The other day, after spending time with the Po-Zu team, I went to a yoga class with Susannah Hoffmann. We began the class by focusing on our breathing. In, out, in, out, in, out. Making the exhale slightly longer than the inhale. And then focusing on the pause that is in between the out breath and in breath. Extending the pause slightly, and putting our attention on this pause, rather than on the in breath and the out breath.
In our modern life, it is easy to lose the pause. Even if we take a moment to breathe deeply, our attention tends to be on the movement, the act of inhalation and exhalation. We are comfortable with that. I’ve been running around this morning, with a long list of things to do. Yet, just sitting here, and bringing awareness to the pause in my breathing, gives a different quality to the breath and a sense of calmness. Try it for yourself now. What effect does it have?
As you may know, Po-Zu actually means pause in Japanese. One of the aims of Po-Zu founder Sven Segal was to give our feet the ultimate rest (through innovations such as the coconut husk foot-mattress), because they bear all our weight. And, since the planet bears all our waste, to give the planet a rest too. In this case, our footprint really can help our ecological footprint.
In general, we tend not to look after our feet or give them much pause for thought. I know from my own experience that they are easily forgotten, particularly during the winter months when they are tucked away in socks and boots. One in six people in the US have foot problems, nine out of 10 women are wearing shoes that are too small for them and two-thirds of foot problems can be attributed to shoes.
You might not initially associate yoga with care for the feet, with the focus tending to be on the fancy, bendy poses. But yoga teachers recognise that, precisely because feet bear all our weight, they deserve our care and attention. Some of my favourite poses are the standing poses like mountain pose, which is simply about standing tall and steady and breathing, and tree pose, in which your hands reach up above your head and you balance on one leg. The benefits of both poses include strengthening your feet. And, at home, or maybe in your yoga class if you are lucky, you can practice a simple yoga massage, working into the base of your feet with your fingers and stretching your toes. You may be surprised at how different you, and your feet, feel afterwards. This two minute video gives some useful tips.
Feet are our connection with the earth. And the ultimate aim of yoga is the feeling of peaceful connectedness with the universe. So perhaps one or more of your re-slow-lutions of the year could be to pause and acknowledge your feet which allow you to walk, run, jump and skip, to love your feet more and to try yoga or practice it more – and the practice of one will benefit the other.