Thu 13th June 2019

In praise of feet, ankles and Anula Maiberg

One of the many reasons I like Pilates teacher Anula Maiberg is she’s a big fan of the matter-of-fact approach. Like her, I’m not coming at Pilates from an athletic, dancer or physiotherapist background. Like her, I came to Pilates as a client, as an alternative to monthly trips to the Chiropractor and from a constant fear of pulling something in my back that would lead to a period of self-induced inactivity. And that would lead to more back pain…you get the vicious circle picture. Pilates offered me the chance to fix my back, get to know my back and subsequently my whole body. And like Anula, I then became a teacher to share the joy.  Unlike her I do not have a totally awesome My Little Pony tattoo adorning my left forearm in a rainbow of candy colour pastels.

In her recent workshop in London, Anula (quite scandalously) suggested to a room full of Body Control Pilates trained teachers that people would be better off if we obsessed about the feet and ankles instead of the abs. Cue a collective intake of breath and a glancing round…then some tentative nodding and light bulbs pinging across (perfectly aligned) heads around the room. Oh, thank goodness, thought I, such sense!

Why do we come to Pilates? Surely, bottom line we are investing in a better quality of life and keep our joints and bones moving and grooving for as long as we are wanting to move and groove. Turning 65, or whatever number we often unconsciously choose, should not automatically stop anyone being able to get up and down off the floor! And for that fundamental movement, we need our feet and ankles in tiptop working order – flexible and strong.

So, it does make a whole lot of sense to give our feet a whole lot of love. After all, we are the only creature on this earth who walks upright with this amount of load moving down the upright spine to a relatively teeny support base. Even our closest relative the ape has the good sense to use their hands for support. It’s a whole different blog about that evolutionary issue however. Back to the feet and ankles:

Feet need to move sequentially and segmentally for walking. Ankles need to keep their flexibility and strength to keep us moving fluently and enabling the rest of the joints to get on with their jobs in good alignment. So, go scrunch those toes in bed, at the breakfast table, on the sofa every evening, Mexican wave them up a wall. Circle those ankles, point and dorsi-flex the whole foot and get that blood moving back up your body. And for the love of your feet, wear good shoes.  Just because our feet are furthest from our face, we must never ever forget to focus on keeping their fundamental functionality.  Perhaps I’ll get a candy colour pastel tattoo done on my feet…