I went into tonight’s class inspired to get everyone rooting down into their feet to feel how expansive and light they can be…with a strong foundation. I’m not sure the message got across. Maybe it was the heavy after-rain air or maybe it was Monday blues or something else entirely, but class was a little distracted tonight, and that was my first time as a teacher dealing with that level of distraction (that’s for another post: how to respond to what you see reflected back from your students).
So in the spirit of trying again to see if I am more integrated in the lesson the 2nd time around, I am going to attempt teaching active feet here in this blog, albeit in a far less concrete way. See, the feet, when spread, become like energetic little straws, drawing energy into the body and also sending it OUT from the body in a very radiant, directed way. It’s easy to talk about the feet and structurally how they are our foundation and our roots, etc., but experiencing the feet energetically is different.
Although I love the anatomy lesson about the feet, what I really tried to get across in tonight’s class is the energetic component of the feet. Energetically, they can be these expressive, playful things that do a lot more than hold up our bodies.
Try standing in tadasana and lifting all ten toes, spreading them, and then putting them back down on the mat. Take your time. Lift your toes. Breathe. Spread your toes actively and consciously, moving the pinky toe as far away from the big toe as you can. Breathe. Keep your toes lifted! Feel the air circulate in between the toes. Feel the webbing between the toes stretch. Feel the ball of the foot rooting into the ground with a distinct energetic signature and feel the energy vibrating out of each lifted, stretched, expressed toe. Breathe. Now slowly and with awareness, lower the toes, while keeping them spread!, back to the mat. Feel the difference between standing with un-expressed feet, and standing on expressed feet. Feel more connected, more grounded? Maybe feel the minor chakras in the soles of the feet? Do you feel your heart center bounce up as the arches of your feet open? These, and still other!, sensations are the result of active feet.
You can spread the bones in the toes by threading your fingers in between the toes. Try it now. Thread your index finger between the big toe and second toe and keep working until you get all your fingers in there. Not easy, right? Shows you how habitually “closed” we tend to be with our feet. If you think about your feet and the chakras in your feet the same way you do about your heart chakra, you wouldn’t want to walk around with a collapsed, habitually closed 4th chakra, would you? But we almost never think about our feet being “open.” Those Yoga Toes sandals sold in the back pages of Yoga Journal do exactly the same thing as spreading your fingers between your toes does: it creates space in the bones of the feet. Spread your fingers into your toes daily and bunions, hammertoes and other foot foibles will stay away.
In your yoga practice, try active feet. Make a conscious choice to EXPRESS through your feet. Ground down to rise up. In asymmetrical standing poses, like tree, spread your toes and feel the base of the foot widen and become softer. Let that wide, soft base support you. Feel every wobble and bobble as you continuously readjust for balance. In asymmetrical standing poses where you lengthen one leg, like bird of paradise, try spreading through the toes and imagine each toe like a laser beam of energy, coming from your deeply rooted core through your strongly aligned leg, and I guarantee you your standing pose will be brighter, sparklier, and your experience of the asana will move from one of effort to one of expressed joy and radiance.
Since reading Ana Forrest’s book Fierce Medicine, where I was formally introduced to the phrase “active feet,” this has become a de facto part of my practice. I almost can’t imagine forgetting my feet when everything else in the pose is considered, yet think back to how you practice. How often do you let your back foot in Warrior 1 or 2 slouch or just get kind of lazy? How about in forward folds, do you forget or stop flexing your feet and just let your thigh bones yawn open? Or how about in complex arm balances like Eka Pada Galavasana? Does expressing through your toes help you lift your leg? Does it create a sensation of lightness? I have experienced the difference in all these poses by activating my feet and not stopping my asana at the ankle, but being aware of every small detail, down to my sparkly toes.
The simplest and most direct way to experience active, spread feet is in tadasana. Lift all ten toes, breathe, spread them out, breathe, spread them out some more, breathe, now slowly lower your toes back to the mat, breathe, feel the energy rebounding from the sole of your active feet up your legs and into your heart center, creating a more lifted, more connected tadasana. I’d love to hear any feedback on how active feet has made a difference in your practice.
If you have any questions or comments, I’d love to hear from you. And keep those toes sparkly! Namaste.