These shoes weren’t made for walking, but what’s a yogi to do

Heels, baby

Let’s get this out of the way: I <3 yoga and I <3 high heels. Not in that $1,900 Manolo Blahnik/Sex in the City way, and not in the fashion-over-function Victoria Beckham way.

For me, it’s a now and then kind of thing, and we’re maybe talking about a pair of $40 brown patent leather shoes for work or a $70 pair of 3.5-inch heels from Aldo for dancing. From Chicago to Miami to London, I’ve done that post-dancing limp — you know the one, where you eventually decide it’s worth the risk to go barefoot on a city sidewalk (there are some nasty things you can step on in those situations) rather than endure that pain any longer.

And those are the reasonable, kind heels that are my correct size. I am guilty of falling for unreasonable, cruel heels that are just a tad too small — because they, well, sort of fit, and my size isn’t available, and they too cute to leave behind on that sales rack. I have a couple of these types of shoes categorized by time and surface: the two-hour-on-a-dancefloor-but-stay-away-from-concrete shoes, the-wear-all-day-as-long-as-I-don’t-have-meetings-to-travel-to shoes.

And if experience isn’t enough, the statistics should be. Consider figures that you can find quoted everywhere online that claim one-inch heels can increase the pressure on your feet by about 22 percent, two-inch heels up to 57 percent, and three-inches heels up to 76 percent.

I thought about this earlier this week, when I made a terrible calculation about the extent of required walking for one of my work meetings. With 3.5-inch heels, I ended up joining a meeting that involved walking around for a site assessment. That evening when I did my Ashtanga primary series practice, I had a little muscle spasm when I crossed my feet for bhujapindasana (arm pressure posture).

My favorite pose for relieving pain from high heels is janu sirsasana C. I am in the minority, as far as I can tell. This cartoon seems to reflect how a great many yogis seems to feel about this pose. But there is no other pose I practice in which I feel this level of relief for my feet.

In his book Ashtanga Yoga: The Definitive Step-by-Step Guide to Dynamic Yoga, John Scott describes janu C this way:

Correct placement of the heel in this asana is dependent on the range of hip rotation you have and the length of your Achilles tendon, and so it may take time to achieve. Take care with this asana to protect your knee.

For the most part, though, I try to wear supportive shoes. And when I go salsa dancing these days, I bring a long a pair of ballet-flats-to-go that I wear to and from the dance venue.

Will my will power ever overcome my penchant for high heels? Not any time soon. Thank goodness I have yoga to help with all the things I voluntarily unnecessarily do.

© YogaRose.net and Rose Tantraphol, 2011. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to YogaRose.net with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

What my salsa teacher wants my hips to do

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Salsa dress

My hips were not cooperating during my salsa lesson today. My instructor reminded me that my hips need to be set back from the center line — to a point where I feel like I am sticking my butt way out. I’ve spent so much time working with yoga instructors on finding a neutral space in my pelvic girdle that this adjustment feels tremendously exaggerated, awkward and basically awful.

But this is salsa, and it looks fantastic.

My boyfriend and I love salsa dancing. We had our first impromptu salsa lesson in, of all places, a winery in Traverse City. We paid a visit to the very cool Left Foot Charley tasting room (if you haven’t been, you should) on a night that happened to feature a great latin band. There were competitive dancers there who were moving so beautifully together. They clearly sensed that we were itching to move to that music too, but had no idea where to start. So they came over and pretty much forced us up and gave us our first “quick-quick-slow” lesson. I was wearing a pair of beat-up Vans that one of my sisters had given me, and my boyfriend was wearing hiking boots.

We figured if we could manage to dance that night while essentially wearing blocks on our feet — and enjoy it that much — we should get into this salsa thing.

Since then, we’ve been to a few salsa nights here and there, and we spent New Year’s Eve dancing at the Global Pachanga held at the JW Marriott in Grand Rapids. While we had a fantastic time doing our thing, it seemed everyone around us glided over that dance floor differently. That’s a lot of people who know what they’re doing, and they must have made the effort to learn somehow. So I made my commitment then and there that I would learn to move like that.

Making the transition from looking like you’re trying to salsa and looking like you’ve spent your whole life dancing this way starts, like so many things, with the hips.

“You know, it’s like if you’re running, you wouldn’t run like this,” my teacher said, pushing his pelvis forward and doing a mock run.

“I don’t run,” I interrupted. “But I see what you’re saying.”

“Ah, yes, I remember you told me that last time that you don’t run.” (I really don’t like running, and hope to never have to do it again for as long as I live.)

Yoga is only concerned with the body’s structure, and what’s going on with the alignment of bones and joints. Every now and then I need to tell my yoga students — especially students who are new to the mat — that they don’t need to look around to see how everyone else is doing it. That it doesn’t matter what they look like, because what matters is propriceptive awareness — gaining an understanding of how to set the body in space by feeling it.

How the body looks obviously matters in any type of dance. In salsa, when the hips slide back and that back leg straightens, you’ve won half the battle because you look the part. It goes against the grain for me to place my hips somewhere because it looks better that way, but it’s a fun challenge to switch gears that way.

My one and only resolution this year is to learn how to salsa — not how to move my feet, but how to get my body to mirror the exhilaration of what I already feel when there’s latin music playing and I’m on the dance floor.

And I learned today that with salsa, as with so many things, you won’t make progress until you start to become awareness of what your hips are doing with every movement.

© YogaRose.net and Rose Tantraphol, 2011. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to YogaRose.net with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.