by: Lawrence Biscontini, MA
|One of the most exciting trends in balance training today occurs by combining the versatile BOSU® Balance Trainer (BT) with barefoot mind-body disciplines. While wearing shoes for traditional core and upright conditioning applications still proves popular and appropriate, barefoot movement on the BT challenges the lower body extremities in new ways (Kavounoudias). Among the mind-body disciplines that easily lend themselves to the application of barefoot mindful core engagement are Feldenkrais, T'ai Chi, yoga, and Pilates. Here we will explore some new applications using a couple of these disciplines with the added benefit of different stabilization requirements while exercising barefoot on the labile BT.|
Barefoot training is not new to fitness, rehabilitation or sport training. Anyone who was around in the 1980's will remember Jane Fonda's first barefoot workouts. Barefoot training is back in the mainstream with a focus on balance, awareness of foot dynamics, and an appreciation of the foot's role in overall standing core integration. When we wear shoes with lateral, arch, and ankle support, the intrinsic stabilizers of the foot and ankles tend to turn off in the presence of artificial, external stabilization (Hatzitaki, et. al. 2003).
However, removing shoes requires immediate internal, active stabilization when the proprioceptors of the foot and ankle automatically turn on, connecting our human kinetic chain of 26 bones, 33 joints, and more than 100 muscles and proprioceptors. After the spine, the feet have the largest number of kinesthetic proprioceptors of the body. Therefore, training barefoot trains stability and helps diminish propensity towards falling in different populations (Fuzhong, et. al. 2005).
When training barefoot on the BT using slow, meditative movements, the brain begins interpreting proprioceptive messages that are sent continuously from the foot and ankle complex, inducing autonomic reflexive active stabilization from head-to-toe for a full-body, functional integrative approach to training. Of course, some participants should avoid barefoot training based on existing foot and/or ankle injury or other medical situations. Also, some clubs do not allow barefoot training because of hygiene or other legal concerns.
When working barefoot on the BT, we train the "foot triangle" (Shakoor). Imagine a triangle connecting the transversus arch (located on the foot heel) with the areas below the big toe and the pinkie toe. The longitudinal arch runs from below the middle toe to the heel, and the muscles in this area under the arch also assist with balance. When training barefoot on the BT, these muscles work together to foster intrinsic, active muscular stabilization. As a result of this training, when we return to wearing shoes on stable flooring, we have become more stable.
The following exercise samples on the BT fuse the mind-body barefoot disciplines of Feldenkrais and T'ai Chi. Notice how the disciplines have an emphasis that starts with stability, flows into mobility, and repeats that cycle. Remember that in mind-body fitness we emphasize quality of movement over quantity of repetitions. Furthermore, since we believe that movements are made for people and not the other way around, we encourage participants to choose only those suggestions that feel appropriate.
|Origin:||Moshe Feldenkrais from Israel (1904-1984)|
|Where:||Feldenkrais "awareness through movement" lessons take place both on the floor and standing.|
|How:||Feldenkrais taught that closing the eyes made any slow movement more conscious because taking away the ability to rely on sight forces us to respond with more muscular activation. Furthermore, Feldenkrais advocated taking full "body scans" with eyes closed to connect with the body in different positions to learn more about ourselves.|
1) Tall Scan: Stand on top of the BT with legs adducted, gazing forward. Close your eyes and notice how proprioception becomes more difficult. Ask your body if it feels differently on one side, especially drawing attention to the mobility at the ankles as they stabilize.
Progression: Keeping your eyes closed, raise your chin as if to look upward and take the arms overhead. Try to maintain balance and keep taking a full body scan to note any differences between sides.
Proprioceptive Variation: Close your eyes during any movement on the BT to increase the proprioceptive challenge of the particular movement.
|Origin:||China, thousands of years ago|
|Where:||Bilateral or unilateral standing|
|How:||T'ai Chi works the body through super-slow deceleration isotonic training, and utilizes weight shifts, often while standing on one leg.|
|4) Carry the Lantern + Rooster Stands on One Leg: Stand on top of the BT with legs adducted. Flex the right shoulder and lunge with the left foot to the left as you "carry the lantern" in front of the body, finishing with feet parallel. Lunge back onto the BT, "carrying the lantern" to the right. Try to bring up the left knee with the right foot close to the bull's eye, and try to balance on the BT as the "rooster stands on one leg." Lower the lifted leg and arm. Repeat to the other side.|
About the Author:
Lawrence Biscontini, M.A, moved to Puerto Rico in January of 1998 to open the Golden Door Spa which went on to receive the Conde Nast Award tenth place in the world for programs under his leadership. He is a spa consultant and trainer for leading international spas including Cavo Tagoo Mykonos, Greece (2008), Canyon Ranch (2007, 2008), and Greenbrier, among others. As nutritional counselor, Lawrence has created complete nutritional menus for spas from Manhattan to Mykonos. As a movement specialist, Lawrence makes fitness history with the following awards: Best International Program Chosen for Japan for "Shakti" (2007), Best Mind-Body Presenter (ECA, 2005), Specialty Presenter of the Year Award (Can Fit Pro, 2004), and Instructor of the Year Awards from IDEA (2004) & ACE (2002). Lawrence has celebrity clients like cast members of ABC TV's soap opera "General Hospital," and appears on news (CNN Headline News) and television ("LIVE! With Regis and Kelly"). His upcoming television show, "PurposeFit," airs in 2009. He is contributing author to industry magazines like AFAA's American Fitness, IDEA's Fitness Journal, and Spa Asia. His books include Morning Cardiovascular Workouts by Human Kinetics and most recently, Running the Show: Excellence in Customer Service and Cream Rises. In the USA, he has created aquatic, yoga, and T'ai Chi programming enjoyed at fitness chains and spas, including Equinox, 24 Hour Fitness, Gold's Gym International, Bally, and Golden Door Spas. A percentage of all of his website sales goes to charity, and to inspire career wellness development, he has instituted several Biscontini Scholarships for the fitness and spa community. Find Lawrence at www.findlawrence.com.
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Other recommended reading on barefoot trends:
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