Gain Mobility and Reduce Stress Starting with the Feet

Note: This article was published December 2, 2014, in my column, Intelligent Movement Forever, which appears monthly in the Vallarta Daily News.

Dear Readers,

Last month, I discussed the biomechanics of moving, the body’s thirst for movement, diseases created by our tendency to move as little as possible, and the superfood benefits of walking on the uneven surfaces of Puerta Vallarta’s sidewalks, paths, streets, and beaches. I hope the information I presented got you moving more and walking more. Be sure to read the column if you haven’t already done so, because it tells you where I come from with regard to moving intelligently…forever.

ALERT! ALERT! Katy Bowman, author of Move Your DNA, which I featured in my first column, is posting a free 24-day-walking advent calendar with daily tidbits to support walking as a superfood for the body, starting December 1. You can join by clicking here

This month, I will discuss your body’s fascial connective tissue, which is the “soft-tissue scaffolding that links everything inside of you together,” the important role that fascia plays in how you move and how well you move, and how Jill Miller’s Roll Model Method, using a variety of Roll Model therapy balls, is part of the self-care healthcare revolution and can help you address the “issues in your tissues.” This column is informed and inspired by my many movement educator colleagues who are fascia nerds, including my Yoga Tune Up teacher, Jill Miller, and by Jill’s newly published book, The Roll Model: A Step-by-Step Guide to Erase Pain, Improve Mobililty, and Live Better in Your Body. The Roll Model is first and foremost an encyclopedia of very practical and very effective Roll Model therapy ball sequences, but it also provides helpful background information on fascia, proprioception, anatomy, breath, nervous system, and posture. The WHY as well as the HOW.

TheRollModel_cover_3d_preview (1)

Introduction to Fascia

Anatomy books have traditionally described our bodies as a muscular system and a skeletal system that worked together to move the body. But in very recently (past 5-7 years), movement scientists and fitness and anatomy experts have begun to recognize that fascia plays and has always played a very important role in movement function. Fascia is more than the “saran wrap” around the muscles. It is the organ system of stability and mechanoregulation. This raises important and exciting questions. Most injuries are soft-tissue (fascial) injuries, not muscle injuries. How do we treat and repair these injuries. There are 10 times more sensory nerve endings in fascia than in muscles, so proprioceptive stimulation must be aimed at fascia as well as muscles. And how do we work with and improve the health of our fascia now that we know the important role it plays in our movement function.

The Roll Model describes fascia this way: “Fascia is the fibrous and gelatinous bodywide web. It is a seam system that provides structure, protection, repair, and body sense. It is the interconnected soft-tissue scaffolding that gives your body form and shape. It links muscular proteins and other connective-tissue structures, such as bones, ligaments, and tendons.” This column is not going to say much more about fascia. If you are interested in digging deeper in that topic, you can use the Internet to increase your knowledge. And The Roll Model includes a very scholarly and friendly discussion of fascia.

Releasing Fascia using The Roll Model Method

On the other hand, please know that you do not have to become a fascia nerd or expert to benefit from treating and releasing your fascia. What I am going to say, based on my own experience and the experience of many others, is that Jill Miller’s Roll Model Method is one of the most effective, accessible ways for you to create healthy fascia and, in turn, improve your mobility and performance, reduce pain, prevent injuries, reduce stress held in your body, and generally address “the issues in your tissues.” Wherever you roll the Roll Model Therapy Balls roll, they impact your body’s fasciae (fascias). As Jill says, “When you roll with the balls, you induce local stretch into stiff and over-tightened tissues and improve the flow of their fluids. These taut tissues need your help in restoring their optimal positions. The balls are like little rubber scalpels that can reform you without incisions or stitches. The pressure and grip of the rubber helps you remodel yourself.”

