The Fitness Fixer
The Fitness Fixer

Ancient Shoe Exercise for Hip Stretch and Balance

Readers have been asking what happened to the weekly reports of my martial arts classes. Others wanted to hear about my other classes including yoga. My martial arts students continued becoming skilled and disciplined. Next semester I will post some of the fun drills they do to build natural strength, discipline, and flexibility using themselves and each other instead of weights and equipment. In my yoga classes we learn that the poses themselves are not what gives good posture and focus. We learn what healthy positioning is, then apply it to how to move for daily life after walking out of the class.

In my sports medicine practice, I regularly see yoga teachers as patients for back, knee, and neck pain. That is because several yoga moves are not good for anyone - just as not all food is healthful. Many moves are fine, but other traditional poses injure joints, even when done "right" (or especially when done right), like bending over from a stand or a sitting position, whether the back is rounded or straight. We omit those moves and use others that are better stretches without the degenerating forces on the lower back and neck discs, for example, Healthier Hamstring Stretching. You don't have to injure yourself to get exercise. Fitness is supposed to be healthy.

This week in yoga we did a fun, effective hip stretch. We stood on one foot and reached for the other ankle crossed over the bent standing knee (drawing at left). When we do this, we practice the daily healthy position of keeping the upper body upright and straight, with the chin in, not craned forward. One new student was not happy with my class. She was used to sitting on the floor in classes she ordinarily took. She was peeved that we did so much standing. Although people call yoga "mind and body," she didn't like that we used the body. Although people frequently say that yoga is about understanding and light, she whined and complained and cursed me under her breath for most of the class. She wanted to know why I was making everyone do an extreme and bizarre movement.

I told the class it was healthy and happy to do this move every day. I pointed to my crossed foot and spoke the name of this ancient move - "Putting on shoe."

I hope you will try this too, to get a normal and healthy hip stretch and better balance everyday. Remember that most of the world stands to dress - the ones lucky enough to have shoes. Stand up now and try it. You will get free balance, healthy hip stretch, and leg strengthening every day from daily life. When you get good at this fun move, keep your ankle crossed and bend the standing leg enough for you to reach to the floor to retrieve your other shoe or sock. Keep your chest up and your back straight to prevent practicing unhealthful rounded position. Even though this one bends over, it does not transfer the pivot force to the lower discs for several reasons.

Have fun adding new healthy movement to your New Year. Write your stories and take photos of how you make your life better by fixing your fitness to be functional and healthy. Send link to your photo sharing site of your examples, and I can put you up in lights as a role model for healthier life.

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Drawings of Backman!™ © copyright Dr. Jolie Bookspan from the book Stretching Smarter Stretching Healthier

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About the Author


Dr. Bookspan is an award-winning scientist whose goal is to make exercise easier and healthier.