Some things in life are so good you have to repeat them. In fact, I plan on taking it again.
AiM is not a model for fixing people’s pain or movement. Through the Flow Motion Model we are not learning how to heal people, but how to help facilitate their own process of “letting go”; providing the body experiences to reclaim what it is currently missing- What it can’t do or won’t do, and trusting that it will be able to heal itself if given the option.
Inevitably, by immersing ourselves in a process of exploring new ways to interact with ourselves and others, our class let go of a lot of shit in New York last week.
People’s bodies changed as they experienced movements their systems were being denied. Other’s made decisions to completely change the way they practice with clients. It was an honour to witness these transformations.
I observed as one class-mate experienced his frontal plane for the first time in who knows how long.
I saw my friend fully extend her knees post double ACL surgeries for the first time in 15 years, and effortlessly bend down to touch her toes, something she hadn’t been able to do since before her injuries.
And I saw another class-mate left speechless, with a huge grin on his face, as he reclaimed sagittal plane spinal motion.
In six days, bodies changed, paradigms shifted, life paths altered. These are things I can’t describe with words. But I’ll try.
What is Anatomy in Motion?
To get a full appreciation of the philosophy AiM is built upon, I’d recommend reading Gary’s book, What the Foot.
Here’s my “Spark Notes” version, for what it’s worth:
AiM is a model for looking at human motion as it occurs in the gait cycle (the Flow Motion Model).
Gait is walking, and walking is hopefully what you spend most of your time as a human being doing. Or not doing…
Which each full cycle through your right and left side in gait, each joint in your body has the opportunity to perform all of it’s potential movement in three dimensions, which takes between just 0.6 to 0.8 seconds. Doesn’t that blow your mind a little? That you can take two steps and every one of your joints will have moved in all planes of motion that it possess.
What does this mean for you? That one second is a precious bit of time. Just one rep can be an opportunity to heal, or not.
Less than a second can be used to experience optimal movement variance- Tappable potential. With each step you can heal, or you can feed a repetitive pattern that could lead to sub-optimal system adaptability and a skewed ratio of the two “p” words we love: Pain and performance.
Optimal joint motion through the human gait cycle lets you “walk it off”, and walk things in.
Sub-optimal movement, missing movement, and even missing entire planes of movement, makes performing well challenging, and pain common.
This is the beauty of AiM: It teaches us how to heal through the simplicity of the most fundamental thing we do as humans beings. Walking!
I’d like to use today’s blog post to share some takeaways from my second time through AiM’s six day “finding center” immersion course- The course that makes me feel OK about not having a formal education in biomechanics stuff, because it only means is I have less noise to unlearn (a serious challenge for many clinicians learning this material).
No headaches this time!
I don’t generally get headaches, but when I do it’s because I’ve been thinking too much. The night I launchedDance Stronger in September 2015, for example, I had a massive headache.
Last November when i took the course in Toronto for the first time I developed a headache by the end of day 2 which persisted throughout the 4 subsequent days.
A note to future attendees: It helps very much to start the course being able to name the bones of the foot. Other bones in the body, too, but the foot in particular was my sticking point, a body part we don’t spend enough time learning about in school.
As a fine-arts major with minimal formal education in anatomy, bio-mechanics, or anything “sciency”, anything related to fitness, training, (read anything I’m currently doing with my life), I am not ashamed to say that I have major gaps in my knowledge base. I often find myself in situations where I am the underdog, the least intelligent person in the room, and with no choice but to rise to the challenge (hopefully…).
A note for the dancers: For dancers transitioning into new careers, your lack of formal education need not stop you from diving into something new. Skills and character traits you acquire as a dancer are absolutely transferable to any career path in huge ways.
My first time through AiM I didn’t know what the talus bone was. To be honest, I didn’t know what any of the foot bones were.
This meant I was simultaneously learning the 26 moving bones, 2 non-moving bones, and 33 joints interactions of the foot, while being asked to appreciate the 3 dimensional movement potential of the rear foot, forefoot, and toes through each phase of the gait cycle as it relates to the rest of the body.
“What does the rear foot do in relation to the pelvis in the frontal plane during the shock absorption phase of gait?” Wait… What’s the rear-foot? What’s the frontal plane??
