NOTE:These "Exercises" are taught during session work and are meant for current and former students. Please see our other pages for more general information.
"I am dealing with problems in the body where there is never just one cause. I'd like you to have more reality on the circular processes that do not act in the body, but that are the body. The body process is not linear, it is circular; always, it is circular. One thing goes awry, and its effects go on and on and on and on. A body is a web, connecting everything with everything else." - Ida P. Rolf, Ph.D.
1. Always keep Soft Knees.
2. Do the exercise as slooowly as possible.
3. Be as relaxed as you can be.
The Exercise should be done Twice Daily, w/8-10 reps per session.
Building the body from the Ground Up.
The focus of the exercise is to, beginning with the feet, make both halves of you look the same. Even distribution of weight on the feet (side to side and front and back). Then using your mirror, and your body landmarks, make yourself “visually even.” Position the knees so they are straight forward, hips at the same level, shoulders etc.
Then as you breathe, think of gravity as if you live in a wind tunnel, gravity flows up your front body, and down your back body. When taking your first deep breath allow the breath to fill your chest sweeping the belly in as much as possible, but don't elevate the shoulders. Try to root the back body to the floor with the 2 muscles around the shoulder blades, bring them together and down. Bring the energy down the back, and down the legs to root the heels.
Think of yourself as having a tap root like a tree. Imagine your taproot runs down the inside of both legs. Your roots grow through the medial arch of the foot, conforming to the earth. Push through the inner line of the leg to grow tall as you "Go with Gravity" up the front and down the back.
Gravity is our best friend when we use it. If you are questioning how to do a movement, usually the answer, is to engage the muscles of the back body somewhere. To remain more upright in your posture with your daily tasks is the goal.
The first 4-5 reps should be used to move all the various pieces into balance. The next 4-5 reps are used to try and hold the “balanced body,” while relaxing. Try to release all the tension from the body.
The exercise is best done when changing from one activity and getting ready to start the next one. (Eg. in between loading the dishwasher and starting computer work, in between taking a shower and making breakfast, etc.)
Step by Step
1. Focus is on the Feet
Begin by spreading the toes as much as possible, place the big toes together heels slightly apart. Moving ONLY from the ankle joint lean forward slowly until you feel the toes grab the ground, then bending the knees slowly root the heel and check to see if you are evenly distributing your weight front to back on both feet.
Now by moving slightly from side to side, using the knees as a visual cue in the mirror, distribute the weight on the feet until both feet have equal pressure. "Pancake the whole foot to the floor." "Shoot the toes forward."
Standing up straight, and watching yourself in the mirror, do a kneebend as slowly as possible. CONTROL your knees. Make them go straight forward and straight back, stopping with a soft knee when you stand up. Go up and down very slowly.
During the movement your upper body should remain stable and upright, and hips should remain under the torso with heels rooted firmly to the floor. Think of a string on the top of your head pulling you up as you rise.
If your achilles tendon is tight, move down only to the place before the foot would have to come off the floor, but doesn't, and then attempt to go a little deeper with each repetition.
Practice walking “toes first” like you are a ballerina. Keeping the foot parallel to the floor, slide forward allowing the front pad just behind the toes to be the first piece to strike. You should see the toes spread apart, and feel them "reach forward", as this happens.
Exercise the pinky toe by dropping a tissue on the floor, and then gathering, and picking it up with only the pinky toe.
Rolling the foot on a tennis ball, river rocks in the shower, using different textures to massage the feet, always helps keep the plantar fascia loose, and increase its mobility.
2. Focus is on Breathing
Breathe into your chest in 360 degrees, fill the chest on both sides under the arms, front and BACK. Sweep the belly up and fill the lungs with your full breathe. Keeping the shoulders down, think of the lungs like a hot air balloon floating up expanding. Relax the front body, and breathe deeply, by activating the muscles around the shoulder blades.
Drag the shoulder blades together and down simultaneously with the inhalation. On the exhalation, allow the muscles to relax and attempt to "keep some of the openess in the chest that you have created."
