My latest good read is by a well-known yogi called Vanda Scaravelli, ‘Awakening the Spine‘. Scaravelli took up yoga in later life and was a student of the legendary B.K.S. Iyengar. She wrote her first book on her yogic discoveries in her eighties. You can see some pictures of her in mind-boggling poses here. What stuck with me from reading her book was the importance she places on the feet. While it is common practice in yoga classes to be asked to “ground down through the feet”, my inkling is that this deep connection with the earth happens rarely in a class environment when everyone is caught up in trying to follow the sequence and distracted by their neighbours.
To really ground down through the feet I think you have to be on your own, with your eyes closed and to give your body your whole attention. A quick two minutes in Tadasana (mountain pose) won’t cut it. Over the last week this is exactly what I’ve been doing, just slowing my practice right down and focusing on pushing my heels into the ground while breathing. I then observe the ripple effect throughout the body as it starts to gain stability and lengthen. What’s amazing is that there is real transformation in such a simple thing. As the feet sink in, the lower body becomes more stable and settles, the front of the pelvis opens, while the upper body feels freer and lighter, just as Scaravelli describes. I checked my spine in the mirror before and after and it went from an exaggerated ‘S’ curve to an elongated ‘l’. There are also some amazing emotional benefits to this, for relieving anxiety and slowing the brain down, bringing clarity.
Why the title of this post and this drawing? Scaravelli observes that the Egyptians knew all about the power of the feet for grace and strength. That’s why when you see sculptures of their tombs they have completely flat backs. She says:
“Egyptians walked placing their heels down first with the knees straight, extending the soles from heels to the toes. The soles of the feet and the palms of the hands are centers of vitality and by spreading, they also meet and receive energy from the earth.”
Vanda Scaravelli, Awakening the Spine
She also points to some of their drawings which have close similarities to yogic poses, with some characters even doing full backbends. So I guess the Bangles were right. It does make sense to “Walk like an Egyptian“!