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I’ve had collapsed arches (pronated feet) for my entire life.  At various stages I’ve been given exercises to help correct the problem which have not really helped.  I’ve also tried working on them myself with varying degrees of success.  The approach that I’ve been taking more recently seems to be really effecting some changes, so I thought that I’d document my process here in the hope that it can help others who suffer from this condition, and those who are interested in working with the flat footed.

I had completely collapsed arches when I was a kid.  Once when I was about 12, the father of one of my best mate’s (who was a physiotherapist) saw me walking with bare feet.  He was so amazed by how flat my feet were that videoed me walking. (I should get that video!)

Around this time I was given orthotic inserts for my shoes and the standard physiotherapy exercises at the time – putting a towel under my feet & pulling it towards me with my toes (strengthening the toe flexors which support the medial arch), and standing on a balance board (to activate and strengthen the muscles which laterally support the ankle).  I was not particularly motivated to do these exercises.  From memory
I think I did them for a week or two fairly regularly, and then tapered off after this.  So I guess it’s not really any surprise that no real progress was made with my feet.

The first real improvement happened spontaneously.  In 1999, while studying massage therapy in Auckland, I got into the habit of going to tai-chi classes weekly and practicing regularly.  One week during one of my tai-chi classes I felt what seemed like warmth flowing into my foot.  I became more aware of my right leg and my foot, and the structure of the foot spontaneously corrected.  Since this time my right arch has been fairly stable.  Although it remains slightly less upright than ideal, it is a long way from
where it started.

According to Chinese medical theory, chi is associated with
both awareness and healthy functioning.  Feelings of warmth
are commonly associated with movement of chi.

My left foot has never really corrected.  I’ve spent quite a bit of time over the years working on with limited results.

Interestingly enough I recently noticed that I have less awareness of the left side of my body than in my right.  If I concentrate on how my body feels, I can more easily feel the sensations associated with my right shoulder (or insert other body part here), and I am also more aware of the positioning of body structures relative to others (e.g. my shoulder-blade with relation to my chest/neck).

I’m also aware that I have what feels to me like an energy block in the area of my left hip.  This area feels thick & sluggish to me, and below this point I have less sensory awareness of my leg.  I feel less connected to my leg than to other parts of my body if that makes any sense.  Interestingly I have noticed that sometimes following particular kinds of bodywork which focus on this area, my kinesthetic sense of my left leg has been markedly improved when I’ve gotten up from the table.

I said before that my left foot has never really corrected.  This is not exactly true.  Over the last two years I have been working with a series of somatic exercises which I’ve developed from my understanding of anatomy, kinesiology, and tai-chi as well as my own kinesthetic sense of my body.  I have noticed particularly in the last couple of months some real changes which I hope will continue.

I will talk more about these in future blog posts.

I originally established this blog because I was interested in documenting my exploration of bodymind phenomena, my self and my own body.  I’ve been interested in body awareness, meditation, and physical health for many years now, and when I set up the blog, I thought that this would be my focus.  Sadly I find that I spend most of my time now working on a computer, and although I’ve been really enjoying both my work and the the exploration of elearning, net-label music, and mixing, it does mean that I spend very little time focussing on myself and what I need, in direct contrast to my life when I started my training as a massage therapist.

In recent times my life has been incredibly mentally focussed (apart from our recent trip to Mt Cook – our belated honeymoon).  I now find that I spend a lot of time in “headspace”.  I had an experience the other day of walking home after work.  My head was still buzzing with the events of the day (which had been quite stressful).  I started meditating, and instantly dropped back into the full kinesthetic experience of the present moment.  I noticed the warm sun on my skin, the slight breeze, the beautiful plants in front of me, and felt my body walking up the stairs.  It’s amazing sometimes how we can walk through the world caught up in our heads, and not notice the wonder that’s all around us.  However it wasn’t too much further along the walk home that I noticed myself back in my head turning over the events of the day again.

…and I’m feeling a bit dissatisfied with this situation.  I enjoy my life much more when it is in balance.

Back in 1999, I was spending up to 3 hours per day meditating.  This might seem like a lot of time, but the benefits definitely outweighed the cost to me.  Much of the time, I had an intensely rich experience of the moment, in which I felt unconditional love for the present moment, myself and the people around me.  This unconditional love radiated from the core of my being to connect me with everyone and everything around me.  I have never experienced so much joy, and fulfillment as I did at that time.  When I remembered this feeling years later, the realisation of what I’d lost brought tears to my eyes.

