Taiji Day 272: Spread Toes, Find Hinge

I had great difficulty getting up this morning, but once I did, I was ready for tai chi.  This is happening a lot lately. Partly it’s that I’ve not been going to bed at a reasonable hour.  That’s problem enough; but, as I say, once I’m up, the attitude is “I’m ready for the exercise program,” and it’s easy to do.  Lately, I’ve been very aware of my toes.  For as long as I can remember, the fourth toe out from the big toe on both feet has “tucked under” the third toe, and there’s been a wide gap between pinkie-toe and fourth toe, on both sides.

Tai chi requires that one spread toes during some of the moves.  It’s not strictly ‘necessary’, to be fair to my teachers, but… Well, put it this way.  If you don’t spread your toes and really anchor your foot, you fall over.  This always felt awkward, the falling-over part, so I choose to anchor my toes by spreading them out a bit.

And the results are… kinda startling.  There’s been enough change on my right foot that the third and fourth toes no longer overlap.  At all.  The fourth toe still presses a bit against the third toe, but not a lot; and yet it’s certainly not jammed under the other.  The third toe has relaxed enough that there’s this very odd sensation… which is the very normal sensation of it pressing squarely on the floor.

The left foot isn’t all the way there yet.  The fourth toe, the third toe and the second toe are all roughly jammed together still, and there’s tightness in the ball of my foot.  However, the fourth toe is beginning to find its way in the world, and isn’t quite so thoroughly thrust up under the third toe.  And the result is a gradual decrease in pressure within the foot as a whole.  I like that.

Today, I did tai chi in a pair of too-tight pants, which was awkward.  It’s hard to do the Golden Pheasant moves, or the kicks, when you don’t have a lot of leg room or a lot of extra material in your clothes.  Usually yoga pants are fine.  But the advantage of these tight pants is that they have a clear waistband.  And in yoga pants, it’s sometimes difficult for me to find the hinge of my waist.

Why do I want to find the hinge of my waist?

Somewhere below the belly button but above the split of the legs, there’s a spot where a bunch of muscles come together.  I’ve found it before, and I can find it again — no, not THAT, that’s not what I’m talking about.  I’m talking about the place where the muscles of the abdomen meet the muscles of the legs and groin.  If I bend over to do the qi gong toe-touches with these knots of sinew in mind, I get a much stronger stretch in my back and much more of a workout in my midsection.  The too-tight pants have actually served as an external ‘marker’ for tracking the structure of my body, and helping me work the muscles of my core more effectively.

The clothes we wear are as much a part of our environment, and the external forces working upon us, as the food we eat.  And that means, since we are our environment, that our clothes do as much to control and order us as anything else we do.

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