The Inconvenience of Movement

preventionMag

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.
datal

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

 

Q. But don’t I need to “do cardio” to stengthen my heart?

Actually, no, you don’t. You need to move more, and not at intense levels. Let me explain. Of all the wonderful, amazing things our bodies do, the most critical, the most imperative is to regenerate cells. 50-70 billion cells (which make up our tissues, which make up or organs, which make up our bodily systems, which make up us) die each day in the average adult human. Your body has the capacity to replace all of these cells. In fact, your life depends on you regenerating these cells. The recipe for cell regeneration is quite simple:

  • 1 part electricity (to move your cells)
  • 1 part blood (to feed your cells)
  • 1 part lymph (to remove cellular waste)

Mix together. Grow cells.

In baking, you can get all the ingredients right, but if you mix it wrong, you may end up with a culinary disaster. The same with  cellular regeneration. Mixing it correctly means moving all of your skeletal muscles as often as you can throughout your day. A combination of stretching, squatting, pulling/pushing your body weight with your arms, and walking comes closest to moving every skeletal muscle.  It is through muscle movement that blood is pulled from our arteries into our smallest of vessels bringing it to our cells (aka tissue food) and facilitating nerve health and cellular waste removal (you have to take out the garbage, bruh!).

So back to the heart. If cellular regeneration is our biological imperative, then you could consider your body a cell-making factory. Your heart and all 600+ skeletal muscles are its workers. If you are sedentary much of your day – sitting for breakfast, sitting for your drive to work, sitting at work, sitting for lunch, sitting for your drive home from work, sitting at dinner, and sitting in front of the TV/computer/book in the evening, and the only time you really get moving is for 30-45 minutes of intense cardio at the gym, you are relying on one worker, your heart, to pump hard enough to get blood to all of your cells in a very brief window of time. Wouldn’t it be more cost efficient for your heart to calmly pump blood into your arteries and the other 600 plus workers, your skeletal muscles, to get the blood into your tiny capillaries and hence your cells? If you are running a cell making factory, would you rather have one worker for 30-45 minutes or 600 workers all day long?

Q. Ok, so I’m moving all day long, don’t I still need to get my heart rate up?

Actually, no. Your heart gets plenty strong pumping blood all day long. When you push towards your maximum heart rate, it’s the stress equivalent of being chased by a bear. When your heart goes from a calm, steady rhythm to fast & furious, your body automatically secretes stress hormones and goes through all its fight or flight reactions. This is not good, as many of us already are plagued with constantly high levels of stress hormones.  No matter how much cardio you do, it will never be enough to effectively pump your blood into the tiniest of vessels. You need muscle movement to do this. And you need it all over. And you need it all day. And you can even get more of it at night, if you sleep on the floor.

Q. Uh, how exactly does one move all day long?

  • Walk every day – one long walk or multiple short walks; walk errands that you would otherwise drive.
  • Transition to a standing work station. See my favorite movements for my standing work station.
  • Take a 2 minute movement break every 30 minutes
  • Get a squatting platform for your toilet
  • Install a pull-up bar and hang from it daily; work towards being able to pull yourself up
  • Go to your neighborhood park and play on the children’s play structure. Seriously. Go. Now.
  • Garden with hand tools – shovel & hoe instead of a rototiller; manual push mower instead of gas-powered; clippers instead of a weed eater; watering can instead of a sprinkler.
  • Every choice you make throughout your day, which will be almost every choice you make, ask yourself how can you do it with more movement?

Get moving, there are cells to be made!

Namaste, Michele

Sleeping on a mattress is the new sitting

There are people out there that eschew the comforts of mattresses, choosing instead to sleep directly on the floor with minimal padding. I am one of them. Different sleeping surfaces create different loads to your body’s tissues. Loads experienced from a soft squishy mattress will be entirely different from loads experienced, when forces applied are from a firm mattress, futon, camping pad, or ground tarp. One can apply the analogy of footwear to sleeping surfaces. Heel height, toe box size, upper robustness, and sole rigidity/thickness can unnaturally load your feet to varying degrees. Shoes put unnatural forces on  your feet and among many other things (alignment, walking/standing surfaces, amount and repetitiveness of movement, etc.), are implicated in poor foot mobility, flexibility, and strength and in many foot maladies including plantar fasciitis, bunions, metatarsalgia, Morton’s neuroma, etc. The tissues of your shod feet would respond one way to constantly running on flat, unvarying, hard asphalt/concrete and another way completely to walking barefoot or minimally shod over natural terrain with its rocks, roots, divots, sand, water, prickles, grass, moss, sticks, and inclines. Your bed is the unnatural equivalent of a flat, hard surface for your feet with its attending maladies. Sleeping on a minimally padded floor or the naturally padded earth is like walking barefoot in nature, with its ensuing health benefits.