I’ve recently started meditating semi-regularly, and have started to tap into this again (although only for short periods of time).  I’m loving it, but this puts me in a space of intense polarity.  When I’m meditating (sitting or walking) I often feel this rich connection to myself, to the moment, and the peace and love that’s associated with this experience, but this is in stark contrast to my (more regular) experience.  My working life at the moment is intense I have far too much to get done over the next month, and there are new demands arising with almost every day.  My experience of this (the dominant) aspect of my life is pressure, and stress, and quite frankly I’m over it.

I’ve recently figured out what I think is a solution to the problem.  Over the next 3-4 years I plan to gradually transition my work-life to 50% programme coordination at Otago Poly and 50% private practice.  I haven’t completely decided on what I want to focus on in my practice.  I’m really enjoying working with myofascial release, and psycho-emotional body-work, so I might find a counsellor or psychotherapist to work with.  I’d like to experiment with the Bowen technique, and lymphatic drainage.  I definitely want to run meditation & stress management classes. I also figure that once my practice builds up a bit I should be able to focus on my climbing again.

I’ve come across some interesting research recently which illustrates some of the relationships between the connective tissue (or fascia) and the energetic transport systems of the body (namely the acupuncture meridians and the chakra system).

Acupuncture meridians

Langevin & Yandow found that most acupuncture points and meridians are located in areas where planes of fascia merge together (Langevin & Yandow, 2002).  Stimulation of acupuncture points should therefore create a stimulus which is propagated through multiple fascial planes.  Given the importance that many massage therapists are giving to fascial release work these days, working on and around the acupuncture points could be expected to provide maximal effect.

Measurement of the electrical conductance of acupuncture points has typically shown conductance of 10 to 100 times more than the surrounding skin.  It’s also been shown that acupuncture meridians are able to propagate electricity (Tiller, 1973; Reichmannis et al, 1976; Becker, 1990 as cited in Ho & Knight, 2008).


So how does this electrical conduction occur?


Sasaki found that collagen fibres bind water to them in particular forms (1984 as cited in Ho & Knight, 2008).

Collagen fibres

This “bound water” is then able to conduct electrical charge (Sasaki, 1984 as cited in Ho & Knight, 2008). It has been estimated that conductivity in the direction of the fibre must be at least one hundred times that of conduction across the fibre (Pethig, 1996 as cited in Ho & Knight, 2008). Conductivity increases with the water content of the collagen (Ho & Knight, 2008). Collagen aligns with lines of stress in the body, which typically run within the same planes as the acupuncture lines, so it is not improbable to suppose that the energy of acupuncture is conducted along lines run through collagen fibres.

How can one explain the increased conductivity of acupuncture points when compared to other points along the meridian?

Ho and Knight have suggested that…..

“acupuncture points typically exhibit low electrical resistances compared with the surrounding skin, and may therefore correspond to singularities or gaps between collagen fibres, or where collagen fibres are oriented at right angles to the dermal layer”  (2008).

Energetic anatomy of the chakra system

Interestingly, this is exactly what we would expect based on modern and traditional understandings of the chakra system and the acupuncture system.   Both chakras and acupuncture points are believed to act as energetic wheels or vortices which receive energy from the external environment.  Acupuncture points are held to have a similar structure to chakras, but to be smaller in size.  This energy is then said to be propagated through internal channels within the body.  The image to the right illustrates the energetic anatomy of the chakra system as described by Barbara Brennan (1993), and many other authorities.  Notice how the second suggestion of Ho and Knight (2008) is very consistent with this depiction of energetic anatomy.

Energy and connective tissue

Fascia has a liquid-crystalline structure (Ho et al, 1996; Ho, 1997a as cited in Ho & Knight, 2008).  In a liquid crystal the structure is fluid, but all of the molecules are aligned in relation to each other by bio-molecular forces.  One of the interesting properties of liquid crystals is that a range of forces can lead to changes in the orientation of molecules or phase changes.  When a liquid crystal changes from one phase to another, the level of order in the crystal increases or decreases, implying that the level of energy stored in the crystal also changes.

Mechanical force applied to the connective tissue has been shown to produce a piezo-electric effect (Turchaninov, 2001).  In a massage context, compression or shear forces are transduced into electrical energy.  This electric energy should be able to travel along collagenous meridians.  The converse is also true.  Electrical energy when applied to connective tissue can be transduced into mechanical energy, or changes in the orientation of molecules within the liquid crystal (Turchaninov, 2001).

Other forces that influence the structure of the connective tissue and therefore lead to similar energetic changes are electro-magnetic fields, temperature and hydration (Ho & Knight, 2008).

