Massagetherapy.com

   Articles
Balanced Standing
body awareness

By Barb Frye

Originally published in Massage Bodywork magazine, May/June 2010. Copyright 2010. Associated Bodywork and Massage Professionals. All rights reserved.

"My feet are killing me." Sound familiar? Many manual therapists experience sore feet after standing for several hours a day, because they are supporting their body weight with only one part of the foot.

When you place weight primarily on one part of your foot, for example the lateral edge, you force the lateral joints and muscles of the foot and lower leg not only to bear the full weight of your body, but also to keep it in balance as well. In addition, your center of gravity is off balance in such a stance, increasing the stress to these joints and muscles, and thereby increasing your risk of injury. A similar problem occurs among therapists who tend to bear their weight primarily on the balls of their feet or on their heels.

After we learn as young children to stand and walk, the way we use our feet becomes mostly an unconscious habit. By practicing the following Self-Observation, you can learn to increase your awareness. When you learn to engage your entire foot in standing, your center of gravity--and thus your full body weight--will be optimally supported. As a result, your balance will improve, and you will be able to work with a greater sense of grounding and stability without experiencing soreness or pain. Instead of killing you, your feet will love you.


Self-Observation
Placing Weight On The Whole Foot Promotes Balanced Standing
Action. Take off your shoes and stand with your feet hip-width apart. Look down between your feet and notice the distance each foot is from your center line (Image 1). Your center line is a line that, if drawn from your head down between your feet, would divide your body into equal halves.

Feel. Notice and sense which parts of your feet you are standing on.

Ask. Are you standing with your weight equally placed on both feet? Or are you standing more on your heels, balls of your feet, or the inside or outside edges?

Noticing how you habitually stand is the first step in becoming more aware of how you use your feet to support your body's weight. Don't try to change anything, just notice what you do.

Action. Now, slowly lean your body back, putting most of your weight on your heels (Image 2). This is a standing habit that many people use.

Feel. Notice how placing more weight on your heels affects your lower body.

Ask. Do you feel the muscles in your legs working hard to hold your balance? Can you sense something in your ankles? Your knees?

Feel. Notice how this position affects your upper body.

Ask. Do you sense the muscles in your lower back working to hold your balance? Are the muscles in your neck and shoulders also working to hold your balance? How does this position affect your breathing? Is this a position you normally stand in?

Action. Now, slowly lean your body forward, placing most of your weight on the balls of your feet (Image 3). This is another position many people stand in.

Feel. Notice how this position affects your lower body.

Ask. Do you feel the muscles in your legs working hard to hold this position? Can you sense something happening in your ankles? Your knees?

Feel. Notice how this position affects your upper body.

Ask. Do you sense the muscles in your abdomen working to hold your balance? Are your anterior and/or posterior neck muscles working to hold your balance? How does this position affect your breathing? Is this a position you normally stand in?

Now rest for a moment.

Action. Now, intentionally place your feet at equal distances from your center line, distributing your weight equally between both feet. Try to place over half of your weight (60 percent) on your heels, 30 percent over the balls of your feet, and the rest over your arches and toes. Don't get stressed out over these percentages. The goal is to sense your weight through your entire foot (Image 4).

Feel. Notice how standing on your whole foot affects your standing posture.

Ask. Has the muscular effort in your legs decreased? Has the stability increased in your knees and ankles? Are your back, shoulders, and neck more relaxed? Can you breathe more freely? Has your overall sense of balance and stability increased?

Action. Take a few minutes and continue standing on your full foot. Sense your overall balance and support. (Don't become frustrated if it takes some time getting used to this full-foot standing posture. The more you become aware of using your entire foot for standing, the more familiar and comfortable it will become.)

When standing with your body's weight distributed across your foot, the arches of your feet can fully support you. Your entire skeleton has a solid base on which to stand, and the muscular effort of your lower body is decreased, as is the stress on your knees and ankles.

Give yourself some feedback.
How did placing your weight over your heels compare to standing on your whole foot? How did placing your weight over the balls of your feet compare to standing on your whole foot? What are the advantages of standing on your whole foot?

Barbara Frye has been a massage educator and therapist since 1990. She coordinated IBM's body mechanics program and authored Body Mechanics for Manual Therapists: A Functional Approach to Self-Care, 3rd Edition (Lippincott Williams Wilkins, 2010). She has a massage and Feldenkrais practice at the Pluspunkt Center for Therapy and Advanced Studies near Zurich, Switzerland. Contact her at barbfrye@hotmail.com.




Skin Care Therapy
Sports Massage
A public education site brought to you by Associated Bodywork & Massage Professionals. Privacy Policy. Copyright Policy. Terms of Use.
Find a Massage Therapist
© 2014 Associated Bodywork & Massage Professionals.