People who study with me privately also take group Pilates mat classes in other studios, and often relate that in the group classes they have trouble feeling a connection to or the toning of the low, deep abdominals.
Of course, it is much easier to feel the upper abs, but getting to the low,deep ones is challenging, and sometimes even seemingly out of reach for them. I believe the core will always seem out of reach, unless you feel your feet, and by that I mean the heels.
I always support people with my hands, helping them to deepen the heels down into the table when they are doing deep core and "ab work."
I have found that accessing the deep core involves getting someone to really understand and feel the feet, down, down, down to the ground.
Earth to Feet!....
Come in Feet!
Pulling the toes flat back (what we usually think of as "flexing" the foot) tightens the tendons in the front of the ankle diminishing the space in the ankle joint so that there is no flow down.
It is better to soften the toes and give thought to expanding the heel by giving the back of the foot more contact with the surface. As you can see in this photo, my foot is making a little dent in the upholstered surface of the table underneath.
One may also use gravity and imagination to draw the heel out further down from behind the ankle. Gravity and imagination may be what one may have to utilize in a group class that is taught on a thin mat or on a wooden floor.
Or use actual earth - or tiny granules of it -
to feel the feet beneath: Sandbag 'em !
I have found that when I have given the experience to someone of the support of my hands helping them to feel the back of the heel deepen into the table, or the sensation of having weighted bags on the feet to help them utilize more the back of the heel than the front of the ankles, that they can take these sensory experiences into group class and draw upon them imaginatively to create the same stability.
Expansion of the back of the heel gives more access to the sit bone which has alignment with it, and the three hamstrings which are attached to each sit bone,(which is a huge amount of stabilization).
More specifics about this in a subsequent blog post:
It is as simple as this: the topside of the toes and the tendons in the front of the ankle relate to everything else in the body that is frontal: the shins, the quads, the hip flexors, none of which can connect you to your core or your deep abdominals.
Softening the toes - and thus the tendons attached to those toes -
will assist in releasing the overworked quads and letting go of tight hip flexors, which will subsequently allow you to better access what will support the core: hamstrings, calves, achilles, and heels.
Expanding the heel grants release of the calves to connect their force to the springy achilles, which, since we are in the spring season, will be the source of my next blog posting:
Earth to feet.... Come in Feet!
Thanks so much for reading. Please comment with any questions or concerns.
- Herald, author of Body Mind & Spine Align
Backbone and Wingspan®
Watch videos about the feet, the back and the spine on the:
More detailed information about the heels, soles, arches and hamstrings as well as the knees, the hip joints and how the feet directly relate to the spine at:
Information specific to using the feet better for wearing high heels at:
Information about connecting the arms into the back muscles for shoulder strength, tension relief in the neck and relieving lower back pain at: