Ask Aunt Yoga: How to Deal With Foot Cramps During Yoga

Foot Cramps During Yoga
Stretch Your Feet to Relieve Cramps. webphotographeer/E+/Getty Images

Dear Aunt Yoga,

I am writing to you because my foot often cramps up during yoga class, especially in poses like pigeon and hero where the foot is tucked under. Is there anything I can do to prevent these cramps? They are painful and a little embarrassing.

Dear Footie,

You are definitely not alone in suffering from foot cramps in yoga class. And those cramps are a killer! Even Aunt Yoga herself has been known to writhe in pain from them, especially, as you mention, in poses where the top of the foot rests on the floor.

This is probably because that position stretches the muscles in your foot in ways that it is not used to. Even if you do a lot of yoga, the amount of time you spend with your foot tucked under is pretty small, so cramps can still affect even the most dedicated yoga students. People with flat feet, (that's me!), seem particularly affected.

You can try to prevent the cramps by drinking more water, since dehydration is known to cause muscles cramps. Eating potassium-rich foods, like bananas, can also help, since low electrolyte levels can also cause cramps. You may also want to incorporates a few foot stretches into your yoga warm-up so that your feet are as ready as possible for whatever the class may bring. While lying on your back, roll your ankles in both directions. You can do this with your legs straight and pointing up at the ceiling for a little hamstring stretch or with the knees slightly bent.

Then move the feet back and forth between a pointed and a flexed position. This extra attention may help and is a good habit in any case. 

If you do cramp up, the best thing to do is to turn your toes under to stretch out the sole of the foot and massage your arch until the pain passes Don't worry about coming out of the pose or feel embarrassed.

It's not unusual and won't even register on most people's radar. What you are doing will be obvious to any experienced teacher. You can always mouth "foot cramp" in her general direction for good measure. 

As with any pain that surfaces in yoga class, keep an eye on the frequency and severity of your cramping. If you try the above suggestions and nothing helps or if the cramping gets worse, it's time to talk to a doctor since cramps can be a symptom of a more serious condition on rare occasions. 

Namaste,

Aunt Yoga.

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