In Part 1 of this series, I talked about the act of Centering, and the role of the Pelvis in the body’s Center of Gravity (COG). Of course, you negotiate balancing your COG every day. Comedian George Carlin made this clever play on words: “When you step on the brakes, your life is in your foot’s hands.”
Actually it’s no joke – because your every step contains sensory information that your body sends from the foot to the brain, and in fractions of a second translates it into a safe and stable way for you to proceed. Did you know that there are an estimated 200,000 nerve receptors in each of your soles? At one time, when our early bipedal ancestors roamed the earth, the feet served as the only part of the body fully and consistently in touch with the environment. It served as a heightened means for sensory feedback.
Fast forward to today. Modern development and lifestyles provide a much different setting for our feet to navigate. We can’t just point the finger at stylish shoes as the only no-no. While shoes are intended to protect our feet, the fact is that enclosing them or shaping them into a container not only dampens the overall sensory feedback; it trains the foot out of its full capability.
When people come into exercise, strength and flexibility are usually items on the list of goals. But few people think about applying those goals to their feet and ankles. The concern over poor gait mechanics (walking) and the body’s efficiency in managing the COG, I’m certain, were factors that motivated Joseph Pilates to develop his method as a practice that is done shoeless. And of course, he developed exercises specific for the feet and lower limbs as they relate to the core.
The Footwork Series on the Reformer serves as a warm up, but it has a couple of other important functions. It 1) brings student awareness to how much pressure and/or effort is going into each foot, and then helps them focus on working equally as much as possible; and 2) provides the teacher with movement assessment information, then directing the student on sensing the imbalances and correcting where able.
When you think about the mileage we put on, you could liken our feet to the wheels on a car. If wheel alignment is off, it doesn’t necessarily keep the car from running, but it might affect mpg, and over time will degrade performance. Let’s get a closer look under the hood of this fine instrument of agility and balance – the foot.
There are 26 bones and 33 joints in one foot. By the way, the hand has 27 bones and a very similar set of bone structures. So, together the majority of the bones in the body are located in the hands and feet.
Broken up into sections, we have the forefoot, the midfoot, and the hindfoot
The ankle joint is in the hindfoot, where the lower leg bones meet with a unique bone called the talus. Interestingly the talus has no muscle attachment. Put rather simply, it’s something like a ball bearing; it has several gliding surfaces and articulates with the surrounding bones.
The midfoot contains what seems like a set of puzzle shapes called the cuboid, navicular and 3 cuneiform bones. This area is also referred to as the instep, and helps to shape the transverse arch of the foot.
The 5 longer bones known as metatarsals, along with the toes (phalanges) make up the forefoot.
We rely on the foundation and flexibility afforded us through all those sections to stand, walk, kick and run. And because of gravity, imbalances in the feet register throughout the body structure and can ultimately be responsible for pain occurring in the back or even the shoulder.
So, it’s no wonder that foot function is a key element in Pilates– we gotta work from the ground up!
Is Pilates part of your goal for the new year? Let us know and we look forward to you steppin’ on into the studio for your next workout!