Knock-kneed, bowlegged, feet so flat that the four arches that most people have are non-existent on mine, mild scoliosis…you name it. I am so grateful for the array of styles that allows me to wear middies and culottes without looking way out of style (tea-length skirts and Capri’s).
If your balance has never been good, like mine, it becomes more of an issue as we get older and other checks and balances in our bodies start wearing out, increasing both the risk of falls and the risk from falls.
Though habits are easier if you start them young, it’s never too late. So here are some balance facts and techniques that all of us can learn from, young and old.
Regardless of your age, you can reprogram your body and improve your balance. It starts with awareness…mindfulness. It only makes sense that it may take longer as you get older because the habits and forms are more deeply set. But with attention to the following techniques, you can decrease pain, reprogram your body, improve your posture and even straighten limbs. It’s called muscle memory.
I never thought anything about it, but apparently I have walked like a duck all of my life. You want your feet to be parallel, toes pointing forward, knees over the toes. It’s taken a year and a half of attention to the issue whenever I think of it throughout my day, but I now find myself with my feet in this position whenever I happen to look down. My hips, knees and ankles have finally been reprogrammed to this natural state. Periodically I felt the strain of it and had to relax my vigilance, but it’s paying off with better balance and decreased knee, hip and back pain [from sciatic to neck].
Start with awareness. Correct the positioning as often as you bring your attention to your hip, knee and ankle. For example: when driving, the car seat rolls my hips inward, so that the knees are close together. This means that, when I press down on the gas, I am doing so at an angle — the knee is not over the ankle. I have started correcting this whenever I think of it, repositioning my hips so that the right knee is directly in line with and pointing the same direction as my foot. This simple procedure has made a big difference in my knee, hip and low back pain.
Make sure you have solid shoes and good arch supports. Just an FYI: the best arch supports I have ever had were made for me by a pedorthist.
- Knees over toes with 80 percent of your weight carried by the balls of your feet and 20 percent by the heels.
- Feet parallel, toes straight ahead. If your feet do not naturally do this, it may take a while to retrain your body. Don’t overdo it. When I started doing it, I felt a strain on the sides of my knees and hips. This has lessened with time, but I periodically have to back off, allowing the body to rest.
- Very straight spine – this keeps your center of balance over the feet. Head up, shoulders back, tailbone gently tucked in. Shoulders over your hips, hips over your heels — as if your spine is a string of pearls and your head is just floating on top. Remembering this posture helped one of my students prevent a fall as she was going down some stairs. She felt herself start to fall, remembered this posture and righted herself.
- Head up, gaze 15 to 20 feet in front of you. Bending your head downward and looking at your feet shifts your center of gravity, putting you off balance. With your weight over your toes and beyond, the toe of your shoes can catch on the ground and cause you to trip.
- Shoulders relaxed, arms free to swing at your sides, alternating with the feet. If your arms are full or your hands are in your pockets, you are at a disadvantage.
Build your strength:
Build an exercise routine for strength, endurance and flexibility.
Walking – see my blog about Walking …with a Twist. http://www.elainescribner.com/?p=346
Tai Chi – check it out, it’s probably the world’s most perfect exercise and preventive medicine at its purest (my opinion). Check with your local fitness club or the Arthritis Foundation for a class near you. The Arthritis Foundation has adapted a form of tai chi that can be done by people of all abilities, standing or sitting, college professor or person with Alzheimer’s.
A Matter of Balance classes – generally free classes, offered across the nation for anyone of any age concerned about balance and falling. Call your local Area Agency on Aging to connect you with a class.
Living Joyously Tip for the Day: