Don’t Forget Your Feet
By Cathleen Rodgers
Take a moment, wherever you are, to think about your feet. Really tune into them. Whether you are sitting at your desk, standing up, or curled into a ball on the couch—close your eyes and bring your attention to your feet. Do they feel stiff? Sore? Cold? Completely indifferent? When was the last time any of us really gave a second thought to our feet?
If you are able, try now to bring your feet flat on a surface. Stand firmly on the ground beneath you; if you are seated, bring your legs into a position in which your feet can rest on a surface (the ground, your couch, etc). Imagine that your feet are melting into said surface…allow your toes to relax, your arches to soften, and the bottoms of your feet to feel grounded.
You may feel a warmth or tingling sensation spread through your feet as you draw this awareness to them. Awareness of the feet is something many of us tend to forget, both in our workouts and mere daily living. With so much else to think about, our feet go largely unnoticed, or remain low on the priority list. But why is it so important that we don’t forget about our feet?
Our feet quite literally carry many of us through life; they also hold the secret key to other issues occurring within our bodies. If our feet are in poor health, this will be reflected in other areas of the body. Posture, gait, organ function, skeletal and muscular patterns—all are affected by our feet. Crazy, right?
Feet are incredibly complex. They are comprised of 26 bones, 33 joints, 107 ligaments, and 19 muscles. There is evidently a lot of room for error and injury! A foot injury or faulty movement pattern tends to result in some sort of compensation elsewhere in our feet, ankles, and lower leg; this leads up into the hip, and ultimately the spine. Posture can be affected (especially true for more long term injuries or bad habits), and even organ function. The sooner we can get to the root of an injury or correct faulty patterns in the foot, the better.
Joseph Pilates purposely created his Reformer Footwork series to include a little Reflexology. Footwork is intended to warm up the whole body through use of powerhouse engagement, of course, but the feet also play a huge role in waking up the body for the session. Different points of the foot correspond to different regions of the body. So, Footwork Toes corresponds to your heart, lungs, and upper body region; Arches to the stomach and other digestive organs of the middle region; and Heels to the low spine and pelvic region. After completing the Footwork series, your entire body should feel “awake” and activated. Special apparatus such as the Foot Corrector, Chair, and even a towel are excellent for further work on strength, mobility, and alignment of the feet.
As you can see, our feet are important assets to our bodies, so we don’t want to forget about our feet in our earnestness to improve and fix other areas of our bodies. There are a few ways we can try to bring the focus to our feet each day: simple ankle circles, point/flex, rolling them out on a firm ball, a soak in a warm Epsom salt bath…even just being kind to our feet and wearing good shoes can make a world of difference. Feel free to ask your Pilates instructor for a few exercises you can do at home, or to give you a session that emphasizes your feet. Once you give your feet even just a little more love, you will feel a huge difference in your body!