Enter headache city. Somehow I made it out alive, and even wanting more.
But enough about my educational short-comings.
While the AiM course material is badass and can help people change the way they move and feel in insanely short periods of time, the number one reason to take this course is simply to learn from Gary and Chris in person- Two of the most patient, generous, intelligent, and honest individuals I’ve met. Being in the same room as them guarantees you level up in one way or another through osmosis (unless you’re a podiatrist… Just kidding. Mostly).
I want to share some of the most beautiful, wise, and hilarious things that Gary and Chris conveyed, and while these were communicated in the context of teaching a room of clinicians, trainers, and bodyworkers, they apply to anyone who takes a vested interest in how to optimize the way their bodies (and lives) perform.
ON MOVEMENT AND BEHAVIOUR
AiM doesn’t just teach anatomy, it teaches a metaphor applicable on every level of our lives. We can’t look at how someone moves or holds themselves without wondering what behaviours brought them into being. Any trouble that appears in our body will also show itself at some other level in our lives. The same laws of motion we apply to anatomy and biomechanics also can apply to our relationships, experiences, and interactions in nearly every domain.
The big (complicated) questions:Why do things hurt? Why do we adapt a particular posture or way of moving, even if it is less desirous long term?Why do we adopt “dysfunctional” patterns?
The big (simple) answer:Because they are serving us.
Pain serves simply as information we can use to help us change and create new opportunities. Inefficient movement presents in our bodies as a result of us bravely coping with an internal or external stressor, sometimes expressed as pain. This is a beautiful way of thinking!
May we be grateful for the signals and strategies our bodies lend us that allow us to cope and keep on keeping-on despite our duress. But may we also be wise enough to notice them and adjust accordingly.
To paraphrase and blend the verbiage of Gary and Chris:
Why do people move or hold themselves the way they do? Because it serves them! It’s not something to get down about. They are using their most “balanced”, available point.
Other good stuff they said:
“We can’t change the way you move until we can change the value you get from it” ~GW (as mentioned above, we do things with our bodies because they serve us, but that doesn’t mean this is the most efficient way of doing things in the long term. We need a “pattern interrupt” and a superior reward from a new, more sustainable habit)
“You ground your own bones, you striated your own muscles” ~CS (on taking self-ownership and acknowledging our formative behaviours)
“Are you working with it or working on it? If you’re working on it, the CNS will whoop your ass every time”. ~CS (on meeting your body where it’s at, choosing new words for your experience, and practicing non-attachment)
“We can move anything without moving IT, by moving everything else” ~GW (on the illusory strategies we use to keep us in motion. For example, to keep my head level on the horizon, I don’t need to move it, but everything else in my body can move around it to create the illusion of neck movement)
ON THE SUBJECTIVE SIDE OF THINGS…
A huge part of the course is appreciating the art of the self-check-in, which we did everyday as a class.
Subjective, yes, but often all that really matters to the people we are trying to help is their subjective experience.
Objective measures can and should change if they are causing trouble, but if our clients and patients don’t feel different in their own bodies, objective results aren’t meaningful enough. In AiM we are taught to appreciate both: The subjective check-in, and the observation and re-testing of “objective” movement (if assessing movement quality can even be objective… I don’t think it can be, not 100%, given the body’s ability to disguise movement and non-movement as each-other).
In checking in, we were encouraged to change the words we used to describe our experiences. “It hurts” and “it feels tight” were not good enough. Why? They don’t tell us anything useful to work with!
Gary gave me further context later:
The word “pain” gives us nothing. No info. No size of area. Duration of time. Good pain. Bad pain. A stretch pain. A compressive pain. The term is insufficient for understanding what’s going on.
From this we can see the importance of digging a bit deeper into our clients’ experience of their own movement quality. Subjective, but hugely important, for them to learn about themselves and also for us to guide them through their process.
Some more good stuff on the insufficiencies of “pain” and “tightness”:
“Pain is an external description of ‘how I am’” ~GW (’nuff said)
“Pain is (a) bullshit (word)” ~GW (on empowering people to find better ways to describe how movements feel. This is not to invalidate someone’s experience of pain, but to understand that pain can be present for many reasons. There are many more useful words that we could use and encourage our clients to use to describe the experience of movement. “it hurts” on it’s own does not give us enough information. Don’t kill me for this, Gary…)
“Tight is bullshit” ~CS (in response to students who only could find the word “tight” to describe movement. It is an insufficient term, like “it hurts”,because “tight” is an ambiguous feeling, not a quality of movement. It’s an easy answer. Find another word, another quality, and you’ll open up new ways of experiencing your body’s truth in a non-limiting way).
