Healthy joints, elastic muscle tone and more powerful movement become ingrained in the body by performing Pilates exercises or yoga or any movement-oriented exercise regime or sports while using mindful imagery. This can include imagining a sensory experience you haven't yet had that someone else describes to you or by re-imagining an experience you've had in the past. Whatever the seasonal weather happens to be in the city you reside in, you can re-call a beach experience with the elements of sun and very particular way packed sand feels under your feet -or softer sand behind your heels.
Creating elasticity in the ankle tendons in the front of the foot leads to being able to access the muscular tone attached to the back of the leg and the stable hip bone structure that helps to support your spine. Because these ankle tendons are so small and because we tend to stand up by pulling these tendons tight rather than allowing them to fold in, we lose the ability to access the strength of the larger muscles higher up.
Elasticity in these tendons, because they are small, is accomplished primarily through mindful imagery - by what you envision in your mind while you are having to use those tendons. People don't realize that not locking the knees has more to do with accessing the leverage of the powerful part of the foot behind the ankle: the heel - but that levering the heel has to do partly with releasing the tight ankle tendons. There is a letting-go involved, but sometimes sensing softening insn't enough to release a part of the body that is tense and gripping. You have to make subtle space in the ankle - thinking of what's both in front of the ankle and behind the ankle. You have to think of your foot as being more of what you can't directly see - the whole substantial area of bone and cartilege of the heel.
Try this: in a sitting position, cross one ankle over the other knee. Using the fingers of both hands, move the front of the foot back and forth without pulling the tendons back to flex as you may be used to doing when you perform certain exercises. Using the hands to help you move the front of the foot, now look at all of what comprises the part of the foot behind the ankle: the heel.
Now continue to use one hand to help you release the tendons in front of the ankle that actually extend all the way into the toes. Think that these tendons can always flow out the toes and never do they have to pull back tight over the front of the ankle joint. With your other hand, use your fingers to draw the heel back away from the flowing-forward front foot and down away from the ankle joint. Realize you are creating spaciousness in this ankle by letting go of what is tense and overworked - the tiny tendons in the front; while at the same time you are accessing a levering force - a leverage in what is underused and less familiar to you because it's the part of the foot you can't see on yourself usually.
Realize that the heel has movement capacity to draw back - not just pull up into the achilles tendon and the calf or push down away from the calf - but that the heel can softly but definitely draw back behind the ankle as long as the tendon in front of the ankle are flowing forward out the toes. You can think that the heel can hinge away or hinge back from all of the rest of the foot and lower leg.
Start to sense this whole heel as substantial - not thinking of the heel as just the tiny part that is under the achilles tendon, but an entire sphere or ball shape that has the capacity to lever. This is a crucial capacity or quality of subtle movement to develop and enhance so that you are able to call upon it when you are in a standing position or when your foot is encased in any kind of shoe, be it a sports sneaker or a high heel - the heel must become a force of leverage for you to connect to the power of the hamstrings up to the sits bones, because then the weight of the pelvis can drop softly down on to those sits bones. This is pelvic stabilization: not just strengthening a supportive muscular connection, but developing relationship between a tiny part of your body granting access to a more-supportive part.
So now when you stand, you won't be standing up overusing the tiny tendons in front of the ankle. So now when you have to bend the knees to perform a lunging exercise or squats at the gym or chair pose in yoga class, you can initiate from the substantial force of the drawing-back heel or the heel leverage or the "heeling."
This is what a mind-body connection is: using and trusting your imagination and mindfulness as an asset to your body that trumps muscular exertion to affect the way you stand, walk, and exercise in ways that are not possible by trying.
Using imagery is the way in which you will make the most profound, sustainable, and long-lasting changes to your body...
If you tense and overuse the tendons in the front of the
if you run by overusing the tightened tops of your feet because you are thinking of lifting and lowering the foot to get you where you are going,
you pull the toes back into a hard flex when exercising because you think you have a "no pain - no gain" attitude towards getting stronger.
you will needlessly deprive yourself of the hugely supportive power of the
which connects to the powerful back body muscles:
With Backbone and Wingspan Foot Function for Spinal Support principles, mind-body connections are forged using the back-body posture connections that employ the use of the heel.
In order for the heel to come into play to direct the entire line of backside connections which support the spine, the tendons on the front of the ankle must be released.
Use sea, surf and sand imagery to help release these tendons while performing bending movements of the ankle, knee, and hip or even when you have to sit at your desk for long periods of time. These sensory images from the beach experience are often very vivid sensory experiences that everyone has had and can recall.
The images are helpful because as the tendons are released in the front, you can expand the heel in the back and begin to avail the body of the skeletal stability of the sits bones and the muscular support of the powerful hamstrings along the back of the leg and the lat muscles on either side of the spine which will allow you to feel the empowerment of being "laid back" even when you believe you have to "sit up straight."
Now as to notions of the ocean that can help you to soften those tendons, and assuage those tendon's "tendency" to grab and grip.......
I thought that I would take pictures of my soles above the undulation of gentle waves coming to shore on a day when the surf was not so rough.
I found that it was the retreating surf that helped me better under-stand my feet.
Try the following, whether you are lucky enough to be going to the beach on a winter's vacation or
even if you have to imagine the last time you had the waves lapping at your ankles.
When you bend the knees, rather than the bend coming from a forward movement of your knee-caps,
feel that the knee bend comes from expanding through the back of the heel.
The retreating surf helps with this softening and folding:
the water rushing back to the sea creates a flowing force in the front of the ankle that can help to ease and crease those tendons, and the water will dig out the sand underneath the back of the heel.
and your hip flexors get tight,
see if you are also grabbing the tendons
in the front of the ankle.
Next time you take yoga, and you are performing a lunge with a deep-knee bend,
and your muscles on the tops of your thighs are screaming,
the next time you have your feet on the
Pilates Reformer Footbar
try releasing the tendon in the front of the ankle by
envisioning the retreating surf flowing over your feet, and
being drawn forcefully back to the sea.
In releasing the tendons in the front of the foot, you will be availed of the expansion of the heel, which will connect to the hamstrings, sits bones, and the backs of the hips. All of these forces: hamstrings, sits bones, and the backs of the hips are the paired places in the back body area which are on either side of the line of the spine.
In this way, the Heels, Hamstrings, and Hips provide support for the spine.
Of course this imagery can also work for you whether you are wearing
sneakers, stilettos, or any kind of shoe and
whether you are dancing, jogging, or waiting for the bus.
Speaking of sea and wave imagery, my practice and teaching have been greatly influenced by my teacher, Elizabeth Andes-Bell,
who uses many nature-oriented images in her class and her other teachings.
For my next post, I will write about another way to discover notions of the ocean in relating how Elizabeth's weblog
Everyday Sacred and her writings about Standing Waves
has influenced my body and being.
Backbone and Wingspan Websites:
Teachings about how the heels & soles connect to the spine:
Foot Function for Spinal Support & Pain Relief: feetforfitness.com
Recovering Feet & Back from High Heel Pain: highheelhealing.com
Teachings about how triceps-lower traps-lats supports the spine:
Integrated Back Strength & Spine Support backboneandwingspan.com
Founder and Teacher: Herald firstname.lastname@example.org
Backbone and Wingspan®
Backbone and Wingspan LLC