My Top 25 Movements at My Standing Work Station

I spend several hours a day writing, studying, and managing the Yoga Collective of Yakima. Several months ago, I transitioned from sitting to standing at a DIY work station. Standing (in good aligment) has so many benefits over sitting. I’ll mention just a few:

  1. It makes the bones of your legs weight bearing, thus signaling them to build greater density. This is especially important for you hips
  2. It innervates the muscles of your posterior kinetic chain (back, butt and hamstrings), improving the flow of blood, electricity (nerve signals), and lymph (cellular waste removal)
  3. It strengthens your legs because they are having to work to hold you up. I’ve always had a shapely bottom, but spindly, flabby legs – think $10,000 hat on a 10 cent head. After standing for a few months, my legs, for the first time ever, are beginning to look toned and strong.
  4. I have been plagued with varicose veins for most of my adult life. Since standing to work, I still have them, but they are definitely improving.
  5. And my favorite benefit is that if affords me many, many opportunities for movement nutrition.

If you sit all day for work, you are putting your health in grave danger. Just google “sitting is the new smoking” or “dangers of sitting too much,” and you will get a gazillion hits, including sobering research on the subject. But if you decide to stand instead, it is critical that you not trade one form of sedentary (sitting) with another – standing still. Here is just a sampling of the ways that I move, when I am standing at my work station. I’ve included descriptions, links to tutorials, and/or images for many of them.

  • Calf stretch – you can buy SPRI Foam Roller Full Round – 36-Inch x 6-Inch Diameter Foam Roller from Amazon and cut it down to size. I cut mine into three 6″ pieces and one 18″ piece and use them in a variety of ways. For detailed alignment on the calf stretch, check out Petra Fisher at Movement Revolution. She’s super smart about alignment and standing work stations.
    Calf stretch
  • Top of foot stretch
  • Top of foot stretch
  • Ball rolling – See also a great article and video from Terry Littlefield at Yoga Tune Up
  • Calf elevators – you can lift and lower or work on holding in balance
  • Calf raises aka calf elevators

    Calf raises aka calf elevators

  • Toe lifts
  • Hamstring stretch
  • Hamstring stretch

    Hamstring stretch

  • Monster walk – an entertaining video from my teacher, biomechanist Katy Bowman, doing the monster walk. I go side to side in from of my desk when I am listening to lectures.
  • Shoulder strap – i explore many movements – shoulder flexion, shoulder extension, twists, lateral bends, varying the distance between my hands, etc.
  • Strap play

    Strap play

  • Quad stretch
  • Quad stretch

    Quad stretch

  • Hand stretches – there are so many variations, but basically, you are stretching your fingers in their natural ranges of motion
  • Finger extensions

    Finger extensions

  • Rock tray
  • Pelvic list – a little tamer video from Katy Bowman
  • Giant step – this can be done on any height surface – stool, chair seat, counter, etc.
  • Giant step

    Giant step

  • Distance gazing (opposite of navel gazing) – Step away from your station, look out the window, and let your gaze soften and become hazily focused (not squinting) on something further off in the distance. Try to pick out architectural landmarks, differentiate between leaves and branches, follow birds in flight, anything to relax the muscles you use 99% of the time staring at screens, books, television, and anything within a few feet of your face.
  • Head hang
  • Head hang

    Head hang

  • Three deep breaths – Stop what you are doing; allow your arms to hang by your sides; close your eyes and take three deep, chest expanding breaths
  • Arm swings – swing your arms forward and back. Let the work happen on the back swing and the ride happen on the forward swing. You can alternate arms to simulate a the arm swing that happens when you walk. Or, you could swing them forward and backward in sync. Try to keep your elbow pits (where you give blood) facing forward, but your hands facing your hips!
  • Alignment check – this is what I do each time I realize that I’ve zoned out and gotten too still (sedentary)
  • Squatting – I show a desk squat here; but you could do utkatasana or a full squat
  • squatdesk
  • Single leg balances – any single leg balance will do. Try to keep your hips back and your quads relaxed
  • Vrksasana (tree pose)
  • Lateral flexion
  • lateralflexdesk

    Lateral spinal flexion

  • Garudasana arms
  • Garudasana (eagle) arms

    Garudasana (eagle) arms

  • Strong yoga foot 
  • Thoracic stretch
  • thoracicdesk

Don’t just stand there, keep moving!

