March 20th is Spring Equinox! Are you ready to spring ahead with your feet first?
Look before you leap is always great advice, but not as good as telling you exactly where to look. Has anyone ever suggested that you look down at where you are leaping from? And more importantly, at how well your feet, the primary leaping mechanisms, are engaging the ground?
The feet, foot anatomy and foot fitness are sometimes overlooked because people concern themselves more about the shoes they wear. If the goal is to ignore natural foot fitness, then by all means focus on the shoe. If one relies only on shoes to carry them on their adventures, they may be covering up and possibly hindering the natural movement and exercise of the feet.
The human body contains 206 bones total. 26 bones are located in each foot and ankle, meaning that there are 52 bones altogether in your feet. That’s a quarter of the total bones in your body! These bones contain 33 joints (per foot), with over one hundred muscles, tendons, and ligaments in each foot. There are 26 bones in each foot and there are 26 bones above in the spine, so below as above.
Is it not amazing that there is the same number of bones in each foot as there are in the spine? Lucky 26! The spine has seven neck bones (cervical vertebrae), 12 middle back bones (thoracic vertebrae), five low back bones (lumbar vertebrae), 1 sacrum (5 consolidated vertebrae) and one tail bone (the coccyx, three to five consolidated vertebrae).
“That which is below corresponds to that which is above, and that which is above, corresponds to that which is below, to accomplish the miracles of the One Thing.” This ancient Hermetic saying might lead one to conclude that whatever happens to the feet below corresponds to the spine above. I believe this to be true not only in the fact that the alignment and fitness of our feet instantly affects the wellness of our spine, but perhaps more important is the role of the feet to sense the earth and bring the energy of the ground up, from sole to soul.
As Ida Rolf would say: the feet create our “understanding,” it is what allows us to interface with the earth and ground during upright activities. Ida Rolf and other notable bodyworkers like Joseph Pilates and B.K.S. Iyengar would agree that the feet are the most important focal point for our fitness regimen and overall health.
Many fitness programs go to great lengths to challenge one’s balance and endurance without building the platform of the feet and clearing the first level of standing on one foot for an extended period of time without tension. The feet must come first and form the base of an integrated fitness regimen, especially if you are one that can see into the future where in older age foot fitness, balance and flexibility will be your biggest assets.
There is a great debate on the proper shoes to wear for running. The new trend is to wear “minimal” shoes and find a natural stride like a caveman running away from a saber tooth tiger. I think it is a great idea to run as naturally as possible, but the feet must be trained and a progression that incorporates the whole body must be followed.
Researcher and Harvard Professor of Human Evolutionary Biology, Daniel Lieberman, states that too much cushioning in running shoes is not only a barrier against natural alignment and performance, but also forces the body to create high impact in search of solid ground through the cushioning of the shoe. Lieberman’s research says that less cushioning is in fact beneficial given proper training because a thicker cushion in the shoe results in more impact on the body which can cause injuries. Proper training and form are key, but this key cannot be purchased, it must be developed.
Aesthetician Danielle Welch works on the health and beauty of feet at Rob Rivers Salon in Mystic, Connecticut, she reminded me about the foot perils of feet in flip flops. Danielle says: “Flip flops are meant for the shower and the beach only!” She also says that the saying “cleanliness is next to godliness” most certainly applies to feet; pedicure anyone?
Where you are now is the best place to move forward from. If there is pain or discomfort in your feet, the alignment and balance of the whole body can be compromised.
Consult a professional and try alternative therapies such as massage therapy, reflexology and acupuncture to uncover any problems with your foot health. Alternative health care practitioner and Acupuncturist Megan Marco from Stonington Natural Health Center in Stonington, Connecticut says that many common foot problems like plantar fasciitis can be greatly reduced and often go away with Acupuncture & Oriental Medicine.
Orthotics, supportive shoes and other forms of external aids may be necessary at times for pain management and alignment issues, but they should only be used after every means of natural training, exercise and rehabilitation have been undertaken. It takes practice to have well balanced, healthy, pain free and fit feet. Time and a progressive fitness plan that allows the body’s natural healing and well being to emerge is the best way to approach this spring season.
10 ways to Spring Feet First!
1) Embark on a natural foot fitness plan
2) Assess your feet and retrace your steps to when they were most free
3) Learn Foot Yoga
4) Do foot focused Pilates
5) Balance on one foot
6) Make all your shoes a part of your foot fitness plan and use flip flops at your own risk
9) Pedicure anyone?
It is a wonderful feeling to uncover the infinite mobility, connection, strength, balance and optimal performance when running, biking, walking, being and enjoying life with an expanded awareness of the feet. Your feet are your connection to the present moment through the experience of understanding. Your feet are not thinking about the past or planning for the future.
Feel the presence of your own grounded-ness in the present moment. Be happy while springing feet first!
Rodolfo Mari is a Yoga Teacher, Pilates Instructor, Craniosacral Therapist, Tango Dancer and Personal Trainer. He is the owner of a small boutique fitness studio called Mystic Bodyworks located in Mystic CT. www.mysticbodyworks.com
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Assist: Sara Crolick/Kate Bartolotta