What’s your weak spot? Mine is my feet and ankles. They are almost never perfectly happy. I am constantly searching for that magical, elusive shoe that will 1) cushion my flat feet; 2) be gentle enough to avoid giving me blisters, and 3) be sturdy and supportive enough so I don’t twist, turn or sprain an ankle.
So imagine my surprise and pleasure to see that my local studio, Artemis in Watertown, MA, was holding an event called Functional Body Workshop: The Feet! Sign me up now!
The workshop was part information session and part foot/leg workout. We started with a cool exercise that added an arts-and-crafts element: we were supposed to pair up and draw an outline of our partner’s feet on a piece of paper. Here’s mine:
Then, we were asked to stand on our yoga mats for a bit, eyes closed, attending to what our bodies felt like, focusing on the feet. We were asked to annotate our foot drawing with that information. I noted the following on mine:
- both feet pronate inward
- some pressure on left heel
- more stability on right foot
- more pressure on left foot
- some leg and lower back stiffness
Then we went to work: The teacher, Carly Vernon, who does integrative muscular therapy, handed us each a woolen ball (squishier than a tennis ball), and we proceeded to use it for various forms of deep massage. We used our body weight and moved the ball around to work areas of our legs, ankles and feet. We massaged and rubbed our toes.
Some of these exercises, well, uh, they hurt. A good bit. When asked about pain, Carly said, “when you experience pain during these exercises, double down on it. Let yourself get inside it. Don’t back off.” Uh, okay. It was pretty interesting to play around with intensity while doing these exercises. We worked all the way from our IT bands above the knee to the knee area, down the calf (front and back) and focusing a lot on the foot and ankle.
After about 75 minutes of intermittent exercises (with breaks), I tried a couple of yoga poses. I often have trouble with balance in some of the warrior poses, like this one:
What happens sometimes is that my feet will start to cramp, as I’m holding them tightly for balance. Well, I tried several warrior variations, and they felt great. It was a totally different experience. Wow.
Before we ended, we were asked to stand on our yoga mats again, eyes closed, paying attention to our bodies in general (and feet in particular). Were there any differences?
You betcha. Here’s my feet picture showing in green my before-exercise comments and in red my after-exercise comments:
So what changed?
- less inward pronation
- a shift in the areas and degree of tenderness in my left foot
- overall more even distribution of weight on both feet
- no more feeling of pressure on left foot
- no more leg or lower back stiffness
Of course, none of this is a miracle (although I’m very grateful for Carly’s expertise and help at the workshop). It’s the result of concerted attention to my feet. If I want my feet to feel great, I will have to attend more to them. Sigh. One wishes that feeling great in parts of one’s body required less work. But knowledge is power, and I now have some easy-to-do exercises (and a nice orange woolen ball as a takeaway gift) that I can (and should) do anytime. They do a lot for me– it’s the least I can do for them.