The belly of the The Roll Model is eight chapters in and sets out Roll Method sequences for 18 body areas: core/torso, feet, ankle & lower leg, knees, thighs, hips & buttocks, pelvic funnel, lower back, upper back, rib cage, shoulder-rotator cuff, shoulder-elbow, forearms, fingers, hands & wrists, neck, head, face & jaw, front seam, back seam, and side seam. Each of the sequences uses one or more of the Roll Model Balls, (1) original Yoga Tune Up® balls, (2) Therapy Balls Plus, Alpha Balls, and the Coregeous Ball.

NOTE: You can purchase Roll Model Balls locally at Yoga Vallarta, Basilio Badillo 325, Old Town, Puerto Vallarta. You can also purchase them at If you do not have access to a Roll Model ball, you can substitute a tennis ball, which is easily available although it does not have the same grippy, pliable surface of the Roll Model balls that are especially designed for myofascial release.

Using the Role Model Method for the Feet

The Roll Model Method sequences for the feet use either one Original YTU ball or one Plus ball to roll the arch, inner arch, outer arch, heel, and ball of the foot. I am going to take you through the moves for the center arch and the transverse arch for your pleasure and benefit and to give you a peak at the Roll Model Method. I think that footwork on the Roll Model therapy balls is akin to walking on the unevern surfaces of the streets of Puerto Vallarta (see my column last month). Rolling the feet can help to prepare for or complement or even replace superfood walking that I described in Column 1. However, remember that variety is the spice of life, including the life of your movement practice, so you will probably want to do both.

NOTE: The images here are from The Roll Model and are provided by Tune Up Fitness Worldwide.

Feet Sequence for Center Arch and Transverse Arch


Check in with your body first by standing and hinging forward at the hips with a flat back, locking your hands on the floor, or a chair, or a wall, whichever is available to you without rounding your back. Hold this position for 2 to 3 breaths and then return to standing with a flat back. You will want to repeat this flat-back forward bend after you finish your movements, as well. This will provide you with a test-retest that will give you feedback on the results of your moves.

Arch Cross. Action 1.

Seq2-Arch-Cross-Full-Body-3(1) Stand next to a chair, stool, or wall and place a hand on it to help you balance.
Seq2-Arch-Cross-1resizeSeq2-Arch-Cross-2(2) Step your left arch on top of the ball so that it nestles into the center of your arch. Keep your heel on the ground. Take 5 to 10 Abdominal Breaths, allowing your foot to enrobe the ball.

Arch Cross. Action 2.

Seq2-Arch-Cross-3Seq2-Arch-Cross-4CrossFiber your arch and plantar fascia by pivoting your ankle from side to side (invert and evert your ankle) 10 times. Attempt to smush the ball as you go back and forth.

NOTE: CrossFiber is defined in the Glossary of Terms as: To manipulate a ball perpendicularly or obliquely to the line of pull of a myofascial structure. Myofascia refers to the actual familiar-named muscle structures with their associated interpenetrating fascias.

Toe Motion. Action 1.

Seq2-Toe-Motion-1Seq2-Toe-Motion-2Seq2-Toe-Motion-3(1) Drive the Roll Model Ball into the ball of your foot - this is the transverse arch of your foot. CrossFiber the ball 10 times across the ball of your foot, which will (2) invert and (3) evert your ankle while helping the long bones of your foot spread away from one another.

Toe Motion. Action 2.

Seq2-Toe-Motion-4Seq2-Toe-Motion-5(2) Squeeze your toes into the ball, making a "foot fist," then (3) spread and lift all 5 toes away from the ball. Do this 5 times.
Seq2-Toe-Motion-6Seq2-Toe-Motion-7(4) Squeeze all of your toes into the ball, then attempt to isolate the motion ofo your big toe by extending and flexing it without letting your other toes move, going up and down 5 to 10 times.

Repeat all of these actions on the other foot.

And then remember to end your practice by retesting with a flat-back forward bend after you have finished these movements and notice any changes in your body as a result of rolling the balls on the center arch and the transverse arch.