Still going strong on my #Simpsonschallenge. I hope at least 3 of you appreciate this…
Gary and Chris are incredible teachers who inspire me to become better at communicating with my own clients.
They are impeccable with their choice of words. They make sure no one is left behind. They meet each group of students where they’re currently at, and so each course is slightly different in delivery. They don’t try to “blow minds” (although it happens anyway) but wish for us to simply understand.
Their teaching style is to create an experience for the class to discover the material in themselves, knowing that you can’t teach people things, they have to learn it for themselves, when they’re ready. This is rare and refreshing.
Here’s what I mean:
“We don’t want to feed you information you haven’t experienced” ~CS (on why it’s important for us to feel the model in our own bodies as part of the learning process. Or, to quote Gary from the September 2015 course in Toronto “Let’s not just BELIEVE shit, that’s why the world’s a f&@!cking mess.”)
“Movement is in spheres. No axis of rotation. But we have to break it down in three planes to teach it”. ~CS (on discussing the limitations of talking about triplanar movement- It’s something to be felt, witnessed, and understood, not just talked about)
“The noise is in the words, not the action” ~GW (following from above, words make things complicated. Wars are waged over choice of words)
For an anatomy course,very little time was dedicated to actually talking about muscle function. In gait, muscles react to joint action (one of Gary’s rules of movement: Joints act, muscles react). Rather than look at muscles and what they “do” concentrically to move our bodies, we looked first at joint actions to appreciate which muscles must decelerate them to allow them to safely occur, and most importantly, we felt it in our own bodies.
For example, if you put your arms overhead and bend backwards, the abdominal muscles should load up eccentrically (lengthen) to slow the movement into spinal extension before your spine bumps into itself, and you should experience stretch across your abs. Compressive pain with backbending can be related to abs not being able to lengthen under load to safely allow this joint action. Flips the core training paradigm upside down to think this way (and I encourage you to do so!).
To paraphrase Gary:
It’s important to know muscles really, really well so that you can stop thinking in terms of what they do, and start looking at how the body moves.
A few other things that was said about muscles:
“Muscles aren’t designed to pronate the foot” ~GW(They are designed to decelerate pronation. Due to the shape of the calcaneous, gravity pronates our feet for us and getting out from pronation becomes the common challenge).
“Muscles are managers” ~GW (on the role muscles play in the moving body as managers of our center of mass. Muscles essentially manage freedom of movement in the joints, allowing joints to approach their end range before safely returning back to a restful center. Restricted or hypermobile joints will influence how it will be managed by the muscles.)
Gary knows his feet. Just don’t call him the “foot guy” or he’ll flip his shit.
“Fashion will always fuck us up” ~GW (on the foot’s function as a mobile adapter in flip flops, high-heels, and even pointe shoes. He is suggesting fashion will always limit us unless we learn to override and counter the imbalance it inflicts upon us. We can, however, organize ourselves better to enjoy fashion, because life is too short not to!)
“Supporting forefoot varus versus encouraging ‘neutral” ~GW (on what orthotics generally are built to do, versus what movement and wedging can do).
“Create an experience inside the foot.” ~GW (on the purpose of foot mobilizations)
Orthorics vs. “floorthotics”: Creative AiM foot wedging strategies with one of my clients
AiM is a course centered around the motion of every joint in the body in every plane of movement as it should ideally happen at each moment in the gait cycle. So yeah, we talked a bit about gait.
Here are the most memorable gait-related quotes:
“Every condition presents in the gait cycle because they are either stuck in it or can’t get into it” ~GW (on “diagnosis” of forefoot varus, scoliosis, and other “syndromes”. Yes, there is a scoliotic moment in gait, and it’s normal!).
