As a person born with a club foot and having received corrective surgery as a baby, my feet have always been a sensitive spot for me. The way I learned to use my body as a child was a way to protect myself from pain and from movements that felt impossible to do. As a result, these habits of use developed into a very particular way of movement that brought me into decades of chronic pain. It has not been all bad. The pain brought me into yoga and stretching of very tight muscles. That in turn, brought me into the Alexander Technique and a deeper understanding of what it is I do that increases the tightness of those muscles.
The Alexander Technique does not deal directly with a single part of the body. A teacher will always work with the body as a whole, and that will have an effect on a specific part in an indirect manner. In short, one could say that for an Alexander Technique teacher, “Feet are never just feet. Feet are a reflection of the whole body.”
So these past three years of intense Alexander Technique have changed my whole body and the way I use it. As a result of these changes, three indirect changes have also occurred at my feet.
My foot grew a size.
Well, I guess it didn’t grow like kids’ feet grow .. but it must have released to fill its true size, because I no longer shop for size 41! I am assuming that I have had a lot of tension in my feet and that has been scrunching them up to a shorter size. At the beginning I thought that this was only me, but then one day when we were talking in class I realized that this has happened to half of the trainees in my course!
Fortunately I am the kind of person who only owns two pair of shoes, and this change did not mean a massive investment into my wardrobe!
Good bye insoles.
As you might imagine, being someone with my kind of history has made me always dependent on medical custom made insoles. Furthermore, after my club foot leg was lengthened it never reached the full length of the other leg. Doctors have told me different kinds of measurements from 1.5 to 2.5 centimeters difference…. apparently enough to create back pain.
I remember talking about insoles during one of our breaks in my first months of training. My teacher was being very cautious about staying completely neutral on the subject of insoles. Other trainees were saying negative comments about insoles… comments I have heard before, such as “Insoles make the feet lazy”. I felt the need to be protective over my insoles and responded loudly how my insoles have reduced my pain (something I still do believe). Inside me, there was turmoil. And somewhere, a little bit of hope. Could it be that I could get rid of them one day? Could it be that the way I walk changes so much that I do not need custom made insoles and shoes?
And then corona happened. Waiting at the doctor’s office for a new prescription of insoles felt reckless. Going to shops to buy new shoes and bringing them to another shop to change their height really did not feel like a high priority when we were isolating and living through a lock down. And so slowly, remembering the conversation I had at the beginning of my course… they left my life. At the beginning, there was pain and confusion in my body. But within two months, I was so surprised to find there was no more pain and that I could do without them. I have now been over a year without insoles. Something I never thought would be possible. And yet!
The way my shoes wear out is different.
In the past, the soles of the shoes I had would wear out quickly. The wear out was uneven. The outer edge of the sole was more worn out than the inner edge, causing a diagonal slant. This would happen within the first four months of having a new pair of shoes. What this means is that I would put more pressure on the outer edge of my feet when I walked, wearing the sole out unevenly.
But this too has changed! I bought new shoes and have been wearing them now for nearly a year. It makes me so happy to look at the soles and still see that they are evenly worn out. No more diagonal slants. My walking has changed. Where I put the pressure is different. And my shoes are proof.
About the Author:
Pinelopi is in her 3rd year of the Alexander Technique teacher training course, studying with Jorg Asshof in Berlin. She is now taking on Alexander Technique tester students. She is working at half price (25€) until she graduates in the spring of 2023.
Pinelopi completed a 600 hour Hatha Yoga Teacher and Vedantic Philosophy Training course over a period of two years in Valencia, Spain. For over a decade, she has worked as a full-time yoga teacher in Spain and in 2010 she founded English Yoga Berlin. She then studied Yoga Anatomy with Leslie Kaminoff; and“Injury-free yoga” applying the Alexander Technique postural alignment to all yoga poses with David Moore .Her workshops and retreats are inspired by Tara Brach‘s teachings.