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Are you on your feet all day and what can you do about it?

Saturday was foot day.

At 7 a.m. we joined our lovely friend and Restorative Exercise ™ colleague for a foot health class – she was presenting to a group of nurses during a yearly conference. The room was filled with lovely dedicated women, who spend their days lifting patients, helping them do self-care, distributing medications, or running around sleek hospital hallways.

As I looked down at the flat feet, the bunions, the hammertoes, the tired knees, the chronically tight low backs and asymmetrical shoulders, I couldn’t help but admire these women’s dedication and heart for others and also wonder how can we best help them be well, so they can assist others in their healing while staying in the best shape they can.

photo 1-88

In about an hour Samantha presented some basic foot and lower body care exercises: a calf stretch, a top of the foot stretch, a double hamstring and calf stretch and some basic rules on standing, foot position and weight distribution. Just an hour of us walking around the crowd, adjusting bodies, helping with alignment and awareness of positioning opened a whole new world to the nurses. They couldn’t believe how simple yet powerful these small stretches were.

Just today, I received an email from one of them that read:

” Thank you so much for your valuable help with the “Ouch” movement presentation. It was wonderful. So, by the end of the day, my back was better. Today, I did all that you taught and my hammies are much looser ,pain much better. 🙂 I actually can cough without a muscle spasm.  Fairly miraculous!!! Right now, I am trying my best to keep my upper back and neck in alignment. You all are angels.”

RES family

The angels mentioned above

If you too have a standing job where you need to wear shoes, you may find that your feet, hips, and back have been trying to communicate to you, through fatigue, pain, discomfort, swelling, pulling and restricting, that maybe you need to move in that area a bit more. When you have a physical job that leaves you drained at the end of the day, you may want to crash on the couch just to feel your brain drain. For some people, it may take daily jogging or pushing themselves at the gym, just to clear their heads. Unfortunately, neither very hard physical exercise, not complete inactivity can restore health through blood flow and muscle relaxation to the areas that need your tender love and attention.

Enter a few exercises that you can do throughout your day to improve your overall physical condition, starting from the feet, ankles and lower legs. Your body can only be as good as your base, and once the shoe falls off your foot you can really start to feel how much room for improvement there is.

Do these throughout your day, not as one big bout of effort and let me know how you feel!

toe handshake

toe handshake

As you can see from the picture, you can even do this one as a passenger in a car – it also makes the person behind the wheel jealous 🙂 Any time – during a break, take your shoe off, and place one foot over the opposite side knee. Use your opposite hand (left foot – right hand and vise versa) to interlace the fingers between the toes and to create a gentle stretch between the toes – this allows the muscles that get squished by shoes and bearing your weight forward all day long to get a chance to stretch and breathe, and ultimately, to give your brain a better idea of your position in space and what muscles need to work to move you forward or keep you in place efficiently without causing dysfunction, and unnatural wear and tear. Hold for 30-60 seconds and do on both feet anytime you can.

calf stretch

calf stretch

To perform a calf stretch, fold up a towel in a roll and place on the ground. Place the right foot at the left end of the towel and walk your other foot forward until you feel a stretch in your right calf. Keep the foot straight and make sure that your upper body is not twisting. Hold for 60 seconds several times throughout the day. I’ve seen this stretch miraculously relieve low back pain, neck stiffness, and restore balance with walking. Frequency is key, so do it as often as you can.

top of the foot stretch

top of the foot stretch

This one, very much like the calf stretch, opens the neglected joints at the front of the ankle – because of footwear and lack of natural movement, we often end up with stiffness that affects our gait, squatting and freedom with running or jumping. It’s really easy to set up for it and you need no props. Just place your feet straight at hip width. Take one leg behind you and curl the toes under so that the front of the ankle opens. Keep the heel behind the ankle – often with stiffness and lack of muscle yield you will see the heel try to roll away or toward the center of the body. Hold for 30 seconds, repeat throughout the day. Find it too hard? Sit in a chair and try it that way – your body weight will be less on the stretching ankle, making it possible to do.

hamstring and calf stretch

hamstring and calf stretch

Place your feet at hip width on the two ends of the rolled up towel. That means that the outside of your foot will be parallel. Straighten your knees. Start to slowly bend forward at the hips, making sure your low back stays neutral. Only go as far as you can move your tailbone up without flexing your low back. Stay in this position for about a minute, making sure you can breathe and keep the legs straight. Allow the hamstrings and the calves to relax. For a version of this exercise using a chair you can read my chair blog post, here.

