First, stand up. Now, from the floor up:
Where is your weight? Is it towards the balls of your feet?
Are your feet hip width apart and pointing nearly straight ahead?
Are your knees unlocked? Are your buns untucked, relaxed behind you, and not held tightly underneath you?
Is your belly slightly contracted, helping you grow taller?
Is your body lifted “up and over”? Look down. Can you see the bows of your shoelaces? (Do not try walking with your head down)
Are you breathing sideways, out into your ribs, like a bellows?
Are your chest and shoulders pulled down, while you lift from your center through your spine, to the crown of your head?
Have you lowered your chin and your eyes to focus 20-25 feet to the ground in front of you?
Have you envisioned the long, wide diagonalized steps?
If you answered yes to all of these questions, you are ready to Walk Yourself Well!
Next, a walking relevant example exercise: Standing Balance
The purpose of the Standing Balance exercise is to teach proper body balance, with your weight forward. Most people lean back too much!
The numbers are to guide you to the relevance of each piece of the exercise. Each detail is an exaggeration of what is needed to walk properly so that when you do walk, it will feel easy, relative to this exercise.
Get ready : 1. Stand with feet around hip width and nearly straight, (not turned out), 2.weight in the balls of your feet, 3.knees soft,4. belly slightly held, 5.arms outstretched as they would be if you were holding a giant beach-ball, 6.shoulders pulled down, 7.chin down so that the crown of your head would show if you were to look in a mirror.
Get set : 8. Move one foot out in front, toes on the floor, heel up. 9.,knee pointing slightly outward and slightly bent, 10. keeping hips level,11. take a long slow inhale through the nose.
Go! : 12. Exhale as you raise the outstretched leg, 13. continue to keep your hips level and your weight forward, 14.so you feel it in the ball of your foot (not to raise the heel). This exercise is done in “Tai Chi” speed ,(very slowly)15. Inhale with knee still up, 16. exhale leg down to start again, slowly. You should alternate sides doing 3 to 5 repetitions per side.
By keeping heels out, you can distribute the weight over your feet the way you’d like it to be in walking, center of heel , toward the outer rim and in the ball of the foot, and into the big and middle toes.
By moving the weight forward into the balls of your feet, you are getting the sense of balance with the majority of your weight toward your front as it will be in proper walking. Knees should never lock during the course of walking. Standing with them soft will help to strengthen them in that position, so that it will be more easily elicited Learning to keep the belly slightly held all the time is a critical piece of the system.
In order to keep the weight forward, in order to keep the upper body’s weight lifted up off of the hips, lifted so that it does not compress the spine during walking, the belly has to be softly held, all the time.
Though the arms are not outstretched during walking, they should actively participate in propelling the body and using them here in this way is the beginning of training them to be active in the process of balance and walking. Although during walking, the body is lifting with nearly all it’s parts, especially the hips, the belly and the upper back, the shoulders are actually pulling down, as a counterbalance.
The chin should be in to the extent that the crown, ( of your head would show, if you were to look in a mirror. When the chin is to high, the body will follow and lean back. During walking, there is a temptation to lean back as you bring a leg out for a step. It is at this second that it takes extra abdominal strength to keep your body weight forward . Often the great elicitors of the lean back are knees which either lock when the heel strikes or lock and point toward each other.
By keeping the knees soft and slightly open, you elicit the optimal weight forward position. In order to keep the hips level, it is necessary to use a particular kind of abdominal/back strength combination. It is the same combination that stabilizes your spine during walking. Taking a long inhale through the nose should expand your rib-cage sideways. Your ribs should move toward your inner arms. Many people breathe up into their chests or out into their bellies. Both of these elicit the lean back. At the end of a long proper exhale, you should experience a lower abdominal contraction, which is another crucial element to keeping your weight forward.
The exhale will also make it easier to lift your leg in a perfectly controlled manner. Explained in # 10. Keeping the weight forward in the feet does not mean that you put your toes down first; it is always heel to toe in walking and, it does not mean that you rise up on your toes before pushing off to your next step. It only means that you feel the weight of your whole body toward the front of you instead of your rear.
The inhale that you take with the knee held up requires even more of that sideways breath combined with abdominal/back strength that I refer to in my book as “the sandwich system”. It is the glue that stabilizes your spine during walking and strengthens with every step you take, if you stay forward. Exhaling the leg down in a slow controlled manner requires more abdominal/back strength, the standing hip, the belly and the upper back are lifting like crazy and the shoulders are pulling down as a counterbalance, all of which takes place, to a slightly lesser degree with every step you take.