Several week ago I began working with a new private client. The only information I was given was that the client was a woman with arthritis. When I arrived, a frail older woman wearing orthopedic shoes and using a walker greeted me at the door. I was expecting an older woman, but not a walker. As we made our way to her living room, my plans for the session went out the window. Lily’s daughter had booked the session for her thinking that yoga might be able to help. I had her sit down and started my assessment with her feet. Lily’s big toes were curled up towards her shins so much that the tendons were hard and she was unable to press her big toe down. As I massaged her feet, trying to loosen up the tissues, I asked about her history. Lily revealed to me that she had been using a wheelchair since her husband died one year ago. She had just started using a walker, but not very well. This sweet 80 something year old woman told me that her goal was to be able to walk again. I told her I would do everything I could to help her achieve that goal.
We worked on releasing the tissues of her feet, which had gone largely unused for the past year. Her body was so sensitive that she couldn’t tolerate the Yoga Tune Up® Therapy Balls, so I kept the work to manual release. We worked to mobilize her feet and ankles with individual toe mobilizers, Barbie Doll Feet, and ankle circles. We moved to a chair and gently mobilized her shoulders and spine and strengthen her legs.
At the end of our first session, I had her stand up, straighten up, and use her feet to walk for the first time in a year. She held on to me as we walked barefoot around the kitchen. I keep reminding Lily to stand tall and ground down through her big toes. We were both nearly in tears from happiness at her progress in just one session!
We progressed to more core, hip and leg work during our second session. I left her with some homework and told her that I want to see her greet me at the door without her walker next time. Lo and behold, she greeted me at the door for our third session without her walker! Although she is not ambulating without assistance 100% of the time, she has made great progress.
In my previous blog, I explained that you can’t strengthen a muscle that the nervous system isn’t using and that as bipedal beings, our plantar fascia or soles of our feet communicate forces up the superficial back line. If the feet are receiving a poor signal, this affects the conversation up the chain. In Lily’s case, she was using just her her heels to walk with her walker instead of rolling through the natural motion of the foot. She was causing a severe drop in the signal up the chain, weakening her back and causing her shoulders to roll forward.
I am proud to say that Lily stands taller every time I see her and her disposition has blossomed with her newfound confidence.
I have a new client with arthritis as well and your story is very inspiring, thank you. Releasing tissue and then mobilizing sounds like a good strategy.
What a powerful story, and important reminder to look at movement from the ground up! Thanks for sharing!
My mother is 84 and in the past 6 months I’ve seen her decline in mobility due to arthritis. This gives me the spark to analyze what she is doing throughout the day and then work on a program that will help get her more mobility without pain.
It is incredible the transformation our bodies can make! Our mind really talks to our bodies and as we age, deal with injury and/or illness, it’s easy to give up and limit our body’s healing capabilities. If an 80 year old woman can find more function in her body, all of us certainly can. What an inspiring story!
That is an incredible story! A true testament to “use it or lose it”. I am researching ways to get my own mother up and moving once she begins her recovery from bone cancer micro-fractures in her lower back and hips. This reminded me that we will start small with her feet, and work our way up.
What an inspiring story! I’m very interested in what you discussed about the plantar fascia signaling up the entire chain. Within my patient population there is a high prevalence of orthostatic intolerance. Your blog has helped me realize that this is an important issue that must be addressed. I’m interested to learn more about this topic. Thank you so for sharing this information.
WOW! Every thing starts from the ground up. Our feet are our foundation, and we align ourselves based on the health of our feet. This is a reminder that everything is connected in our bodies. In order for one part to work, another needs to be fit.
This is a really inspirational story! It’s crazy how many imbalances the feet can create in the body, but like you said – when you are getting a bad signal in the feet, it sends a chain reaction up the whole body. I’m very impressed that you were able to see such success in the first session. It inspires me to want to learn more to be able to help others like this. I tend to get overwhelmed when faced with big imbalances in my students body, but being part of a good teacher is staying calm and starting from the bottom up – the feet! Thanks again for sharing 🙂
Thank you for this inspirational post. I work with a lot of elderly people in South Florida and many of them express that they want to walk without their walkers or cane. I’m inspired by your manual work because I know that YTU ball rolling would be helpful to them, but many cannot handle the pressure of the balls. When I read how you addressed the feet first to get the “conversation” started in the chain a huge light bulb went off in my head. After reading this blog I will definitely be addressing feet first when working with clients with similar issues.
Super inspirational post! This story is a great reminder that our body can be trained both for movement and non movement based on the mechanics and common movement practices of the individual. Small changes to the tissues, like mobilizing the feet with massage, can lead to awakening movements and tissues throughout the body affecting changes in posture and strength.
Thank you for sharing! As a Physical Therapist, it never ceases to amaze me how many people APOLOGISE for their feet…which are usually fairly average looking, so many of us are disconnected from our feet, as leaders, we can achieve alot by re-establishing this relationship within our clients.
Thanks for this story, Robyn. I’ve been working with an older woman who, while still mobile, needs a level of attention that I’m not used to giving my private yoga students. I know that as the population ages I need to be more equipped to care for seniors in my practice. Your experience is inspiring!
Thanks for sharing such an Inspiring story! No doubt you helped lift your client’s emotional outlook, in addition to helping her gain back her mobility. Awesome.
Very inspiration moving story. Wonderful to hear about your progress.