Namaste, Michele

I’m a Barefoot Walkin’ Fool!

I walked over 20 miles today completely barefoot. April Fools! But, I did take my longest barefoot walk in the last 30 years – about 2 miles. These are some of the surfaces over which I walked:

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The following items stuck in or to my feet:

  • 2 pine needles
  • 2 goat heads
  • 2 pieces of glass – one green, one clear
  • pine sap
  • a small turd

My feet would have been much dirtier, except near the end of my walk was a large grassy area that still held some dew and that cleaned them off a bit. That is sap on my toe, not the turd. My foot is not as long as it appears.

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Walking barefoot today brought many benefits (turd notwithstanding). These include:

  • Stretching, strengthening, and mobilizing my intrinsic foot musculature that supports my arches
  • Naturally moving the 33 joints in each foot through their full ranges of motion
  • Stimulating sensory nerves in my feet
  • Sharpening terrain shape sensory information communicated to my brain by my feet, which were deforming over natural features so that my larger joints (ankles, knees, hips, and spine) could make subtle adjustments to keep my gait smooth and me upright
  • Toughened up the skin on my feet to allow more barefoot walking
  • Improved circulation, cellular waste removal, and nerve health
  • Allowed my toes to spread fully with each step, countering the negative effects of the restrictive toe boxes of many of my shoes
  • Decreased the jarring, joint degenerating ground force impact that happens when a shoe-cushioned foot strikes the ground
  • Made me happy to think about my years spent barefoot in Tennessee, cuz people don’t wear shoes in Tennessee, ya’ll

Namaste, Michele

Sitting on the Floor…A Proposal

I start my yoga classes asking students to sit on the floor. I often ask “has anyone sat on the floor this week – aside from a yoga class?” I get a lot of “no’s.” Then I suggest opportunities for converting couch/chair sitting to floor sitting/squatting, such as when you are watching TV or reading or try performing activities at a low table like paying bills, computer time, eating meals, playing games, etc.

Sitting at a desk or on the couch/recliner/easy chair for long periods of time is associated with cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and many cancers, which means it increases your risk of death from one of these diseases. One study showed a 61% greater risk for those who sit 7+ hours per day watching TV over those who sit less than 30 min. When you sit on furniture, especially cushy furniture that molds itself to your body, thus casting it into the shape of said furniture, you end up nearly motionless for long periods of time. You use few skeletal muscles when you lounge back on the couch. Idle muscles burn less fat (you get fat), respond less effectively to insulin production (you get diabetes), and promote less blood flow. Poor circulation in legs results in unsightly swollen ankles and puts you at risk for varicose veins and, even worse, blood clots. Muscles that sit around on easy chairs don’t contribute to cellular waste removal and conduct less energy to boot. Slouching back on a comfy sofa puts you in a tail tucked position that can, over time, result in pelvic floor disorders.  When you sit on your tailbone, as a slouchy couch promotes, you risk herniated spinal discs, pressure on your sciatic nerve – which can lead to the painful condition of sciatica – and weak butt muscles. Sitting with your hips and knees flexed for long periods of time, in any type of chair, decreases range of motion in your hamstrings and limits hip mobility, which is a major cause of falls in older persons. While it may seem comfortable while you are doing it, when you get up from your recliner after a Netflix binge, you are sure to experience a stiff spine and sore low back, shoulders, and neck.

So what happens if instead of slumping onto the couch, you choose instead to sit on the floor? When you sit on the floor, with your back unsupported by anything other than your own musculature, you in fact strengthen that supporting musculature otherwise known as the postural muscles of your trunk aka your core. A daily practice of sitting on the floor with your back unsupported (this means you don’t sit against a wall or couch) strengthens the stabilizer muscles that protect your spine, as well as trims your waist in a natural, functional way. I would put my money on floor sitting over abdominal crunches as the optimal way to strengthen my core ANY DAY. When your postural muscles are firing at their optimal lengths, you become strong enough to align or stack your vertebra, bringing back the natural, compression reducing, curves of your spine. When you sit on the floor, you are more likely to be on your sitting bones rather than on your tailbone, which is better for your pelvic floor musculature and your low back. Hanging out in seated postures on the floor increases your tolerance to greater ranges of motion in your joints, which results in a sensual experience of more flexibility. You feel less stiff, less tight.