Continue with the breathing cycle, growing a bigger chest each time. Long term with your breathing, we want the chest to work like a barrel as opposed to a bellows. Air should flow in and out, we should breathe without effort.
The clavicle bones are the visual reference. Strive to make them even and parallel to the floor. As breathing becomes easier stop exaggerating the muscles of your back, and try to fill your chest with less effort, allowing the air to push your shoulders out to the sides, spreading the shoulders sideways, parallel to the floor. Allow just the breathe to stretch the muscles of the chest and back.
3. Focus is on the Knees
Control of the knees comes from the inner thigh and glutes. The inner thigh muscles will pull the knees inward and the glutes will pull the knees outward. Balance the knees to fine tune their movement.
The goal is to relax both big muscle groups, and control the knees with deep intrinsic muscles. The slowness of the kneebends is essential to this change. We want the inner thigh to fall back and in during kneebends, rooting through the middle of the legs, down to the medial arch.
Practice Sitting on sits bones. This is a good thing to practice in the car, at dinner, etc.
Pilates balls are great office chairs. Try to balance on your sits bones, shift side to side and get even distribution of weight, and push into the floor evenly through legs and feet.
4. Focus is on the Pelvis
Stand up from the place between the bottom of the ribs and top of the hips. The belly should sweep up and in, to take a breath, and you should try to increase the distance between the hips and the ribs with each repetition. Also look to balance the hips, touch the front of the hip bones, and move them until they are straight across.
Continue to feel the flow of gravity up the front by dragging down the back at these reciprocal spots. Try to get taller each time you come up by growing from the hips with the imaginary string pulling from the top of the head.
Allow gravity to push down on your shoulders. Root yourself to the ground, by pulling the energy all the way down your back to your heel.
5. Focus is on the Sacrum/Sits Bones
Use the big gluteal muscles to bring the sits bones narrow, “in line with the eyeballs.” Control the knees with the inner thigh muscles to keep them moving straight. Try as soon as possible to hold the sits bones with the pelvic floor, and allow the glutes and inner thigh muscles to relax.
When you are controlling the sits bones with the pelvic floor, the inner thigh will rotate inward slightly, narrowing the hips. Try to think of rooting yourself to the floor through the inner leg and medial arch.
Practice walking with a narrow gate, one foot in front of the other. Try to avoid swinging hips, legs are free from the sacrum, so walking should be forward only, with no wasted motion.
6. Focus is on the Neck
During the exercise, push the tip of the tongue into the spot at the roof of the mouth, in between the hard and soft palette. Push through that spot, to the imaginary spot on the top of the head, where the string is pulling you up. Drop the chin slightly towards the chest to create length in the cervical spine.
Practice letting your tongue mimic the curvature on the roof of your mouth. The point of the tongue should rest on the spot of soft tissue just behind the teeth. “Pancaking” your tongue to the roof of the mouth will make holding jaw tension nearly impossible.
Further movements – Movement should originate from the Anterior Longitudinal Ligament. "Move with your A.L.L.," Yoga would refer to this as moving from your core.
1. The “upper body” should practice lifting the arms by dropping the scapula down the back. Allow the arms to float up in front of you. Practice until you can hold the arms forever, without feeling tension in the shoulder or arm. The arms should remain “loose” with all everyday tasks (cutting vegetables, computer, driving the car, etc.).
2. The “lower body” should practice graceful walking by flopping the leg in front of you using the psoas muscle. The goal is to be a duck on the water. The upper body should remain stable, and the legs can walk, or even run, with no bouncing up and down, or side to side. Use the stairs and grocery cart/stroller, as well as trays in your hands etc. to smooth out the movement.
The kneebends exercise should be done for AT LEAST a year after the completion of the sessions. From then on it is a tool to use as you see fit, but of course, the more you do your exercise, the more your body will continue to move in the right direction. Call or email if you have questions about the exercise/movements, or if you feel “stuck” somewhere.