Very inspirational Robyn!!..it is amazing how much lies in feet and how little attention it gets.. Thank you very much..a
I like the idea about the signal chain. You make a good point that if the input is faulty than the sent message would be faulty as well.
Thanks for sharing!! I’m a Myofascial Release Therapist, and I have a new client that is 82 and has been bed-bound for 9mos. The PT and OT have seemed dubious that she’ll ever walk again, but in a few sessions I’ve already felt great changes in her tissue, and she was weight bearing for the first time last week! Even though we’re focusing on hip flexors, knees, and shoulders, I’ve been thinking I wanted to start spending time on her feet, so that once she is weight bearing, her foundation can be more ready for her. You’ve convinced me I need to get some foot work in from now on!
What an inspirational article! I am planning a trip to visit my cousins this weekend and my one cousin has plantar fasciitis so I have just started looking through the blogs to find out more about the condition and treatment. Though your article isn’t directly related to my cousins condition I found it particularly poignant on what we, as mobility educators, are able to do for others.
Manipulation of the fascia to achieve results is a totally new thing for me. As a medical doctor, my learning of fascia had been limited to its role as something secondary and on the sidelines. These were the ziploc bags that kept the important things neatly tucked away into compartments. A whole new area for me to explore.
Your story reminds me of my Level 1 training when Jill walked around the room with Frankenstein feet demonstrating what happens if you don’t roll through the foot. The feet are our foundation and nothing above can be aligned if our foundation is not intact. Thanks for such an inspirational story.
I love this story. I know a lot of people with foot pain. Unfortunately, they are wearing improper footwear as well as not using their big toes.
Such a good example of all of it effects all of it. Problems in our feet goes go up our entire body. Our feet are so neglected so it would make sense that the geriatric population would benefit greatly from YTU.
I’m starting to work with a 94 year old lady who is using a walker – she’s determined to move and feel better. Thank you for sharing this post – it was very helpful and encouraging! 🙂
Thanks for sharing this. It’s easy for me to focus on muscles and bone at the expense of fascia. This example is a wonderful illustration of the power of fascia and the importance of focus on fascia in our practices and teaching. I love that you started at her feet – so grounding and powerful. Also, this is a great example of a teacher thinking on her feet and being flexible and sensitive to the unique needs of the student. Thank you!
You sounds like an extremely compassionate and patient person well equipped to help someone like this. Sometimes yoga is just that. Bringing joy to someone and enabling them to use their body and regain possibility and potential. How inspiring!
What a fabulous story! I love to hear when people start to think outside the box to assist people in their desire to change and feel better in their bodies. There could have been a lot of others who would have taken one look at her upron arrival and just simply said no, I can’t help you. Compassion and curiosity are important tools when we have the gifts to help others improve in their health and well being.
So awesome to hear of great progress by starting with the foundation. Many of my clients seem to forget that their interaction with their environment starts at the feet and they should get a bit more familiar with the ground! This is a good reminder that our tissues are plastic, at any age.
That is a wonderful story. Just yesterday in YTU training class, this quote came up … “I create an environment for adaptation to occur”. You certainly embody that sentiment and carried it right into Lily’s life. Lovely and inspiring story.
How wonderful! This goes with something else I read a while back. That author made the point that elderly people would be better served to wear shoes that allow the foot to roll through the full range of motion. He commented they often wear heavily padded athletic shoes that restrict the movement of their feet. The shoes also make it difficult for them to actually “feel” what they are walking on. Add in deceased nerve sensitivity and the odds of a fall is decidedly increased. He recommended thin, pliable, slip resistant soles. Seems like anything that helps prevent a fall would be a pretty good idea.
How impressive, your story and informative, I can see a movie script developing from posts as inspiring as yours.
My eyes are still watery….
This is amazing and touching and I believe it 100%… Our bodies are not meant to be immobile. We require movement daily and I’m sure Robyn truly changed this womans life.
Robyn created “an environment where adaptation could occur” for Lily- what a lovely story that yielded results. I too loved the comment about the nervous system and muscles – the proprioceptive focus has been ingrained during Level 1 training this week – for certain!
The human body is truly an incredible specimen. That fact that our fascia can essentially hold our muscles hostage within our own bodies, is fascinating. I was reading about Kaizen today, the Japanese philosophy that states one should make tiny steps everyday in pursuit of their goals. I’m so proud of Lily for continually striving to make small steps on her way back towards wholeness.
Remarkable story! But, what I also found to be important is when you mention that ” [one] can’t strengthen a muscle that the nervous system isn’t using…” What a great advice to everyone young and old, and dealing or not with an injury. I think it is important for everybody to develop a connection with own muscles and other tissues, especially the little ones that aren’t as visible and ‘sexy’ as the quads, the glutes or the deltoids, but that are equally important on creating a balanced body.
Your story is inspirational. So often psychological factors impact our physiology. As you have stated, “Focus on Fascia Got My Client Walking Again,’ but I feel it is important to give yourself a little more credit. You offered her guidance and hope enough to create a trust necessary in the recovery process, first psychologically then physiologically.
Wow Robyn, what a fantastic story. I’m impressed by how you approached the situation — with her feet. Touching her feet while getting to know her set up an amazing template of trust between you. Not to mention that once a spouse dies, elderly people often go without human contact for way too long. I work with several “super senior” women and I am greatly inspired by your story. Way to use your intuition, Lady Healer!