When I first started practicing yoga I used to wear socks. It was solely, and excuse the unintentional pun here, but solely because I was ashamed of my feet. I had ugly toes. They were not the type of toes that a woman in her twenties should have; all perfectly polished like the Scholl advert, more along the lines of Eddie Murphy leaving you in the middle of the night.
And for those of you born after 1991 that is a reference to Boomerang, a cinematic masterpiece Murphy made before the throes of excess got to his head.
But I digress.
I had really ugly toes. I didn't know the joys of wearing sandals without surreptitiously glancing accusingly at anyone who looked at the ground. I became adept at distracting men from looking down at my feet in a bar, 'oh my god are your eyes light brown?' And can I buy you a drink? Worked particularly well on men, if I ever noticed their gaze hovering dangerously low.
I hated my feet so much that I had somehow managed to avoid any of my ex boyfriends seeing them. Think of all the crafty scenarios that I had to cultivate dans les sack, just to stop them getting an eyeful of the corn on my pinky toe.
Now that my friends takes dedication.
I could share my bed and my body, and yet my biggest fear was a man looking at my feet and running a mile. Forget cellulite, fat you can lose but ugly toes are for life.
Baring that in mind imagine my horror when I first stepped on to the mat, and I heard the teacher say 'you need to remove your socks'. It was as if she had said and now we can all remove our bras. In fact taking of my clothes would have been preferable to exposing my feet.
And so I didn't. I pretended not to hear her, and the next time I went into the class I hid at the back, socks and all.
And the next time, and the next time after that.
As the weeks went on I began to feel frustrated, my balance wasn't quite improving, and I found it hard to 'spread my weight evenly'. I began to realise something. The socks had to go.
This was one of the scariest moments of my life. It may sound stupid even; but those socks had been my protection, my barrier from the ridicule and judgment.
My Achilles heel.
The moment I removed those, everyone would be able to see my feet and there was nothing that I could do about it. I would literally be confronted with my biggest flaw everyone time I went into a forward fold. How could I concentrate on my practice without risking someone looking? I had to make a choice. I could either develop my practice, or keep wearing socks and cursing myself every time I wobbled.
At first it was hard. I was so conscious of every movement, until I realised that I could not grow my Vrksasana if I was focused on my feet. I had to let go of my insecurities and just get on with it. And that was what I did. Slowly but surely I began to notice them less and less until, they were just well my feet.
The day I started my yoga teacher training I remember walking in and seeing the 'no shoes in the studio' sign. For 12 hours a day I would have to expose my feet to hordes of complete and utter strangers.
But instead of that familiar feeling of dread, I felt free. Just that simple decision to take of my socks had brought me along a path that I would never have imagined. Something so simple that people do without thought, or feeling had caused me to always keep a part of myself hidden away from the world. It forced me to confront my ideas about intimacy; love, and who I was, as opposed to 'who I wanted the world to see. '
We spend so much of our lives not doing what we want to because that voice in our head tells us we can't. That we are not good enough, that we do not have the ability to do what everyone else can. Yoga teaches you that you can. That slowly and steadily you will find the strength to stand at the front of the class, flaws (or in my case claws) and all.
It was in that moment that I realized the real strength in my vulnerability. That in taking a risk, no matter how small it was, I had climbed my own mini Everest.
And finally, I had left my insecurities, my inhibitions, and my socks firmly at the door.
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