In a little more than 6 weeks, many of us will look back on 2016 and the resolutions we took in January, and admit that the same resolutions have to be taken again — really stuck to, for real this time — in 2017. Often, our resolutions are related to health: “eat less sugar, do those yoga exercises for my back, get up earlier so I can actually do them, walk more, meditate …”. One of the problems with resolutions is that they are a future idea rather than a present action. Another problem is that we usually don’t schedule the activity in the diary with the same importance as our other tasks.
How would it feel if come January, you have actually started implementing a healthy practice?
How would it feel to build on a discipline you have already?
What would the first thing be that you want to change right now?
Especially as the days get busier towards Christmas, what would make you feel inspired and happier?
In the last 4 blogs for this year, I will give you different practices to do every day, which I hope will make you feel healthier, happier, focused and calm. Part 1 is dedicated to our feet. You may wonder what feet have to do with back pain and peace of mind and I hope you are curious, because they are extremely relevant to both. Firstly, the way we walk can give rise to or perpetuate back pain. Secondly, we can use our feet and the way we walk as a focal point for our attention so as to feel calmer. Looking after our feet is also a way of feeling more “grounded,” emotionally and mentally stable.
Oh yes, and if you find this focus on feet very strange and ludicrous, well … this blog is especially for you!
1. Awareness and touch
Our feet are doing so much work for us, and yet we may find them ugly, would rather forget about them and hide them in socks and shoes. In order to give them the attention and love they deserve, let’s start by touching them every day. Have you ever had a reflexology treatment and felt that your whole body and mind relaxed? This is how powerful touching our feet can be. So the first task for the 2 coming weeks is to massage your feet, with or without cream or oil: touch the soles of your feet, pull your toes, separate the toes and pinch the outside edge of the foot and heel. Before going to bed, massage a deliciously smelling oil on your feet and around the ankles. It even makes falling asleep easier…
2. Mindful walking
When you walk somewhere, challenge yourself to just pay attention to the way you walk and to your surroundings. If thoughts come into your head, as they will do, return to what you feel in your body, how you plant your feet, and to everything you see, hear and smell in your surroundings.
Mindful walking can help sharpen our concentration. We walk around most of the time “inside our head”. Thinking is important, but if you want to keep control of your thoughts, there has to be an authority to keep hold of the reins. This means we have to be aware of which thoughts come up and able to stop them if they are not helpful. If thoughts are given free rein, stress, overwhelm and forgetfulness are bound to increase. As a form of concentration, mindful walking can help us foster mental clarity.
Moreover, mindful walking is a form of meditation, calming and fun because there is always so much to observe. We can discover new things on every mundane walk, and directing our attention away from our thoughts can make us feel calmer.
The Buddhist Monk Thich Nhat Hahn, the great advocate of mindfulness and mindful walking, the one who sees “peace in every step”, was once asked after one of his talks: “What are we to do after you die?” He paused for a few moments and then said: “just keep walking.”
He is right of course: we can be inspired by teachers, but in the end the only one to help you find peace is you!
3. Walking for back health
The way we place our feet has an impact on our knees, hips and back health. Pay special attention to how you place your feet while walking. It is best to focus on one element at a time.
For better back health, your feet should be:
– turning outward at a small angle of about 15 to 20 degrees.
– about 2 to 3 inches (5 to 8 cm) away from the midline (so no in-line ‘model’ walking!)
– making equal strides, so using equal force and equal length.
– coming down on the centre of the heel.
– rolling a little more via the outside edge of the foot.
– lifting off the ground nearer the big toe.
I hope this focus on our feet and walking can be a fun challenge these 2 weeks. How about trying at least one of these practices every day? Do tell us about it in the comments below!