Victoria Jackson appreciates the wonder of feet
I think I’m developing a thing for feet! Not my feet in particular, just feet in general. I’m thinking about feet a lot at the moment. Partly it might be inspired by my thoughts turning to sandals and summer pedicures and I’ve been marvelling at a friend returning from holidays with beautifully hennaed feet. But my interest is definitely more than skin deep and I’m starting to get an appreciation for the wonder of our feet and the thankless work they do day in day out. They get us from A to B and often endure lots of standing up and bearing our full weight, all the while being crammed into a variety of shoe shapes and heights.
I remember my first yoga teacher telling me very early on that I’d never have a strong yoga practice if I didn’t work on my feet. I didn’t know how to take this. I was ready to imagine I could improve spinal flexibility or the openness of my hips. This sounded like proper yogic work. But strengthening my feet? That didn’t sound so interesting. Years later, I’ve caught up with this idea (I am obviously a slow student!) and I am starting to realise how every yoga pose is only as good as its foundations, which more often than not is the feet.
Now that I am teaching others, I realise that you can tell a lot about someone from their feet. A bit like Sherlock Holmes famously identifying a man’s profession from examining his left thumb, you can easily spot a newcomer by looking at their feet, often hidden away in sports socks. I guess it takes time to learn to love your feet and early on it’s easy to be shy about showing your tootsies in public! Seasoned practitioners have no such worries and their feet are so obviously strong. You can see this in the lift of the arch, the spread of the toes and the energetic quality of their feet even when standing still. In my early yoga days I used to marvel at feet like these, wondering if some people were born with stronger feet than me. Now I know they are simply feet that have seen many hours of practice.
These days I treat my feet with a bit of respect and love. In the office I often discreetly roll my feet over a tennis ball under my desk, and I’m found wearing minimal ‘barefoot’ shoes more often than high heels. Vajrāsana has become one of my favourite yoga poses; it wakes up tired feet like nothing else, stretching out the sole and enlivening all the toes. The Sanskrit name literally translates as Thunderbolt Pose referring to the weapon wielded by Indra, the god of rain and thunder; it’s also known in English as Broken Toe Pose — but don’t let that put you off trying it and seeing if it gives your feet a treat. !
Victoria Jackson lives and practices in Oxford. She is registered with Yoga Alliance as a vinyasa yoga teacher.