MOVE WELL STUDIO


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Training the forefoot – a video from the beach

If you are training with me, or have ever even talked to me about my shoes, or lack of, you know I am very foot-centric. ”Why the foot?”, you may ask…if it’s your knee, hip or shoulder bugging you.

You can’t ignore the foot for long, that would be very much like ignoring the tires on your car. If you ever got a flat, you probably pulled off on the side of the road and did what you could to save yourself and your vehicle.

We do the same with training your feet – we take your shoes off, see how stiff the foot has become from wearing shoes and misuse and take the steps necessary to make it a healthy and functioning piece of equipment so you can hit the road. Oftentimes, your other issues, like that bum knee and nagging low back pain, go away by themselves.

One way we misuse the feet is by pointing them out. In this video Katy Bowman, founder of the Restorative Exercise Institute and my dear mentor, explains what that does to your knees. Check it out and see how you can get your feet straight!

Now, once you have your knees straight, oftentimes placing the femur  and the foot where they belong lifts the inside of the foot off the ground. The forces in your hip and the foot don’t exactly match because you have been using your foot as one whole piece stuffed in a stiff shoe for a majority of your life.

To the rescue comes forefoot eversion. This is a fancy way to say that the front part of the foot, where the ball of the foot is, moves in (or toward the ground) relative to the back side of the foot (the one that has the heel). A lot of the muscles we use for that action are weak or asymmetrically developed and that can lead to a host of issues.

Last week while playing on the beach in Ventura with some of my colleagues, we experimented with a fun way to use seaweed and the sand to train the foot. Check it out and let me know what you think!


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The Healthy Foot Practitioner

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That would be me. Back in spring I took the Healthy Foot Practitioner course, developed by the lovely biomechanist Katy Bowman and podiatrist Theresa Parahen. The course is fantastic and helps develop a wonderful base of movement and knowledge for anyone searching to improve balance, overall health and performance. For those people ailed with foot pain the course offers simple and effective solutions. For me, as a Restorative Exercise™ specialist, the certification added a new level of skill and a better ability to explain the importance of foot training to my clients. I am not one to put up certificates on the wall of my studio, but I thought you might enjoy celebrating this one with me. Let it be a Christmas gift to all of us at MOVEWELL STUDIO!

HAPPY HOLIDAYS AND A HAPPY NEW YEAR!


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De-stress your holidays in advance

Isn’t it amazing that what’s supposed to make us happiest also makes us so tense? Decorating, choosing the perfect gifts, rushing to find a parking space, crowding at the movie theater? Even writing about it is making my inner self get all tangled up.

Sometimes we feel hard to express tension and frustration and we are physically unable to relax. At those times, I find that positioning the body in an essential psoas release is a great place to start.

Why the psoas and what is it? One of the most amazing illustrations I have seen of it is HERE. Even if you choose not to look at it, know it’s a pair of long loin shaped muscles that run from your lumbar spine forward and end up attaching to the inner thigh area. Those ginormous muscles have an amazing ability to link the upper and lower part of the body for movement, but are also powerful communicators of stress and tension in the body, and often alert us of stress and frustration, through back pain, pelvic pain or digestive issues.

The goal of this relaxation exercise is to ease the tension in your deep core and lumbar area. To set you for it, go ahead and fold a large blanket until you have it square to the thickness of a firm pillow. Place it on the ground and grab a small pillow.

Before you go into the release lay on your back and assess how tense or relaxed your body is. Check your chin position, the shape and contact of your shoulder blades on the floor, how far your spine is from the floor in its different segments, are the backs of your thighs relaxed on the floor or are they lifted off the floor, where is your pelvis and generally how relaxed on the floor or ”lifted off” the floor you feel.

To set up for the release place your shoulder blades on the folded blanket (or yoga bolster). Place the small pillow or yoga brick under your head so that your chin can drop down and relax. Place your arms at your sides palms up. From here you can assess the elevation of your ribcage – you can touch your ribs and see how far they are sticking up, out or to the side. Ideally the ridges of your ribs should be flush with the flesh of your abdominals and not visible at all.  Using your breath, gently breathe in and breathe out, allowing the chest to relax towards the ground and the low back to ease into an imaginable hammock.

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You can lay and breathe in this position for as long as you like, preferably for at least 10 minutes. Most people who experience back tension and digestive distress want to spend even longer. I personally have had many days when I relaxed in this position for 30 to 45 minutes at a time and got up very relaxed and refreshed.

The great thing about getting unnecessary tension out of your neck and low back area is that the new state of your muscles communicates back to your mind that there is a new calmer version of you emerging from the relaxation. Your thoughts start to flow better, creative block gets broken, numerous aches and pains subside and go away.

Once done with your release, lay back flat on the floor to assess what changes have occurred in your system – are your shoulders closer to the floor, is your ribcage more relaxed, can you feel that space under your low back decreased?

December can be a crazy month, but there is something you can do – participate in making it less crazy by taking your own tension out of your way and going about your day with peace and flow.

Move well and happy Holidays!

Galina

 


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”When will IT get better?”

”When will X get better?” is a question I get every day.

In fact someone recently asked me ”What is your guarantee on my efforts?”.

