Rolfing homework: Thinking about those feet

Around Monday or so, I was feeling a bit down about the Rolfing I’m going through; not because of our Rolfer, but I felt like I was failing my homework assignment: to pay attention to my feet.

The last couple of days have been a marked improvement. My walk may be slightly less lumbering (although I’m about to walk a mile or so to dinner, and we’ll see how that goes). But it is especially in the asana practice that I’ve noticed changes.

I’m not going to call them improvements. Not yet, anyway. But my feet and balance feel different, especially in two poses: Utthita Hasta Padangusthasana and Paschimottanasana.

Maybe a few of these impressions will prove helpful to someone:

  • Utthita really shows you which muscles you’re using and aren’t. My Rolfing problem is I’m on my heel and on the outside of my feet when I stand, walk, live. In Utthita, when I begin to lose my balance, it seems always to be a tipping outward; my inward rotating muscles, which I’ve been told aren’t the strong side, aren’t. I have to really focus on it and get that foot planted.
  • For me, as new agey as this might sound, visualization seems to work wonders. Utthita really provides this — I can conjure up the image / feeling of being on one foot and how and when I tip, tilt, wobble or just plain am not on the foot correctly.
  • The funniest thing about Paschimottanasana is that it provides an opportunity to feel my feet are looser. On Tuesday, as I pulled back on the sides of my feet, they … well, they moved more than I remembered. So all the breaking up of my tight feet parts seems to be working. It’s also just weird, to feel your feet sort of spread out. OK, maybe that’s just weird for me.
  • Paschimottanasana also is the pose where I “cycle” my feet the most; it’s a horizontal expression of my natural walk and stance. And so it is a chance to touch base on how my alignment is.

I’ve also been thinking about what one of our regular commenters wrote on an earlier Rolfing post. Michelle wrote:

You may notice that there is a subtle connection between mula bandha and a spot near the base of the big toe – Nancy Gilgoff said there’s an energy point there – a marma point – that is vital to connect to with the fingers; it helps your body open during the practice. (Hence all the big-toe grabbing with two fingers?!)

I’ve found that when I press out through the base of the big toe in postures – not just simply flexing the feet but actively “Flointing” (flexing and pointing) the foot, as my teacher Christine Hoar likes to call it – you engage mula bandha better, too. A good place to try this is in uttitha hasta padangustasana – “floint” the extended foot (flex then point, pushing out through the big toe ball, so that it looks like a Barbie foot – I can’t remember how Ken’s feet look, sorry.) Try this and and sense how the inner leg along the calf up through the inner thigh all the way to mula bandha gets more engaged, activated.

That’s proven very helpful as I’ve been practicing, and so I wanted to publicly say, “Thanks.” It is things I’ve heard, in various ways and at different times, but she timed it so well — and put it so succinctly — that it’s been invaluable these past few days. Although I’ll admit that “flointing” sounds like something I might have heard on “Sex and the City” or, to be a bit more current, “Girls.” (Not that there’s anything wrong with that, to mix my TV show metaphors.)

Posted by Steve

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Two Ashtangis write about their practice and their teachers.

5 thoughts on “Rolfing homework: Thinking about those feet”

    1. Yes, I double the thanks – it was the focus of my class the day of the post!!! I love when things you discover on the mat are not only confirmed but expanded upon by others!!! I always said we are working with that big toe grounding point in yogi toe grip – what a treat that it was even deeper than that!! Beryl Bender Birch’s 10 guidelines for practice begins with “#1 Balance the weight evenly on both feet for all postures” – not the breath(which are the next 3 – then one more on feet – so half of the guidelines are feet and, of course, breath). Thank you Michelle – can you tell us which Marma we are working with? Kpshira? Can’t find my detailed ayurvedic charts!

  1. A funny thing happened to me while practicing yoga a couple years back…funny, assuming you like spending a couple hundred (4-5 to be exact) on shoes. So, the majority of wildland firefighters wear boots made by one of two companies, either Nick’s or White’s in Washington. I had pairs of both and loved them. They make boots for other occasions as well, but they are a Hotshot standard.

    Anyway, I bought a new pair of White’s when I started working for the Bitterroot. They ran me just under $500. The cool thing about these boots is that you can get a re-sole each year, so a pair of boots can last you a long time. They are kind of an investment.

    So, at the start of the ’07 season, I go to put on my year old White’s and guess what…to small. Too narrow to be specific. It seems that all the yoga I did in the off season had resulted in my feet spreading and so I had to go buy a new pair…same size, just different width.

    As if this wasn’t bad enough, the exact same thing happened at the beginning of the ’08 season. At that point, all I could do was laugh and thank yoga for so kindly creating a new body for me each year.

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