When we are excited, uplifted and just feeling good – there is a spring in our step, there is lightness and grace in our movement. The opposite is true – when we are down and blue, when things weigh us down – we walk heavy, step heavy, drag our feet. Our emotions influence our body. And this emotion/ body relationship goes both ways. This means that when you bring a spring to your step – you will feel better emotionally. The spring in your step allows you to bounce lightly, as opposed to sink heavily.
The “springs” in our body are called arches of the foot. We have 3 arches in each foot. They allow us to walk, jump and run. The most familiar arch is following the line of the inner foot, from the heel to the big toe mound. The second arch is at the line of the outer edge of the foot, from the outer heel to the baby toe mound. And the third arch connects the other two across the metatarsals or the top of the foot.
When our arches are collapsed, as is the condition of flat feet, it is hard to find the bounce in our step. Arches are considered to be the strongest architectural detail, as is evident from the ancient ruins, where the only thing that remains standing is the arch, while the rest of the building disintegrated.
Most long bridges hold the shape of the arch, due to its strength. The 3 arches in our feet help support our body weight, which, due to gravity, is constantly pressing down.
In our yoga practice we lift the arches of the feet, and that action energizes and engages the legs. It is achieved by lifting all toes and spreading them. Not an easy thing to do at first. You can test your ability to lift the arches by standing barefoot, lifting the toes, therefore pulling the arches up – and then inserting a pencil from medial (inside) arch and pulling it out from lateral (outside) side. If the pencil comes through easily, your arches are lifted, but if the pencil gets stuck under your foot – most likely your outer edge, then you know that your lateral arch is a little low. Lifting the arches takes practice.
There are many different conditions in the shape of the arches in the feet: normal, high or flat. These create the shape of your foot and where the weight of your body presses down the most. Your feet may be pronated (leaning towards the outer edge) or supinated (leaning towards the inner edge). This in turn affects your ankle’s position, which then influences your knees and your hips. Understanding the arches allows you to purposefully lift them, so that you find the optimal positioning of your foot and body.
Next time we will discuss the yogic view of body/mind/emotion connection a little further.