When I first started practicing yoga regularly, and I mean really regularly…3-4 times a week (and well before I became a yoga teacher) my feet would cramp up in standing sequences. We would be in Warrior 2 and my breath was flowing gently, and then the tingling would start, and then the cramp would kick in. I would get frustrated, come out of the pose, and squeeze the heck out of my arch to try and alleviate the pain. And I would get angry with my feet. Kinda made finding my peace a little difficult. It happened in every class for months no matter how hydrated or relaxed I was. I now know that my legs and my feet just weren’t used to so many standing poses. But at the time I was desperate to find out why it was happening, and more importantly, how to make it stop!
I asked one of my favorite teachers, Todd, what I could do when my foot started to cramp and his answer surprised me. He said, “Stay with it. Breathe through it. It’s probably not a sign of something dangerous…it’s just uncomfortable. Find peace with it.” My thoughts at that moment were along the lines of: Find peace with a foot cramp? Have you HAD a foot cramp? Shouldn’t you tell me to do something differently with my foot, or my pelvic floor, or my legs, or my hips? Surely something can make it stop happening! What the?! But that was not his solution. Stay with it. Breathe through it. Find peace with it. Hmmm. Sounded a little too "yogic" for me.
However, after my initial skepticism, I decided to try it. What did I have to lose except a pain in the foot? The next few classes I took, when the cramps started, I stayed with it. I breathed through it. I hurt. I silently cursed Todd and his yogic idea. But eventually, as my mind settled and I focused more on my breath, the cramp would lessen and then stop altogether. I was still in a full-on Warrior 2 or Triangle but the foot cramp appeared to be gone and what was left was breath. Interesting. Yogic.
So how does this translate into life? Discomfort on your mat is a chance to breathe and to try to let the mind settle into peace. Peace is not the absence of chaos. It’s just the ability to find quiet within the heart and mind amidst the chaos. And when you learn to do it on your mat first, while always remembering to practice ahimsa (non-harming to your body), you learn that not only is it possible, but that you can actually do it, and maybe eventually it will start to show up off your mat and in your life. Don't be afraid to be a little yogic.
Wishing you peace in the midst of foot cramps.
Note: By the way, I looked it up and most sources confirm that foot cramps are rarely caused by a serious health problem. While there may be another cause for your foot cramps (e.g. a vitamin or mineral deficiency or dehydration), it may just be due to an increase in activity, as was the case with me.