At the appointed time, there in my waiting room was Gina and her mother, Madeleine. Gina was a delightful looking child of maybe nine or ten. She had very pretty features but feet that belonged to someone else. They were big feet. Here was a young girl dressed in pretty fashionable clothes wearing the most hideous clumpy looking orthopedic shoes. They were black, grim and serious forming a complete contrast to the rest of the young child’s appearance. Looking at Gina walk into my room, I could see her knees rotating strongly inwards so that there was twisting all the way down through her legs into her feet which were collapsing under the strain of the twist. Gina’s feet were so flat that she had red sore callousing happening on the inside of the arches. This caused chronic discomfort in the child.
Gina had started ballet at three years old. Eventually, because of her foot pain she had to stop dance altogether. As we talked, I discovered that they had been here, there and everywhere for many months, seeking some kind of assistance. During that period, Gina had been told to forget ever having normal feet. Her feet would remain flat for the rest of her life and she had best get used to it was the advice.
Alexander observed a causal effect between the manner of use and functioning. It’s really too simple an idea. The precept is that the way in which you organise your movement (your pattern of movement) will directly influence the way that you function. Further, that the way that you function will influence your physiology. The structure of your body is plastic and will grow in response to muscle pulls, pressures and so on.
Looking at Gina’s pattern of movement, it was possible to identify extraordinary excess effort that was twisting, gripping and crushing her body from top to toe. Her pelvis was arched, her thighs were gripped, her chest was pushed out.
An Alexander teacher considers the overall organisation of movement and the effect that has on the overall functioning of individuals. My experience is that there are consistent benefits to be had by individuals with chronic conditions through the examination and diagnosis of the organisation of movement.
For Gina, it was obvious that the excess effort that she brought to bear to her activities was impacting on her well-being including that of her feet. After having been given such negative messages about her future, I knew that it was essential to demonstrate to her that improvement was possible.
Some delicate guidance of her movement with my hands provided an opportunity for her to experience savings in tension. Her stature changed, her alignment also. It’s slightly complicated to describe the series of guided movements that I assisted her to explore. However, after a short time I said to her, ” I thought you told me you had flat feet?” She nodded agreement. Then I said, “Well what do you call those?” pointing to the arches of her feet that had risen. Madeleine burst into tears as did Gina. After a short moment I said,” You need to understand that it will take you some time to learn how to do this for yourself. You will need to learn to move differently with much less tension but as you learn your body and your feet will reward you.”
The last time I saw Gina she had finished her first year at high school. She had had regular Alexander lessons for about six months and then continued to have refresher lessons once a month and then once a quarter for some time after that. Once confident that Gina could maintain her ease of movement without further intervention I said “Good Bye” to her and Madeleine for a final time and I couldn’t help but notice the beautiful red shoes that she had on.