Getting In On The Ground Floor

Each week we utilise Somatic techniques to relieve chronic muscle contraction and retrain healthier movement via the brain to muscle connection. But a separate and important part of the work we do is  Restorative Exercise . Here is the short story why:

From the age of 10 to 18 I studied classical dance (think tucked tailbone, very flexible and duck feet). I followed that up with 15 years or so of being a sedentary desk worker - sitting for at least 8 hours a day if you include home time. So by the time I walked away from all of that my tissues had fixated in some pretty unhealthy ways. But I was completely unaware - hey! I could still do the splits. I felt great (ish). I could ignore the minor niggles and have a crack at anything.  So....I got heavily into power yoga and personal training with a body that was already badly misshapen from many years of habitually poor alignment. The end result was quite a lot of pain. Hence my mission to understand why, with all of that exercise, didn't I feel wonderful? Wasn't I doing the right thing? 

The Restorative Exercise program answered my questions, including ones I didn't know I needed to ask yet. It was developed by Katy Bowman, a biomechanical scientist. Katy noticed a link between the common diseases suffered by western peoples (such as cardiovascular disease, joint degeneration, back (neck and shoulder) pain, osteoporosis, arthritis and foot issues) with poor physical alignment.  So she created a program that takes us back to using our body the way it was designed to be used.

You wouldn't drive your car if the wheels weren't properly aligned. There would be a huge amount of wear and tear (degeneration) on the vehicle. I can promise you that learning to realign my vehicle (which is a work in progress) has brought me to a place of greater comfort, strength and mobility than I've had in years. If only I took such good care of my actual car! Which brings us to our feet.  

With 200,000 nerve endings, 19 major muscles, 28 bones, 17 ligaments; the human foot is a biomechanical masterpiece.

Our feet are the foundation of our house - and they were designed to be facing straight ahead. There is plenty of evidence in science for this - your leverage (strength) potential is enhanced in each stride and the compensatory wear and tear on the rest of the body is reduced when you start to make some subtle adjustments. What is going on down there is effecting everything on the way up. Yes your neck pain can be linked to what is going on in your feet. The friction caused by poor foot alignment can lead to arthritis, low bone density, joint and muscle pain and (of course) foot problems.  So we always start our alignment training with the feet. Let's build our house on a strong foundation.

At first standing with feet straight ahead tends to feel pigeon toed. Over time, especially as we learn to externally rotate our upper thighs and strengthen our lateral hips it feels more natural. It also starts to feel stronger, more grounded and more balanced than the alternative. We will look at some of the ways to smooth the way in class this week.

We can't safely change the way we move overnight, so please take it slowly and feel your way. A big issue in foot and overall body mechanics is shoes, as we will explore in class - and as I've documented in these photos below.
 Notice the alignment from the centre of the hip down through the centre of the ankle. 

Notice the alignment from the centre of the hip down through the centre of the ankle. 

 And this is what happens when I put on some moderately heeled shoes. Look at the line from the centre of my hip now. You can see how my body weight is now coming down now through my toes. They even look tense and so does the top of my foot. My knees felt locked up and I could feel compression in my lower back (SI Joints tender anyone?) This is also placing an uncomfortable tension on my pelvic floor - and I have no choice but to thrust my ribs to avoid leaning forward - which equals neck and shoulder tension.

And this is what happens when I put on some moderately heeled shoes. Look at the line from the centre of my hip now. You can see how my body weight is now coming down now through my toes. They even look tense and so does the top of my foot. My knees felt locked up and I could feel compression in my lower back (SI Joints tender anyone?) This is also placing an uncomfortable tension on my pelvic floor - and I have no choice but to thrust my ribs to avoid leaning forward - which equals neck and shoulder tension.

 This is a good quality men's hiking shoe - the wedge is 4cm and the heel in this shoe is about the same. Potentially doing the same thing to the wearers pelvis as in the photo above. 

This is a good quality men's hiking shoe - the wedge is 4cm and the heel in this shoe is about the same. Potentially doing the same thing to the wearers pelvis as in the photo above. 

 This ladies quality 'comfort' shoe also has quite a wedge of a heel. But not quite as high as the mens version shown previously. This is not uncommon. Many mens work shoes and running shoes have quite a big heel. Shoe makers build them that way because we sense they are more comfortable - because many of us have tight calves and hamstrings. But wearing heels does not help us to restore length to our muscles!

This ladies quality 'comfort' shoe also has quite a wedge of a heel. But not quite as high as the mens version shown previously. This is not uncommon. Many mens work shoes and running shoes have quite a big heel. Shoe makers build them that way because we sense they are more comfortable - because many of us have tight calves and hamstrings. But wearing heels does not help us to restore length to our muscles!

I am not a shoe saleswoman but I have spent a few years finding better shoes now - ror myself, my husband and daughter, my friends and even my Mum now. I've written more about it here if you are interested.

Daily Maintenance Week 2:

Continue to Calf Stretch - 30 seconds to one minute each side, at least twice a day (if you don't have a 1/2 dome you can use a rolled up hand towel or something similar) - refer to handout for details

Add Toe Stretch - Refer to your Gait Essential handout. Here is Lucy doing a seated version which is great when the top of your foot is really tight. 

Wide Leg at the wall with External Rotation Focus - We will do this in class this week with a lot of support

 What can I say, the ladies have great taste. Sorry about the top of your head Megs, what did David say - it's a bit tricky with the long and the short of it!

What can I say, the ladies have great taste. Sorry about the top of your head Megs, what did David say - it's a bit tricky with the long and the short of it!