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.