Pilates Footwork - a healing method

As Pilates practitioners, we have all heard of footwork. It is the foundation of all reformer exercises. It mobilizes the ankles, knees and hips while stabilizing the spine. It works the deep core muscles when done in a neutral spine position, it helps re-align the bones and strengthen muscles in the proper alignment. It can be done in a rehab setting as well as in a bootcamp class. It is versatile, essential and one of the best exercises one can do. But there exists another reason why we should do footwork. 

I’m going to share a personal story with you.  When I first started teaching group classes a few years back, I taught back-to-back classes. 4 classes in a row to be precise that ranged from beginner to intermediate to bootcamp. These were weekend classes and the energy was palpable. I had to make sure my energy was in sync, but some days my energy was low or I was suffering from a migraine or I had menstrual cramps, basically life was happening…

If I wasn’t feeling my best, I’d hop on the reformer and do a series of footwork or sometimes it was simply in my class planning. There wasn’t a single time, that after my practice on the reformer that my ailments didn’t disappear. I knew it had to have something to do with the feet. There was a connection with the pressure of the feet and the foot barre of the reformer. That’s how I got interested in Reflexology. 

Reflexology is a science that deals with the principle that there are reflex areas in the feet and hands which correspond to all of the glands, organs and parts of the body. Stimulating these reflexes properly can help many health problems in a natural way, a type of preventative maintenance.

There are different training methods of reflexology, but for the sake of this blog, I will refer to the Ingham Method® of Reflexology as it is the method I am trained in. The various parts of the feet refer to different areas in the body as stated above so let’s look at how that translates to Pilates footwork and how we can help our bodies and our clients bodies by using the reformer.

1- Start with the balls of the toes on the foot barre. This area of the feet corresponds to the lungs, chest and the heart. Do about 20 repetitions in this position.

2- Move the feet up the foot barre and place the part of the foot where the phalanges meet the metatarsals, in laymen terms, where the arch meets the ball of foot. This corresponds to your diaphragm line which is part of your respiratory system. Do about 20 repetitions in this position.

3- Move the feet up so you are working right on the centre of the arch. This area corresponds to the liver, stomach, urinary system and parts of the digestive systems. Do about 20 repetitions in this position.

4- Move the feet up so you are working where the arch meets the heel. In this area, you will be working on the area of the foot that corresponds to the colon and the digestive system. Again do about 20 repetitions in this position.

5- Move the feet up again so you are pressing the middle of the heel on the foot barre. This area corresponds to the sciatic. Between the heel and the lateral malleolus and between the heel and the medial malleolus, you will find the area that corresponds to the reproductive system. Albeit, you won’t specifically connect to the area by doing footwork, I find it useful to repeat many repetitions on the heel portion as it is close in relation and works the groin.

6- Finally, last but definitely not the least, wrap the toes around the foot barre, like a bird perched on a branch. The toes have a direct link to the brain, sinuses, head, eyes, ears and cervicals. Spend lots of time here, applying different pressures towards the pinky toe and then towards the bigger toe. Do as many repetitions as needed.

While footwork does not in any way replace Reflexology, it is most certainly a useful tool to assist in the healing process. 

To learn more, contact me at hello@thecornerstonepilates.com for more information, to book a private session or a reflexology treatment.

You can also find a useful foot exercise sequence on my YouTube page