This Little Piggy Does Pilates

Like most adults you tend to hide your feet away and if we’re going to be brutally honest you probably consider them a bit ugly. Time to change all that and for two very good reasons:

  • You don’t have to be a reflexologist to realize that the feet hold the key to easing stress and keeping the rest of the body happy.
  • You might not think it as you apply that corn plaster, but the feet themselves are a miracle of anatomical engineering and deserve the best maintenance you can give them.

The first point is easy to prove. Next time you get back home from the shopping trip or from work, kick your shoes off, lose those socks/fishnets and with your bare foot just try to grip the carpet, then relax. Doesn’t that feel good? Doesn’t that feel good right through to your shoulders? In fact it feels so good you should do it right now. I don’t care if you’re in the office, tell the boss I said it was OK. We all know that daily stress makes its way into the shoulders, and while I’m not knocking the divine beauty that is the back rub, if you forget about your feet, then you’re only dealing with the most obvious symptom of stress.

Your feet contain 52 bones, and more than 76 muscles and ligaments. More than a quarter of all the body’s bones are in the feet, most of them are small and delicate, and yet everyday we expect them to handle the equivalent of hundreds of tons of force with barely a thought for their well-being.

Trust me, I’m a runner, which means I’ve done more than my fair share of foot abuse without a thought for any of the above. Until the day when something goes wrong of course. Once you’ve picked up a foot injury you start to realize how tough life is when walking becomes a problem, so take care of those feet.

A foot workout doesn’t have to take long and will go a long way to easing stress. As ever, even though you’re thinking of your toes you shouldn’t neglect your posture. As you sit, park your pelvis in neutral, and pull your head and spine upright as if being pulled up by a string  running right through your spine and out through the top of your head. Scoop your stomach and now focus on your feet.

Start with a little ankle rotation to ease swelling and increase mobility. Rotate each foot in a circle while keeping the knee and lower leg still. Now try rotating them both together but in opposite directions and then change direction to circle the other way. If you’ve been walking all day, and especially if you’ve been carrying heavy bags, then this should ease the pressure immediately.

Now try pointing and flexing both feet together. Pointing means pushing your toes as far away from you as you can but try not to curl the toes, instead keep them straight and in line with the foot. Flexing means turning the ankle the other way so that the toes point back towards you, again the toes should be in line with the foot rather than trying to bend right back.

Here's an idea for you...

Try playing imaginary piano scales with your toes (you’ll need to be barefoot for this). Joseph H. Pilates was a great believer in body control and this is a great exercise for trying to re-establish the links between brain and body. With the soles of your feet flat on the ground, spread your toes as wide apart from each other as you can and then try to touch them to the ground one after another in order. It’s not as easy as you might think. Remember they have to touch one at a time and in order. Got that? No problem? OK, then I’ll bet you just did it starting with the little toe. Now try to reverse that and do it the other way, starting with the big toes.

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From Power-up Pilates by Steve Shipside

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