While this week’s health tip isn’t really ABOUT ballet, I have to give a shout-out to my most amazing teacher Bianca because, little did I know that, when I signed up to take her beginner’s adult ballet class in September, that my whole reality was going to change, yet again.

I thought her Instagram posts from her summer teaching trip to Paris  were lovely and of course most every girl (and maybe some of the boys…want to make sure everyone’s included here) dreams of being a graceful ballerina, or at least I’m hearing that from most of the folks I’m telling about my class.  

I had NO idea where this adventure was going to take me! Instead of just a dance class, I felt like I should have paid for this out of my business account because I’ve learned SO much more about the importance and use of foot, lower leg, hip and butt muscles.

What I’ve been dying to share with you all is about foot strength, flexibility and how vitally important it is for posture and balance. 

I see feet ALL DAY LONG with my in-office folks. 

I hear about my patients losing balance and falling.

I see folks with ankle weakness, knee problems, hip pain, low back tightness, mid back spasms…do you see the pattern of moving from bottom-top? The reason is this: your feet are your base. Yes, forgotten bases, but still your base. EVERYTHING (yes, I know I’m using a lot of caps today, but I really want to emphasize so much info) stems from feet. 

I really did know this before, and this isn’t the first I’m learning of this, but I’m coming to a greater level of respect for and returning back to the need to make sure our feet are healthy and strong.

And while I know a pedicure is NICE, it’s only one aspect of foot care….and we want to looker deeper and work a bit more to get the muscles, ligaments, tendons and joints of the foot, ankle and lower leg to start engaging.

Bianca brought up a great point in class: in the western world, we tend to put on our shoes and then forget about them.

With little thought given to these two structures that carry our entire body weight. Additionally, if some or more aspects of these structures are bent unevenly, it changes how that weight is distributed from that spot, all the way up to the neck. 

I can’t tell you how many people I see who’ve had knee replacements. Why? Often times, it’s years of walking on feet that are asymmetrical, a dropped arch, bunions, toes that are hyper-flexed, an old sprained ankle that was never properly cared for. That affects balance as well as a multitude of other joint issues that I could probably write a book about. 

And I did find a great little book that my friend just gave me called ‘Rooted’ by Lyanda Lynn Haupt. It’s not about feet but it’s about science, nature and spirit….a book in which I found all of my favorite things! In a couple chapters she dives deeply into the importance of feet being on the ground, barefoot.

Years ago, you may remember the popular book, Born to Run by Christopher McDougall. I was enthralled with the idea of barefoot running and the possibilities it brought. While I never tried it, I loved the idea. And I still do.

When we give our feet the ability to go ‘naked’, it allows toes spread out, ligaments and tendons to lengthen, and  we can feel the floor/earth beneath us, which enhances our proprioception. 

Enclosed in shoes, our feet become numb and unable to respond to the changes in environment. We have hundreds of proprioceptors in our feet: in every joint, muscle and tendon of our toes and ankles that are activated when we’re walking barefoot that just can’t be done while wearing hard, narrow, thick-soled shoes. 

Soooo, below I have some challenges for you to strengthen those very important, yet very under cared for appendages

Now that I’ve set the stage for why feet are so important, let’s talk about some things you can do, because I always want to leave you feeling empowered about your health.

I challenge you to try a few things:

Whether you try it for a week or a month, give your feet a chance to breathe, move, expand, strengthen with these daily tips: 

1. Take your shoes off while you’re in the house. If you’re not used to walking bare-foot, start with 10-15 minutes. It may feel unsettling at first, or you may feel out-of-balance. Your bones and connective tissue may need to get used to this. If you’re a chronic shoe wearer, your joints may not be used to flexing as much, which may also put more pressure on your knees and low back initially.

If it’s really bothering you, remember to get to your local body worker (Chiropractor (yours truly), Acupuncture, PT or Massage Therapist) to help change the structural issues that’ve probably built up over years of improper use and strain. It’ll take some time to change (just like a new exercise routine)

2. Once you’ve started walking bare footed in the house, move to an outdoor space that’s clear of rubbish and things that could injure you. Walk mindfully, walking heel-toe and spreading your toes out with each step.

3. Start with foot crawls daily (video by Bianca below). 

4. Take a dance class and/or a movement class. You want the mind-body connection and dance and movement are amazing at helping with that. In our ballet class, we spend most of the class moving slowly and making sure we’re connecting our thoughts all the way down to our foot and ankle muscles

5. Massage your feet. 

6. Come get adjusted and receive Craniosacral Therapy to help with muscle tension, damage, trigger points, joint misalignment and nervous system blockages. 
Enjoy this quick ‘Foot Crawl’ vidoe courtesy of my super awesome adult ballet teacher, Bianca Lily @biancalilyballet

Wherever you are in the world, may you continue to feel your absolute best. Thank you for including me in your life’s journey,
Dr. Arjan

If you’re enjoying these quick health tips, please share with a loved one. My goal is to spread the words of health and empowerment to the whole wide world and I need your help to do it!

Featured Photo by David Hofmann on Unsplash

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