Monday, November 16, 2009

The Toe as Tail?

Still doing some housecleaning--next on the to-do list is sort out the links list and even, gasp, update my template. This turquoise green number is getting awfully dated-looking. Old School, and not in a good way.

But first, I'm freshly returned from Minneapolis, where I spent the whole weekend with modern dancers and--by extension--their bare feet. This was actually a costume design project for a fundraiser for the Peace House school in Tanzania. But feet were unshod and I was looking to answer my questions about toe mobility. There certainly was plenty of evidence for the benefits of working without shoes to strengthen the feet.

As I watched the dancers balance and spin, adjusting the weight of a body on a foot by moving the third toe or stretching all toes apart to provide a more stable base, I was impressed by the awareness each student had throughout her whole foot. I watched them when they were getting their notes after rehearsal, and still their feet were constantly in motion--not big movements, but subtle adjustments and shifting. Even during the dance, in a moment of pause, a toe would wiggle here or lift there, in anticipation of the next move.

It made me think of days bygone in summer school classes. If a teacher was particularly boring, or an un-airconditioned classroom was particularly warm, my mind would wander and I often studied my fellow summer schoolers' feet (in those days, in horrid fascination). What was so amusing was how much their toes would move around when they were just sitting there. It was almost as if toes took on the unconscious movement that a tail would make, if we still had one.

I don't know, maybe every movement of a tail is purposeful, but it seems like sometimes my cats just switch or "tap" their tails because they aren't doing anything else with it. Is that what happens with toes in a loose, comfortable shoe? A little expenditure of energy because nothing else is really moving? It's hard to check on yourself, since as soon as you think about your toes, you are aware of their actions...but sneak a peak at some one nearby (trickier, these days, if you're in a hemisphere with late fall)--maybe in class, or watching television at night.

Thoughts? Any experts on toes (or tails, for that matter)? I hadn't thought about the toe-tail thing for awhile, but now I'm on a bender. I guess it's a good thing feet don't gross me out any more...


Kitty said...

my husband has a tick with his toes. the only time they aren't moving or tapping is when he's asleep. in fact, i can tell if he isn't really sleeping because his toes will move slightly until he completely zonks out. interestingly, the tapping tick speeds up dramatically when he drives. he has really good flexibility in his feet as a result. he must have been a cat in his last life!

Kristin said...

Feet are facinating, aren't they? I have a friend who is totally grossed out by bare feet, yet I love being bare foot (or in socks if it's cold) and I am constantly kicking off my shoes at work. I just have to remember to put them on before I start wandering around the office! :)

I find it interesting when I ask folks to spread thier toes in class and to watch what happens; who's little piggies move and who's doesn't. I find it interesting to see who's playing with their toes in a seated forward fold rather than following thier breath- and I love to catch them at it! Arches facinate me too.

Our feet and toes are so important in our day to day activites, yet we ignore and neglect our poor tootsies. I'm so glad you are talking about this!

PS - I was in Minneapolis this weekend too! Went down for a yoga workshop.

Bob Weisenberg said...

Nice to see a blog where we're finally getting past all the spiritual mickey mouse and fluff and on to the really important things in life--like our spurious toe movements.

I really enjoyed this post, and have absolutely nothing to offer!


Bob Weisenberg

Jen said...

Great analogy! When my son sits in his highchair he is almost constantly wiggling his feet or kicking his legs. And it reminds me of a cats tail.

I'm hoping one of your readers can shed some light on your interesting question.

Brenda P. said...

When I think about tails, I wonder how hard it would be to keep a "poker" tail. Would it give your true emotions away with every twitch and wag? Would you have to learn to control that spinal extension, so no one would know what you were really feeling?

Kitty, it sounds like your husband would need "poker" toes to keep a secret!

Kristin, I looked around for yoga near the hotel, but only saw a "core power yoga" place, which made my little Iyengar heart nervous.

Bob, offering the term "spurious" is a lovely contribution. I'm trying to use it in another sentence today...

Jen, I often suspect the boys and the cats have more in common than they do with me. Demanding, occasionally adoring/occasionally dismissive, sneaky, etc etc...

Linda-Sama said...

I have nothing to say about this post other than that I see you also have a fat orange tabby!

YogaSpy said...

Hmm, perhaps because I grew up in a culture of no-shoes-indoors, I take the sight of bare feet for granted. Now, while I am not "grossed out" by feet per se, I am appalled at the tolerance for ... let's say ungroomed ... feet. Overgrown toenails, for example.

That said, aesthetically pleasing feet are quite a delight.

The first time I really appreciated the power of toes was watching Olympic gymnastics. They showed a close-up of a gymnast's feet on the balance beam; she'd lost her balance and flailed her arms but gripped so hard with her toes that she held on; major deduction but not as much as a fall would've cost her. Feet!

That little segment also underlined the importance of tenacity. She could've given up and jumped off the beam, but she did all she could to hang out. Good lesson.

Finally, re toes and tails ... well, since cats also have toes (one of their most-fascinating features!), I analogize our toes to their toes...

Donna said...

You may enjoy learning about feet with an article I wrote called Yoga Feet Getting Grounded and a Foot Massage Thrown In

Love the tail connection.