Today’s yoga class is all about feet, my instructor announced.
Great. Can I leave now? This is not the way I want to spend my yoga hour this morning.
People looking at my feet make me extremely uncomfortable. Which tends to be a problem when your job entails being barefoot and standing in front of large groups.
My feet are square, like Flinstone feet. The nailpolish is chipping off of most of my toes. The right foot is about an inch smaller than the left and both feet would be happy to ever fit in a size 5. I have to shop in the kids’ section, which makes it very difficult to find shoes that aren’t pink and covered in glitter, or that even have a substantial sole on them. My feet roll out to the sides, or tend to want to and it’s led to a pretty dysfunctional gait, all hips swinging in the wind and locked knees.
My toes don’t spread, my flexion is impossible and I can barely balance at all on that right foot, the range of motion is so locked up.
But truth be told, by the end of class, I had remembered something, something big, something I tend to gloss over and forget.
My feet carried me forward into this yoga practice. It was because of them I found it at all, fell in love with it and nurtured a desire to teach others. You see, when I was born, my twin sister and I had horribly deformed feet. The achilles tendons were so short that my heels were up into my calves. The entire foot was curled under as though they had been wrapped tightly in linen during our gestation. The doctors had originally suggested amputating them completely.
It was my mother who sought out Shriner’s Hospital in San Francisco and there that our years-long journey through therapies, casts and surgeries commenced. I have had over a dozen surgeries, lived in wheelchairs, crutches. I was ridiculed terribly as a child, called “baby feet” and worse.
But the hospital was an amazing place to grow up. It was fun. There were so many other kids there with worse problems; burns, scoliosis so bad their spines were shaped like writhing serpents, kids without hands or feet or arms or legs. And we caroused around those halls in our wheelchairs, mowing down nurses like some deranged band of misfits. We drew, played games, even met celebrities once in a while. I loved that place and everyone in it.
Kids are amazing, they really are. I didn’t know any different life than the one I had. My parents and family will tell a different, more difficult story from their own perspectives, but for me? Growing up a crippled child was awesome. Mostly.
By the time I was 18, my feet were mostly functional. Bones had fused and the feet had stopped growing due to the many surgeries. But they worked. I was even athletic in school.
And so here we are. In this class, focusing on the feet. And there’s a moment where the instructor says Be grateful for your feet. They carry you forward your whole life.
And I? I have the most thanks to give of all.