“Everyone is stuck in a moment in time” ~GW (same idea as above, you can get stuck in a particular moment of the gait cycle and it can become problematic. I just like how romantic this sounds)
“Assessing gait will not show you what’s wrong, it will show you what’s missing” ~CS (“what’s missing”… Rather than looking for what IS happening- dysfunction, pain, sloppy movement- we need to be seeing what’s not there so we can give them back that experience)
“In gait, muscles never shorten first” ~GW (as per his second big rule of movement: Muscles must lengthen before they contract)
“If you can’t straighten and internally rotate your knee, you’ll have no ability to supinate.” GW (on the knee’s role in creating a rigid lever in the supinating phases of gait, which sadly, many of us never experience. If you can’t internally rotate the knee, you can’t extend it. Full knee internal rotattion, which looks like a femur rotating externally beyond the external rotation of the tibia. If you can’t IR and extend the knee, you can’t create a rigid lever through toe off, extend the hip, load the hip flexors, and go about running and jumping effortlessly, pain and strain-free. Bridgehampton 2016 was deemed the “knee course” because it seemed like everyone in the room had a knee extension/rotation issue).
ON ASSESSING PEOPLE IN MOVEMENT
AiM provides some useful ideas for assessing our clients and patients, but something I respect about their approach is that they don’t tell us exactly how we should do it (which would infuriate other folks who need to be told what to do, rely on protocol, algorithms, and evidence to take action). The most important part of assessing is to be able to see what’s missing from their bodies and extrapolate how providing a safe experience to give it back could create a desirous change in their system.
What is beautiful is that the tools we already have to assess fit nicely with AiM philosophy if we can see what’s missing from a person’s system. AiM shows us a simple and useful movement exploration to take our people through, but I’ve also used NKT and PRI testing to guide and integrate AiM movements (and improve re-test outcome). Every movement is an assessment. You can use a simple half-kneeling drill, look for “what’s missing”, and re-integrated it with an AiM movement.
Unfortunately, if you’re looking to be told exactly how to do something step by step, and become paralyzed without a strict formula, this might not be the course for you. But if you’re creative and like tinkering with options, I think you’ll appreciate the freedom AiM brings you.
Some ideas to ponder:
“It’s not ‘what’s wrong with them?’, it’s ‘how are they managing their mass?’” ~CS (as per Gary’s rule of movement: Everything revolves around center, and their function will be dictated by how they manage their center of mass around their perceived center).
“It’s important to be able to assess things in isolation, but contextualizing it is what we need to do better” ~CS (on looking at structures of the body in relationship with the rest of it. Sure, we need to know what the hips are doing, but to get the complete picture, it needs to be put into context of what the hips are doing relative to the ribcage, skull, scaps, and the rest of it. If someone comes to see you for help with their hips, for example, the hip assessment can’t be focused only on the hips, but the relationship their hips have with the rest of their bodies. This resonated with me in a huge way, as it is something I am currently struggling with).
“If something appears neutral, but nothing else is, the neutral thing could be the problem!” ~GW (all or nothing: Either everything is neutral, or nothing is)
“You can’t be hypermobile everywhere” ~GW (same thought as above: Everything has to balance out. Even congenitally hypermobile folks have non-moving bits that are the glue holding them together despite the illusion of them being bendy everywhere)
“A fused joint is a new ‘optimal center'” ~GW (as an answer to a question about how joint fusions affect the gait cycle and their implication for training and rehab. A fused joint isn’t “bad”, it just creates a new perceived center for them to work with. Unfortunately, we label fusions and other limiting conditions as just that: Limitations! A simple change in language- “limiting” to “optimal”, can change the relationship people have with fusions, and both patient and practitioner see how to work with their new center, not on it, fight it, or resent it. Getting comfortable with the ‘new normal’ and managing the inevitable compensations).
“If things don’t go right, go left” ~CS (on what to do if your strategy isn’t working. It always comes down to one of two choices. Sounds easy, doesn’t it?)
The actual view from the coffee shop I’m writing this blog post in 🙂
If asked for one single take-away, I don’t think I could find the words (that’s why this blog post is over 3000 words long).
I feel fortunate to have this blog as a medium to share the AiM philosophy, and am looking forward to seeing what come out as I work to revise and create new chapters for Dance Stronger. AiM was hugely influential in the creation of this resource the first time through, and it will certainly become a larger part of it moving forwards.
(PS Dance Stronger is 100% available by donation, so no excuses not to check it out and see what I’m talking about).
