From the Bottom Up…
For the better part of my first 30-odd years, I HATED my feet. I have super long toes, a narrow foot and sky-high arches. I used to hide my feet in shoes that were one-size too small, but even then I felt they couldn’t hide my water-ski feet. I dreamt of chopping off my toes at one point – no joke, I fantasized about some kind of plastic surgery procedure that might make my feet look ‘cuter’ by getting rid of those gangly. finger-like toes. I never wore sandals. As an adult, I stuffed my delicate toes into pointy-toed high heels (one-size too small, natch) in the hopes that my feet would magically transform into tiny, plump dainties. My poor feet ended up heeding the call, but instead of transforming into lovely tootsies , they ended up deforming into crooked, painful trotters.
I started having shooting and then throbbing pains under my big toes – early warning signs of my bunions-to-come. My pinky toes started to scooch under the soles of my feet (painting that pinky toenail was a doozy). I was too young to be able to use age as an excuse for my sad and sore feet, and my mom and grandmothers all had gorgeous, bunion-less feet so I couldn’t even blame my genetics. On top of all my achy feet, my right knee often hurt and my pelvic floor began to give signs that it wasn’t always on the ready (especially when I sneezed or coughed). Every once in a while I would get bursitis in my right hip (not the hip that was dysplasic at birth – so couldn’t blame that either). But what could these random symptoms possibly have to do with my feet? So I put those down to stress or lifestyle (I worked in an office and even way back then I had more than a sneaking feeling sitting most of the livelong day wasn’t great for me) and kept on wearing my heels to walk around when I wasn’t sitting at my desk (or on a plane in my kitten heels because they were better for travelling, no?).
I never would have connected my array of foot, joint and pelvic floor symptoms to the state of my feet until I began to understand the connections between muscles, joints and connective tissues – our muscular and articular ‘chains’ as my yoga teacher used to put it. Studying, practicing and then teaching yoga gave me my first illuminating moments of understanding the vital role our feet play in our overall wellbeing. The next, and more mindblowing ‘aha!’ moments, came when I began studying whole-body alignment with the biomechanist Katy Bowman, founder of The Restorative Exercise™ Institute (check out her fabulous blog and website at www.restorativeexercise.com). As I studied to become a Restorative Exercise Specialist™, I began to see much more clearly exactly how the foot participates (or should participate) in every move we make all day, every day (or should make every day: walking, running, standing, climbing, squatting,…) – and how integral foot health is for our body’s general wellbeing, affecting everything from our levels of bone density to our physiological functions as a whole (circulatory, digestive, reproductive and neurological).
The approach to optimal whole-body alignment through Restorative Exercise™ begins with aligning the feet because they are the basic foundation upon which we stand, and are charged with the enormous responsibility of keeping us ‘on our feet’ as well as helping us taking our very first steps… and then all those that follow. Our feet are our primary connection to the earth, determining our stability- both static and dynamic. The correct (or incorrect) movement and positioning of our feet has a vital effect along the rest of the entire body chain.
Stay tuned for our next blog installment on feet – with lots of ideas on how to treat them right and start introducing some corrective exercises to bring them back into alignment! Remember you can follow us on Facebook too!