More Exercises for Pronated or Flat Feet

I contend that barefooting is the best and most natural way to have strong, mobile, and healthy feet. But it takes time to transition to an unshod or minimally shod lifestyle and not everyone wants that. So, I make a point to keep up with and share biomechanics- and physical therapy-informed clinical research on foot health. In the past, I’ve suggested you add the short foot exercise for arch strengthening to your foot health protocol. I use it regularly with my clients and in my FootLove Workshops.

Here is another foot exercise to consider for pronated and flat feet and hallux valgus – the condition that leads to bunions. The Toe Spreading Exercise is easy to do. I suggest you do it standing, but you could also do it seated with your hips and knees flexed to 90 degrees. I use a yoga mat under my feet for comfort.

  1. Stand with your feet pelvis width distance apart and facing forward.
  2. Spread the toes on your right foot as far apart as you can. If you are unable to spread your toes on your own, reach down with your hand and help to spread them.
  3. Raise your heel
  4. Over a slow count to 5, lower your heel to the ground.
  5. Hold in that position for 5 seconds
  6. Relax the foot
  7. Some protocols have you repeating this up to 100 times! But you might just want to start with 5 or 10 reps. Repeat with your left foot.

A recent study suggests that along with the toe spreading exercises,  you also strengthen your gluteus maximus, commonly referred to as your butt. Your big butt muscle is responsible for externally rotating your hip joint, and a strong one is thought to alter alignment of the lower extremity, thus reducing foot pronation. The authors found that the exercise most effective for a strong butt is performed in a prone position (lying face down) by slightly lifting the knee while maintaining the hip joint in external rotation and the knee joint at 90° flexion.

I bring this exercise into the yoga world as a unique modification of salabhasana aka locust pose. Or, you could think of it as a hybrid between locust and bow poses. The study protocol called for 3 sets of 20 repetitions of single leg lifts. I think you could explore fewer reps of double legs and longer holds.

Namaste, Michele

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Why I Walk to Work

Most days I walk to work, in my case a yoga studio. Round trip, its ~3 miles. I don’t speed walk or carry hand weights or pump my arms. I simply walk. It’s one of the big ways that I stack my life around movement. Here is why you might consider walking to work.

Walking to work doesn’t require you to add gasoline or miles to your car and for that trip, your car-bon footprint is nil.

Walking to work can be your workout for the day, which means you won’t have to set aside time later to exercise. If you want to add more movement, plan to add some errands to your walk. Yesterday, I dropped off some items at the postoffice and then added an additional 2 miles to pick up something from the fabric shop.

If you pass by your favorite coffee shop, you can go inside and maybe run into a friend or have social time with the barristas. Whenever I do, Here Comes a Regular, by the band The Replacements plays in my head and I leave feeling happy and connected.

When you walk to work, you interact with neighbors and strangers, who are out mowing lawns, getting the paper, or walking their dogs. You begin to grow your extended community.

When you walk to work, people notice and it plants a seed. The fact that I walk to work has not been lost on my students or other yoga teachers. I regularly hear from people I know, “hey, was that you I saw walking down Yakima Ave.?” You never know, when or where those seeds will grow.

Speaking seeds growing, when you walk to work you really get to enjoy your neighbors’ gardens and how they change with the seasons. And, if you are stealth, you can graze on berries or plunder small starts for your own garden. Or, better yet,  just ask. I find most people are happy to share their garden bounties.

I often listen to podcasts, while walking, from smart movement and somatic thinkers. These are three of my favorites: Liberated BodyYoga & Beyond, and Katy Says. Listening to an educational podcast, while walking to work or walking to do errands is great way to stack your life around movement.

Walking to work replaces sitting in a vehicle with moving your body. One hour of exercise at the beginning, middle, or end of your day cannot not undo the harm done by too much sitting. Sitting in car, sitting at work, sitting for meals, sitting on the couch, sitting at your home computer. In fact, a cardiovascular expert from a consensus panel of the American Heart Association says “Regardless of how much physical activity someone gets, prolonged sedentary time could negatively impact the health of your heart and blood vessels.” I recently wrote an article that details other ways that you can replace sedentary with movement.

My wife and I often join each other on our respective walks to work. This stacks movement around family time.

I remove my shoes for sections of my walk to work, which is part of my foot health protocol. Barefooting is ultimately the best way you can improve strength, mobility, and health of your feet.

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If you come up with other benefits of walking to work, please drop me a line.

Namaste, Michele

 

 

 

 

The Inconvenience of Movement

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The July issue of Prevention Magazine featured a 12-page spread on Katy Bowman’s Nutritious Movement. I spent two years studying with Katy and in October 2015, I began working for her organization. While Nutritious Movement has had an influence on how I practice and teach yogasana, it’s greatest impact has been on my own personal life-driven movement practices.

