,
focusing on the exhalations and releasing tension in your feet.
- To come out, lean forward with your hands on the floor, point your toes and either
tap out the taps of your feet. Take a moment to allow the sensations to settle.
Repeat one more time if you’d like.
Seated Forward Fold (Pascimottanasana)
After you’re on your feet all day, your low back aches and you may crave the feeling
of stretching and widening across the lumbar region. This pose allows you to do
just that while resting your feet and stretching the hamstrings.
If you’ve been on your feet for hours, you’ve likely been expending a lot of energy
that's been flowing in an outward direction all day.. It’s imperative to create
an inward flow to rebalance and avoid burn out. Folding forward invites that inward
flow and puts you into a place of receiving.
- Sit on the floor or a folded blanket with your legs extended forward. Lift up through
your whole spine and then bend at your waist, and fold forward and over your pelvis
toward your legs only as far as is comfortable. As you fold forward, feel the lumbar
region lengthening and widening behind you. Press your thighs toward the ground
and keep your feet flexed gently.
- You can place a bolster, pillow or rolled blanket over your legs and rest your head
on it or your hands (pictured). Or, place the hands on your feet or the floor on
either side of your legs.
- Close your eyes and allow your exhales to slowly lengthen. Stay for several minutes,
bending your knees a little if that feels better.
Step 2: Invert your body to restore energy to your legs and feet
When you spend all day on your feet, blood and toxins tend to pool in the lower
limbs. Inverting the body reverses blood flow and drains pooled stagnation. These
gentle, passive inversions reset the circulatory system and restore energy while
supporting you completely.
Reclining Big Toe Pose (Supta Padangustasana)
If you liked the idea of stretching while sitting in Seated Forward Fold, then check
out Reclining Big Toe Pose. You get to get off your feet, stretch and lie down.
You’ve worked all day, now you can let this pose work for you.
- You’ll need a yoga strap or a long scarf. Lie on your back. Bend the left knee and
place the strap around the ball of your foot, then extend that leg skyward, with
one end of the strap in each hand. Press your foot into the strap and push down
through the sacrum.
- Either keep the right leg bent at the knee with the foot grounded, or extend it
along the floor, anchoring it downward and flexing the right foot. Relax your shoulders.
Breathe deeply into your entire back body — the back and spine, the hamstrings,
the soles of the feet. Spend 5 breaths here, or as long as several minutes.
- For a little extra love, remove the strap and hold the back of the thigh. Point,
flex and then circle your whole foot — toes and ankle. Then lower the leg, pause,
and switch sides.
Legs-Up-The-Wall (Viparita Karani)
This pose can be your best friend in so many ways and for so many reasons. This
shape is the queen of restorative postures because it allows us to drain away what
depletes us mentally, physically and energetically.
This posture also releases tension in your legs and feet while supporting the back
body, and it’s done restoratively. Therefore, you get to receive in all ways — yes,
you’ll stretch physically, but you also get to expand your capacity to create space
for rest and renewal on a deeper and sweeter level.
This posture is about being and not doing and it’s the cherry on top of your well-deserved
sundae. Savor it.
- Sit down very close to a wall, lie back and slide your legs up the wall. Shift around
to get your legs to a comfortable angle, but keep your backside next to the wall.
You can place a blanket under the low back to create a subtle arch or under the
base of the skull for support.
- Extend your arms alongside your torso, bend at the elbows like a cactus, or rest
your hands on your belly.
- Stay for 5-10 minutes or as long as you please… and breathe ever so gently.
Just like trees and buildings, our roots need care, nourishment and a little bit
of love every day.