The feet are connected ...
How many steps do you take in a day? A normal day. A day when you aren’t going for a long walk or a jog? Google says Americans take 3,000-4,000 steps each day. That’s an average of 1,500-2,000 strikes a day to the heel and the big toe joint. The big toe joint supports our full body weight over and over again … every single day. Over the past 5 years only one of my students has complained about this bunion area. Most complaints sound something like this, “Ugh! My hips have really been bothering me lately.” Is it possible there is a connection between the big toe joint and the hip?
Reflexologists apply pressure to specific areas of the foot. One of these places is just below the big toe joint (bunion) area. When pressure is applied, there may be a certain amount of pain or sensitivity. The feet respond well to pressure and even intensity. Not only that, in general, students respond well to this type of pressure in regular classes. I’ve heard students say things like, “This feels good and it feels right.” We don’t feel these restrictions in our feet but they are there and it feels good to release them.
We use the equipment to help us reveal and understand our needs. Our systems store “stuff” in and around the joints. The equipment helps us feel what we don’t feel on a daily basis. We use the equipment to expose and heal restrictions, lack of tone, underuse and even exhaustion.
This week we used a block to find and release restrictions that many of us have below the big toe joint. We walked with our “regular” walk toward the block and place the area just below the bunion on the block. With the heel on the floor we might feel a stretchy sensation along the sole of the foot, the achilles heel or even in the calf region.
When we feel the stretchy sensation we may think, “Oh! This is a nice stretch.” Or “I need to do this more often.” It happens to us all, but if we let the conversation continue we distract ourselves from the solution. Keeping the focus on the joints allows the brain to understand that releasing the joint will release the soft tissue from around the muscle. The work will always be in the joint. Eventually, the stretchy sensation will fall away.
It’s important to interrupt the pattern of inner talk and to allow our brain to feel what’s really happening. At first, there’s discomfort, mental activity kicks in and we think thoughts. Sometimes these thoughts encourage us to move away from what we feel. In the moment, the pain is avoided, discomfort is relieved and it feels better. You feel like you are making an excellent choice for yourself by choosing the path of avoidance. Not easily seen is the path toward potential.
If we allow the pressure from the block to be precise enough we find the first layer where the joint has a restriction. The longer we stay present with the physical sensation, the better our brain starts to shift and slow the rhythm. We call this the “Growth and Repair” mode. It’s also been called “Rest and Digest.” It’s when the whole system shifts in the direction of sleep. Most of us feel this curious spot below the big toe joint — and if we are doing it right — we can trace that sensation across the system.
Many of us will feel the consequence across the midline from one foot to the opposite hip. Some won't feel anything in the hips and some will feel something in both hips. It might feel like an ache as muscles respond. Others describe the sensation as a “burn.” It’s the kind of sensation that in the most curious way feels right. And within this one experience we know with 100% certainty that the restriction we feel below the big toe joint is directly related to the hip.
We allow the equipment (floor, wooden block and gravity) to do the work for us. What shows up as sensation is quite interesting. We can feel the lack of awareness, the lack of strength and the underuse of certain muscles. At first we think, “I understand how the tightness in my big toe joint impacts my hip!” or “My hip feels like it’s on fire but it feels good.”
Every day we walk. As we walk, we don’t notice what’s happening. There is value in taking a “snapshot” of a single step. We have the opportunity to see what we don’t see every day. Then, we don’t have to read, research and blindly accept the results of what someone else has to say. We get to experience the relationship for ourselves. And, if we come to the realization that, “It’s not the hip!! The hip is suffering because of the restrictions in my FEET!” Then, we know we have a choice and a path forward. A path toward potential.