I first heard Katy talk about the relationship between convenience and movement in the context of stacking her life. The idea is that convenience always equals less movement. Think about it. Taking an elevator instead of stairs is convenient but requires less movement. Tossing your clothes into the dryer instead of hanging them is convenient, but requires less movement. Parking close to your destination is convenient, but requires less movement. Driving one mile for a quick errand instead of walking is convenient, but requires less movement. Katy came to the realization many years ago that convenience was not convenient to her health and was in fact debilitating her.

Influenced by Nutritious Movement, I began to notice the big and small ways that choosing convenience robbed me of movement. One of the striking things I discovered was how often I am tempted to ask my partner to hand or bring me something instead of getting if for myself. I had no idea how precious I had become! So I began to intentionally choose movement over convenience. Every day, I am faced with countless decisions to either take a shortcut and “save steps” or to seek opportunities to increase my movement. For instance, at Costco, where I park at the farthest away space, instead of asking for a box, I have my purchased goods placed directly into my cart, which requires me to unload them one at a time into my car; and then several trips into my house. When I return my cart, it is not to the closest stall, but all the way back to the store. These are simple steps that don’t take much time and add up. 

In the Prevention Magazine article, Katy shares numerous ways she chooses movement. For instance, she places her everyday dishes in the lowest cabinets (under the counter) so that she has to squat each time she wants to get a glass, dish, or bowl.

I’ve compiled my own growing list of “inconveniences” that have added movement to my life that in aggregate over days, weeks, months, and years will provide incalculable benefits.

  1. I no longer own a couch or cozy living room furniture. When I wish to sit, I have to get down onto the floor, which is not convenient and requires me to mobilize ankles, knees, hips, and spine. It demands a combination of concentric and eccentric muscle actions to lower me down to the ground and bring me up to standing; and is a realistic test of strength to weight. The benefits of sitting on the floor go far beyond lowering down to and rising up from.
  2. I sleep on a three 3 inch pad on the floor. Again, because it requires me to get down onto the floor and back up again, I’ve added more movement and loads to my parts.
  3. I do quite a bit of computer work, so I had a standing work station built. Prior to making my living as a movement practitioner, I was a research librarian and spent 10+ hours a day sitting at my computer. Now, when I have to be at the computer for long stretches, I either stand or sit on the floor at a sit/squat desk. If you are standing for work, here are my top 25 movements at my standing work-station.
  4. One of the best changes I’ve made to my domicile is adding a squatting toilet. I use Nature’s Platform, which sits directly over my toilet. It provides more realistic squatting loads than that gimmicky foot stool called the Squatty Potty. Nature’s Platform differs from a true squat toilet in that you have to climb up onto it rather than lower to a squat from standing – the way you would do if you were toileting over a hole in the ground/floor, but once you are in a squat on the platform, the experience and benefits are much richer than using a foot stool to hike up your legs.
  5. Over a year ago, we downsized to one car and I walk as many of our errands now as I can. It does take some planning and there are far too many times that I don’t plan well and end up driving to errands that are walkable to save myself time. But I do try to think about where I need to go each week and how I can prioritize walking to get there.
  6. I grew up in Tennessee, where we had no shoes. Just kidding. We had shoes, but I chose not to wear them whenever I could get away with it – all the way up through college. Katy reawakened my love of barefoot living, causing my great neurotic shoe purge that while traumatic has been amazing for how, how much, and how much of my feet move.
  7. And I use my arms more. On my barefoot or minimally shod walks, I carry things in my hands and arms – like my day pack. Instead of using a cart at the grocery store, I carry two hand baskets (when they are available). Instead of using a motorized lawn mower, I use a non-motorized push mower and basic hand tools like clippers, loppers, and hand saws to trim what needs trimming around the garden and yard. Katy is a big advocate for hanging (like from monkey bars and tree branches), but I got bored with hanging, so I started rock climbing again.
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Michele, Datil, NM

If you are inspired to add more movement to your life, but you’ve been sedentary and would like to ease in slowly, I am certified by Nutritious Movement to teach the corrective exercises that Katy features in the Prevention Magazine article. These exercises will prepare your body for the loads required for squatting and getting on & off the floor with grace; adding more steps to get you to and beyond the recommended 10,000; and using your arms for lifting, carrying, pushing, pulling, dragging, climbing, digging, chopping pounding, swinging, reaching mantling, scraping, ripping, hoisting, throwing, hauling, heaving and all those other wonderfully nutritious movements your upper body has been missing.

Namaste, Michele