Walking with Awareness 06-29-2015

June, 2015

I love to walk! Although my exercise regime prior to hip pain included more jogging than walking, this was only because I could wake up, put my shoes on, and get in some cardio work in just 30 minutes – so it fit my impulse for efficiency. Since I had to stop running 2+ years ago I’ve been able to refocus my time and mental curiosity on the mechanics of walking.Walk with Aw

As I gradually increase my walking tolerance (post surgery), it’s been fun to reconnect with my body as walking is a great way to feel how everything is connected. Being a “flat footed” person has given me plenty of opportunity to explore how my unconscious flat-footed tendency affects my movements and compare how adjustments towards a stronger, more supportive use of my feet provide strength and stability throughout the rest of my body.

I’ve been interested in the study of walking for years. For a detailed article on walking technique see “If it walks like a duck” on my website. My current exploration involves how important good foot support is for great hip (and knee) stability. I have been very careful to follow my own advice of “pacing and graded exposure” (that I teach in my pain class series) as I increase my walking endurance. What I have noticed as my hip strengthens, is that my walking tolerance is equally dependent on making sure I don’t fall into poor habits of foot pronation (pronation = flat feet).

As I attend to how my feet support me, I am able to feel myself being pushed forward by the ball of my foot. Not only does my accurate use of my foot provide stability in my knee and hip, but it affects the lengthening in my full spine, including my neck, as well as the alignment of my shoulders and head.

My Feldenkrais training taught me to be attentive, curious, and explorative of these connections which helps me enjoy my body as I walk. Of course, I do remember to look up and enjoy the beauty around me as well, but if I get lost in my thoughts (which can often be worries), I can use my physical sensations and interest to bring me back to the moment which includes respecting and caring for my body.

About half-way through my walk I will begin to notice some strain in the front of my hip. The Feldenkrais “way” is not to get worried about strain and pain, but rather to be curious. I use this sensation as a reminder to find out what I’m doing with my feet, or my breath, or any part of my body. I use my walking as a movement exploration of connections.

The Feldenkrais method tends to avoid corrective instructions, but rather provides the opportunity to play with a variety of movements so that you can “feel” your way to better movement. Guidance and instruction is helpful because when someone has used a particular movement pattern for their whole life, the sense of the familiar can seem “normal.” Meanwhile the new pattern may be so unfamiliar that it doesn’t feel quite “right”. Yet that new movement pattern may be providing the missing strength, length, stability, etc that will assist in optimal, healthy and pain-free movement.

Ultimately my walking is a kind of movement meditation. I can use my body to come back to the moment, explore some movement, then exhale into the beauty of my surroundings. As with meditation, at some point my mind starts thinking, I get lost, and something reminds me to come back to the Now. For me that reminder is my body, my breath, my movements. It’s a wonderful gift of connection, self-care and appreciation of all I am blessed with: Life, breath, movement, beauty, relationships and all of the connections within and with-out.

Posted in: Allisons' Blog, Hip Surgery

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