Summing Up

I hope that the information I have provided here has given you a new or increased enthusiasm about addressing the “issues in your tissues.” I hope that you are able to find a Roll Model therapy ball, or at least a tennis ball, so that you can try these sample moves for the feet. If you are interested in learning more about the Roll Model Method of fascial release, I hope you will join me at my Mobility for Performance class at Crossfit Vallarta, in Plaza Caracol across from McDonald’s, at 7 pm on Thursday evenings, starting Dec. 4, 2014. This weekly class will include a heavy dose of Therapy Ball work and I will provide the therapy balls for students at the class. Another way to get started or keeping to is to to schedule a private or semi-private session with me at my home Pilates/Fitness Studio in Versalles. Or invite me to come to your location. Contact me at for more information.

Please join us in the self-care healthcare revolution that is happening right here in Puerto Vallarta. You are never too young and never too old to start. Your body will love you for it. Your DNA will change for the better. You will gain mobility, reduce and prevent pain, better performance, and reduce stress. Do your homework, and check in with me next month for more information and inspiration on how to move more and move better. Your life, your good health, and your longevity may depend on it.

Wishing You Intelligent Movement Forever,

Going live, still tweaking, but basically sound

Dear Website Visitor,

I am revising my website presence, with new information and a new name,, to match my new business name, Intelligent Movement Forever . Lots of fun. Lots of challenges. We decided to go live while we are adding the finishing touches. Still to come, soon, a brand new logo. Watch for it! Please bare with us and be kind. Things are getting better and better.

May you Move with Intelligence Forever,


Superfood Walks on PV Cobblestones will feed your DNA and reverse diseases and aging

 NOTE:  This article first appeared November 4, 2014, in the Vallarta Daily online newspaper (, as the first of a series of monthly columns I am writing on Intelligent Movement Forever. The next column is scheduled December 1st and I will also share it with you here.

Dear Reader,

In my monthly column, Intelligent Movement Forever, I will be sharing some cutting edge information and ideas about human movement with the goal of helping you to move better and more often so that you can reap the healthy benefits of intelligent movement. I strongly believe that, armed with information, motivation, and an intelligent movement lifestyle, you and I can reverse injuries, aging, and certain diseases. Listo? Vámanos!

This first column is inspired and informed by Katy Bowman’s new book, Move Your DNA. Katy turns traditional beliefs about fitness and good health upside down. She studies the biomechanics of human movement and translates her findings into terms that we laymen can understand. Her research indicates that “modern” humans are suffering from our natural tendency to do as little as possible. Even those who exercise regularly are not spared.

We all live in small comfortable “cages” of minimal movement, like animals confined in a Many of our modern health issues, including, but not limited to, coronary heart disease, metabolic disorders, certain cancers, osteoarthritis, osteoporosis, allergies, depression, obesity, hypertension, asthma, and gout, are linked to a natural tendency to do as little as possible. Decrease in movement is also associated with decreases in muscle size (atrophy), vascularization (capillaries), sensitivity in our proprioceptive system, and bone mass.

In short, the human body is starving for the varied, frequent, whole-body movement patterns of the hunter-gatherer communities of yester year and the bulk of the scientific medical fitness community has dropped the ball by failing to recognize and address this important missing piece of good health and healthy living.

Movement Feeds Our DNA

Our DNA, which resides within our cells, needs to be fed by movement as much as it needs to be fed by healthy food. This information is likely to be relevant, if not revolutionary, to your lives and lifestyles, dear Puerto Vallarta readers. Ask yourself: Do I live in Puerto Vallarta because it allows me to slow down and move less? Relaxing in the tropics can be a good thing, but relaxing into a sedentary lifestyle in the tropics may be detrimental to the quality and longevity of your life.


Movement is not optional for you and me. Our cells need to be loaded (moved) in order to be healthy. If we don’t move, our cells don’t get fed. If our cells don’t get fed, they die. Katy describes the biomechanics and benefits of loading the cells in detail. Please pick up a copy of her book, Move Your DNA, available at and read it if you want to jump into the deep end of the pool on this subject.

