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Spread ’em!

February 20th, 2009 Leave a comment Go to comments

My stiff right ankle is preventing me from sinking on my right leg in Tai Chi. Since I like approaching problems from different angles, I asked our Wednesday morning trainer, Caprice, to help me with flexibility there. We worked on some foot exercises such as “doming” the foot (raising the arch) and curling the toes under, which seemed to go all right. However, when she asked me to spread my big toe away from the others, there was nothing there. I had no idea of what to engage or how to engage it. It was a very strange feeling, and though I’m lucky enough to have never been in an accident, maybe this is a glimpse of what it feels like to have to learn how to walk. Of course, I can only guess at the challenges accident victims face.

So I can lift the big toe, press it down, and do the same with the other four as a group. But no side-to-side. Caprice asked me to be patient and keep working on it. So yesterday, I sat down, brought the foot up on my other knee, and started exploring with my fingers lightly touching the muscle that’s supposed to make the toe move to get some feedback. The habitual tendency was to try to move the toe by turning the whole foot, so I had to suppress that urge and quiet things down. At times like this, a calm mind is necessary to listen and hear what’s really happening inside.

After bending toes, relaxing, bending less, relaxing, I finally got some action in that muscle by spreading all toes apart a little bit. It’s a start. Spread, relax, spread less, relax, calm, and so on. I’m now at the point where I can get a tiny bit of movement from the big toe without bringing everything in the neighborhood into play. But it feels weird. And maybe it’s not reproducible. In fact, I’ve lost it now.

But it’ll be back, as long as I keep at it. In terms of refine and repeat, the refining seems to lie in calming the mind, listening, and trying smaller actions. Which might even work with tai chi.

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  1. Gord Reynolds
    February 24th, 2009 at 21:56 | #1

    Toes are funny things if you need to feel that you are normal. I would like to feel normal but know that there’s something weird about having a right big toe that can move up (a little) and down rather stiffly but has no curling flex to it. Its left counterpart can curl and always could. I don’t know when I first noticed my right big toe will not do this, but I don’t feel this is an advancing item in aging or anything else. All other toes & digits move in a normal range for me and over the years I have not been disabled by the right big toe thing. It’s not even on my radar 99% of the time.Maybe I’m missing a nerve ending or something. No amount of flexing or attempts at therapy moves has any influence. But do I worry? Only when I want to feel normal, whatever that is. Gord

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