My teacher, biomechanist Katy Bowman’s concept of casting comes into play with mattresses. She describes casts/casting as the habitat in which we dwell that prevents full use of our body. Obviously, shoes and flat walking surfaces are casts, because they keep us from using our intrinsic foot musculature and attaining full range of motion in the joints of our feet and ankles. A chair is a cast for anyone, who sits at a desk job for 9 hours a day, as it prevents your spine, hips, and knees from moving through their full ranges of motion and it keeps large chunks of your body inert and denervated. Bras are casts too. A mattress is one of your biggest, most insidious casts because of the amount of time that you spend there. Sleeping on a mattress is the new sitting. In the same way that there is no ideal sitting or standing position, there is no ideal sleeping position. Our bodies, over millions of years of evolution, adapted for full-body, natural, all day movement, not sitting, standing, or sleeping in casted positions. A modern bed is different from that for which our physiology is adapted. Hunting and gathering, which humans and human-like ancestors did for upwards of 3 million years, adapted our bodies to sleep on the ground. Sleeping on a mattress is a novel development. Daniel Lieberman, Professor of Human Evolutionary Biology at Harvard University, in his brilliantly researched, illuminating book The Story of the Human Body: Evolution, Health, and Disease considers that back pain could be a mismatch disease/injury because your soft and comfortable mattress may weaken your back. A mismatch disease/injury (back pain) occurs when human features were  adaptive in the environment in which they evolved (sleeping on the ground) but have become maladaptive in modern environments (use of a soft, cushy mattress).

The nature of a mattress, regardless of its firmness rating, is to conform to your body and its attending misalignments, a soft-cast of sorts meant to provide you with complete comfort. Always sleeping on something flat and squishy has altered the mobility and sensitivity of your parts. Your pillow may be an even worse orthotic than your mattress. It reinforces the head position that it creates, which is a head forward position that is implicated in shortening of muscles that run between the back of your skull and the first and second vertebrae in your neck. When these muscles are not able to return to their optimal resting lengths because they’ve been chronically tensioned by your pillow, joint degeneration and disc issues (in your neck!!) can occur.    A pillow prevents the very motion that you often do naturally when your neck feels tight or in yoga class, which is drop your ear toward your shoulder for a good neck stretch. If you were sleeping without a pillow, your neck would regularly go into this range of motion as your roll onto your side.

Sleeping directly on the earth with no or only natural padding is the gold standard – equivalent to barefoot walking in nature and still a luxury for some cultures around the world and a few hard-core westerners. The closest most people will come in their daily lives, however, will be sleeping on hard flat floors with minimal non-natural padding. All the same, the benefits over sleeping on a modern mattress with a pillow are significant. The forces of a minimally padded floor provide a variety of loads to your body’s tissue that don’t occur on soft-casting mattresses, because you move more without external resistance inherent in a body-conforming mattress. This results in greater ranges of motion for joints that are underused at best, or completely immobile on a mattress. The pressure of a hard surface provides a passive massage to your muscles each time you move, thereby causing mechanotransduction of your cells that facilitates circulation, electricity, and waste removal. In addition to facilitating your body’s natural geometry (positioning of your parts to each other and to the floor) and providing a nightly tissue regenerating massage, sleeping on the floor allows gravity to traction those parts of you, like your neck,  helping to restore your muscles to their optimal resting length. Just as sitting on the floor provides yin yoga style benefits of naturally stretching and tractioning muscles and connective tissues in your hips, sleeping on an unyielding surface is where natural neck stretching occurs. An additional benefit of floor sleeping is that it gives you at least one opportunity, and probably more, to get down onto the floor and up again.

If you go from sleeping on a bed one night to sleeping on the floor the next, without a transitional ramping down period, it’s going to be quite uncomfortable and may undermine your success. This could happen not because the floor is too hard, but because your body is “out of shape” for floor sleeping. You wouldn’t start a running program by doing a half-marathon. You would train by slowly increasing your miles, speed, and frequency, with plenty of rest days. Same with moving to the floor. If you exceed the boundaries of your tissues’ ability to adapt; and create loads that are more than what you body is used to, you may suffer. By transitioning slowly and systematically towards progressively more minimal sleeping surfaces, you will gradually load your tissues so that they can adapt to your new sleeping routine.

Katy Bowman writes about transitioning away from a mattress. I’ve distilled her suggestions, and added a few of my own. You’ve been sleeping on a mattress all of your life, so take time – weeks, months – to transition to the floor.

Try these steps:

  •  remove pillow topper from your current mattress
  • place mattress directly on ground (yes, removing box springs changes the forces of a mattress)
  • replace mattress with futon
  • replace futon with a thick rug/carpeting and some blankets
  • remove the blankets one at a time
  • replace carpeting with Tatami mat (Japanese sleeping mat)

You can follow a similar transition pattern for your pillow, going from thick and dense to thin and feathery to a folded towel, etc.

