Start to Improve Lower Body Strength, Stability and Joint Mobility when you first rise, stand and walk in the morning. Think of how a cat or dog stretches when they get up. Learn to listen to your body and begin to recognize its changes. We are not taught to do this. Most of us just get up and hit the ground running without a thought of the body’s readiness to move or even the newness of the day. Try these suggestions to reconnect or begin to care for your body’s alignment starting with a morning regiment.

First begin with body rolling. It’s a soothing way to get the blood flowing as you roll from side to side with your arms and bent knees folding and unfolding as you roll back and forth. Begin lying on your right side in the fetal position. As you begin to roll on your back, let your left arm float open as it crosses your body and your back flattens on to the bed. Your left knee mirrors the movement of your arm as the hips. Complete the motion by bringing your right arm and leg over to meet their left side’s counterparts in the fetal position. Do this rolling back and forth 4-6 times.

When you finish rolling, gently draw your knees to your chest, either together or slightly apart, whatever is comfortable as best you can and hold for a count of 30. Then gently rock back and forth on back. Don’t roll over to your side like you in the first warm up. Do this 4-6 times.

Once your rocking is complete, become still and begin to visualize your head and neck in line with your spine, imagining someone is running a string from the center of your head to the tip of your tailbone as the spine aligns itself. Place your arms a few inches from your side with your palms down and legs straight, your feet and knees in line with your hips. Wiggle your body around a bit, settle in and relax for a minute or two in a brief mindful meditation.

Next, press the heel of one leg into the bed, keeping it straight. Feel your leg become tense and hold for 4 counts with the first press being light and subsequent presses done with quick release of the heel into the bed. Repeat this 4-6 times. Repeat with the other leg holding for a count of 4 and repeating this 4-6 times. As your body gets used to this, you might try increasing to 8-10 times…then 12-16 times. This increases circulation. Don’t push too hard in the beginning, as you may get a leg cramp! Once finished, prepare to stand.

As you come to your feet, remember to take your time and go slowly. Come to your feet (or sitting if you choose), begin to do foot circles by rolling the whole edge of your foot on the floor or the SANDDUNE™, to stretch and strengthen ankle flexion. Be sure your feet are in line with your hips as you stabilize yourself with a barre, chair, or sturdy counter. Be sure the knee of your standing leg is soft and your core is intact and active.  Try this beginning with 5-10 circles clockwise and counter-clockwise with both feet working up to 15-20 circles. This movement will create an awareness of how the edge of the foot feels. This is something many people NEVER think about unless they are an athlete, especially a dancer, gymnast or athlete participating in any discipline involving continuous running, making rapid changes in many directions.

Now focus on your knees. I hear more people complain about their knees than their feet. When doing standing foot circles it is natural that knee circles follow. As you circle your foot, notice how the knee hinge is now drawing its own circle. This a natural integration of movement required for walking. Allow your foot to balance on the ball of the foot and concentrate on the circle you are now drawing with your knee.  You can see the same movement with the knee if you are sitting, but not as pronounced.  Watch it, become aware of the movement and how it feels. Repeating knee circles with the foot off the ground works the Psoas muscle in your back heightening your awareness of its connection with the hip joint socket. You can do this on the floor or the SANDDUNE™.

Because the feet and knees are now engaged, it is natural that the hips begin creating their own circles. Both standing/anchor leg and pushing leg are now engaged and the hip joints have begun to swivel, drawing their own circles. Hip swivels will create greater strength and mobility as the body naturally “oils the hip joints.”  Go clockwise and counter-clockwise. This exercise can be done on the SANDDUNE™ as well with sturdy support or with a companion to spot you. Have one hand on your hip the other on bar or support. If your balance is good, hands on both hips. Start with 4-6 swivels in each direction working up to 12-16 times. If standing is not an option, do this on your knees and as strength and flexibility increase, you can work your way to standing.

Finally, keeping your standing/anchor leg’s knee soft, slightly bend your other knee and allow the ball of the foot to push into the ground as the heel remains raised, off the floor.   This action lifts the “hip chamber” up and when you drop the hip back down it relaxes the muscles and joint. Do this 4-6 times on each leg working up to 8-10 times. The pushing action into the hip chamber strengthens the lower back muscles as well as the leg. Now you’re ready to get your day rolling and body is too.