Gary is also a fantastic artist. One of his sketches from class. You don’t spend the majority of your life contemplating the foot without getting good at drawing it, too, I suppose.
With every foot step, every experience of the Earth through your foot; what sensory input are you taking in? What could you be missing out on? If there is a part of your foot that never makes proper contact with the Earth, with every step, is there potential you are you not realizing?
Today marks day four of having my first metatarsal head actually connect and receive input from the Earth at the appropriate time in my gait cycle. It’s a whole new world I wouldn’t have imagined would feel so different.
I mean, it’s just a tiny piece of bone that wasn’t reacting to the ground properly. What difference could a square inch make??
A hell of a lot, apparently.
Let’s talk more about human movement and how the quality of which is critical to maintain over the course of your dance career.
This post is also a reflection on movement and dance post-Anatomy in Motion. A course that may have changed my life a little.
MOVING WELL AS A HUMAN IS ESSENTIAL FOR MOVING WELL AS A DANCER
As a dancer I struggled constantly with the inability to control rolling to the outside of my feet. I never felt “grounded”. Balancing and turns were extremely difficult for me and my calves were always tight.
The filter through which Anatomy in Motion views and coaches back our right to experience natural human motion helped me to finally experience the full surface of my foot, something I could not before appreciate the benefits of fully.
You don’t know what you don’t know, and you can’t feel what you can’t feel.
This post will be interesting for you if:
a) You have an interest in what natural human movement really is
b) You like feet
c) You think gait analysis is sexy
d) You enjoy my long rambling stories about life, dance, and movement
e) You’ve been considering taking an AiM seminar (or have already)
AiM YOUR BRAIN IN A NEW DIRECTION: USE HUMAN MOVEMENT TO PERFORM BETTER AT DANCE
We’re often told that to dance better, we need to dance more. But what if it’s not more technique we need? Consider that learning to perform natural human movement more efficiently is all you need for huge technical gains.
I’ve just completed the Anatomy in Motion immersion course: Six days (full days, 8am-6pm days…) studying human movement with Gary Ward and Chris Sritharan. I’ve experienced my own anatomy in motion, and felt what the foot can do for human performance (see what I did there??)
“Human movement is trained, human motion is not… If you’re going to engage in a sport that is not natural human motion, just make sure you have a strategy to unwind it” ~Chris Sritharan
First, I’ll get the long rambling story portion of this post out of the way. You can skip through it if you like and scroll to the “information” part, I won’t be offended.
Brock is always on the cutting edge of movement therapies and other manual and therapeutic approaches to help his patients, and when he finds one that works for him, he enthusiastically lets everyone know about it.
This was in 2014. He had just completed the AiM course in New York and was raving about it, telling us how Gary’s book, What The Foot had changed his philosophy on movement, he was mind blown, and that we should all read it.
what’s an anconeus??
Being an idealistic, highly impressionable, idiot-trainer, still learning my calcaneus from anconeus, I tucked that bit of information into my back pocket for future processing.
At another NKT study group, while I and my knee pain were subject of investigation, Brock started messing around with my feet and wondering how the hell I was even able to walk on them.
Curious about what was driving his new foot obsession, I decided to book an appointment with Brock to talk about feet and AiM.
He watched me walk, told me my center of mass was shifted completely over one leg, shoved some wedges under my feet and got me to perform some weird lunge-type movements (which I now know to be “shift” phase of the flow motion model).
Here is our amazing class learning to shift
So began my dedicated quest for understanding and experiencing my body.
This is important. From that point I set an intention to establish a daily movement practice. It wasn’t perfect, but did it ever create an impact on my system.
It wasn’t because the exercises themselves helped me overcome my pain and challenges, it was my intention to commit myself to working on them daily.
What if you dedicated yourself to work on something every day for a year?
Over the course of the next year, I saw Brock twice more (both sessions combining acupuncture and integrating “shift” back into my gait cycle). The changes I experienced were ridiculous (but note I was also experimenting with DNS, breathing techniques, and generally trying to stress less).
Huge movement nerd that I am, I practiced “shift” every day. I made a commitment to work on it every day, and have been doing so since he taught it to me last winter. I only missed a few days of shift-practice, and these days were noticeably stiffer, lower energy, more frustrating.