When you sit on the floor supporting your own spine, you squirm. You don’t sit still. You move about. Frequently changing positions articulates your joints into many different angles, causing a seemingly infinite variety of loads to the tissues of your spine, pelvis, hips, groin, and legs. Different loads stimulate different muscles which, through the process of mechanotransduction, pushes blood into the smallest of blood vessels, innervates the tissues, and removes waste products.

When you sit on the floor, you do something you almost never do on furniture – you stretch. Just sitting on the floor in a cross-legged position provides passive tensile and compressive loads to your connective tissues, increasing strength and suppleness. But active stretching is likely to happen as well. Once you’ve shifted your position a dozen times to get comfortable, you’ll usually give in and just begin actively stretching your muscles! This would not happen if you were in a chair. Just sayin.

Claudio Gil Araujo is a Brazilian researcher who studies people’s’ ability to get on and off the floor as a marker of longevity. Basically, those study subjects that had to use one or both hands, an arm, their knees, a lower leg, a hand/s on their leg/ as a brace, or momentum to stand up from a floor-seated position, had a greater mortality rate as compared to those who could bring themselves from a floor seat to standing and back to a floor seat using only the strength of their bodies. While internal force production, or being able to mobilize and lift your own body weight, may not predict how long YOU will live, it is certainly a marker of functional health and reflects your mobilities and strengths at the deeper level of your cells and blood vessels.

Lose points for:

Lose points for:

In the image above, you would lose points in your overall sit/stand test score for using a hand, knee, forearm, hand on knee, or side of leg to brace or leverage getting on/off floor.

Here is a video of Araujo’s sit/stand test, with English subtitles.

Sitting on the floor. Being able to get down onto the floor and back up again with grace and ease, like all things worth achieving, takes practice. It also takes remembering to do it, forming a habit. The next time you find yourself sitting in a chair, nudge yourself to take your task onto the floor, even if only for a minute, to begin a daily, lifelong habit and practice of sitting on the floor.

So here is my proposal.

“Do you FootLove Yoga Blog Reader promise to sit on the floor, unsupported, everyday, several times a day, for as long as you live?”

“Do you?”

“Do you?”

Namaste, Michele

What is Squatting Good For?

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I instructed variations of Malasana or full squatting in my yoga class last night. We followed these with what is often described as a supine squat aka Ananda Balasana aka Happy Baby pose. A student asked me to remind her why squatting is good and why in that supine variation. I replied with just one of many reasons why frequent squatting is not only good, but necessary – it keeps your pelvic floor appropriately toned and at its optimal length to support the weight of your pelvic and abdominal organs; and to efficiently regulate the opening and closing of your elimination and sex muscles. When these functions are malfunctioning, incontinence and organ prolapse occur.

Picture the muscles of your pelvic floor like a hammock between your pubis (pubic bone) and sacrum (lowest section of spine). That hammock needs a certain amount of tautness to serve its functions. Such tautness is achieved when the sacrum is a certain length from the pubis. We do many things in life that shorten the distance between the pubis and sacrum, causing slack in the pelvic floor hammock. The human body will not allow  muscles to remain slack, but instead will take up this slack by contracting or shortening the slacking muscles. A hypertonic pelvic floor muscle is a weak muscle.  If you, like many people, habitually tuck your tailbone under as a conscious or subconscious postural choice; if you are a butt squeezer/clencher for “fitness” reasons; if you’re a yogi who drops your tailbone at the drop of a cue; if you sit more on your tailbone than your sitting bones in your car or on cushioned furniture – couches, love seats, easy chairs, recliners, futons, etc. – then you are moving your sacrum/coccyx forward into your pelvic area and shortening its length from your pubis. Over time, the result of this positioning of your sacrum in relation to your pubis will cause your pelvic floor to malfunction.