All I can say is that if you follow any program of restoring your body to better health, whether it’s through using nutrition, meditation, or exercise, you will do work, analyze results, modify the work, analyze the results some more, modify the work some more, and eventually enjoy the journey of being better while you are on the way where IT GETS better.

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For some people IT gets better right away, for others IT takes longer. When you are restoring health you adopt new habits, say goodbye to old habits, get rid of what’s unnecessary and cultivate what IS necessary.

If IT is your low back pain, but you are still sitting 12 hours a day and have not modified your behavior at work, there is no amount of stretching and correctives that will help IT get better as if by waving a magic wand.

Every day that you are investing in your health, improving your movement quality, paying attention to tensions, patterns and habits, every day that you have willed a fuller quality of life for yourself is a day on the road of IT being better. What is great about this journey is that you are already improving. Time and time alone allow the change to manifest and your health to shine through again. In the meantime, don’t ask, IT is already better.

move well:

Galina


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A quick announcement on a new workshop series

Can you believe it’s almost December? With two months left before the beginning of the New Year, most people are shopping around for personal trainers, weight loss programs, or if they are not, they are waiting for January to kick them into action so they pick up their exercise program and start eating well again.

When it comes to weight loss and maintaining optimal weight, people use all sorts of tools and tricks to keep their metabolism up – from intense exercise a few times a week to using special foods and supplements to keep their inner ”furnace” going.

Yet, day in and day out, many are frustrated that they don’t get results or that they feel stuck no matter what they do.

I daily talk to clients about how the choices they make in using their body in daily life can have a powerful effect on their metabolic rate.  Choosing specific positions, postures, developing tension habits, or employing certain exercise techniques can actually be standing in the way of optimizing their metabolism.

A couple of my clients suggested that I present this information and teach it more in depth – and my favorite way to do that is in group format. Beginning Nov 20, you will spend the month before Christmas educating yourself on the power of whole body alignment and how you can use it to power up your weight loss plan or to maintain optimal metabolic levels.

There is no better time to educate yourself about the power of movement. There are simple adjustments to your daily activities and they way you connect with your body that can make a huge difference if your goal is to shed some weight or simply to fit in a favorite pair of jeans.

To learn more about this event please read the flyer here!

Thank you, and move well!

Galina


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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.

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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?

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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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A new way to use your chair

Most people sit on chairs, and never think that they can be a useful tool to get healthy.

A lof of health complaints can be blamed on a chair – anything from hip and low back pain, to problems with digestion and breathing, concentration and productivity.

The 90/90 position that chairs, couches and cars put us in cause chronic tension and shortening in all anatomical lines of the body, but the back line takes the biggest beating – from your plantar fascia, through the calves, hamstrings, low back – to the upper back, neck and temples, your body tightens, oxygen delivery worsens, tissues suffer and stiffen and when you get up from your chair or go and try to work out, your low back, hips, knees and feet may start to scream.

To make it worse, many people wear shoes that cause additional stiffening of the back line – any positive heel, a few mm to a few inches, can make matters worse. If you are into sports, sitting is fatal to performance, as it worsens your ability to store elastic energy, making jumping, and even sprinting and running, poor. Any bending forward movements that require hinging at the hip, are affected and movement patterns become dysfunctional and painful, leading to injury and long breaks from training.

How about other complaints like constipation, indigestion, pelvic pain, incontinence, breathing difficulties or inability to concentrate? Sitting may be involved here as well.

How about the ladies, who want to have a nice round shape to their glutes? Impossible if you are sitting on them all day. In my Neurokinetic Therapy ™ work, I often find the glutes unable to perform, and the calves extremely stiff and unable to yield to a stretch.

To undo some of the damage of sitting, I am offering you two super simple versions of the ”double calf stretch”. You can do it anywhere and make your chair a weapon of health instead of a weapon of destruction.

Double calf stretch for beginners

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Stand in front of a chair. Place your feet at hip width. Point your feet straight forward with the outside edges of your feet straight. That means that the outside of your foot will be parallel to the edge of your yoga mat. 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. Support your hands on the chair. You will feel a stretch in your calves, the backs of your knees, your hamstrings or your glutes – everyone feels a different stretch. Hold for a minute and repeat 2-3 times.

For an extra challenge: check with the tension in your quads by relaxing your knee caps.  You should be able to drop them loose during the stretch. Next, externally rotate your femurs so that the backs of your knees are pointing straight back. This may lift your arches.  How about that?

Double calf stretch for the advanced user

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Use a mirror to make sure that you can do the above version of the stretch so well that your tailbone is parallel to the floor. If you can do that it’s time to add a level of excitement to the stretch. This time you will step on a rolled up towel or half dome and place the balls of your feet on top and the outside edges of your feet straight at hip width. This will ensure a deeper stretch. Again, keep the knees straight as you bend forward at the hips, keeping the low back neutral. Hold for a minute and repeat 2-3 times.

For an extra challenge: check with the tension in your quads by relaxing your knee caps.  You should be able to drop them loose during the stretch. Next, externally rotate your femurs so that the backs of your knees are pointing straight back. This may lift your arches and place more weight on the outside of the feet.  You are welcome!

Move well and see you soon!

Galya