Written by Selena Deleon
This is the first in a four-part series that will look at the us e of Pilates for alignment of the body.
GETTING the most efficient and functional movement out of each joint is determined by the measure of alignment and how easily the flow of energy can be transferred throughout the system.
Creating the ideal environment for wellness begins with lining the channels in your body up, unblocking energy, and facilitating the intentions for your best self.
Alignment of the body refers to how the head, shoulders, spine, hips, knees, and ankles line up with each other. What is sometimes misunderstood about it is how one set of joints have an effect on the others, so it is important to consider alignment as a whole system, not as isolated areas to “fix”.
We call it “holistic” because of a philosophical definition characterised by the belief that the parts of something are intimately interconnected and explicable only by reference to the whole. So, following this hypothesis, we will begin with the feet, and over the next few weeks, move through the chain of alignment in the body as a series — to offer you a complete solution for your best self.
Pilates and Correcting alignment and posture really does begin from the ground up. Our feet are an engineering marvel, consisting of an intricate web of ligaments, muscles and fascia that serve as a spring for all upright, weight-bearing movement activities.
The principal band that runs along the bottom of your foot is called the plantar fascia, which connects your heel bone to your toes; it also supports the arch in your foot. The main goal in Pilates is to keep your arch strong so as to eliminate straining that band, and to maintain the best position for the foot to line up with the ankle.
All of the muscles from the lower back down to your toes work together to provide strength, flexibility and balance, so with movement practices geared towards foot health, we start from the back and move down to the muscles in the toes.
Many people do not have sufficient strength and mobility in their toes, which is the starting point for our gait. The stronger and more coordinated your toes move, the more advantage you will have in distributing load when you walk or run. We can practice navigating our toe movement with specific exercises such as this one:
1. Seated upright, place all ten toes on the floor with the second toe lined up with the centre of your ankle.
2. Lift the big toe, then the second, third, fourth and fifth toe following in sequence, keeping the movement of each toe isolated.
3. Lower the toes back down, starting from the fifth toe, and go right back down to the big toe.
The entire system of muscles in the foot work together to give more spring in each step. The development of this spring tension is the goal, so that we eliminate a sheer force from the ground caused from a rigid undersole, which translates up into the ankle, knee, hip and the lower back. Ideally, we want tone in all of the small muscles in the foot as well as develop enough stretch to be able to land softly, allowing for an upload of potential energy from the ground.
Pilates also offers good practices for ankle flexibility, which ties into the quality of movement in the foot and ultimately brings the chain of muscular partnership in the back of the leg together.
Healing with Pilates
Pilates exercises that focus on the foot serve to present injuries and chronic problems such as plantar fasciitis, heel spurs, flat foot, weak arches, bunions and crow's feet. You really can heal these conditions with Pilates.
Our bones regenerate themselves every 11 months, which is evidence that you can restore the bones in your feet, in the optimal position of alignment, through practice. The more your work on them, the more blood flow is sent to these far-reaching areas — supplying oxygen, nutrients and juice to the bones, ligaments and muscles, causing a rebirth for your feet.
Tuning into your feet trains you to transfer weight in a way that transitions energy throughout the foot and grounds the body, resulting in dramatic results for balance, a vast difference in sports performance that demands speed and agility in footwork; and a reduction in pain in the other joints further up the chain.
Turn your body into an energy factory by pulling from the resources that work from outside in.