My ability to perform “shift” became the gauge of my state of movement. Everyday I learned a little more from it. There were frustrations, and there were highs.
Dance became a safe activity again. I began to feel things in my body I’d never felt before. I felt elements of my dancing improve. I felt pain subside. I could point my feet better, back-bend without compression pain, balance better, and was turning well(ish) and more consistently for the first time in years.
Look ma! No back pain!
Then I started teaching this movement to my clients (which has been referred to fondly- or dreadfully- as the “twisty lunge”).
I saw that it helped one dancer improve her hip external rotation from about 20 degrees to 80 (dat turnout!). Another dancer expressed how after practicing the movement, she felt lighter on her feet and felt more space in her hips. I noticed that after performing the movement, another dancer I worked with was no longer collapsing into an everted foot while performing a lunge.
Then I finally got around to reading Gary’s book, What The Foot. It was a huge inspiration for the creation of Dance Stronger (and those who are enrolled in the current DS program will notice I included my “shift” obsession in the movement preparation as AiM lunges 1 through 4- my breakdown of the shift phase. I didn’t do it justice, and in the second edition I’m hoping to improve upon its instruction, now that I actually know what I’m doing… Sortof)
Of course, I wish everyone would read What The Foot. After reading it there is no gray area: You either believe in his philosophy or you don’t.
You better believe I followed his guidance and experimented with “dark zones” like intentionally pronating my feet, taking my knees inside my second toe into the forbidden land of valgus. I stopped using so many “stability” exercises. Let go of an element of control. And it felt good! I encourage you to experiment with the same.
Knee valgus isn’t bad! You only get one chance to do it in the gait cycle.
But not everyone is as open as me. Why? For some people I imagine it comes down to money.
A chiropractor taking the course told us that since he started using AiM in his practice, his profit from orthotics decreased by about $25 000. That’s a pretty huge financial hit to take. But if you can teach people to support their feet, create their own orthotics through natural human movement, you don’t need to give them expensive orthotics or send them for surgeries.
Do you really need an orthotic to support that everted foot? Or do you need to learn how to support it through your own musculoskeletal reaction?
For me, the decision was easy. I couldn’t read Gary’s book and NOT take his course.
His marketing is actually very clever-His book creates an irresistible information gap while simultaneously filtering out the non-believers who he doesn’t want to taking his course anyway. Well done, Mr. Ward. Well done.
Information gap: “When we come across something new that is not explained by our previous knowledge or experiences, an information gap is formed, and we have a desire to find the answer.”
~Dr. George Lowenstien
So having now experienced his six day seminar, I feel like I’ve received answers to the questions I didn’t know how to ask, like,
“what’s a talus?”
“what’s the difference between a pronated foot and an everted foot?”
“at what phase in the gait cycle does the right hip adduct and anteriorally tilt?”
“what does the big toes have in common with the C spine?”.
I can see in a new way the shapes the human body makes for which I have a map to interpret, called the Flow Motion Model.
I understand that the body has an incredible ability to heal itself in just one rep.
I learned the natural way the pelvis, ribcage, skull, forefoot, rearfoot, and all the body’s joints are meant to act together in movement, and see how dance has a way of unravelling our movement quality if left unchecked.
But more importantly, I felt it all in my system in the 6 days. This is why I feel experiential learning is so important. If you can’t feel it, do you really know it? That’s the difference between knowing something in theory, and really knowing it.
By the end of day 5 it felt like I was wearing someone else’s shoes. Like someone had stealthily slipped in arch-supporting orthotics while I wasn’t looking.
I can see now that people really CAN create their own orthotics through movement. Give the body a new experience that helps it to move more naturally and efficiently, and it will choose to keep that new way of moving.
Like upgrading to a new operating system.
AiMAZING IDEAS YOU CAN TAKE HOME
So what were some of the main take-aways from my AiM experience that you can use?
1) Dance is NOT natural human movement.
As Chris advises, if we’re going to do something unnatural with our bodies, like dance, we had better have a strategy to unwind it.
Some unnatural things we do as dancers (meaning, movements we’re trained to do that do that look really cool, but do not naturally occur in our gait cycle):
Winging the foot
Pulling up the arches standing turned-out
Extending and flexing the whole spine segmentally
Not using heel strike
Chest (paradoxical) breathing
That horrible foot stretcher thing
Your foot does NOT do this in the human gait cycle! What are you doing to balance this out?
