Thursday, January 26, 2012

Heel, Ball, Heel, Ball: Abracadabra for Walkers

     “Looks like you’re limping a bit,” my husband observed as we walked a neighborhood sidewalk. My mind had floated off to other matters and I wasn’t aware of an imbalance in my steps. Now, with my attention on my body, I could feel a twinge of subtle protest in my right hip.
      “Heel, ball, heel, ball,” I chanted mentally, bringing full focus to my feet. “Heel, ball, heel, ball,” letting the words guide each foot to a solid, smooth connection with the path. The relief was almost immediate. No jarring, no limping, no pain.
      “Heel, ball, heel, ball.” I continued, invoking a walkers’ abracadabra—a magic phrase that restores posture, balance, and even energy. In recent weeks, I’ve relied on skilled body workers to nudge and knead my skeletal structure into alignment following a fall. To sustain their efforts, I’ve returned to the basics of walking.

First, Get Grounded

      Walking begins with getting on your feet, but once we get moving we quickly forget how vital those feet are in maintaining support and comfort for the rest of the body. So, give this a try, and see!
      At the beginning of a walk, a few mental repetitions of “heel, ball, heel, ball” will help you set out in good walking form. Each step begins at the back of your foot and rolls smoothly forward, to the ball. Consciously feel the ground beneath your feet. “Heel, ball, heel, ball, heel, ball.” 

Alas, Not Me
      Your mind will move on to other thoughts or dreams or conversations, which is fine. But if you begin to notice a sense of fatigue, or discomfort as you walk, try another dose of “heel, ball, heel, ball.” Maybe you’ve let your posture slump. Maybe your steps have slipped into a plod, pounding the ground with heavy impact. See what happens if you simply restore awareness of your feet for a few seconds.
      No matter how much or how little you walk, you’re likely to experience a physical complaint at some point—a stiff knee, a kink in your neck, a strain in the lower back. Such walking complaints may relate to posture. And posture begins in the feet. “Heel, ball, heel, ball."   
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