Monthly Archives: December 2012

All I want for Christmas is… to feel my feet!

Last Christmas I asked for a pair of Vibram Five Finger Classics.   I wanted to replace my old wooden clogs for these sleek, soft, and lithe, little shoes.   At the Pilates studio I spend a lot of time on my feet, and teaching other people how to use their feet.  For years, I found myself kicking off my clogs to demonstrate movements. What I needed was a shoe that would protect my foot, and allow me to use it properly.

Most people give little thought to how they use their feet.  Yet, our feet influence our balance, joint alignment, and even core strength.  As I watch my baby son wiggle his toes, arch and flex his feet, its unarguable that our feet were designed to be as expressive and mobile as our hands.  Each foot has 26 bones, just one less that each hand.  It also has 75,000 nerve endings connecting to other body parts.   That’s about 1,300 nerve endings per square inch.  No wonder our feet are so ticklish.  The feet influence the alignment of our ankles, knees, hips, and spine, and they are the direct gateway to the pelvic floor and abdominals.
When I first donned the Vibram Classic, I could wear them for about 2 hours a day before clinging to the stability of my old standbys.   The first time I stepped outside the studio to grab a cup of tea next door, gravel stones, sidewalk cracks, and the dampness of the concrete were overwhelming.   It was like being barefoot. A few weeks later I dashed out the door to pick up my son from school while still wearing the shoes.  In a single moment, years of faulty foot mechanics jolted my body.  As my feet hit the asphalt, I felt like I had jumped off the second story of the building and landed wrong.  In that moment I realized that I had poor movement mechanics!  My wooden clogs had allowed me to stomp my heels, thrust my legs, lock my knees, and jam my hips.  No wonder my low back ached! Immediately I adjusted my gait.  I walked softer and quieter.  I carried myself with the stealthiness of a feline.  
Pilates is a barefoot discipline.  I am not sponsored by Vibram, and I do not sell their products.  I am just a consumer who likes good shoes.   Occasionally I work with someone who has so much foot pain that being barefoot is not an option. This is a person who doesn’t walk barefoot even around their own home.  Some of these people have benefited from wearing the Vibram shoes during class.  I have other clients who suffer from foot neuropathy and cannot feel their feet.  Lack of foot sensation affects their balance, and leads to foot dragging and tripping.  The sticky rubber on the bottom of the Vibram shoes gives these clients confidence in their foot placement while doing exercises such as Footwork on the Reformer, and Standing Pumping on the Chair.  The shoes also separate the toes, which helps to open the foot, thereby improving foot biomechanics.  And since the shoes are completely bendable, clients learn to articulate their entire foot and move their toes, ultimately improving their flexibility and strength.
Almost a year later, I wear my Vibram Five Finger shoes on my favorite hikes, and enjoy the sensation of moss on granite rocks, pine needles, and even sand between my toes.  Wearing the shoes has disciplined me to be mindful in my movements and strengthened my connectedness to the world around me.  If you have experiences wearing these shoes, please share them so that others have the opportunity to learn more about improving their foot strength, flexibility, and biomechanics.  

Gluten & Dairy-free Cheer!

I can’t resist sharing with you the menu for tomorrow’s Holiday Gathering at Evergreen Pilates. Please join us and sample the following gluten and dairy-free Cheer! Everything is organic, and purchased locally from my very favorite Natural Grocers. In case you’re tempted to recreate a few at home, I’ve included the recipes below.

Organic Cocoa-Coconut Gem Truffles:2/3 Cup Cacao Powder. 1 Cup Almonds, ground. 1/4 Cup Coconut, small flakes. 3/4 Cup Medjool Dates. 3 Tbs Extra-Virgin Coconut Butter. 1/4 tsp. Sea Salt. Flax Seeds, to roll balls in.

Pumpkin-Almond Bread:4 Cups Almond Flour. 3/4 Cup Cane Sugar. 1 tsp. Baking Soda. 1/2 tsp. Sea Salt. 1/4 Coconut Oil. 3 Eggs 1 Cup Pumpkin Puree 1/2 Cup chopped Pecans. 3/4 tsp. ground Cinnamon. 1/4 ground Allspice. 1/4 tsp. Nutmeg. 1/8 ground Cardamom.

Kale Salad w/ Cranberries & Toasted Walnuts:1/2 Cup Walnut pieces. 1 Large Bunch Kale. 1 Orange. 1/4 Cup Extra-virgin Olive Oil. 2 Tbs. Lemon Juice. Sea Salt and Pepper to taste. 1/2 cup dried Cranberries.

Curried Quinoa Salad:Salad: 1 1/2 Cups Water. 1 1/2 Cups Quinoa. 1 Can Black Beans. 1 Red Onion. 1 1/2 Cups Fresh Cilantro. 1 Red Pepper. 2 Tomatoes. 1/2 Cup dried Apricots. Vinaigrette: 1 tsp. Garlic or Fresh Ginger. 1 Cup Fresh Orange Juice. 4 tsp. Curry Paste. 3 Tbs. Red-wine Vinegar. 5 Tbs. Olive Oil. 1-2 tsp. honey. 1 tsp. Sea Salt. Black pepper to taste. 8 Large Lettuce leaves. Cilantro leaves, sprouts, and orange zest for garnish.

Exercise with a Smile!

Core strength, muscle balance and flexibility are the tenets of Pilates. We spend countless hours strengthening our abdominals and stretching our hamstrings, yet the health of our hands goes unnoticed.  We depend on our hands to type, text, tie, button, groom, eat, and communicate.  Too much work or too little, and our hands become achey and less articulate. Any joint that is not properly moved through its full range of motion will become stiff and arthritic over time. Whether you have arthritis or want to avoid it, it is important to stretch and strengthen your hands. The Isoflex Ball is the perfect hand exerciser. It slips easily into a jacket pocket for a walk, or in the glove box for a drive.  

Here are a few exercises to get started. By improving your hand strength and flexibility, you’ll increase your coordination and dexterity as well. Be creative and have fun!

Rolling: Place the ball on a flat surface. Place your hand on top with straight fingers stretched apart. Apply pressure and roll the ball back and forth, massaging from the heel of your hand all the way to your fingers tips, and back. Then turn your hand on the pinky side to the ball like a knife blade and roll back and forth along the lateral border of your hand. Also, turn your hand thumb side down and roll the medial border of your hand as well. Turn your hand palm side up and repeat on the back of your hand.

Kneading: Hold the ball in the palm of your hand, gently squeeze the ball to rotate it clockwise in your hand, rotate it counter clockwise. Allow all of your of your fingers to make contact with the ball.

Taps: Hold the ball in the palm of your hand, and tap the ball 5 times with each finger.

Piano Fingers: Hold the ball in the palm of your hand. One at a time, peel your fingers away from the ball and then one at a time re-wrap them onto the ball.

The Isoflex Ball makes a great Stocking Stuffer! For a limited time you can purchase the Isoflex Ball at Evergreen Pilates for $4.99.