The feet are often overlooked and ignored until something goes wrong – but really they deserve more appreciation. Where would you be without them? They carry us around from day to day, provide our support as we go about our business, and are our connection to the earth. One of our first ways we begin to understand our notion of ourselves as individual beings in when we begin to walk, and have our own independence. The way we contact the earth through our feet (could be viewed as a metaphor for) says a great deal about how we live our lives and relate to others.
Look at your feet. Do your toes all clump together? Do they lack independence? Begin to separate the toes – gently stretch the skin between the toes, push your fingers between them. This not only moves them apart, it also stimulates the sensory connections around the toes and helps to wake your feet up, to sensitise them.
See how much movement you have around your heel (Calcaneus). Pull your heel backwards, and notice whether the heel bone itself will move in relation to the other bones of the midfoot. Then massage the sole of your foot – press gently into it, and rub along the length of your foot. This all helps to wake up your feet. Pull your toes backwards, towards your ankle. If you have enlarged big toe joints (bunions), pay particular attention to the big toe – stretch it away from the other toes, and turn it, so that the nail faces upwards rather than twisting towards the other toes.
When you’ve finished all this, and your feet feel more alive and ready for action, gently begin to stretch them. Come onto all fours, tuck the toes of one foot under, and gradually scrape that foot back and away from you, stretching the toes, the sole of the foot and eventually creating more length in the ankle and Achilles tendon.
When you’ve done that, tuck your toes under and stretch the front of the ankle and the foot – apparently the front of the ankle often becomes tight and restricted, particularly as we get older, and is a contributing factor in falls. This area is related to our reflex reactions, and when tight, reduces our proprioception which leads to a lack of balance and potentially falls. So keep those ankles soft and supple.
Then stand up. Find a step, or create one with a couple of foam blocks or a large heavy book. Lean them against a wall. Place your toes at the top, and gradually, sink the ball of your foot down to the floor, until your toes are bent up, and the rest of the foot is on the floor. Give all your weight to this leg. If possible, now begin to gently bend your knee. This may create a strong stretch through your ankle, calf, Achilles or sole of the foot. Softly bend and straighten a few times, being careful not to collapse the inner arch of your foot to the floor.
When you’ve done both legs, take a short walk around the room, just noticing any differences in your feet. They may feel more awake, and more sensitive. You may notice that the soles of your feet are more interested in the various textures of the floor, and that you potentially feel more grounded.