Heel rocks are a simple activity to help a person who wishes better support for the spine to understand how the heels can connect to and assist in supporting more-free spinal movement for exercise or posture.
At Backbone and Wingspan in New York City, I use this gentle rocking movement before leading someone into a Pilates Roll Down Exercise because if the heels are activated, then the resulting connection to the spine promotes deeper core work.
It is best to perform this activity while lying on a carpet or rug or mat, not in bed.
Lie down on your back with your heels in line with the hip joints,
not the width of the outer hip bones,
but in line with where the ball of the thigh bone, the femur, fits into the hip socket.
Flutter the toes gently and with softness towards you and away from you
so that the heels rock back and forth into the surface of the table or carpet or mat-covered floor beneath you.
Make sure that you are not tensing the tendons in the front of the ankle to do this.
It is important that you learn ways to energize
and direct parts of the body without effort or exertion.
Part of the purpose in performing this action with the foot
is to learn that you can release the heel away from the ankle
in a way that gives more spaciousness to the joints in the
foot, particularly the ankle.
You use the surface underneath the back of your heel
as if you could go deeper and deeper into that surface.
The entire spine will respond from you sending the back and forth motion first from your heels to your hips, then from the hips through the spine and then all the way to your head.
Rock the heels,
but by feeling a subtle spring-action in the achilles.
Sense the foot from the sole.
You could imagine having sand bags draped over the fronts of the ankes,
or you could imagine soft sand behind your heels for them to sink into.
I use sandbags in the studio with the pilates equipment to give support in roll down and roll up exercises, but don't use sandbags for the more subtle movements of your heel rocks.
The sole is the underside of the foot,
and the underside surfaces of the body connect to the backside surfaces,
which would be the hamstrings, lats, trapezius, and alot of large layered muscles
very important to the support of the spine.
So the underside of the foot (the sole) connects to the backside of the foot (the heel).
This may seem like a no-brainer, but because we are much more familiar with the topside and frontside of the body (because those are the surfaces we can see and thus access more easily)
it takes imagination and almost a complete reversal of perception to think of and better utilize the sole and heel, those being the unseen surfaces.
Heel rocks are a very effective to help someone release tension in the back, hips, spine, and neck.
However, this heel rocking can also assist someone in understanding how the heel relates to the hips and spine, and thus tap a person into better support for the body by using the heel more efficiently.
This is crucial for women who wear high heels because often the height of the heel of the shoe forces the weight of the woman forward.
When the heels move back and forth, not just on the surface of the floor or mat or table you are lying down on, but those heels move into the surface that they are in touch with, then the expansion of the heels while they are rocking back and forth will move the hips and then the spine and then the head.
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Backbone and Wingspan®
Founder and owner and author of Pilates Iconoclast
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