Whether a rancher, a vegetable farmer, a farmer florist, or home gardener, growers of all sorts can empathize with one another at the height of long days and overflowing harvests known as “peak season.” From sunrise to sunset, many farmers take advantage of the extra daylight, necessarily so, as everything is in full bloom, leaving most on their feet for some 10-12 hours (or more!) every day. Yet, while the plants have got us workin’ overtime, we’ve got to remember to take care of ourselves if we have any hope of continuing our work season after season. And, there’s no better place to start than our bodies’ foundation–the feet!
Extended time on foot can leave one feeling more than just achy–tight, dry skin, swollen ankles, and much more. Keep your forgotten feet feeling fresh each night by trying out a few of these recommendations.
Foot soaks don’t have to be fancy. In fact, water alone will do wonders. The trick is utilizing both hot and cold water foot baths in an alternating sequence. Fill two foot tubs with water; one with water as hot as you can handle, the other with cold water–maybe even a few ice cubes.
Start by soaking your feet in the hot water for 5-10 minutes. After the time is up, switch to the cold soak for 3-5 minutes, and then back to the hot soak. Repeat this sequence for up to 30 minutes. The alternating between hot and cold water allows for contraction and expansion of the blood vessels in the feet, ankles, and calves which essentially reduces inflammation and pain while increasing circulation and flexibility. If you’re feeling extra fancy (or extra sore!), dissolve some epsom salts into the hot water bath for added relief!
Yoga, or even daily stretching, becomes a necessity for those of us on our feet all day, every day. There are particularly two yoga asanas, or postures, that can be of utmost benefit to relieving aches and pains in the feet while offering healing to the whole body.
The first posture is called viparita karani , also known as “legs-up-the-wall pose.” Find a comfortable, open place where you can bring your backside close to the wall, laying on your back. Then, extend your legs up the wall, keeping them elevated for 20-30 minutes. You can also put a blanket under your low back for added support. This posture helps to improve the lymphatic system of the body, which does not have its own means of circulation in the body. Thus, in order for us to improve our lymph systems, we have to invert the body for the lymph system can flow in the opposite direction with the help of gravity.
Another yoga posture that can be helpful to farmers and gardeners, alike, is called vajrasana , or lightning bolt pose, with toes tucked under. This posture is not for the faint of heart; however, powerful benefits can be felt throughout your feet, ankles, and knees. Kneel down on both knees, then sit back on top of your heels. Tuck your toes under and continue to sit back onto your heels for as long as you feel comfortable. You should feel an intense stretch throughout the foot with some warmth building. Just know relief is on it’s way!
Take time for yourself each morning or night, and give yourself a simple treat with a foot massage. Use oil, such as sesame, jojoba, or even ghee, mixed with your favorite essential oil, to help deeply moisturize those toesies all dried out from the sun and dirt while offering yourself some much needed relaxation. If your hands are too tired to do the job, try a rolling a lacrosse or golf ball under your feet as you sit back and relax. You can also freeze a plastic water bottle and use this similarly to the lacrosse ball, rolling each foot back and forth on the frozen-solid bottle. The iced water bottle will also aid in reducing swelling and inflammation on your foot’s surface.
I know, taking care of yourself first is difficult for farmers. But, by giving yourself a little extra love and care, especially during the height of the season, you’ll find each day to be more and more productive, and you’ll soon come to see your work on yourself is as valuable, if not more, valuable than any work that you can do on the land!