Simply put, we, as homo sapiens, are meant to move in the way that we did as hunter-gatherers thousands of years ago. Today we need to find ways to move that can copy or imitate those paleo movement patterns. We need to rethink our “need” to be comfortable or stylish in chairs, sofas, pillows, and shoes, and other things that support non-movement patterns and faulty structural support, because they can be the source of many injuries and dis-eases. Cuidado! Our lack of movement is slowly suffocating us on a cellular level. Read on. Continua leyando.

Exercise v. Movement

Katy says we can start to radically improve our health by getting rid of the idea that movement is exercise. Exercise is movement, but movement is more than exercise. The movement that the human body needs for good health goes far beyond the weekly exercise class or running on the beach. Specialized movement, like bicycling or running or Crossfit or even a weekly Yoga or Pilates class, only feeds the cells of the muscles that you are using in that specific movement. It fails in variety. In fact, heavy use of your body in one particular pattern makes some tissues strong and leaves other tissues weaker, which can, of itself, lead to injury. The frequent consumption of varied movement is what our cells need most. Please do not let this information discourage you, dear reader. Let it give you the motivation you need to look at and gradually change your sedentary-to-moving ratio.

The amount of time that most of us allocate to what we call “exercise” is very small compared to the amount of time we are capable of moving our bodies, which is a hundred percent of the time. Going for a one-mile walk to strengthen your legs, burn some calories, and stretch your muscles is an example of exercise. Walking a mile to the store to pick something up for dinner is an example of movement. At this time, exercisers represent the movers in our culture, but looking more closely, we can see that exercisers themselves are sedentary most of the day when compared to hunter-gathering populations.

Katy’s book is an invitation for movers and non-movers alike to get outside the exercise box and look again at the frequency, variation, and quality of our everyday movement.

Walking, the New Superfood

An easy first step to a movement-based lifestyle is to start walking more and walking better. Walking uses a greater number of muscles (when done naturally) than most other activities, which means taking yourself for a walk is like taking your cells out to eat. This is an easy prescription for we who live in beautiful Puerto Vallarta, where walking is so readily available. If tropical heat is your issue, try walking early or late in the day, when temperatures are cooler. Here are some tips to make walking work for you and your cellular health.

Walk with Good Alignment

Walking is often touted as one of the easiest and safest kinds of exercise a human can do. But most people walk so inefficiently that their very gait pattern is contributing to their spine, knee, or bone problems. Don’t let this deter you from walking. But if you can make a few adjustments toward good alignment, you can change the way you walk and move so that you use more muscle, stabilize more joints, and create the necessary forces to deliver the oxygen and mechanical stimulation your cells need. Another of my movement heroes, Jill Miller, says it this way in her new book, The Roll Model: A Step-by-Step Guide to Erase Pain, Improve Mobility, and Live Better in Your Body.“… If you do not exercise with good postural alignment, you will actually degrade the structures you’re trying to improve.” Stayed tune for more about Jill Miller in future columns.

Human alignment serves the same kind of purpose as car-wheel alignment. Good wheel alignment allows the individual parts of the vehicle the freedom to create the intended movements of the driver without causing damage to the vehicle. When wheel alignment is “off”, the behavior of one wheel can result in premature wear to itself or cause damage to the vehicle elsewhere. Your body works the same way, responding to chronic misalignment with premature and unnecessary wear and tear.

Before you walk, or as you walk, (1) line up the feet so they look more like the tires on your car when you are driving forward; (2) try to keep the position of your pelvis even and neutral, neither tilted forward nor backward; (3) drop your ribcage so that the lowest, most forward bony protrusion of your ribs is stacked vertically over the highest bony protrusions on the front of the pelvis, (4) keep the thumbs facing forward and swing your arms if that seems natural. These tips will get you started and we will talk more about good postural alignment in future columns.

