Fitness Magazine

Friday Q&A: Blue Feet

By Ninazolotow @Yoga4HealthyAge

Friday Q&A: Blue Feet

Blue Village by Marc Chagall

Q: I have a question about blue feet. I have vascular issues so my feet often have blue patches. When I do legs up the wall, my feet begin to look pretty normal. One on my Yin students commented that her feet turned blue during legs up the wall. She said the color was scary but she felt fine. What’s going on here—circulation/lack of O2? Is it something to worry about? Are inversions bad for her?
A: In general, we are pretty keen on supported inversions, such as such as Legs Up the Wall pose (Viparita Karani), because they are beneficial for stress management and circulation in general. But when your legs are upside down in Legs Up the Well pose, your circulation is certainly affected. 
Friday Q&A: Blue Feet
Because your legs are above your heart, there is a down-hill gravity pull on the oxygen-depleted blood in your veins that assists in returning blood to the right side of your heart. But that same orientation challenges the blood in your arteries to pump blood uphill towards your toes against gravity. Some of the symptoms we sometimes get in doing the pose for 10 minutes or more, such as tingling in the feet or that falling asleep feeling in the feet and legs, may be due to the challenge in getting the blood uphill in your arteries. In both you and your student’s case, however, you are not experiencing negative symptoms, just noticing color changes to your feet. 
The most common reason for people to notice blue vessels or patches on the feet and ankles is varicose veins. If that is the vascular issue you have, then doing Legs Up the Wall may be helping the blood that gets pooled in your veins return back to your heart and at least temporarily eliminating the color blue. Your pose is helping your circulatory system, and that is a good thing. 
In the case of your Yin student, I cannot say for certain without evaluating her in person why her feet may turn blue when in the pose. Because she is not having any unusual symptoms while doing the pose, it may be a benign sign, and may be related to the uphill challenge of getting oxygen-rich blood from the heart via the arteries up to her feet, or her feet could simply be getting cold. She could try slightly bending her knees for a minute or so when the color change happens and see if normal color returns for a while; this is a modification that often helps with numbness and tingling that occurs for many people in the pose, but would be worth trying in this case as well. Another idea for her would be to stay in the pose for a few minutes until her feet are blue and then bend her knees into crossed legs position and touch her feet. If they are cold to the touch, she could simply wear socks when doing this pose. 
As to whether inversions are ultimately good for her or not, without much more information, I cannot comment. I will mention that there are a few rare conditions that cause color changes in the extremities, Buerger’s disease and Raynaud’s disease, but both are associated with noticeable symptoms and would likely prompt anyone with them to get evaluated by their doctor. If your Yin student has any worries about this, encourage her to get checked out. If you want to know more about these two conditions, see:
Raynaud’s disease: http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/raynauds-disease/basics/definition/con-20022916
Bueger’s disease: http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/buergers-disease/home/ovc-20179160 

—Baxter
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