My husband James has been bugging me about my feet for some time, telling me I need to pay more attention and that some of the other in-balances going on in my body might start there. In our house, I often consider myself the ‘movement’ person because I can do way more with my body then he can. That’s only because he has a major back injury he’s been dealing with for years. Yes, I am much more mobile in many ways then he is. But, his inability to be more mobile and challenges with his body have led him to more unique ways to approach movement and make connections through his whole body.
Of course, I had to hear it from someone else too before I listened to him. What does he know anyway, right? 😉
Thing is, I have been aware that my feet often hurt, especially when I first get out of bed and walk down the stairs but I didn’t think about it very much. As well, over the last few months I noticed a couple of painful spots in my left foot, that only hurt with certain movements that I wasn’t doing all the time, like side plank. It was interesting to notice that I had such a painful spot in my body but that I couldn’t recall doing any one thing that injured it.
Then I went to see Mary Lou, our local body worker and of course she narrowed right in on that spot. As well, in that session she asked me when the last time was that I just layed quietly on the floor and spent time noticing my body. Well, not at all really. In my own practice I’ve been focusing a lot on my hips, glutes and back body for months now and I realized I was putting all of my attention on big actions, versus listening to the small, seemingly insignificant areas of my body.
I left that session knowing I needed to start listening in a different way, and one place I could start was with my feet. James was right. How about that!
I came home that day and put my joy-a-toes on, something I avoided for a long time because they often hurt. James has been wearing his joy-a-toes for years now and it’s one of the things he has been going on about because he has experienced major changes in his feet as well with his back injury from wearing them. You can imagine the amount of pain he would have experienced with having major injury to his L1-L5, as well as nerve damage because of it. His toes used to be all curled inwards and he didn’t have any space between his toes. After wearing the toe spreaders for this long he now can spread and move almost all of his toes, which also meant he had to buy all new footwear because his feet are actually longer and wider now! Whenever his back is really sore, his go to has been to come home and put his joy-a-toes on, and it helps relieve the sciatica pain and relaxes him.
So, it seemed that it was time for me to wear the joy-a-toes as well to incorporate some of the other things I have learned but never really did. Like using the tune up balls to roll out the bottoms of my feet, and even to give myself a little foot and lower leg massage. As well, James has been gracious enough to rub my feet at night when we are laying on the couch. Again, I was often surprised at the really painful places in my feet that most of the time I never even notice! How can that be?
Then this started me thinking how could I be so unaware of what is going on in my body? For someone who considers themselves as tuned in from all of the yoga I do, as well as much as I teach my students to feel their feet…how is it possible that I can’t even really feel my own feet? Part of the reason I ask my students to feel their feet is because our feet are literally our grounding force, they are the part of our body that is actually touching the ground most of the time. So if I can’t really feel my feet then how grounded am I really?
The truth is I’ve been feeling rather ungrounded lately and realizing all of these things going on with my feet just helped me to see that I needed to pull back from my focus on big actions and take more time with my feet and doing movements that were more stabilizing for my nervous system and therefore will help me to be more grounded.
It’s funny how when you make a realization about yourself and really commit to working on it, there seems to be a big opening and all of the right pieces fall into place. Prior to my realization about my feet I had ordered the book Move Your DNA by Katy Bowman. Of course, it arrives and I open it up to find there is a whole chapter dedicated to feet, sitting and standing. As well, once I started to express more interest in my feet to James he started to tell me all of the things he has been researching and shared the many resources he has been tuned into like the Foot Collective in Ottawa who have an amazing amount of really helpful videos and articles about feet and natural movement.
As I start to open my mind to this idea that my feet are a clue to many of the other in-balances in my body I read in my Movement for Trauma training manual by Jane Clapp, that she has noticed in many of her clients who have fascial pain in their feet also may be experiencing pelvic floor discomfort. As well, did you know there is a direct relationship between the pelvic floor and diaphragm and breathing. Connect the dots…tension in the feet, tension in the pelvic floor, and improper breathing all signs of stress in the body. When the body is stressed, we can feel anxious, restless, have a hard time sleeping and a whole host of other challenges depending on the person.
What I’m learning from all of this is that I need to pay more attention to the little things and spend more time working on things like how I’m breathing (if I’m breathing), more quiet time trying to listen to my bodies subtle messages. Mostly, that my ‘health’ is not only made up of a strong core, arms and legs. That my health is much more related to being able to tune into the overall picture of what is going on in my body and in my life.
Looking for ways to bring more life and awareness to your feet? Here are a couple of ideas:
1. Joy-a-toes are a great start to bringing your feet back on line. You can read more about them here.
3. Putting essential oils on your feet is one of the most effective way to use them topically. Here is an article with more info on why the soles of your feet are the optimum place to use your oils. Lavender is one oil in particular to use, as it is revered for it's calming, soothing and relaxing properties!
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