In addition to practicing these simple movements, you can also start to think of the surfaces you walk on – at work, just like these nurses, most of us meet just flat and sleek ground – we are not only casted by the shoes, but we are also prisoners of the flat surfaces that don’t let the 33 joints in our feet move, “breathe” and work like nature intended. When you are planning your relaxation time, build in some trails, beach time, or just walking on grass or gravel with shoes that are flexible enough to allow the bones and joints of the foot to move. Isn’t it crazy that in our off time we are in a flat gym, on a flat treadmill, or elliptical trainer, never allowing the feet to get a full range of stimulation.

Have questions about how to take better care of your feet and align your whole body – shoot me an email at and I would love to get back to you and help you with books, resources and advice! Until then, move well and see you around – hopefully on some grass, rock and gravel!


p.s. Wondering why our whole day was a foot day? After we left the presentation we walked the famers market, two grocery stores, taught a 5 hour cooking class, all on our feet and then did tons of organizing and clean up when we got home. Today, I’ve been stretching and rolling my feet since I woke up and I already feel much better – but oh my – being on your feet all day is definitely a feet (get it?) of strength 🙂

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Stress relief workshop coming up


This is my favorite time of year – a time to look back, learn from the past year, take what we like with us, and leave what no longer serves us behind. It’s also my favorite time to spend extra hours learning from my body, connecting with my senses and relieving the accumulated stress.

For some of my clients the holidays bring up a lot of triggers – shopping, traveling, family, errands, expectations can all pile up to create experiences that make us dread the business of the season. It’s easy to reconnect with the body and experience the blessings of the season if we have the right skill and frame of mind.

So, on December 19, we will meet for a 2 hour stress relief workshop. The workshop will cover basic self regulation techniques, which will help you feel more relaxed, present, open to communicate and experience joy.

We will do it in nature, as nature is such a powerful teacher and is always there to support us in our explorations.

The workshop will be fun, educational and very practical.

Please call me at 949 429 9800 or email me at to reserve a spot.

Cost: $45 if paid before December 12, $60 at the event

Happy Thanksgiving everyone! Enjoy the blessings of the day!


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Movement diet meets elimination diet

When you come to me for advice regarding your pain or performance, we take a very detailed look at your movement diet: that includes not only the brave times when you lift a kettlebell over your head, but also the times you sit, drive, push a stroller, lay on the couch, stretch, garden, do yoga etc. All of these movements comprise your diet.

In a usual session we do a number of assessments and I am often able to give you a few things to do at home. Roll on a ball, meet your foam roller, learn how to relax, breathe like this, do specific exercises to learn a skill that you’ve lost. So far so good.

You wake up the next day, pull out my list of healing suggestions, and do them. 30 minutes later, you are off, driving, pushing a stroller, swinging a kettlebell, sitting on your couch, yelling at your computer. You get it. We didn’t really modify your movement diet, we just added another dish to it.

Sometimes, that addition can be powerful. My husband and I coach nutrition clients and often we add omega 3s and do nothing else to their diet. That simple addition sheds pounds, improves mood and often solves nagging aches and pains.

If we are lucky, adding my movement prescription will be a miracle omega 3 supplement – you will feel better a few days or weeks after you start doing your “homework”.

Sometimes, this is not the case. Enter the elimination diet.

elimination diet

When we talk elimination in nutrition coaching, we remove the most obvious offenders, or foods that people tend to react negatively to. If after a month or so of eating real food you are still not feeling better, we go after the usual suspects and take out a few foods for a month. This gives your body time to take a breath of relief, heal from the possible assault of those foods and gives you a chance to feel better and get motivated to learn more about your body. Once the month is over, we start to introduce one food every 3 or 4 days to see how you react. Say on Monday you have some oatmeal, and you feel great the next few days. We take the oatmeal out and then try eggs. Feeling great with eggs? Fantastic! Let’s add some tomatoes!

There is a lot of value to this approach, because it makes you aware and very sensitive to how YOU react to the things YOU do. There is no therapist or doctor on the planet, who can look at you and honestly say he knows why your shoulder feels like someone is stabbing you with a knife. At best, we are all making an educated hypothesis. Then we devise a plan based on that hypothesis.