There are two simple but not necessarily easy ways to bring your pelvic floor back to the right length. First, change how you position your skeleton by creating a neutral pelvis, using bony markers as guidance. Line up your pubic symphysis (the prominent bony center of your pubis where the two halves of your pelvis meet) with your pelvic bones aka anterior superior iliac spines (ASIS) evenly in the frontal plane. I describe how it looks in three orientations:

  • When standing with these bones even in the frontal plane, if you pressed your pelvis against a wall, your pubis and ASIS would both be touching the wall. If your pubis touched first, then you are posteriorly tilting your pelvis and moving your sacrum deeper into the pelvic cavity. You are butt tucking.
  • When supine, you could lay a board on your pelvis and, assuming your could move the flesh out of the way, all three bony markers would be flush to the board. If only your pubis is touching, then you are tucking your butt and will also notice that this results in a flattening of your lower spine against the floor.
  • When prone, the three bony markers will be pressing evenly into the floor. If your pubis is pressing more than your pelvic bones, then you have moved your sacrum/coccyx forward.

Picture-316

This image, borrowed from my teacher Katy Bowman, shows a side view of the pelvis. The orange line represents the wall, board, or floor in the above examples. You can see how the pelvic bone and the pubis are positioned in relationship to each other in the frontal plane. You can also imagine how a butt tuck would send the tailbone deeper into pelvic space, causing the pubis to push forward of the ASIS. This would shorten the pelvic hammock.

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In this image, also borrowed from KB by way of Leonardo da Vinci, shows a neutral pelvis in relation of the rest of the lower skeleton. Note how the lower of the orange dots at the front of the pelvis would come forward if this skeleton were to tuck its butt, taking these bone markers out of neutral alignment.

The second way to optimize the length of your pelvic floor muscles is the increase the strength of your gluteal muscles. Because of how/where your glutes attach to your pelvis, these muscles, when they are strong and fully innervated, will keep your sacrum pulled back out of your pelvis maintaining proper pelvic floor muscle tone and length – provided you are not undermining them by tucking your butt or posteriorly tilting your pelvis.

Frequent squatting – multiple times per day, throughout your day – will train your sacrum to stay where it belongs and will strengthen your gluteal muscles. How can you add more squatting to your day?

  • The best way I know is to build or install a squatting platform over your toilet. I installed Nature’s Platform in my bathroom and now I squat  a minimum of how many times per day that I eliminate.

    Nature's Platform

    Nature’s Platform

  • I use a standing work station to write & study and take frequent squatting breaks, in addition to my bathroom squatting breaks
  • Squat to perform household tasks – even if it’s just for a minute. I bring the cutting board onto the kitchen floor and squat when I chop veggies; I squat  when folding clothes; I squat when pulling weeds; I squat when I’m sitting on the floor reading.
  • Add squats to your yoga practice or fitness routine

There are lots of variations in squatting and i do them all. If I am going into malasana or full bathrooming-type squat (not on my squatting platform because the back of the toilet inhibits this), I try to keep my shins vertical to the ground, my spine in neutral, and my tail untucked for as long as I can, but at some point as I get lower to the ground, my tail will tuck. If I am not going into a full squat, I work on the vertical shins, neutral spine, and really use my gluts to power lowering into and rising out of the squat.

Malasana or bathrooming squat

Malasana or bathrooming squat

Butt building squat

Butt building squat

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Back to my student last night and Happy Baby, which appears like a supine squat, but is technically not a squat at all. Most yogis get it wrong in terms of the bony markers discussed above. Most posteriorly tilt their pelves, tuck their coccyges – which in the supine orientation would present as lifting the tailbone off of the ground, and flatten their lower backs. To achieve some of the benefits of the squat and as a good way to train your body away from this malalignment in prone postures, try to keep your tailbone down and your pubis and ASIS even in the frontal plane. I find it is easier to achieve this one leg at a time as in half happy baby pose.

Namaste, Michele

Bras, the Burkas of the Western World

My breasts are small. My nipples are large. These facts will be important later in this story. About 12 years ago, I did a brief, fun, memorable modeling stint for sporty women’s clothing catalog Title Nine – this fact is my disclosure.

Last night, I browsed through Title Nine’s latest catalog and got myself wrapped around the axle (again) about boobs. I was checking out bras, when I read about a bra called The Deuce, “light molding keeps the gals in shape and the headlights low.” Infuriated, I posted the following on Facebook ‘My nipples are not headlights and I will not keep them low.’ A discussion ensued. When I found myself commenting a treatise on breasts, it was determined enough incredulity for a blog post. Words and phrases in “quotes” are Title Nine’s.

