On May 6th and 7th, a glorious weekend weather-wise and other-wise in Dublin, 13 eager learners gathered to discover something new about how their feet and legs could best carry them forwards (or backwards) in their daily adventures in moving, and therefore living well. I was among them, and couldn't help feeling very fortunate to be guided in learning by Günther Bisges again, a teacher with a considerable wealth of experience under his belt, not to mention his lyrical way of languaging lessons and his enthusiasm for all things anatomical.
The sun was streaming generously into the room as each of us, in turn, shared something of what brought us to exchange our weekend's shenanigans for quiet and slow explorations of how we, as embodied selves, choose to move around our worlds. Some, teachers of movement by trade, shared the desire to come back to being present with their own movement and learning process. Other's were lured by the workshop's title: Under-standing Legs: a workshop with the aim of exploring the interdependence of the legs and pelvis in connection with the trunk and spine. All of us were curious, a primary ingredient of any learning endeavour.
We began in standing, with a simple inquiry that you can join in too, shifting weight from one foot to the other, swaying from side to side, keeping the head suspended and free at the top of your spine, so that one leg has less load, the other has more, and visa versa. No need to unpeel a heel or a whole foot, stay small enough to only slightly unburden one side of yourself, as you ask the other side (and leg) to support you. As you do this, as we did this, one thing becomes astonishingly clear. One of your legs under-stands you better than the other! With one leg, the giving up weight to the earth and the corresponding rebound upwards, the uplifting, is clearer. With one foot, the spread of contact covers more ground. Something about this leg feels more stable, definite, reliable. Don't be alarmed, most of us have a dominant leg as well as a dominant hand. Don't be alarmed because with just a little awareness through movement, you can begin to share, more equally, the under-standing that both your legs are doing for you.
Maybe you know that feet can be just as prehensile as hands? They too can be articulate grabbers, reachers, pushers, gesticulators. After all, feet have 26 bones (28 if you include sesamoid bones), 33 joints and more than a hundred muscles and ligaments combined. That's a lot of movement potential! One way to wake up your feet (and your self) to this movement potential is to help your feet become sense-able. You can do this through touch, by taking a foot in hand, stroking or stretching out each toe, turning it, twirling it, helping it fold. You can feel then for the bones further in, finding out how easily they respond to your gentle inquisitive touch, how acquiescent they are to your tactile prompts for movement . If you're curious, you can take an anatomy atlas, checking to see if you can find all of the bones for your foot for yourself. You can name them: "cuboid, navicular, lateral cuneiform" etc..., or you can give them your own names: "Fred Astaire, Hairy Ginger, Twinkle toe or Billy the bulger (my name for my strangely shaped left little toe). If it makes it more fun, it really can't hurt.
Once you've made your foot more sense-able, that's a good time to begin moving, and as you are moving, that is a good time to pay attention to how you move, asking yourself and answering with a kinesthetic truth: "can I make this movement with more ease, can I find a pathway that clearly connects me to the ground and to myself" One of the movements we explored on the workshop was a simple inch worm with the foot, moving the foot forwards and backwards through a contraction of the muscles on the sole of the foot, as if you were going to pick something up off the floor by drawing the ball of the foot (foot pad) and heel together ( one foot a time please, be considerate about inch worm traffic jams). In another exploration, we woke up the foot arches by moving between pressing and lifting the pad of the big toe, the pad of the little toe and the pad of the heel. The effect, of all this inquiry was to find, when each of us stood, that our legs and feet had become a little more even in their willingness to share an under-standing of our weight. Feet that are more enlivened through movement with awareness, are feet that can feel the ground beneath and receive the support that ground has to offer.
Of course it didn't end with the feet. We had the chance over the course of the weekend to explore the movements of the ankle joints, the lower leg bones, and to feel how to come over the hip joint safely so that our spine was free, easy to move as it liked, our arms lifting lightly. We walked miles (please forgive the exaggeration on the grounds of poetic license) without going anywhere, lying on our backs, feeling how to lengthen one leg (and one side) and to let the other be bent. We asked questions together, got confused together, marveled about bones and movement together. As always one of the greatest gifts of these workshops, was the sharing of experiences and the mutual reinforcing and reinvigorating of joyful interest in all things related to being embodied . We learned together how articulate, easy movement can be a vehicle for an embodied self who knows how to choose freedom by having to hand (and foot) a wide(r) variety of movement options to choose from. Our next workshop with Günther Bisges is expected to be in September. This time we will be exploring the movements of the arms and shoulders and learning how to reach out for what attracts us and to hold it with care. It would be lovely to see you there too.
I'm busy working on my blog posts. Watch this space!