Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Mindful Standing

Last weekend I came back from certification week at the Restorative Exercise Institute. One day after I got home, my little 15 year old sister came to visit from Germany. As she came out of customs at the airport, I first saw her lovely happy face and then I saw her high heeled boots!!!!!! I managed to keep my mouth shut until the next day but then I couldn't restrain myself and she got the high heel talk!

The high heel talk goes a bit like this and really is all about basic geometry:
Imagine you are made of steel and you stand barefooted on the ground. You would be standing in a vertical line perpendicular to the ground. Now image you stood in shoes with a heel on. You would be leaning forward. In fact you would be falling on your face. 

Now, we are not made of steel but of living tissue with joints and muscles. Joints can distort and muscles can contract and pull you back to prevent you from falling. So, you think you stand pretty straight with your high heeled shoes on. Whats the big deal? 

While it doesn't necassarily look to you like you are pitched forward, every cell in your body knows you are. And especially your feet, knees, hip and spine. Not to mention the bone building receptors in your hips. And its not just stilettos. A regular running shoe easily has a 1/2inch (or more) heel.  So we are talking about positive heels more than high heels.

The positive heel talk always goes better with an illustration or two.

image adapted from Rossi:  1: barefoot, aligned stance;  2: displacement of body if body was rigid on 2'' heel, 3: adjustments of body on 2'' heel

At the Restorative Exercise Institute: demonstrating the body's displacement by approx. 1'' positive heel

My sister seems to listen to me because those boots have been untouched since she got the talk.
The next day I took a picture of her standing at our standing work station checking her facebook updates:

She looks alot like the person on the far right in the Rossi image above. Even without shoes on!

Can you see how her pelvis is pitched forward? And how big the curve in her lower back is from thrusting her rib cage forward and pulling her shoulders back? In this picture, her hips are over the front of her feet (see the red line?).

To stand in alignment, the red vertical line would need to go through her hips, knees and heels. Only then her joints would be weightbearing optimally and we could be talking about long-term foot, knee, hip and spinal health. And optimal bone generation in her still developing hips, legs and feet. And a  healthy pelvic floor for giving birth naturally one day. But she doesn't want to know about that yet :)

So, I showed her how to do calf stretches and the psoas release. The next day I taught her how to back up her hips so they are over her heel. She is a good learner:

Because her calves and hamstrings are so tight, her torso leans forward as a result of backing up her hips. That's ok. Because I told her I'll buy her new shoes (minimal shoes of course!) if she does calf stretches every day from now on and to also work on her standing alignment every time she is standing.

Eventually, she'll be able to get her torso back while standing with her hips over her heels.  

I'm going to be in Germany for the summer. The pressure is on :)

A few days later I asked her to check her facebook so I can take a picture. Obviously, she did it more mindfully knowing what she now knows. But I didn't give her any feedback. I just took the picture:

Not bad. I particularly like the look of her torso. There isn't as much tension in her upper back. 

The best part is that I noticed that she was standing more mindfully in general.

Can you see the blue calf stretching device? She has been using it every day. Because she wants new shoes more than healthy knees. Whatever... 

PS: Imagine you are not 15 years old but a mom carrying the extra load of a baby or toddler! I imagine you truly ARE interested in all that pelvic floor and core and knee and spinal health stuff. Your new daily fitness routine is to notice when you stand like this:

And to immediately correct yourself so you stand more like this: 
Then email or phone me to tell me how great you feel or to ask me questions or to book a session to learn more :)

And in any case, I highly recommend you read Katy Bowman's book called Every Woman's Guide to Foot Pain Relief: The New Science of Healthy Feet. It could also be called Every Woman's Guide to Fixing your Pelvic Floor Dysfunction. It also lays out some first steps to a long-term fix of your mummy tummy. And I could go on and on and on.



  1. Wonderful post. Your description and pictures helped me understand how to mindfully stand. Thanks!

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