Vary Distance, Frequency, Surface and Grade

How often and how long should you walk? Here variation and frequency is key. Walking 3 miles each morning is good, but it is less beneficial than shorter walks through the day, which feeds the cells smaller amounts of movement (loaded) throughout the day. A walking program that includes both very long and very short works, will also increase the cellular benefits. Short walks can be created by parking at the far end of the parking lot or a few blocks away from your destination. When moving is your object, parking is never a problem!

We modern humans spent most of our time walking over artificially level, flat surfaces, which creates a repetitive environment for the foot. This means that our beautifully complex feet, ankles, knees, and hips are prevented from moving fully. As you choose your walking program, remember that the more the foot can move and deform over a surface, the less the ankle is forced to do the work of the foot. The more ups and downs in your walking surface, the more variation in ankle, knee, and hip use, pelvic positioning, the greater variance in muscles used throughout the body.

The terrain that you are walking on will vary by grade (uphill, downhill, in between) and by surface (rough, slippery, bumpy, rocky, etc). Every unique combination of grade and surface results in a particular physical stimulation to your DNA. The single, repetitive pattern of walking in a mall or even taking the same walk every day, same distance, same terrain, should be thought of as a repetitive-stress injury, too much of a good thing.


The good news for those of us who live in Puerto Vallarta is that we live in an environment where the terrain and surface for walking is variable. The sidewalks here are uneven and allow and even require walkers to step up and step down and step down and step up. We are often able to walk on cobblestones and even the cobblestones vary! See discussion below regarding walking on Puerto Vallarta cobblestones in minimal shoes or with barefeet.

Wear Minimal Footwear

Most of us wear shoes all day long and those shoes usually have a heel, sometimes a very high heel and sometimes a very low on. Even “flats” and tennis shoes have a rise in the heel. Anytime the shoes you are wearing have a heel, your ankle stays slightly plantarflexed (with toes pointed). If you wear flip-flop or slide-on shoes, your foot is required to grip to keep them on your foot, creating bent, fused toe joints. Years of wearing shoes has left all of us with significant atrophies in the muscles of the toes and the muscles between the bones of the foot (which are the arch-shapers) as well as a (semi-) permanent shortening of the Achilles’ tendon and calf muscle group. The interaction between the foot and footwear is so complex, Katy has written an entire book on the subject: Every Woman’s Guide to Healthy Feet (2011).

We are blessed by the many opportunities for walking on uneven and changing surfaces in Puerto Vallarta. You can buy a cobblestone mat if you want to but, in Puerto Vallarta, you don’t have too. Find and walk on the many cobblestone walks here. Walking on cobblestones a few times daily with barefeet (preferred) or minimal shoes (to protect from debri) provides stimulation to the foot musculature that in turn adapts by becoming stronger and better able to handle these forces for longer periods of time. I try to walk in barefeet or minimal shoes on the various cobblestones and other stones on the sidewalks of Puerto Vallarta and I can feel the stimulation to and improvement in my foot muscles. However, if you are inspired to try this, transition gradually with brief walks and minimal shoes before you move to a barefoot experience.

There are many corrective movements for feet and ankles, including foot bone mobilization with Yoga Tune Up® Therapy Balls, that are delicious and effective, and helpful to cobblestone and other walking. I will discuss and describe them in a future column. Stay tuned!

Summing Up

I hope the information I have shared with you in this column will help you see movement from a new perspective and inspire you to move as much as you can as often as you can and in as many different ways as you can. Begin by walking with good alignment with a variety of surfaces and grades. Examine the shoes you are wearing. Do they have a rise that creates a repetitive stress injury in your feet and ankles? Can you shop for a minimal shoe instead? Or start spending some time walking in bare feet?

Remember, walking is a superfood for your cells. And it is available in many flavors in Puerto Vallarta. Take advantage of this, do your homework, and check in with me next month for more information and inspiration on how to move more and move better. Your life, your good health, and your longevity may depend on it.

Wishing You Intelligent Movement Forever,

Next Column: Dec. 1, 2014
copyright: Via Anderson 2014