To give you an example, say I have shoulder pain. During the evaluation we find that there are a couple of muscles that need strengthening and I will be working on my whole body alignment as best as I can. I start my day by spending 30 minutes doing my strengthening and corrective exercises, go for a nice walk pushing the stroller, drop of the kids with the sitter and then I sit in my car for an hour. I keep driving with my shoulders up in my ears because traffic stresses me. Then I go to my bootcamp class in the lunch break. Then after work, I get the groceries and walk 10 blocks with them. Home, I cook, put the kids to bed, and crash.

The next morning, and many mornings later, my shoulder is still hurting. Is it the groceries? Is it the bootcamp? Is it the way my shoulders go up in my ears when I drive? I don’t know.

Is it the eggs, oatmeal or pasta? The only way to know is to do an elimination diet. Are you up for it?

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Have body, will travel

Take your coffee with heavy cream or other fats to help with dehydration. Of course with plenty of water on the side.

Take your coffee with heavy cream or other fats to help with dehydration. Of course with plenty of water on the side.

Last fall, I spent over 60 hours in the air, and it took about a month to feel fully recovered physically. I did not fall apart or anything, it’s just old aches and pains reared their furry heads. On top of it, I was in a minor car accident, where the guy hit my car from the left (left neck tightness for months, anyone?). All of this in the midst of 60 hours of air time and teaching, traveling and not having enough self care time.

I am in the midst of a busy season now, with some flying thrown in for good measure. While some flights are short (like getting to Seattle and then being on the ferry and sitting in a car), they are also kind – at the end you land in a house full or Restorative Exercise Institute staff and you stretch for hours every day undoing what damage travel has done. Others are not so kind – as being in transit between LA and Sofia, a total of 21 hours of sitting, and some walking, interspersed with stretching for good measure.

This time around I decided to start preparing for flying earlier. Here’s what I did:

  1. The night before I had a foot and neck massage. The Chinese guy nextdoor to us swears I am one of the few westerners who can handle traditional Chinese massage, which he lovingly calls ‘’ no pain no gain massage’’. He beat me up well, and my neck felt amazing after. Deep tissue is like a mother’s kiss compared to what Andy’s (his real name, ya?) hands feel like. All loosened up and ready to go.
  2. The morning of the flight I had some extra water and creamtop yogurt and almonds for breakfast. Flying is extremely dehydrating and making sure you have enough fat and water in your system is key. This is also my excuse for slathering coconut oil all over my face and neck the night before the flight.
  3. A bit before leaving the house I did a serious psoas release and chest opening followed by laying in the sun on the ground for some gentle grounding. How about this for a though? What if you matched your flight time with grounding time? While I will probably not match the time, I will still do my best to spend some time with bare feet in the grass.
  4. I packed balls for foot work during waiting. I personally love the Melt kits, but even a good old tennis ball will do the trick. While standing around the airport lounge, I did some foot massage and got my feet all mobile after sitting for hours.
  5. I stretched on the plain and at the airport. Here’s the deal: even if you look like a total freak there is a slim chance you will ever see  these people again. (Just like those people who got to look into my suitcase as I was unloading it to meet the baggage limit). Got a good look at my backside doing a double calf stretch? You are welcome!
  6. I took my FitBit with me to measure how much walking I did at the airport. Being conscious of my walking I did 6000 steps in LA and another 9000 in Munich. That’s 6 miles total for me in 24 hours which most people spend doing zero miles.  And yes I did stairs instead of elevators. Being at the airport is a chance to move, not an excuse to sit. Of course I have the freedom of no kids in my care while I travel and while I realize not everyone travels alone, you can always walk, sit in various stretchy ways on the floor and play games with the kids.
  7. I slept a lot before and after – sleep deprivation seems to be what gets people the most – between the stress of flight, the dehydration and the tension of getting places on time and packing your mobile life in a suitcase – you may find yourself overreacting to the smallest challenges. Sleeping builds resilience, so I made extra time to sleep and supplement with magnesium.

What about you? How do you manage flying and traveling in general? While self care is a pattern in my life that I keep working on, I have finally decided traveling will not be an excuse to leave my body uncared for.

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What’s your walking surface IQ?

This past week I attended advanced training with my mentor and creator of the Restorative Exercise ™ Institute Katy Bowman. We explored many new levels of understanding movement, but I definitely got a much deeper insight into how limited our human experience is due to our environment. Take for example shoes and the surfaces we interact with.

ImageOnce upon a time, we walked on a diverse terrain – over pebbles and paths, rocks, forests, in high grass, on boulders, we might have had to climb over an obstacle or two. Diverse terrain also means different loads to the very mobile architecture of the foot with its 33 joints and more than a 100 muscles, tendons and ligaments. This also meant varying loads on the ankle, knee and hip joints – thus tissues were stimulated at different rates, intensities and frequencies.

