Friday, September 23, 2011

Foot Memoir: Finding the "Soul" of the Foot

My feet have taken me so far in life, always wanting to run free and propel my body. But at the same time, they have held me back from achieving my childhood dreams.

You see, I grew up as a competitive gymnast, a dancer, and then a springboard diver. I lived in a world where a beautiful curved toe point accentuates any movement and left a deep lasting impression on the audience, especially the judges.

But for me, this was out of my grasp. When I pointed my toes they barely looked pointed; and my legs barely looked straight. I certainly couldn't point my toes and straighten my legs while putting my legs straight together (I had to externally rotate my legs to keep my ankles together).

Me at aged 9, trying as hard as I can to straighten and point.
(This picture still makes me cringe)

Try as I might to muscle my toes down, they never listened. I spent many of hours of my childhood with my toes rammed under the couch trying to force my feet into submission. I loved to do this while watching tv.

Visions of years with coaches yelling at me, come to mind, trying to get me to try harder to straighten or pointen to showcase those mad skills I worked so hard on perfecting. But try as I might, the effort seemed futile. To compensate I had to out jump or out skill the rest (and boy could I tumble). Or I had to rely on my creativity to stand out in hopes of achieving my Olympic dreams.

My darn feet may of held me back, but my spirit didn't relent. I was  pushed to work on ingenuity and creativity in my life, not just for beauty. 

My works of art may not be the most breath-taking, but they are certainly creative. I remember making a pot in pottery class simply because the teacher told me the innovative technique I was using wouldn't hold up. In the end it wasn't so much beautiful, as it was skillful and unique.

I knew that my feet would never conform to point shoes, though I deeply longed to achieve such grace, agility and beauty. Instead, I focused on modern dance, and the pieces I created in my teens involved fighting aliens and lost aboriginals.

Instead of finding beauty in simplicity, my mantra growing up was complexity and creativity.

There is nothing wrong with creating beauty with the body. As a yoga teacher I put students into poses and sometimes I am blown away by the absolute beauty of it. The other day I was teaching purvottanasana, where your hands are on the ground and you lift your heart to the sky. I looked around the room and there was two of the most beautiful purvottanasana's I have ever seen. Like ever - not even in books or online.

Their hearts so high in the air, the beauty of the curve of their back, and, what got me, was the finishing touch of beautiful arch of their pointed toes. It was simply heavenly to look at. I may of even stopped mid-sentence just to marvel.

That is just it. I wouldn't of appreciated the beauty of a pointed toe as much if it came easily to me.

Better yet, is through yoga, I have actually learned to love my feet.

In fact, they are probably my favorite part about my body now. I have worked hard to correct the imbalances of my legs, the classic dancer-loving external rotation of the legs (think ballet dancer standing with first position, feet turned out). My ankles are now more balanced too. My toe point, well, it's maybe a touch better than it was. But it doesn't matter to me much anymore.

Now, I am so much more connected to my feet than I ever was while in the physical activities of my youth.

I have spent hours upon hours feeling my legs and feet as I walk, trying to correct my natural inclination to fly my toes out to the side.

Feet spread and planted
even while watching the little one
I've learned to bring the energy down to my feet, which gets me out of my head, and grounds my body and mind. I do this while in yoga, or though out my day.

I look at my feet and try to find space between my toes, and try to balance the inside and outside edges. I press my feet down and try to feel the connection with the earth, then try to feel the earth's energy rebounded up my legs and into the rest of my body.

This connection I have with my feet now is one of wholeness.

It is not a relationship based on external physical ability (or lack there-of), but a honored relationship where I can use my feet as a tool to create a more divine connection to my being.

I love to walk barefoot or in sandals, spreading my toes and feeling the earth - that eternal timeless earth - beneath my feet. From my feet I can connect more deeply to wherever I am, while also remembering who I am.

I now understand why they call the bottom of the foot, the "soul" of the foot.

That is why I now love and honor my feet.

As far as I have come, transforming my relationship with my feet from anger and hatred, to one of love, I still look at my children's feet and think: thank god you both don't have my feet!

What body part do you have a "complicated" relationship with? How have you found peace with it as you grow older?


  1. I love this post, I have the same memory of always squishing my toes under me while sitting. My dad always said stop, it makes you look nervous. Little did he know I was just self binding my feet. Now they still go to pointing so naturally that my friends make fun of them when I'm in a "relaxed" position and they are still pointing...

  2. Oh so beautiful...what a journey! There is so much on which I could comment - the struggle of perfection (at least someone else's idea of it), the pursuit of complexity and challenge, the creativity that emerged from all of that, the awareness and appreciation...

    But for now, I think I'll just smile, reflect, and say thank you. (Hope you are doing well!!)

  3. Admirable postures and the details of your sharing which is really impressive. Thank you.

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