The issues are in the tissues

One thing that bodyworkers have been noticing with the rapid rise of myofascial techniques is that these techniques are much more likely to stimulate somato-emotional releases than traditional massage techniques.  Ho and Knight have noted that “the [liquid-crystal] network will retain tissue memory of previous experiences” (2008).  This is again consistent with the relationship that appears to exist between the energetic system and the fascia.  Both chakras and acupuncture meridians are believed to be related holistically to physical health, but also emotional, mental and spiritual wellbeing (Judith, 1999; Brennan, 1993; Lori-ellen Grant, personal communication September 28, 2008).

Upper-crossed syndrome

Upper-crossed syndrome

A lack of comfort with feeling or expressing a particular type of energy is thought to cause a chakra to constrict, whereas addiction to a particular form of experience may cause a chakra to become locked open (Judith, 1999). This constriction or open-ness is likely to be represented in the connective tissue, and therefore in the posture of the body.  We might expect for example in the case of someone who presents with upper-crossed syndrome to have a fascial constriction in the area of the anterior solar plexus chakra, and for this constriction to be associated on a psycho-emotional level with disempowerment in some form.

A model for somatic bodywork

If we are are comfortable with the assumption that the evidence described here is adequate support for the existence of the acupuncture and chakra system, then it seems reasonable to use the accumulated knowledge of these systems as a conceptual model for somatic bodywork.  It is recommended that anyone who is interested in exploring these ideas further undergoes further study.  Anodea Judith’s classic text Wheels of Life (1999) is recommended as are Barbara Brennan’s Hands of Light and Light Emerging (1993).  A brief summary of some of the relationships as described by Judith (1999) is illustrated in the following table.

Chakra somatics

Chakra somatics


Further study

Chakras and the endocrine system, Timothy Pope

The Acupuncture System and The Liquid Crystalline Collagen Fibres of the Connective Tissues, Mae-Wan Ho & David Knight


References

Acupuncture meridians (2008). Retrieved September 21, 2008 from http://www.alltogetherhealth.com/Acupuncture/acupuncture.htm

Brennan, B. (1993). Light emerging – the journey of personal healing. NY, USA: Bantam Books.

Pope, T (2004). Chakras and the endocrine system . Retrieved September 21, 2008 from http://www.healingfromtheheart.co.uk/69701.html
Collagen fibers (2008). Retrieved September 22, 2008 from http://neuromedia.neurobio.ucla.edu/campbell/connective_tissue/wp_images/4_fibers.gif
Energetic anatomy of the chakra system (2008).  Retrieved September 21, 2008 from http://www.librarising.com/esoterica/chakras.html
Ho, M., Knight, D. (2008). The Acupuncture System and The Liquid Crystalline Collagen Fibres of the Connective Tissues . Retrieved September 21, 2008 from http://www.i-sis.org.uk/lcm.php
Judith, A. (1999). Wheels of life – a user’s guide to the chakra system (2nd ed.). MN, USA: Llewellyn Publications.
Langevin, H., Yandow, J. (2002). Relationship of acupuncture points and meridians to connective tissue planes. Anat Rec. 269,257-265.
Langevin, H, Churchill, D., Wu, J., Badger, G., Yandow, J., Fox, J., Krag, M. (2002). Evidence of connective tissue involvement in acupuncture.  Journal of the federation of American societies for experimental biology 2002 (16), 872-874.  Retrieved September 30, 2008 from http://www.fasebj.org/cgi/content/full/16/8/872
Turchaninov, R. (2001). Research and massage therapy – part 2. Retrieved September 30, 2008 from http://www.massagetherapy.com/articles/index.php/article_id/236
Upper-crossed syndrome (2008). Retrieved September 30, 2008 from http://www.watertownchiropractic.com/Upper%20Crossed%20Syndrome.gif

You’ve probably heard of biofeedback – where real-time feedback on bodily processes that were previously considered to be automatic. Biofeedback is typically used to monitor stress and muscle tension.

Neurofeedback – real-time feedback on the state of the brain – has been experimented with since the 1960’s, and experimenters have developed the technology to the point where it may be used to control video games as a recent Wired article describes. This technology is already used by paraplegics to control their wheelchairs, open doors, etc. Medical researchers are worried that controlling a game with your mind may train the brain in ways that may not be optimal for it’s function, and could have a negative psychological impact. It certainly sounds a lot safer than the project which Kevin Warwick had planned several years ago of implanting an electrode in his brain, and one in another person’s brain to see if they could communicate. (He asked his wife initially, but she wasn’t keen 🙂 )

This seems to me to have some really interesting implications. Could we train ourselves through neurofeedback to be more satisfied with our life? Would this be beneficial anyway? According to wikipedia, this technology is being used therapeutically in the treatment of psychological conditions such as addiction.