How to Deal With Foot Cramps During Yoga

Preventing and Dealing With a Painful Foot Cramp

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

You are definitely not alone if you get foot cramps in yoga class. These extremely painful cramps are known to strike especially during poses like pigeon and hero where the foot is tucked under and the top of the foot rests on the floor. Foot cramps can be embarrassing when you have to get out of your pose and walk it off. Learn how to prevent and deal with foot cramps.

Causes

A cramp is a sudden and involuntary muscle contraction. You may experience a cramp during positions that stretch 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 seem particularly affected.

Dehydration is a common contributing factor for muscle cramps. Especially if you are doing hot yoga, you may be sweating and getting dehydrated throughout a yoga session. Or, you may not have replenished with water before starting the class. In addition, muscle cramps can develop due to imbalances in various body salts. These include sodium, potassium, calcium, and magnesium. If you drink too much water you dilute these salts, so it is best to drink when thirsty during any activity. You may also not have enough salts on board because you have skipped meals, have an imbalanced diet, or are taking medications that deplete your electrolytes.

Prevention

Start off right so you are less likely to get a foot cramp during yoga.

Drink Right: An hour before yoga class, drink a large glass of water. After that and during class, drink when thirsty. Contrary to what you might have heard, most people can trust their thirst during exercise. Keep a water bottle handy so you don't put off drinking as soon as you feel thirst.

Eat Right: Eating an hour or more before yoga class may ensure you have enough electrolytes on board. Think of including potassium-rich foods, like bananas, and appropriate amounts of table salt.

Foot Stretches: You may also want to incorporate 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 point 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.

Props: You can use a small pillow or a rolled towel under your ankle when you are in child pose or other poses that rest the top of the foot on the floor. This will keep your foot from being less pointed and triggering a cramp. You may also want to tuck your toes under your foot for a portion of these poses so you are stretching the plantar sole of your foot.

Dealing With a Foot Cramp

If you do cramp up, the best thing to do is curl your toes up to stretch out the sole of the foot. In the middle of a pose where you are resting on the top of your foot, tuck them under the foot.

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. Rarely, cramps can be a symptom of a condition that should be treated. Or, you may be taking medications that increase your risk of cramps and your doctor or pharmacist can assist you in reducing this side effect.