Balance Part I – The Foot
By Tim Feldmann
The foot: a double dome like shape arching from back-to-front and from side-to-side. The foot: a triangle, wide at the front and narrow at the back. The leg: connecting down into the foot like a pillar through the ankle which intercepts at the peak of the two domes combined.
Standing on your two feet takes close to no effort. Balancing, nevertheless, whether on two or one foot is an entirely different ballgame. Balancing is an action and requires your attention, awareness and activation. An actively engaged foot, connected up through a released, yet firm leg, preferably straight with the knee cap and Vastus Medialis activated, placed well into the pelvis through the hip joint, is the foundation for a balanced posture.
The two most common misconceptions of balancing I have met as a dance- and yoga teacher are: 1/ grabbing the floor tightly with all toes. 2/ thinking of and using the foot as a long, narrow line. these two concepts, alone or combined, will establish the worst foundation for your balance, making sure that you will NEVER experience the floor as a solid rock beneath your firm feet! So, if you have problems staying on top of your legs in the standing asanas, let’s try something different. To find firm balance you need a two tools: A – My foot is a triangle. B – The floor is my friend.
A – My foot is a triangle
To balance well on your foot think this: my foot is a triangle – one point is the heel, one point is the ball of the little toe and one point is the ball of the big toe. use the front two points of the triangle to balance side-to-side and use the two front points in combination with the heel point to balance front-to-back. At all times possible, keep the heel in the ground and the two front balls too. Make sure that you add in the big toe, firmly planted into the ground together with the ball of the big toe. ALL OTHER TOES are to be relaxed and kept in a non-grabbing fashion, as grabbing the floor with your toes compromises the natural anatomical and energetic pattern of the foot (the dome shape), with the direct effect of destabilizing your foot’s natural connection with the ground beneath it. Every time you find yourself loosing or falling to one side of your foot, put your focus into reclaiming the floor with your whole foot, sort of like as if the soul of your foot is an octopus’ suction cups. As much as you might feel that grabbing onto the floor for life with your toes will keep your body afloat on top of the floor, it will have the exact opposite effect and keep you at firm range AWAY from balancing at all!
B – The floor is my friend
The floor comes up to meet you. Yes! it actually does. It comes up to meet and support you just in the same way as you extend down through your leg to meet the floor. Remember science class: “for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction”. It is about gravity. On a physical level two objects attract each other and the same rule is in place between your foot and the floor below. So, realize that the action that you put into thrusting into the ground will be matched by the forces below (I’m not talking about hell and the devil!). In this way your standing becomes a dynamic interaction rather than trying to grab onto a flat floor. It is a different concept, a different mindset, think about it.
Ok, let’s try this: stand on your two legs with closed eyes. Bring your focus to the souls of your feet. Relax the souls of your feet into the surface of the floor. ‘Listen’ with the senses of your skin to the sensations that you receive from the floor (hot, cold, slippery, rough, heavy or light pressure from your body, etc.). Find your weight of your body distributed evenly and central over your whole foot. Now, shift your weight to only one foot (the other foot is now of the floor) and find your weight evenly distributed over this whole foot. Begin shifting your weight slowly from front-to-back, back-to-front a few times, every time going through the middle of your foot and recognizing the three different places’ slightly different sensations (this is the physical memory that you will be calling upon later in your asana practise). Now, re-find your weight in the center of your foot and begin shifting your balance from side-to-side (notice that this is a much smaller movement range than front-to-back). Finally re-find your weight in the center of your foot, relax, and shift to the other foot maintaining a constant focus on the contact surface between your feet and the floor. When you have completed this exercise on both feet, try to apply it to a standing asana of your choice to compare the effect to your usual ability to balance.
There is much more to be said about the foot and its relation to balancing the body in space. There are related information of the connection to the hip, sitbones, spine, head, etc. I can’t cover it all here as it is most often needs a look at your individual pattern. Also, there are other approaches taught by other knowledgeable teachers. This is simply one approach built on my experience mostly from being and teaching contemporary dance, where balance takes on a much more challenging form. Central to you finding your balance is that you have a fundamental understanding of the anatomical and energetic structure of your foot and the work it has to do. A healthy attitude to your immediate surroundings, in this case the floor, is vital too. How to lock the rest of your body and the actions/asanas that you choose to perform into this information, is addressed in the article “the body and balance”. If you follow the simple directions as I’ve laid them out, I promise you a significant improvement in your ability to balance well.
Enjoy your practise, Tim
Author: Tim Feldmann
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