By Paulette Dolin, GCFPCM
There’s a reason I start many of my Feldenkrais classes with people finding their footprint on the floor. In standing upright, our feet bear the weight and balance us. It’s easy to forget about them once we put shoes on unless our feet hurt. When we’re sitting, particularly if our feet are below a chair, desk or table, it seems we don’t need them until we’re ready to get up.
How aware are you of your feet, as you read this? How are they oriented? Are your toes wiggling easily? Are they supporting you? How about your ankles? Where does your foot end and your ankle start, and how do they connect and communicate with your knee? These are the questions I didn’t ask myself before I started my Feldenkrais journey. Now I ask my students these questions frequently, knowing the importance of improving their relationship with the feet.
My story with the feet is very personal. There’s a reason why the Awareness Through Movement lesson I chose to teach for the practicum during my Feldenkrais training involved feet. In elementary school I enjoyed doing ballet, tap and folk dancing and playing sports. At some point, I was told I had fallen arches and needed corrective P.E. Since my dad had flat feet, I thought it was hereditary. The exercises they had me doing felt horrible and I couldn’t do them or wouldn’t do them because they hurt. Later, while in college, I broke my foot, which caused problems for my knee when I wore tennis shoes or other flat shoes. During my Feldenkrais training I discovered the ball of my foot and experienced “pointing” my toes without straining them and soon my arches weren’t fallen anymore and my knee stopped buckling and hurting. My image of myself changed, and so did the way in which I used my feet and legs. And I could finally wear any shoes I chose.
The shoes we wear are very important. What is your shoe of choice in your daily life? Do your feet accommodate your shoes, or your shoes accommodate your feet? Could you walk a mile in your shoes, or would you be dying to take them off? How does your sole interact with the bed of your shoe and the surface below? What surfaces do you walk on most of the time? How often are you barefoot to directly interact with carpet, pepples, grass, sand, tile or wood? Some people are afraid to walk on sand or uneven surfaces because of balance issues or injuries. The world around us is mostly flat and it is important to expose our feet to uneven surfaces.
The Feldenkrais Method® can be a playground for exploring your feet and their connections to other parts of self. Just watch babies play with their toes and you can make the connection to the developmental movements you did as you prepared for locomotion. Awareness Through Movement lessons provide opportunities to safely explore and increase confidence step by step so your feet can be ready for action, and also for rest. There are even lessons for foot eye coordination! We want our feet to take us wherever we want to go, be comfortable on any surface, and respond quickly to any challenge.
Whether your image of your feet is based on past injury, performance, what you’ve been told about your feet, or how you view fashion and footwear, the Feldenkrais Method will have you experiencing your feet in new and surprising ways, so your feet will be happier at the end of the day. They will no longer be forgotten, except maybe because they won’t be hurting, and if they are you’ll have strategies for moving out of pain. Simply start where you are, find your unique footprints and notice how they change from getting up in the morning even before they touch ground, then throughout your day until you lay them to rest. That continued awareness of your feet will be a beginning of transforming your feet and their relationship to your whole self.