Of course, I’ll start with nipples, given mine. We have a cultural aversion to nipples, treating them as if they are so dirty, profane, and obscene that not only should they be hidden from sight, but we should not speak their indecent name. I have felt pressured into hiding my large nipples much of my adult life. About a year ago, during an epiphany in the mirror with a clinging yellow shirt, I tossed out all of my undy bras and extracted the padded inserts (“removable modesty padding”) from my yoga tops. As a small breasted, large nippled yoga teacher, I admit I was uncomfortable standing in front of my class the first time without monoculturally-shaped modesty pads, knowing my immodest nipples were naughtily erect. But “the gals” and I prevailed. To hell with the nipple haters! No more burkas for my boobs.

Behind every nipple is a boob and in some cases, a large one, as my bustier friends have reminded me. Acknowledging that I am small breasted, I understand that larger breasts feel better with the support a bra gives. But consider that bras are a very modern invention. Prior to bras and other containment contraptions, women’s breasts were wild and free. Feral breasts (those that have never been held captive by bras) have a better opportunity to develop the capacity to hold their own weight without harmful impacts on other body parts. As a young, wild pair of breasts develop, ideally the natural movements of a the girl’s upper body would develop intrinsic and extrinsic breast-supporting fascial, ligamentous and muscular structures with appropriate strength and yield to allow her breasts to move naturally with ease. I say ideally, because most developing girls do not engage in anywhere near enough natural upper body movement to develop these tissues. Natural movements are those that would occur if we had to complete our essential activities of living without any modern convenience – performing the tasks that our bodies evolved over hundreds of thousands of years to do like walk, climb, hunt, drag, dig, gather, build shelter, and squat to birth, bathroom, cook, and rest. Our early ancestors used their upper bodies to dig, push, pull, hang, climb, throw spears, make tools, lift, and carry their few possessions, including their children. Imagine using your body to do/make everything you need to survive in this world! That’s what our bodies evolved to do. Our boobs evolved to support themselves.

Can you just stop wearing a bra altogether? A cups, yes! Larger than A cup, take heed. An analogy may help. Imagine there was a bra for your head that supported it on your neck from the time of your birth until you were 20 years old. For 20 years, you never had to use the supporting ligaments, musculature, and bones of your cervical spine, shoulders, chest, etc. to keep your head in place. At 20, the head bra is removed and suddenly you are required to hold your head up with tissues that have never carried the loads that a bobbing, weaving, shucking & jiving head produces. Trouble.

This is the state of our breasts. We put brathotics on as little girls as soon as our “teacakes” start to form, training our tissues to be nonfunctional. We band, strap, seam, wire, lift, separate, compress, and pad them throughout development, never allowing our suspensory ligaments to bear the weight of our breasts and the loads they produce while moving. Consequently, when we move in ways that cause them to swing or bounce, our weak, underused tissues can’t support us and it is uncomfortable or even painful, so we band, strap, seam, wire, separate, compress, and pad them even more.

If you are not strong enough to hang from a bar for several minutes, pull or push up your own body weight multiple times, or carry your heavy book bag with your arms for several miles, then your breasts and their support system are not strong enough to carry the loads produced. You would benefit your whole body health by building the breast system via large daily doses of varied load producing movements of your shoulder girdle to include pushing, pulling, reaching, lifting, hanging, carrying, climbing, crawling, pressing up, pulling up, dipping down, etc. You can achieve many of these movements and loads by simply walking with a healthy arm swing, gardening and yard work using basic hand tools, and playing on a good jungle gym set in your local park.

If, after improving the health of your breasts and their support system, you choose to move toward wild breasts, do so slowly and in stages. If you wear the strongest support like Title Nine’s “Booby Trap,” then ramp down to the next most supportive. Put your bra on later in the morning, and take it off earlier in the evening. Remove it when your loads are less – eating dinner, watching TV, and sleeping. It could take months or even years to transition out of your brathotics, so take your time and do the necessary work.

Back to Title Nine and other producers of fashion and health material for women: please stop referring to breasts as “the gals,” “the girls,” “teacakes,” “cabbages” and other ridiculous names. Stick to the B words – breasts, boobs, or bosom. And furthermore, healthy breasts with a functional breast support system (your own tissues) would never need to be “contained,” “controlled,” “conquered,” “molded,” “locked down,” or “kept in place.”

