Joe Pilates believed our feet were so valuable that he made two pieces of apparatus specifically for them – in addition to the hundreds of exercises he created with or without equipment that made use of, increased the flexibility and strength of, and re-united our feet with the rest of our body. He believed our feet were under-used, abused and unsupportive of the rest of us. They have only gotten more so.
When the well-aligned foot tones, engages, neurologically connects to the rest of our body, it provides a wealth of important ramifications up the link system of our body, releasing gripped/tense areas, toning weak or illusive places, as close as the ankle or knee and as far away as the occiput.
We Pilates teachers can make immediate and far-reaching use of observing the foot, whether while doing a foot exercise such as Foot Corrector or adjusting the relationship of the foot to Reformer straps. In all cases, we can assume and look for other results besides foot alignment, tone, or balanced usage. We can see consequent support for any and all axial joints from ankle to pelvic floor and diaphragm to occiput, decompressing and activating to do their inherent job. We can “turn on” hamstrings or psoas and “turn off” hip flexors or spinal erectors simply by gaining access to parts of the foot that have not been working.
Let’s consider the 4th Foot Corrector version.
The general posture is: standing, erect and tall with pelvis and shoulder girdles parallel to the floor and to the wall in front of you, eyes to the horizon. Hands can grasp hips or lie straight along body. Your weight is primarily on the back leg so that the working foot is challenged to contract the springs without body weight helping to push down the saddle. The foot is in plantar flexion with the heel on top of and slightly behind the center of the saddle, the ball of the foot lying flat on the wood platform, and the knee bent slightly.
The movement is: sole contracts to depress the springs bringing the saddle (all sides simultaneously) to the wood, holding the saddle down the foot slides backward into ankle flexion, keeping toes down as long as possible and pressing heel onto the wood as soon as possible (this is “bird on a perch”), the sole muscles elongate to permit the spring to raise the saddle to the top, and the toes flex. Repeat by reversing the action. Almost all movement is from the working knee through the foot.
The results are: the foot (bones, joints, muscles, everything!) is toned, stretched, massaged, awoken, heated, and aligned through toes/ankle/knee/hip. Therefore, the lower leg is also. And especially since you have worked to keep your thigh still and your weight more on the back leg then you might like, your knee muscles have toned to support the joint in good alignment and you will feel a hamstring tone all the way up to your sitz bone. Between the hamstrings toning and the sole doming, you will also feel your pelvic floor and low abdominals!
That is a lot of product from one foot exercise! We teachers can now expect this amount and scope of effect, transformation, in all foot use, in all Pilates exercises, when the foot works well in conjunction with the rest of the body. Isn’t that amazing?!
Rachel Taylor Segel, PMA®-CPT, has been a leading educator in Pilates teacher training for over 25 years. She co-founded the Pilates Center in Boulder, CO, in 1990. Rachel helped develop The Pilates Center Teacher Training Program in 1991. She has taught workshops all over the world, co-authored The Everything Pilates Book, helped write the PMA Pilates Certification Exam, served on the PMA certification commission, and designed the CenterLine® – a line of classical Pilates equipment – with Balanced Body. Rachel’s original training was under the direct tutelage of Romana Kryzanowska from she received her teaching certificate in 1989.