Wednesday, September 12, 2012

All About Ashtanga: Day Two, "Pick Up Your Arches!"

"Our feet are our body's connection to the earth."
-Andrew Weil

My second day of MySore practice and in all of my yoga classes, this is the first time that I've ever had a teacher continually tell me to lift the arches of my feet until my flat footedness disappears, in way that he suggests could create permanent results.

When I was younger, my parents told me that because my feet were flat, there was no way that I could do gymnastics to get on the Olympic team. Never mind that becoming an athlete of this caliber would be hard in and of itself, but the adults in my life took away any sort of daydreaming possibilities before they even had a chance to manifest. "I may be able to play around with cartwheels here and there, but being a gymnast could never become a career," they would say. 

Eastern medicine believes that your physical ailments are symptomatic of something going on deeper inside, and if this is the case, then perhaps I have always been searching for some sort of lift in my life, a way to be grounded and to rise up all at once.

Some people have very minor arches, but my feet are like big flat saucers that hit the ground each time I walk. To exacerbate things, I have a minor bone that juts on each foot from where the arch should be, which makes wearing rigid footwear like ice skates very uncomfortable, as the bones will keep rubbing against the constraints normal feet would have no problems with. 

"Put your feet together, toes to touch, inner heels to touch," David instructed. 

I looked at him, and furrowed my brows. 

"I can't, my feet are flat," I said, dismayed.

"Do it, you can. Put your toes together and lift your arches. Get your calves to start working. The reason your feet are flat is because you are not using the muscles there," he suggested, as he gently and firmly adjusted my body to follow his instructions. "Rotate your thighs inward and upward. Start engaging your hips and your bandhas."

I did as I was told with a fair amount of discomfort. Then, I flowed through Surya Namaskar A followed by Surya Namaskar B. Again and again, David would point out when my arches were lifting, when I was letting them lie flat, and he would simply not take "no" for an answer from my body, when I thought I couldn't get the inlines of my feet to touch one another. 

After awhile, the discomfort gave way to acceptance, and I began to believe that what he said might become true. Perhaps through practice, I could indeed develop a bit of a lift beneath me, a bit more support all the way from my connection to the earth. 

By the end of practice, I walked away feeling like something fundamental had shifted, that suddenly, I could potentially do something I never thought I could. I went from thinking that a foundational part of my body would always be this way, even if I didn't like it, to understanding that perhaps everything could actually shift in beneficial and lasting ways. I began to turn the knob to a door of possibility that I thought was forever closed to me. 

At one point, David also asked, "You said you do Reiki, right?" 

I nodded, while sweating and breathing in Parsvakonasana

"Your hands are super hot, they're on fire right now!" he said, as he was adjusting the placement of my palm. "So much prana."

After the asana portion of the practice, we chanted both the invocation and the closing, so that I could learn from repetition. Then, David directed me into Savanasa. I briefly ruminated on the gentleman in front of me who was doing poses I could vaguely comprehend were physically possible, until I began to let go of expectation and find my connection to Source. 

Grateful for such a wonderful opportunity to expand and deepen my practice, I arrived in the present moment with a broader sense of what is and what may come. 

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