Title Nine

Namaste, Michele, who credits my teacher, biomechanist Katy Bowman, for my understanding of boob loads.

Load-Induced Conditions of Your Feet

A theme running through many of my posts on feet this month is alignment. What exactly is alignment? How does it differ from posture? Again, I lean on the words and ideas of another, my teacher biomechanist Katy Bowman, to elaborate on the concept of alignment and to relate it to my understanding of foot health. Posture is the positioning of your body parts in relationship to each other and to the ground. When you are standing still and you straighten your feet or back up your hips, you are creating a posture. When you are performing vrksasana (tree pose) in yoga that is a posture. Alignment, which encompasses posture, is a creation of forces by your body position (posture) while still or moving that loads your tissues. Posture is the positioning. Alignment is the loading forces on your body. Alignment is not just where your hips are (posture) but where all parts of your body are and how fast and hard and how often and in what direction they are moving; and your shape and what you are carrying and where; and the surfaces you are on or under; and the terrain and temperature; and the gear you are using and structures you are interacting with. Alignment is the interactions of all the variables in a particular system right now and whether the forces created by this system that load the tissues of your body are inflicting damage on any one part of the system. An aligned and well body does not damage itself.

Plantar fasciitis, bunions, hallux limitus and rigidus, bone spurs, metatarsalgia, Morton’s neuroma, and Achilles tendonitis could all be considered load-induced diseases of the foot. How are loads created to the tissues of our feet? Through our alignment.

Here are some major components of your walking alignment system that impact your feet :

  • body positioning
  • injuries
  • stride and pace
  • intensity of your foot strike
  • range of motion in your hips
  • innervation of your intrinsic foot musculature
  • gait pattern
  • weight
  • your backpack, purse, or other carried items and how you are carrying them
  • the terrain –  wood, tile, carpet, asphalt, concrete, dirt, grass, flat, lumpy, uphill, downhill, slick, hard, soft, holey
  • the shoes you are wearing. the shoes you are wearing. the shoes you are wearing. the shoes you are wearing.

Change one variable in an ecosystem and the impact ripples across that ecosystem, impacting all relationships to some degree. In the case of your feet, their current state is a reflection of their ecological history. Change one of the variables in the list above and you may not see a change. Change many, most, or all of them, and you will change your feet. You can still change your feet.

Namaste, Michele

Simulating the Toe Off Event in Walking to Stretch Your Plantar Fascia

You learned in my first post on Plantar Fasciitis that stretching the plantar aponeurosis aka fascia is associated with better outcomes than other conservative, conventional treatments including anti-inflammatory medications, corticosteroid injections, and both custom and over the counter orthotics. In addition to stretching the tissues statically, you can functionally stretch the plantar fascia by simulating the tensioning of the plantar fascia that occurs during the propulsion phase of gait (walking). Three variations of the static stretch are provided in order of intensity, followed by a link to a video of the dynamic, functional stretch.

Plantar Fascia Stretch – Static

Plantar fascia stretch

Plantar fascia stretch

Plantar fascia stretch from my behind

Plantar fascia stretch from my behind

Level 1

  1. Stand up on your knees with the dorsal (top) sides of your feet and toes touching the floor.
  2. Extend the toes of your right foot forward, so that the bottoms of your toes are touching the floor
  3. Hold for 1 minute and repeat on left foot
Kneeling plantar fascia stretch

Kneeling plantar fascia stretch

Level 2

  1. Be on your hands and knees with the dorsal (top) sides of your feet and toes touching the floor.
  2. Extend the toes of your right foot forward, so that the bottoms of your toes are touching the floor
  3. Pressing your hips back towards your heels will increase the stretch
  4. Hold for 1 minute and repeat on left foot
Semi hands & knees plantar fascia stretch

Semi hands & knees plantar fascia stretch

Level 3

  1. Begin in either Level 1 or Level 2 starting position
  2. Extend the toes of your right foot forward, so that the bottoms of your toes are touching the floor
  3. Sit back on your heels (vajrasana) with your spine upright and neutral
  4. Hold for 1 minute and repeat on the left side

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Plantar Fascia Stretch – Dynamic

  1. Be on your hands and knees with the dorsal (top) sides of your feet and toes touching the floor
  2. Bring your right foot forward until the sole is on the ground and your butt is on your left heel
  3. Rock forward from heel to toe on your right foot
  4. See the video of this on FootLove Yoga Facebook Page

Note in the photo above that I did not get my pinky toe extended forward. I should have reached around to coax that lil puddin into extension.

