Sunday, February 8, 2009

Ode to Yoga Feet

“Forget not that the earth delights to feel your bare feet and the winds long to play with your hair.”
- Kahlil Gibran

Whatever part of your body is touching the earth: open to it perceptually. Tune into the sensations. Open the pathway into greater awareness. Very often, especially when you are walking somewhere, the parts touching the earth are your feet. Feel the feelings in your feet. If you are usually stuck in the head (as many of us are) it might seem like you are tuning into the perceptions from little Mars Exploration Rovers far away, meet your feet!

Footprints of the Buddha symbolize the embodiment of enlightened consciousness, reminding us that the ideal can be had, here on the earth. We can be kind here. We don’t have to be slaves to roiling bad karma. We can be a peaceful people.

In Iyengar Yoga, the first thing you learn to do is to stand. You learn to stand in different postures, called Standing Poses. And in order to build these poses well, you need to have a firm and well-articulated foundation. So you learn to use your feet, and to be self-aware in the feet. I had a student once comment that before learning yoga she just thought of her legs and feet as little stubs that she walked on, and was so grateful to have expanded her understanding. And this work of learning to use your feet helps as you learn all the poses in yoga. It helps the whole structure of your body to learn to cultivate healthy feet. (Which means that we have to get them out of shoes from time to time.)

Love your feet! (There, I said it.)

Your feet are your physical connection to this earth and this life. Without them we can certainly learn other ways of getting around, but be grateful while you have them! And use them well. Go to wonderful places and do good and helpful things. Love others.

Several months before my grandmother (Nana) died, my Mother was in the hospital recovering from surgery. From her hospital bed she shared with me that Nana was “not going to live too much longer.” It seemed really strange coming from her. She, herself, had just almost died. So I asked her how she knew that. And she said with a voice that was much stronger than the one she had been using, “Look at her feet!” And then with a lighter tone, “They don’t ever really touch the ground when she walks.” And she was right. After that I noticed how my Nana’s feet seemed light as air as they, almost playfully, moved her along, hardly acknowledging the firmness of earth.


Anonymous said...

I love standing poses, I like to think of toes as roots that bury themselves deep in the earth. Connecting me to the world, grounding me (and believe me I need plenty of that!), and giving me a solid foundation.

Interesting comments your mum made about your nan. I've never heard anyone say such a thing before but I guess, yeah, that's true...

Anonymous said...

I've been barefoot as much as I can possibly get away with since long before I found yoga, at times taking it to the ridiculous extreme of walking around rock concert parking lots without shoes on--fortunately, the calluses on the bottoms of my feet were thick enough that the broken glass I stepped on didn't do any real harm. So, nowadays, it's been great to find, as in so many other ways, that yoga confirms what always seemed natural (though, fortunately, I've also gotten a bit more sensible in finding balance...).

RB said...

It's funny this is your post today. Last night in class we were working on leg foundation and my teacher pointed out that my right foot wasn't completely straight. It amazes me how much a post change when we get all four corners of our feet on the floor--and it's something that can worked at continually too. You can never have too much grounding/foundation. And the more foundation you build, the more everything seems to open up beautifully.

Unknown said...

Good post. Such and important aspect of yoga and life that we can sometimes ignore. I love the personal touch of your grandmothers story. Thanks for sharing