So, alignment. Usually when you hear this word, you think of the tires on your car. Since that’s something everyone can relate to, let’s start there. Why does your mechanic tell you to get your tires aligned every six months or so? To prolong the life of your tires. If your tire alignment is off, it will cause all kinds of problems with your vehicle. Uneven wear reduces the life of your tires, causes your car to pull to the left or the right, and can force your car to work harder than it needs to to move forward. This can cause unnecessary wear and tear and eventually serious damage.
Moving on to human body alignment. Similar problems occur when our bodies aren’t aligned properly. here are a few facts about the human body that I’ve learned:
- Survival– Our body’s ultimate goal is survival in all conditions. This means that our systems are constantly working together to operate with the least amount of effort possible to conserve energy for when we really need it. Since we’re not living in the wild and having to hunt our food or run from predators, this instinct to conserve energy isn’t really necessary anymore, but due to the humongous gap between genetic evolution and technological evolution, we still have it. Therefore, WE need to be consciously aware that we’re getting enough natural movement in our day-to-day lives. What does that have to do with straight feet? When our bodies are aligned properly (and it starts with the feet), we use our joints and muscles in a way that promotes optimal health. <—— This is an INCREDIBLY SIMPLIFIED VERSION of this biomechanical truth. If you want to know more, you can read this and this.
- Repetition–When we stop using certain muscles and muscle groups and only rely on a few joint positions by participating in a rigorous “exercise” routine (as opposed to engaging in natural movement) which includes repetitive movements and use of targeted muscle groups every day, we LOSE THE ABILITY to use the muscles and joint range of motion (and nerves, but that ‘s a whole other world) we’re not engaging. Again, this is an overly simplified explanation of a very complex process. There are many issues with repetitive motions of any kind, however some people make their living by using repetitive motions. Pitchers in professional (and non-professional) baseball, for instance, make their living by absolutely destroying their shoulder joints. So, in some cases, “bad for you” is relative. 🙂
- Adaptation–One definition of adaptation is: a change or the process of change by which an organism or species becomes better suited to its environment. Do we really want to be “better suited” to sitting 5-8 hours a day? To less movement? By definition we have “adapted” to our environment, but that’s not always a good thing. Our bodies have adapted to a more sedentary lifestyle, which means our skeleton has morphed into some seriously wonky positions.
I could go into a lot more detail on all three of these points, but this would become a very long post. There’s tons of information out there if you’d like to research it yourself.
Now, to your feet. The foundation of Restorative Exercise™ is 25 alignment points. When the human body is properly aligned, it allows for optimalmobilization, stabilization, and function ON ALL LEVELS. Not necessarily just mechanically. We all want that, right? Absolutely. Based on the information above, however, our bodies have adapted on a large scale: generations and generations before you whose walking and standing postures you imitated, and on a small scale: the years you have spent sitting, not walking, and working out at the gym that have shaped your body. It is impossible to achieve proper alignment of the entire skeleton all at once because of the tension we’ve created in areas that literally won’t allow your bones to move into certain positions. Therefore, we start with the feet. If you’ve read the first two posts in this series, you’ve learned about the role the feet play in whole body health. We’ve got to get our feet flexible and strong before we can even begin to work on the rest of the body. You’ve been doing your foot exercises, right? This will change how you exercise your feet, AND how your body feels as a whole. It’s going to blow your mind.
Let’s get your feet straight!
Stand up. Take off your shoes and socks. Get something with a straight edge and line it up against the outer edge of either foot. Now line the outer edge of your foot up with the straight edge so it’s flush against it. I’m using a yoga block, but a book or a piece of paper will work just as well. Now try it on the other foot, keeping them both pelvis (or hip bone) width apart. How does that look? Weird? Does it feel strange? Are your toes or knees turning in?
You’re not alone.
This is what starting with the alignment of your feet does to the rest of your body. It sheds light on where your body REALLY is without your compensations. You’ve probably been compensating for tight calves, hamstrings, hips, and even shoulders by turning your feet out (or in) when you walk. Have you looked at your shoes lately?
Check out the wear patterns and this will give you some idea of how you’ve been walking in order to bypass tension in the rest of your body. Interesting, isn’t it? Now go back to doing your foot exercises with your feet straight. Heck, do ALL of your exercises with your feet straight. Walk with your feet straight. IT’S WEIRD, RIGHT?! I know. It was really weird for me at first, but over time, with lots of calf and foot stretching (among other corrective exercises), my feet are straight when I walk and stand. Keeping my feet straight and doing corrective exercises has relieved pain in my hips, lower back, and shoulders.
So there you have it. This is just the beginning. There is so much more to get into with just your feet: bunions (what’s the deal?), plantar fasciitis, and corns. Also, pancake feet (where did my arches go?! No worries, you can get them back) and too high arches. Want more? Me too! Starting in February, I’ll be doing a 6 week “Movement Cleanse” course that will get deeper into some of these issues, and teach you more basic exercises that will help you feel so much better, and move more with better results. We’ve all done our beginning of the year eating cleanse, so why not a movement cleanse? There will be weekly emails, a once-a-week 30 minute Google hangout with me, a secret Facebook page, and lots of fun. You’ll come out of the 6 weeks with a better understanding of your body and what YOU can do to improve your health. If you have a body, it will pertain to you. If you have a body that has aches and pains, or are getting ready for/are/just got done being pregnant it will be great for you as well. If you’re interested, please send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. The first person to register will get a nifty “Story People” 2015 calendar. There’s only room for 10 people, and it’s first come, first serve, so let me know soon. Registration will close February 1st. There is no cost for the 6 week program, and you will need to buy the book “Move Your DNA” by Katy Bowman. It’s available in print at moveyourdna.com, and also in ebook format and audiobook here. We’ll be using sections of the book as a jumping off point for discussion, and a new exercise each week. It’s a great way to kick start your best year of health. I’m so looking forward to it!
Until next time!