In any of the variations, try to reach back to your foot and massage the fascial tissue in a crosswise direction, providing an additional myofascial release of these sticky tissues.

Namaste, Michele

Movement Nutrition – Variety is Critical

Movement Nutrition is super important. We know that foods like dark leafy greens are an excellent source of nutrition, but we wouldn’t eat only greens at every meal because then we would miss out on essential nutrients not found in greens. When we only exercise in one medium (run, cycle, swim, etc.) it is the movement equivalent of eating only greens.

Research is pointing to the importance of infusing movement into your day, all day long. For the next week, make an intention of infusing movement where you normally may not have had it or much of it. And, find variation in your usual ways of moving. For example, here are some ways that I infused a variety of movement into my life in the past 24 hours:

Movement infusion: I walked to the coffee shop this morning instead of driving
Movement variation: I walked on grass instead of pavement, where I could, to introduce more subtle loads to my feet, ankles, knees, hips, spine, shoulders & neck. I sought out obstacles like planters to step over or on, benches to go around, curbs on which to slack line, poles to hold with one hand and lean far away from to stretch my arms/shoulders, etc.

Movement infusion: I sought out the parking space furthest from the door at the grocery store
Movement variation: I brought a stack of carts in with me, pushing them through the parking lot! I would be good at this job and would benefit from more pushing with my body & arms as it puts different loads on my tissues, improving my cardiovascular system by helping blood to move into my capillaries, which brings nutrition and helps with waste removal.

Movement infusion & variation: I ate, knitted, read, and wrote at a standing work station, while stretching my calves on my half dome, spreading/lifting my toes, balancing on one leg, lifting my arches, and rolling the plantar fascia of each foot on lacrosse, racquet, and tennis balls.

Movement infusion & variation: I uncoupled trips outside, meaning i made separate trips out to empty the compost, take out the recycling, empty the trash, feed the birds, get the mail, get something out of the shed – all while barefoot for the variety of temperature and textures these tasks offered to my feet.

Can you think of ways to infuse a variety of movement in your day? Nothing is too small or mundane.

Namaste, Michele

 

These Feet Were Made for Walking… – January 2

Our feet evolved primarily for walking on varied terrain with hills, bumps, divets, sharp rocks, smooth stones, roots, holes, sand, dirt, grasses, leaves, brambles, water, slick, sloggy, hard, soft  – deforming their 33 joints in a nearly infinite number of positions while naked. Our feet did not evolve to wear thick, rigid, tight, positive heeled shoes while walking on hard, flat artificial surfaces. Our feet are not happy. Our feet could be so much more.

A little science bit on the gait cycle. While walking looks easy, it is an extremely complex and coordinated event. When we walk, the following four distinct events occur during the stance phase, when the foot is in contact with the ground.

  1. Heel strike (HS)
  2. Foot flat  (FF)
  3. Heel rise (HR)
  4. Toe off (TO)

Walking with shoes on flat surfaces mutes/blurs these distinct actions, resulting in gait patterns that look more like stomping or shuffling.

To get your feet walking optimally with maximum joint involvement, try this. Remove your shoes and slowly exaggerate each action in the gait cycle. It’s OK to do this on carpet if you are not used to going barefoot. If you have rugged feet, try this outside on grass. Concentrate first on your right foot only, letting the left foot come along for the ride. Then concentrate on your left foot. Then both feet. If you feel like you are walking the bridal march, you are doing well.

  1. As you step your right foot forward, gently land your heel on the ground (heel strike)
  2. Slowly allow the remainder of your foot to make contact with the ground, articulating one joint at a time as you lay your foot down. (foot flat)
  3. Rise your heel off the ground, again articulating each joint until you are on the ball of your foot. (heel rise)
  4. Push your toes firmly away from the ground (toe off)

In the kind words of Thich Nhat Hanh, as you walk, “kiss the earth with your feet.”

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Namaste, Michele