Not that these are “bad” ways of moving, but that they are trained through dance. They don’t naturally occur in human gait. If we don’t know how to get out of these patterns of moving, we lose efficiency, technique suffers, and maybe stuff starts to hurt.
2) The body is primarily a closed chain system, connected to the ground through out feet (or hands, or heads, or whatever else we decide to ambulate with).
Why would you train to improve foot mechanics with open-chain theraband exercises knowing that your feet were designed to respond to gravity bearing down on them and the earth beneath them?
Stop with the banded ankle strengthening exercises.
You must question WHY are you doing these exercises? If you can’t justify their value are they worth spending time on?
3) If you’re struggling at a specific skill, consider that you may not need extra coaching, but to master basic body mechanics.
Similar to what Gray Cook expresses in his book Movement. Is it a performance issue, or a movement issue?
4) In the gait cycle you only get one chance to pronate your foot, and one chance to anteriorally tilt your pelvis. And it all happens in less than a second.
This hit home for me. We often perceive pronation and anterior tilt as “bad” and we’re told to pull up our arches, tuck our butts under, and try not to look so weird while we’re doing it.
But when you flip that story, and realize that it is a privilege to pronate and anterior tilt, that they only happen in 1 of 5 phases in the gait cycle, you see how precious they are. You don’t (and should not) need to avoid them, or feel bad for doing them, but earn back the right to use them, and learn the when, where and how these movement fit into human motion.
It’s the only way, and the sooner you take ownership of your body, the sooner you can get on with life, improve your performance, and let go of chronic pain.
As therapists and trainers, we aren’t trying to give our clients and patients a “fix” for their pain, but create an experience for them to safely work through their challenges and feel that their body is incredibly hardwired for self-healing.
Commit to a daily practice that moves you a new direction.
6) A valgus knee is not an internally rotated knee that needs to be pushed out.
7) There is a scoliotic phase in the gait cycle. Even scoliosis is a natural human movement. You don’t need to judge a scoliotic curve as being bad, but it can become problematic to get stuck in it.
Don’t get attached to your structure. Wendy Whelan, a beautiful ballerina, has a scoliotic curve, but she’s learned how to work with it, not feel bad about it.
8) There is a difference between tension-based and compression-based pain.
Some pain exists because a muscle is too long and under tension (and feels pretty dang tight). Some pain is because of compression- A muscle too short. If you try to stretch tension-based pain, you’re asking for trouble.
It feels tight because it IS tight. Stretched taught. And you want to stretch it more? Good luck with that.
9) The sub-talar joint drives the bus.
You are the bus. Your STJ is the driver. If your talus is stuck in an inversion or eversion, you better believe your whole body will sort itself out above it in cheeky compensatory ways.
10) The toes are the “last line of defense”.
When your body is struggling with something and can’t figure it out, your toes will help you not to fall over. Got bunions and weird looking toes? Consider what might they have adapted to help you with?
My pinky toes have a clever way of making up for my inability to evert my forefoot. Thank goodness for my pinkies keeping me on my feet all these years!
11) You don’t need muscular effort to pronate.
The shape of the calcaneus is such that gravity pronates our foot effortlessly. Again, you DON’T need to do millions of banded pronation exercises to get a nice “winged” looking foot by strengthening the peroneals.
A winged foot can create a beautiful line, but what’s the price?
12) “Center is the Holy Grail”. We can keep striving to reach it, but like the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, we may never reach it. Like our chase for perfection in dance. We know we’ll never have it, but that doesn’t stop us from trying, and gives us something meaningful to work towards.
13) Dancers tend to adapt their bodies on top of their feet. While we were out for beers as a group one night, I asked Gary if there were any common things he noticed when he worked with dancers. Other than treating them as individuals on a case-by-case basis, he also said that he commonly sees that their feet aren’t compensating, but have adapted for dance, and that their bodies tend to adapt to what the feet have to do.
Something to consider before mobilizing or treating something that doesn’t need it. What’s adapted to what? What can be taught to move differently, and what needs to be shown how manually?
14) The abdomen is like the plantar fascia of the torso.