What’s the opposite of this? Shopping at the mall? Walking around the paved path around a lake in your community? Where does your shoe-protected, stiff, sensory deprived foot get to encounter the symphony of inputs that nature provides? No wonder most of my clients suffer on long walks through the supermarket – once a tissue is overloaded it doesn’t take much of repeating the same stimulus over and over again to aggravate it.

I am saying uniform and manicured terrains are possibly detrimental not because they are uncommon in nature, but because nature provides an endless and unexpected selection of surfaces, while man made everyday walking terrain is the same all the time. Katy provided a great analogy with nutrition – if you know apples are great for you, but all you eat is apples, you still end up deprived of other essential nutrients.

So how do we introduce more walking on uneven surfaces without having to become an island hermit?

Enter playing with different surfaces. Before I continue on, please put your right hand on your heart and repeat after me:

”I will start small.” Nothing to prove here, so please don’t take your Unshoes on a 10 mile lava rock hike.

1. Experience a less constructed shoe – you can go for minimal footwear and wear your shoes on a natural terrain instead of pavement. It can be a path in the woods or a hilly part of your local park. Notice how your toes move, how the front or side part of your foot deform over rocks, pebbles and other small obstacles in your path. Notice if your step has become lighter, how your heel contacts the ground, how your body is making changes to the position of the foot.

2. Once you have experienced a more minimalist shoe try some walking barefoot around your home and your garden. Notice if you step differently. Notice if your ankles, knees and hips are adjusting differently to your steps.


3. Go on a short uneven terrain walk – do this in a less constructed shoe, and if you are experienced, in a very minimalist shoe.  Observe how you adapt to the challenges of the terrain. Do your feet feel different after? How fast or slow were you going?


For the very advanced, take one minimal shoe and one bare foot for a walk. What’s different left to right? Are you noticing a lot more sensation with the bare foot. How does one side of your body feel compared to the other?

You can do these uneven terrain exercises for short periods of time at first until you are ready to brave a longer exploration. Start with 10-15 minutes and slowly progress. Remember to be gentle with yourself – a return to the natural shape and fitness level of your feet will take a while.

To accelerate the process of beefing up your feet and making them look like the bodybuilders they are designed to be, read Katy’s ‘‘Every woman’s guide to foot pain relief’‘? You can grab it on Amazon or borrow it from my lending library at the studio if you are local.

p.s. Most lava rock walks were done in Vibram 5 fingers, Adipure and New Balance Minimus. Some less fortunate walks were done in Sockwa shoes – we were not quite up for the challenge of sharp rock vs Sockwa.

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Alignment, pregnancy and ribcage position

Pregnancy should be a most natural experience. Your body comes with the programs, instincts and pre-calculated adjustments it needs to make in order to house the new happy and healthy life inside of you!

In the meantime though, modern mammas are spending considerable hours sitting, driving, stuck in the sad confinement of cubicles, and even when they do choose to move for health they end up doing countless hours on treadmills at the gym, or join classes that may or may not help their body. See, there is a natural physiological alignment that is best for pregnancy and your exercise program that is designed to make you fit, may not be making you fit for pregnancy!

image from

while postures like these are ”normal” they are not natural, notice how if you draw a horizontal line through the bottom of the pelvis and a horizontal like through the line of the bra, they are not parallel? The ribs are thrust forward and the spine is sheared…

Once pregnant, the influence of culture (seeing movies and TV shows, seeing and communicating with other pregnant women) can leave a momma taking postural positions and practicing postural habits that often lead to low back pain, foot pain and neck pain.

Pushing the ribcage forward over the pelvis is an all too common adaptation that many pregnant women have learned to make and is one that is easy to correct. Left uncorrected and unnoticed it can lead not only to pain but to permanent skeletal changes after pregnancy and an inability to optimally recruit the abdominal and low back muscles. Lack or core stability can then lead to many other movement dysfunctions in the extremities, and ultimately lead to pain and reduction in quality of life.

All I am trying to say is: ”Listen ladies, you may or may not be aware that while you are pregnant you are holding your upper body in a way that is not only providing less than optimal housing for your little princess growing inside, but is also putting you at risk for disease down the road. It’s easy to fix. Please watch this video!”

Thanks to Katy Bowman, my mentor and founder of the Restorative Exercise Institute for this fantastic video!

Be well, move well 🙂