A Foot Pattern
I took a road trip recently, traveling north and south between Los Angeles and Northern California. I learned a lot about my body on that long drive. Even with podcasts, Pandora and big trucks to watch out for I couldn't help noticing how my left foot kept curling into supination. I released it over and over, reminding my foot that it didn't need to help me drive. What was my left foot trying to do?
Initially I attributed the pattern to tension in my tibialis anterior, a muscle that inverts the foot. Its big tendon at the front of my ankle was like a stiff cable. From there I traced a line of tension up the inner line of my leg. That whole fascial train was subtly activated. Once I noticed that, I could let my leg release its weight onto the seat. But my foot kept curling. You know how babies’ feet curl up when they're upset? My foot felt like that—a little foot fist.
I continued my investigation upward along the inner thigh train. Aha! The ramus! That branch of bone at the bottom of the pelvis that connects pubis and sit bone. (If your rami are unfamiliar to you, please see this post and the accompanying video before reading on.) My colleagues and I consider the pelvic rami to be “the feet of the pelvis.” Well, I had been sitting on only one foot. My left ramus was perched above the car seat, hovering. I began to experiment (cruise control was coming in handy): each time my foot curled, I took that as a signal to let my weight settle down into the left ramus. And each time I did that, the inner arch of my foot unfurled and the inner line of my leg softened.
The Psoas Muscle
I began to be curious about how that deep front line of the leg might affect or be affected by the deep line within my torso. What was my psoas muscle up to? Sitting in my car, my psoas seemed to be drawing my hip upward instead of pulling my spine down as it does when I’m standing. Then I reflected on the crimp I sometimes get in my descending colon. Which comes first, I wondered—the colon crimp or the psoas crimp? I wasn’t ready to draw conclusions, though—my teacher, Ida Rolf, use to say that the crux of the matter is not necessarily the cause.
This morning, walking in my neighborhood, I found myself very aware of how the left side of my psoas can lengthen through my pelvic floor and grant my left leg a full, relaxed swing into each next step. My intermittent meditations on the long drive have made me more conscious of the way I use my left foot, leg and spine when I'm walking. The pattern of lifting the inner arch of my left foot prevails unless I pay mild attention. The left ramus tends to draw up and in towards the center of my pelvic floor. When that happens, the psoas fascia doesn't receive its normal lengthening when I push off from the back foot. That psoas stretch helps imbue gait with resilience.
Although such self-inspection may be outside the interest of readers who are unfamiliar with anatomy, I share it because I believe time spent observing our bodies’ subtle habits can lead to better function. Noticing where there's too much sensation (in my case, in my left foot) can lead to perception of a broader habit that the excess sensation points to. Then you can replace an undesirable habit with a beneficial one (releasing weight in my left ramus).
If nothing else, body meditation clears the mind of politics for a while.