When was the last time you sat on the floor, or kicked your shoes off to walk on the ground barefoot? Most people tend to neglect natural body movements and full body sensory stimulation. Have you ever observed a growing child move and explore the world around them? They sit in a deep squat, they use their hands and feet to experience different textures and sensations, they can't sit still, they get messy and fully involved in what they are doing. On the contrary, adults deprive their bodies of stimuli in many ways by wearing shoes all the time, sitting at 90 degree for work and for leisure, hours of screen time and long periods of inactivity.
Our modern lifestyle is a mismatch to our human genome, as close to 100% of our human biology was naturally selected during the time period in which our ancestors lived as hunter-gatherers. We obviously won’t be hunting down our next meal but we can recover the explorative kid within us, feeling the earth and sand beneath our feet and hands and using our joints to their full range of motion.
Here are some easily achievable ways to get back to basics and allow your body the stimuli it deserves.
- Ball rolling: Those of you who are my patients know how much I advocate ball rolling under your feet. I know it sounds arbitrary but there are thousands of little nerve endings in your feet that if not stimulated are less efficient at giving feedback to the lower back and brain. The more you stimulate your feet the more sensory information given to your brain to help you respond appropriately and timely to a sharp stimulus under your foot, correct footing and spacial awareness, attention to texture of the ground. Ball rolling is incredible to ‘talk’ to the nerves that supply the foot which come from the lower back. Sensory deprived feet are also known to contribute to musculoskeletal issues such as tight hamstrings, ankle issues and lower back pain.
- How to ball roll: find any ball that is hard enough to put your full weight through. Roll the ball under the sole of your foot being slow and thorough, press your foot into the ball with all your weight and roll the ball of your foot all the way to the sides of the heel. Keep it up for 2-3 minutes each foot. This can be done anytime of the day, sitting or standing.
- Barefoot walking and exploring: take a step outside and stand on the grass, walk on the beach to ground yourself and be in touch with the earth. Grounding in nature has an added health benefit of regulating your nervous system which means less stress and anxiety. We all need that right now during this pandemic.
If you have an acupressure mat (shakti mat) this can achieve a similar result.
- Ergonomics: There is no perfect position, chair or desk to sit or stand in for 8 hours a day. Movement from one position to another is key to reducing the accumulative strain that occurs with sitting and standing for long periods. Move your body! Take microbreaks every 20-30 min where you take 5 deep belly breaths, do a stretch, do a little dance to your favourite song, drink plenty of water so you have to go get up and go to the loo more, circle your hips.
- Posture realignment: here is a great whole body realignment exercise. This posture can be used while sitting, standing, walking and exercising.
- Stand up against the wall, tuck your tailbone under and squeeze your butt cheeks.
- Place the back of both arms against the wall and drop your shoulders down towards the floor, and squeeze your shoulder blades together
- Tuck your chin into your chest and take 5 deep nose breaths
- Floor sitting: Sitting and resting on the floor encourages full range motion of the joints in your ankles, knees, hips, lower back and midback. You could rest and sit in a squat, cross-legged sit, legs out straight, kneel rather than sitting on the sofa. Move from one posture to another as your body sees fit. Try it. Getting up and down from a sitting posture is exercise in itself. I find the best time to do my floor sitting postures and stretches is whilst I’m watching tv, much to my husbands annoyance 😊.