About eight months ago while I was playing in a rugby game, I had the most bizarre thing happen to me. I came out of a ruck and noticed a sharp pain in the bottom of my right foot. At first, I thought I had tweaked my ankle. I wasn’t too concerned, but it was difficult to put much weight on the foot without being in a lot of pain. But it was early in the game and my team needed me, so I pushed through.

About ten minutes later, I was in another play and nothing too specific happened, but the same sharp pain shot through my left foot. I couldn’t stand up. I had never had anything like this happen before. I couldn’t put any weight on either of my feet without feeling intense, nauseating pain. Thankfully, it was pretty close to half-time so one of my teammates gave me a piggy back ride off the field.

I found the trainer on the sidelines and described the pain the best way I could: cramps. But that didn’t feel entirely accurate for what was happening in both the arcs of my feet. I had dealt with cramps before and this felt much, much worse. Still, without much else to go on, I loaded up on potassium and I even drank pickle juice. If you know me, you know I really can’t stand pickles or pickle juice. But with the level of pain I was in, I was willing to do anything for some relief.

I didn’t go back into the game that second half because I could barely stand, much less walk, much less run, much less tackle humans. I took my cleats off and tried to massage out the cramps. At this point, I could feel knots in the arches of my feet and they were blowing up like balloons.

I eventually chalked this pain up to a systemic case of plantar fasciitis. Recovery was tough because the best thing to do was stay off my feet, but that wasn’t an option with my job. I popped my toes frequently, rolled out on a lacrosse ball, used a massage gun nightly, and got special supportive shoe soles.

Fast forward to now, eight months later, my feet don’t give me much trouble anymore. If I wear shoes for too long, they get stiff and I have to routinely roll out on a lacrosse ball, but nothing too major.

It wasn’t until I was reading an article about how emotions get stored in our hips that I finally felt like I got an explanation of what happened to me that day. The article “The Powerful Connection Between Your Hips and Your Emotions” goes into lots of details about how and why emotions are stored in our hips – a concept yoga has made me very familiar with, but towards the end of the article there’s a section about reflexology and how massaging the arcs, where adrenal glands are located, you can release tension from your hip area. A lightbulb went off in my head as I read this.

“’If you’re massaging your foot and this arch in the foot is collapsed, then you might have an overstretched psoas, or if it’s really held tight, you might have a tight psoas,’ Eddy says. ‘Working this lateral arch of the foot in reflexology means you’re going to be working with the lower back or down [in the hips].’

By applying pressure to the arch of the foot, which is where the psoas and adrenal glands spots are located, you can also release some of the tension in your hip area.”

The Psoas muscle – which is located in the lower lumbar region of the spine and extends through the pelvis to the femur – correlates to the arch of the foot according to reflexology.

What does all that really mean?

Well, basically, I suppose this was a particularly stressful season and I was storing that stress in my body, in my hips. I was holding onto emotions that weren’t serving me and they were causing tension. My body was probably sending me mild, warning signals that things were off, but me being the stubborn human I am, ignored those gentle alarms. Then, that day on the rugby field, the stress in my body refused to be silenced any longer. Forget those dull signals, it was time for the big guns. And then when I didn’t listen to one of my feet giving out, my body was like, “Really? This wasn’t enough? Guess it’s time to take out the other one so she won’t be able to walk properly for months.

It usually takes me learning the hard way multiple times for the lesson to really click into place for me.

And man did I learn to listen to my body.

I learned that not only is it vital for my mental state to work stored emotions out of my body, it’s also evidently important for my feet, too. What I’ve learned is that our bodies are always talking to us, telling us when something is off balance or uneven. It can be challenging to listen to the body. Often we don’t know that it’s trying to tell us something, but when the body really needs something to get acknowledged, it will continue to sound off progressively louder bells and whistles until you have no choice but to listen.

This is why I have fallen so deeply in love with yoga. It forces me to slow down, to connect with my breath, to tune into the sensations of my body, to feel my heart pumping blood, to register where there’s pain and discomfort. This is why I am getting certified to become a yoga teacher in just a few short weeks. I want to be in a position to help other people connect to themselves in similar ways. I want to encourage others to listen to their bodies in a nonjudgmental way.

So stretch your hips, give yourself a foot massage, and drink some water, friends. Onward.