George Russell, D.C.
Everybody: On Your Feet!
How can we be “quick on our feet” – and ready to turn on a dime – without experiencing ourselves as unstable or “tipsy”?Conversely, how can we maintain a solid foundation without feeling that we have “feet of clay”?
You: “Dr. Russell, now you’ve gone too far! Surely it can’t be possible to be both fleet-footed and grounded?” Me: “Why ________ [insert your name here], not only is it possible, it’s necessary, and You, ________, can do it!”
If you’re like most people, you’ve probably been wondering why nobody cheerleads in outer space. The answer is that there is nothing to push off. The only reason you can stand up, let alone jump, is that you have a planet to press against. That’s why Irene Dowd, one of the most influential teachers I’ve had, entitled her classic text on functional anatomy “Taking Root To Fly.” When you have a solid connection to the ground, you can move around in space with control, and even leave the surface of the planet for brief periods. In most activities, your feet and ankles are the point of contact with the earth, and that’s why you have to keep them happy, healthy and strong.
Dancers understand the importance of knowing at all times just where their feet are – even when their feet are off the ground. In mid-leap, the dancer’s concern is not so much “Where will I land?” but “How will I land?” Answer: squarely on the sole of one foot, with the other foot in energetic form.
The rest of us can borrow some of the dancer’s attentiveness to the foot.
Try this: When you feel anxious, ungrounded, ask yourself, “where are my feet?” Not only will the absurdity of this question interrupt your stream of stressful thinking – and this in itself is an improvement – but, by placing your attention to your feet, you will start to feel a return of stability and a decrease of distress.
Try this: When you feel tired, get out your feet. Put one bare foot down on the floor and trace its edges with your finger. Then lift that foot, and with your hands, and gently slap and pat, and rub and bend and fold that foot in all the ways it can be bent and folded. (Warning: Stop if you find you’ve made an origami crane!) Repeat with other foot.
Try this, too: Stand tall. Root the balls of your feet and your heels into the floor, while lifting and spreading your toes, and lifting your arches as well. Then allow the toes to rest on the floor, while keeping the arches high. Feel the “four corners” of your foot: the big toe, the little toe, and the two sides of the heel. Keep the arches lifted! Now bring your feet together and feel the “suction cup” that the two feet and their arches combined form on the floor (This is one of Irene Dowd’s images). Imagine that you are drawing strength and energy up from the ground through the suction cup. Repeat.
Feeling ambitious? You are, aren’t you? Lie down on the floor one foot less than a leg’s length away from the wall. Press the soles of your feet firmly into the wall but don’t allow your body to just slide away. Really press, until finally, against resistance, your legs straighten. (For even more fun, lie on a mat or something with friction so that it’s harder to slide back and you get to press more.) By doing this, you will increase your awareness of what you do all day long when standing and walking and dancing: you press against the floor, in opposition to gravity. In depression and fatigue, we all tend to diminish the pressure we exert against the earth, which in turn diminishes our height and power. As you lie on the floor, really press your soles into the wall and feel your spine lengthen!
“Security is mostly a superstition. It does not exist in nature, nor do the children of men as a whole experience it. Avoiding danger is no safer in the long run than outright exposure. Life is either a daring adventure, or nothing.” – Helen Keller