I was mind-blown by correlations we were shown between the different parts of the foot and the spine. There are 33 joints in the foot, and 33 joints in the spine.
The big toe and the cervical spine, for example have a functional connection. And in reflexology, the plantar surface of the foot is connected to various organs and structures. To feel these connections through the AiM movements and in the gait cycle was fascinating. Another thing you can’t truly say you know until you feel it in your own system.
15) If you’re having trouble accessing a movement, consider that it could be because you’re already stuck in it as a static posture.
Maybe you never get to a particular range of motion because you live there already. I was having trouble extending properly through my T spine not because I was stuck in flexion, but because I was already extendED! (something I’ve already written about HERE) That was a surprise for me. I imagine this is common for dancers, and is something I’ll keep looking out for, although there are no rules.
AiM has shown me some valuable exercises and ways of looking at movement that I am very excited explore and share with you. Thie philosophy of observing and working with human movement, gait, and feet will surely influence my writing, my training, and the next edition of Dance Stronger.
Hugely grateful to have been a part of this course. I will never look at a human body in the same way again. And I may just have developed a new, further, obsession with feet.
Thank you Gary and Chris for opening my mind (and sub-talar joint) and helping me to experience the world with a new set of feet
Oh and PS I met a DTP reader on the course and it was so cool! Shout-out to STEVE FROM ALBERTA! It was great to meet you 🙂 Cool to know another member of the DTP community that I can throw around AiM ideas with. If you’re a dancer in Edmonton(?) and want to see someone to help you improve your movement, combining AiM concepts, Pilates, and NKT, go see Steve. (If you’re reading this, Steve, please put your contact info in the comments!).
Very quick post today, and it’s about ankles and feet.
First, check out these two videos. In particular, check out her front (left) foot/ankle as she performs a split squat. What do you see in the before vs. after?
I hope you saw what I saw: A big change in the control of her pronation. Rather, an improvement in her ability to limit excessive pronation on the descent, and then successfully re-supinate as she came up.
Just FYI, pronation isn’t bad. You need it for shock absorption. You need it when you dance as a part of turn-out.
In fact, to extend your hips and activate your glutes you need to be able to pronate so that you can then re-supinate, driving hip extension from the ground up.
Much like you need sadness to perceive happiness, darkness to perceive light, you need pronation to perceive re-supination and to extend your hips. Yin and yang baby.
You don’t need orthotics to prevent your foot from pronating (well, sometimes, maybe. But it’s not a long-term solution).
You’re better off working on motor control and training yourself to become an orthotic.
Pronation can become problematic when it happens at the wrong time, in excess, and gets stuck there at rest.
By the same token, anterior tilt isn’t bad. Lumbar hyper-extension isn’t bad. They are necessary movements for dance and for life.
But they can be troublesome if you’re stuck in one of those positions, or they happen at the inappropriate time. Does your lower back hyperextend doing a sit up? That’s not supposed to happen… But it might if you’re like me, and some other dancers who are stuck in ineffective extension patterns.
Thank you, back-bends and chest breathing.
The time between the first and second videos was about 5-10 minutes. What did we do in that time?
An Anatomy in Motion inspired exercise that looked something (but not exactly) like this:
And we used an AiM wedge under the lateral part of her left foot to coax it to re-supinate at the appropriate time.
How can this help her dancing?
Proper control of pronation and re-supination means glute activation and hip extension will happen at the right times.
For this particular dancer, it means that she’ll be able to save her back by extending at the hip instead of her spine in excess.
It means she’ll have better arch strength and probably be able to point her feet better.
Being able to activate her glutes at the right time means her sore, tight hamstring will be able to relax and feel better.
And one of her main goals for working with me, improving ankle stability for better balance, is likely to become more solid too.
We have a lot of work to do yet, but not bad for a 10 minute experiment, eh?
I’m not an AiM practitoner, but I’ve been playing around with Gary Ward’s concepts, and having some pretty cool results. What happens at the foot is kind of a big deal. If you can find an AiM person near you, I highly recommend it.
The main take-away?
Be aware that pronation isn’t bad. If someone recommends you get orthotics to limit pronation, get a second opinion. Find someone who does AiM and they will teach you how to become your own orthotic.
What do you think?
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