Backbone and Wingspan presents it's next High Heel Recovery Clinic featuring stability ball exercises to simultaneously tone the legs and give more support for the feet and spine.
and use that body information to being able to stand upright - despite gravity - and still be able to feel the ease and buoyancy you felt while lying with your back on a mat and with the feet on the ball.
I designed these exercises with the same basic idea of a ballet plié and with similar underlying functionality of the Pilates Reformer. A ballet plié seems like deep knee bend, but it is actually the way you set up the heels-to-hamstrings and heels-to-femur-heads relationships, which are how you access the central spine and core.
The Pilates Reformer is a way to perform plié-type movements, but while lying on the back. This is one reason why Pilates became so popular with dancers is that an injured dancer can still perform some of "the barre" that is an everyday practice without vertical demands of gravity and balance in having to stand at the barre.
So with the High Heel Recovery Clinic stability ball exercise of leg extensions, you are performing a ballet plié-type movement as well as a Pilates Reformer-type movement. But these movements are very different than calisthenic-type knee-bends or squats the way most people do them at the gym.
These heel-on-stability-ball exercises are designed to integrate the heels-to-hamstrings connection using the resilient surface of the ball behind the heel.
When the backsides of the heels feel the ball behind them, it informs the sensations of buoyancy that can come when the muscles and the skeleton - especially each big femur bone and the force of the three hamstrings in the backside of the leg - directly related to each femur bone - are working in sync.
Then you take this ease and bounce and buoyancy into improving the way that you walk - especially the way that you walk in high heels. You are not walking with stronger hamstrings or tighter hamstrings or looser hamstrings.
- you incorporate elements from exercise - the stability ball leg extensions for instance -
into something more of a practice -
such as the balance point movements - into understanding the actual posture improvement.
It's different than thinking - "I just worked on my hamstrings strength and got better posture."
It's that you take sensations and images that arise during moments the body is working better in the exercises and then you are able to use the same good-feeling sensations in your posture and walking.
It's very important that you don't feel that you have to struggle in exercise in order to strengthen muscular support for the skeleton.
When you use the muscles in relationship to the skeleton, which has to do with directing muscle length towards and on to specific points of skeletal stability - you are becoming more efficient simply because you are utilizing entire lengths of muscle rather than building up bunches of muscle. In the case of the leg extensions, which here we perform here with a ball, but the same principle helps squats, leg presses, and chair pose in yoga, you become familiar with sits bones as stable points that you can use all the time.
Sits bones are for sitting, of course - some people call them sitting bones - but also you use sits bones to exercise, to stand and to walk. Your perception of your legs changes from thinking you have these thighs hanging off the hip flexors that just lift and lower or bend and straighten - to realizing that there's an initiating from with the gentle force of the heel going back that activates the lengthening of another backside force - the hamstrings - on to the backside point of stability - the sits bone.
The integration of this backside system of an anchoring foot point and anchoring pelvic point with a long and elastic force between the skeletal points is stronger working in sync than it is when muscles hold the legs bones in place or the muscles hike the legs up and down to walk or shove the legs back to extend or stand.
In order to organize the information for this next High Heel Recovery Clinic, I decided to focus especially on one image and one word.
The image I wished to incorporate into the clinic was that of a suspension bridge.
And I also wished to introduce a word I had been using already with my one-on-one students - a word that occurred to me trying to describe the body mechanics of how the hamstrings attach to sit bones.
That word is tether -
or as is maybe more functional:
tethering of the hamstrings.
I endeavor almost always to incorporate in my daily one-on-one teaching words that relay the essences of physical sensations. Telling people to engage the hamstrings, athough technically truthful, does not relay a direction or a quality or degree of muscular action. There is not much essence to the word engage, and most people pull or squeeze muscles they are told to engage.
So I am using suspension bridge as an image when we teach the bridge exercise on the stability ball because of how the cables swoop from one point to another to create the stability of the structure..... and I am employing the sensory word tethering to describe the quality of body mechanics in what the hamstrings do and how the hamstrings feel in order to stretch on to the sit bones in a similar way as these cables are tethered from one part of the bridge to another in the photo below.
Think of having hamstrings that serve the same function as the suspension cables on a bridge, and that in extending allowing for resilience and buoyancy - desirable sensations to have when walking in high heels.
Since I began to use the term "tethering" in my teaching, one teacher questioned me as to what exactly the term tethering means.
A tether is a cord, fixture, or signal that anchors something movable to a reference point which may be fixed or moving.
So you could tether balloons or a boat or a bridge or a bull dog. In a different sense you can tether an internet connection.
I have found in my teaching that all images and verbal cues have the potential to deepen someone' s experience the more that the images are expanded upon and not just repeated. Depending on someone's personal experience, thinking of a balloon tether for the sense of their hamstrings may work better than boat tether. But the important thing is that we're working the muscle-to-skeleton or hamstring-to-sits-bone connection with a word that conveys a sense of something stable or anchored which is very different than just saying engage your hamstrings.
The tethering stabilizes the tent so that the sides and top can be suspended.
The opposite of tether is slack. In our clinic I hope to relate to each participant how to literally - as well as physically - "take up the slack."
The sits bone relates directly to the hamstrings because although different parts of the knee are the lower attachments for the hamstrings, all three hamstrings on each leg attach on to the sit bone.
So what worked for one person in terms of the term tether was to think about having three balloons with three strings attached and gathering the strings together in her hand.
The hamstrings also relate to the heel in that in the same way the hamstrings need to be drawn back or tethered on to the sit bone, the heel bone also needs to be drawn back away from the ankle with the same subtle but powerful force as the hamstrings tethering back to the sits bone.
The drawing back force of the heels back away from the ankle and the hamstrings back on to the sits bone is with the same direction but to a different degree.
This is just one way the body is designed so well and built so brilliantly: to be in balance through these complementary forces.
To feel the full supportive force of the back of the leg it is vital to connect what needs support - the heel - with what is sizable enough to give the suspended force necessary to take the body's weight off of the feet - which is the three hamstrings attached up on to the sit bone.
These three hamstrings can only be brought together into their fullest potential supportive force when they are taken out their slacking tendency and gathered together to tether.
The three hamstrings tend to be over-toned and tight in the belly part of the muscle - which is more towards the knee. This is part of the reason for lack of tone in the area around the butt and hips commonly referred to as saddlebags.
When the hamstrings are tight towards the knee, they will be slack and untoned near the sits bones, which as discussed above is part of the reason why getting strong support in high heels is so challenging. But when the top part of the hamstrings is toned because it is being tethered actively up on to the stability of the sits bone, then the glutes and other muscles around the hamstrings-sits-bones connection will be able to come into play and tone better as well.
As well, the connective tissue or fascia will be less tight and bunched up when the hamstrings are stabilized to the sits bones. And although there is little medical proof of any procedure being effective in reducing cellulite, because cellulite is caused by the fat pushing up through the connective tissue, if the connective tissue itself is less tight and bunched-up, you'll have alot more smoothing-out of that area in terms of muscle tightness and cellulite-causing restricted fascia.
But what must happen first is the strength of the hamstrings tethering up to the stability of the sits bones. Then you can start working on saddlebag tone.
In the future, I will write a post more-focused on how fascia plays a role in cellulite, and how to stretch deep muscles in the hips to help tight fascia release and thus potentially smooth-out fascia as well as cellulite.
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