From the feet up
Everything starts with the feet. Therefore, it makes sense that if we activate our feet, we will improve our entire Pilates session.
Whenever we are standing, ready to perform an exercise, our feet are actively laying our foundation. Surprisingly, a lot of awareness can and should be brought to our feet when they are on the mat.
The Foot “Ah-ha Moment”
While doing postural assessments on 1-1 clients, it has become very apparent to me that issues with the feet turn into issues higher up the chain. For example, knee and hip problems may originate from an improper gait.
However, I was mind-blown when I learned in teacher trainer workshop, how to activate my feet on the mat and how BIG of a difference it made in my ENTIRE body.
• Suddenly, I felt ALL of my 4 strips of quad muscles firing up.
• I had a better connection with my pelvic floor and deep core in by full body movements.
• I felt more “grounded” into my mat than ever before.
Since this kind of information often falls through the cracks when clients jump right into a group class, I thought I would share with you all the basics of feet activation.
How to Activate your Feet
When you pick your foot up and look at the bottom of it, visualise an “X” right drawn across the main part of the foot (not including your little piggies). Here is an image to help you see the placement of the “X.”
1) Press down with 4 corners of the “X.”
While performing standing exercises activate your feet by placing all 4 corners of the “X” firmly on the mat.
Avoid loosing the placement of the “X” even if you are in a wide, stance. For example, in a standing saw, it is common for the pinky-toe side, of the back foot, to begin to lift off the mat. Instead, think about placing all 4 edges of the “X” of that back foot down on the mat with intention.
2) Press into the Length of the spread out toes.
Activate your feet by pressing into the length of your toes. Always spread the toes out really wide (one day hoping to see the colour of the mat in between each toe.) After they’re as wide as you can make them, press into the length of the toes.
You can image that you have a piece of paper under your toes and someone is trying to slide the paper away from you, but your toes are pressing with all of their length to hold the paper still.
3) Activate the centre of the “X.”
Activate your feet by lifting your “X.” Lift the “X” by visualising the centre point of the “X” (where the 2 lines cross over) as a suction cup pulling upwards into the foot.
You can imagine that the foot were going to draw your mat right up into your foot at the centre of the “X,” which ends up being right around the centre of the arch of the foot.
Continue to press into the length of the toes (discussed in #2 above) to aid in the activation of the “X.”
If you try this in a traditional standing position on your mat or whilst waiting for the kettle to boil, you will notice an activation of the muscles on the bottom of the feet and a feeling of creating a higher arch (without supinating, which is rolling the feet towards the little toe side of the foot). After the feet activate, the muscles around the ankles and lower leg begin to engage as well.
With continued practice, the adductor muscles (inner thighs), pelvic floor and transverse abdominis will also “activate” with this connection.
Try it in your next Pilates session...
Give this foot activation a try during your next class and observe the different muscle activations you feel. Notice the energy you can feel inside the body within each exercise you perform and the deeper full body connection.