Friday, April 3, 2009

Footsie

I'm going to teach my way through the body over the next month or two, focusing on a different part of the body each week.  Starting from the bottom, I'm exploring feet this week.

This theme was inspired, in part, by an article by Maty Ezraty in the latest Yoga Journal. Writing about the feet in Warrior 3, she cues "Ground deeply down into the big-toe mound, the outer edge of the left foot, and the inner heel."  Seems simple enough.  What struck me was her reference to the "outer edge" of the foot, rather than the outer "corners" of the foot.  

I was trained at Kripalu to use a "4 point" model of the foot, compared to a car resting evenly on all four tires.  In my own experience, I found a "3 point" model more accessible: heel, big toe base, little toe base.  That's what I've been teaching for years.  But it's never felt totally settled to me - I knew there was more to discover about the foot foundation.

Something clicked when I read Maty Ezraty's cue of "outer edge".  When I stand with awareness not just of points, but an entire edge of fleshy contact, suddenly the pose feels totally different.  I feel more relaxed, more effortlessly grounded, more stable.  It feels more aligned with reality.  After all, the foot isn't just a set of points.

I find it fascinating that a shift in language (and by extension, one's mental model of the body) can have such a immediate affect on physical experience.  This is the whole premise of Body Mapping, an extension of the Alexander technique that uses anatomy education to change movement patterns.  It's also a strong argument for yoga teachers to cultivate a rich vocabulary and employ it with care.  

I intend to write more on the subject of yoga linguistics in the future.

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