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If you suffer from plantar fasciitis, you know how frustrating it is to try to get or stay in shape. This painful inflammation of the sole of the foot and heel is often caused — and aggravated — by repetitive movements like running. Instead, you might want to try yoga. While not everybody agrees what the best type of yoga is for plantar fasciitis, some students of Bikram yoga have reported the hot room improved their conditions.
Understanding Plantar Fasciitis
A fibrous, thick band of connective tissue called the plantar fascia grows from the heel bone along the bottom of the foot. This tough, fan-shaped fascia connects at the base of each toe. It acts as a shock absorber for the leg and stabilizes the joints in the feet as they impact the ground. But the plantar fascia can become inflamed when people stand on their feet all day or by overuse during exercise. Plantar fasciitis is a common injury among runners, aerobic dancers, and people who play tennis, basketball and volleyball. Overweight people are also at risk.
Bikram yoga is a sequence of 26 yoga poses and two breathing exercises designed by Bikram Choudhury and done in a room heated to 104 degrees F. According to Bikram’s website, some of his students who were diagnosed with plantar fasciitis have healed their feet by practicing his style of yoga. However, he cautions that if your plantar fascia is torn, you may need to wait until the ligaments knit back together before practicing yoga. If you have a bone spur, you’ll want to wear arch support during practice. Students need to distinguish between the pain of stretching and the pain of injury, Choudhury says, and avoid the latter. But the increased circulation from practicing this hot form of yoga will help strengthen the muscles, bones, ligaments and tendons of the feet.
Several Bikram students who suffered from plantar fasciitis have shared their stories online. Tara Kennedy reports on Bikram Yoga Dallas that she had never taken very good care of her health. Realizing she needed to make a change, she took up running. Between the running and her job teaching school, which required many hours on her feet, she got an awful case of plantar fasciitis. A friend dragged her to a Bikram class. After a couple of months of yoga, her cholesterol level was much lower and her feet were pain-free. Triathlete Andy Kilhoffer has also been delighted by the fruits of his Bikram study. He reported on the Bikram Yoga St. Louis website that he took up hot yoga to improve his flexibility, but after only five weeks his painful case of plantar fasciitis was cured.
Dr. Timothy McCall, the medical editor for “Yoga Journal,” has suffered from plantar fasciitis himself. He recommends rest for healing and suspects that hot yoga could make the inflammation worse. Instead, he suggests focusing on back bends from the belly, supported inversions, seated poses, relaxation poses and meditation. He urges yoga students to embrace the yogic ideal of “ahimsa,” or nonharming. This means taking care of your feet. If any kind of yoga — hot or otherwise — makes them feel worse, then give them a rest.