Steeped in the study of Trisomy 21, I lay in general structure for my drawing of Sophie. I learn the spacing between the first and second toe is one of the characteristics of Down syndrome as well as are flat feet (pes planovalgus). Other markers may include smaller hands and fingers. And sometimes a deep, single crease across the palm of the hand.
I have to admit when I see Sophie’s feet, I can not wait to draw them. As a Yogi, the feet are one of the parts of the body I am particularly aware of in every standing pose. You press the mounds of the feet, leveled and firm, into the earth – you root to rise. But what if pressing firmly into the ground (rooting) isn’t so simple. Low muscle tone (hypotonia) and loose ligaments are contributing factors to a list of orthopedic problems associated with Down syndrome.
I’ve been in classes where Yogi’s spread their toes, an ability only hormonal change has made easier for me. Yes my toes have become more flexible as I age. In general, much of me is more flexible, but I know hyper-mobility is not a good thing. It may be caused (as in the case of DS) by low muscle tone and ligamentous laxity, and can be painful and lead to joint instability if not dealt with properly. A counterbalance to the musculoskeletal related condition is strength training (body awareness and directed effort).
Physical therapy is a regular part of Sophie’s life, her mom explains the afternoon we meet. No Yoga, she adds. Along with her big sister, Sophie also studies ballet. I’m surprised and have to smile when very spontaneously, she grande jete’s across the studio and into another area of my house and then back again.
I sketch the hands. The arms, in general, are not easy. I erase at least 3 (way more) rounds. This one element in the image is deceiving as Sophie angles her hands back, giving me one more expression to figure out.
Though her hands are on the smaller end, I don’t easily note other markers of DS. In Sophie’s case there is no single palmer crease. And if the 5th finger (pinky) curves inward, as it might in some cases, its subtle. Sophie’s thumbs are wider and flatter than average though the cause does not directly relate to DS.
I approach this study with the eyes of someone who is learning. I look more slowly and carefully than usual. I work to resolve nuance. In my Yoga practice yesterday, the teacher says attention is medicine. It is.
Other stuff I learn…
The great toe, the first digit of the foot is called the hallux. The thumb of the hand is called the pollex.
About the red highlight on the toe(nails)…
In general I bring red into the area of the feet associating them to grounding energy. In particular, the red toenails tell the viewer Sophie regularly enjoys a fine pedicure (p. 23 of My Heart Can’t Even Believe it).