Let’s be honest: many people picture “real yoga” gals as earthy women with flowy clothing wearing Birkenstocks. Cue that sound - you know the one - the screech of the record player needle across the vinyl indicating the harsh interruption of the melody of the status quo… I love yoga, and its precepts including non-attachment to worldly goods, but life is too short to wear ugly shoes!
High heels bring you closer to God, and with a 6 foot 4 inch husband, I have plenty of room to reach for the sky. I love wearing today’s fun shoes, and the higher the heel, the better. But there’s nothing more comical than seeing a woman gingerly stepping out in heels that could make her outfit, if only their pilot didn’t look like she was doing a Tony Robbins fire-walk. I can run in high heels on concrete, and when people ask me how I can stand it, the answer is simple: yoga! (The answer to so many of my life’s questions!)
Let’s start with the feet themselves, since that makes the most sense. In Tadasana (mountain pose), we find four corners to each foot before even lacing our toes down. That creates an awareness that grows with time. Through yoga, I now know that I am steadier on my left foot than my right in balance poses, which was a surprise to me. The awareness of your own feet, noticing where you happen to place most of your weight when you aren’t thinking about it, helps you to choose footwear that will be most comfortable for you, even in the high heel sector! Additionally, spending time in a toe-stand will strengthen those toes and calves mightily. Shifting from squatting toe-stand up to standing with arms overhead while still on the balls of your feet gives you practice in good posture – controlling the tilt of your pelvic floor, ascertaining the optimal lift of your chin, your drishti (focus), knowing how to let your spine and each of its vertebrae line up under your head as if a plumb bob… these all create the awareness of how YOU control your walk.
In Utthita Hasta Padangustasana, you have the opportunity to get to know your standing, grounded foot and its natural tendencies while at the same time cultivating the awareness of the toes on the opposite foot. Is it comfortable for you to stretch your big toe and your peace fingers against each other? And how do you grab the ground with your standing foot when you shift your hips to “open the gate?” Do you roll away from your arch, or do your toes root down like a kickstand? All of these pieces of information help you to choose the right shoe based on how it feels, and then execute that walk!
How about a good old-fashioned downward-facing dog for strengthening and elongating the Achilles tendon and stretching the arch? Even child’s pose, when you silently press your toes into the mat, allows you to judge how your feet are feeling. Do your big toes feel comfortable next to each other, or do bones and bunions cause distress? Can you press your baby toenails into the mat as easily as the others? It’s not all granola and mantras… yoga has a place in the life of even the most modern of us. Get to know those feet. Becoming intimate with each individual body part is what allows yoga to bring about all sorts of unlikely fringe benefits. Yet another reason to try a little, if you haven’t already – and don’t let your shoes walk you!