Oh boy. My feet.
Over the past five years, I have developed a sweet spot in my heart for feet. This appreciation was born through practicing acro yoga and observing people’s relationship to feet. Later, this appreciation turned into a sweet spot in my heart through studying and practicing Thai massage. Through my studies and listening to people talk, I observe how often folks can neglect their feet, hold tension in them or use them without conscious care.
Not to mention how often I have heard people express disgust or shame in their feet: their appearance, textures, shapes, and evidence of life. And, of course, the ever-present repulsion in other people’s feet. (WHY is this?) Has anyone else heard these words of disgust and embarrassment casually shared? I don’t recall feeling disgusted by other people’s feet, but I have felt embarrassed by mine. This occurred in moments of feeling like they were less than perfectly manicured, I think? Can you relate?
For many of us, our feet carry us around all day. In some ways, they carry the weight of our lives. They help us maintain balance, move, and travel, and too often, they get stuffed into socks and shoes and bring us from place to place, seldom having room to breathe.
Now, perhaps you wash your feet with care, moisturize them with love, massage them, move them with intention, and give them breathing room. Or perhaps not.
How many people get a good foot rub from someone (including oneself)? And how often do folks connect to their feet like a child, moving them in all directions, observing their details, touching them, exploring them, and letting them stand bare in the grass? How many grown folks stub their toe from playing and losing themselves in the moment?
I will never forget observing the power of a simple yet strong, conscious touch of a hand-foot connection when giving Thai massage sessions to clients, classmates, family members, and friends.
I learned the power of touch, care, and attentiveness through the feet. This lesson carries over into all body parts, to be applied when giving massages and caring for myself. I also learned this powerful touch lesson through receiving Thai massage because what kind of student would I be if I, too, didn’t receive this powerful practice?
Typically, I will begin each 90-minute session at the feet when giving Thai massage. I start by grounding myself, breathing deeply, saying a quick prayer, then gently placing my hands on the ankles or foot area of the recipient, and I start there. Though not all, many sessions will often begin with some gentle rocking, then some manipulation of the feet and ankles, but first, a clear connection and squeeze of comfort from yours truly to the recipient.
Usually, it looks like resting my palms on top of the recipient’s feet as they lay on their back. Then I gently wrap my fingers around the outsides of each foot and offer a firm squeeze. Then again. And Again. At this moment, I get a feel for the recipient’s energy, and they get a feeling of mine. At this moment, there is a connection through touch, and we get to explore movement and care through this medium.
This foot squeeze sounds simple right? That’s because it is. It never requires any advanced skill set though it does require paying attention to the moment. Simply put, it’s applied pressure with my hands as they cradle both of the recipient’s feet. More often than not, the moment that follows this conscious, compassionate squeeze is an audible, gentle sigh of relief from the recipient. I can feel the tension melting away. This moment always surprises me: what a sweet release and gentle moment.
Recipients of Thai massage or any massage sit or lie in front of you, the giver, and allow themselves to be vulnerable. It may not seem like that, but it’s true. It is a sweet and vulnerable moment when you let someone into your physical space, putting their hands on your body, even your feet.
What do we get to do with this space shared? How can we offer ourselves to the moment? How can we use our hands to heal?
When the recipient has entered a place and time designated to receive massage, it is often to be cared for, moved, and usually to release tension of some kind. It has always amazed me that the most essential aspect of any Thai massage session I have given rested in the conscious care I offered. No, It wasn’t in the advanced knowledge of anatomy, fixing anyone, or having the fanciest massage moves. It was always in the conscious, attentive care for each recipient. I observe this through the recipient’s sigh of relief and melting of tension within the first 30 seconds of each session, and the first 30 seconds (usually) begin at the feet with a conscious squeeze or two. Post-session recipients often tell me that they didn’t realize how much tension their feet were holding or how good simple pressure felt on their feet.
What a gift touch can be, and through such a simple avenue.
The feet can often appear as hidden or forgotten spots. What part of your body could use some attention?
We can study the body up and down, learn all the anatomy, and memorize the bones and muscles. Still, so much of what I have discovered is the power of sweet, confident, present care to the whole body, including the parts we can neglect or dismiss.
So many of us pay close attention to our skin, face, and lips. Exfoliating, cleansing, and even decorating with makeup. And why not? It’s fun and feels good.
But imagine offering that same type of attention to your feet or anywhere else.
Imagine what you can give to others or yourself through some sweet, attentive touch or care.
Have you noticed the power of compassionate touch? When and where have you seen it?