My story is a classic case of do as I say, not as I do. I transitioned, in one night, from a dense, squishy, memory-foam type mattress to two stacked blankets folded lengthwise on top of a hardwood floor with no pillow. The first 5 nights I experienced distressing this-is-why-i-haven’t-camped-in-10-years aches and discomforts. I moved around a lot to get comfortable and I was awakened every time I shifted in my sleep and reminded of how hard the floor felt. I suspected maybe I was making a big mistake – until I got up that first morning. Even though I had felt uncomfortable while I was on the floor, when I got up, there was NO stiffness to be found. I popped right out of “bed” and was completely mobile, buoyant, and fully alert. So I kept at it another five nights and noticed that I was beginning to feel more comfortable – less intentional position changing, less awakening when I shifted in my sleep, less sensitivity to the hardness. At about two weeks, I returned to the bed one night to see how that would feel. Immediately, what I call my “restless shoulder syndrome” returned. All night long, I was back to moving my arms over my head and back to my sides again and again to find comfort, but never finding it. Sleeping on my sides, I experienced that familiar ache in my shoulder joints. When I slept on my back, I discovered the mattress rounded my shoulders forward into an unnatural internal rotation, causing tingling and an unbearable urge to change position. When I became too uncomfortable, I would flop over onto my belly, but then my neck joined the chorus of discontent. Finally, in the early hours of dawn, I crawled back onto the floor and unbelievable relief and knew, immediately, viscerally, that I would never sleep on a mattress again. Over the next three months, there were occasional nights where my bony pelvis and tailbone would dig into the floor. At one point, I was beginning to experience a pressure sore on my tailbone. So that night, I reached for the faux sheep’s skin pad that used to extend my floor bed for Jolie the dog, when she wanted to co-sleep with me. Even though I had clearly experienced a decline in status from my partner and our other two dogs, who continued to sleep on the bed, Jolie is loyal and likes to snuggle, so I had placed that pad next to my floor bed for her. Anyway, on that night, while she was up with the higher-ranking members of our pack, I slid her pad under my hips and immediately transformed my bed. This addition of ¼ inch padding when squished, was enough to eliminate any further bony discomfort.  While I am perfectly delighted with the quality and comfort of my floor bed, I would prefer to sleep with my partner, thus I am making a more permanent floor bed for us out of stacked wool blankets that will be tufted together into a 2 inch thick sleeping pad, with inspiration from Pinterest and the DIY Internet people. I’ll post images when it is complete.

Here is a picture of where I currently sleep. It is comprised of a pendleton-like wool blanket and a standard comforter, both folded length-wise, and topped with Jolie the dog’s faux sheep skin pad.

My Floor Bed

My Floor Bed

And this is what happens when you invite us to sleep over at your house.

Kim's Dad's house

Kim’s Dad’s house

I’ve done some cursory searches of the scientific research literature – enough to tell you that there are few studies on sleep surfaces and almost nothing on ground/floor sleeping in the  anthropological, biomechanical, or medical literature. However, what I have read is interesting and I will share in a follow-up to this post.

Namaste, Michele

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

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

Natural and Ladymade Work Surfaces for Your Feet

We spend most of our waking time wearing shoes and when we walk, it is on flat, artificial surfaces. Thus, the intrinsic muscles of our feet are weak and feel tight and have limited ranges of motion and almost no dexterity. We are a nation racked by painful feet, fallen arches, and dependency on orthotics and orthotic-like features designed right into our shoes that keep us further than ever from healthy, strong feet with great circulation and dexterity.

I write and study at a standing work station – sometimes for hours. I am constantly cycling through various exercises and props to strengthen, stretch, and mobilize my feet, ankles, and lower legs. To stimulate and innervate the bottoms of my feet, I often drape my weighted foot over a tennis, lacrosse, or racquet ball, as i wrote about last month. But I’ve been dreaming about making a DIY cobblestone mat to help prepare my feet for what should be a full Spring, Summer, and Fall of daily barefoot walks on natural terrain. So, finally, I got busy. While neither is quite finished and I have several others planned, check out the newest editions to my foot prop collection.

smooth landscaping stones

smooth landscaping stones

Smooth landscaping stones, a few pine cones, and a couple of wooden darning eggs are spread out in a boot tray. I still need to fill in a few spaces. The large size of the tray allows a vast array of foot positions, which means my feet (and therefore my entire body) experiences a vast number of loads to the tissues.

woodenbeads2

While not natural, I appreciate the loads provided by these wooden beads. They feel a a bit sharper than stones, more like gravel. The bright colors are cheerful and make me happy whenever I look down at my feet. These beads are temporarily renting space on a cookie sheet, but will soon be moving into a more permanent home on another boot tray.

If your feet are painful, feel tight, and are not very mobile, please spend several weeks doing the many exercises I write about on this blog. Continuing with the exercises, spend several more weeks walking barefoot inside on carpet, linoleum, wood, in that order. Start with less time and increase your barefoot time as your feet get used to the new loads. Continuing with the exercises and barefootedness, spend several more weeks  draping and rolling your foot over a tennis ball. You could injure your feet if you go from zero to stones & beads too fast. Seriously. You’ve gone this long, what’s your hurry?

landscapingstones2woodenbeads

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