We're talking about feet. Yes, feet; because they are so very important! Everything in our daily lives is ground up, and so the feet relate to many different areas of the body that we may not ever really think about.
we have plenty of focus on the feet in our Allongèe® classes. It is the reason why we do classes "barefoot" with grippy socks. Letting the foot work barefoot is a unique thing for our bodies, as we wear shoes all day which constrict the range of motion and this dynamic stretching and strengthening of all of the posterior (underside) muscles of the foot. Your feet are your first line of defense from the shock of high-impact activities. They relate to your posture and your core health, and they have a lot more power behind them then we like to believe (very relevant for those of you that are runners!).
In ballet, we use the term "Winging the foot " to describe the position of the foot in which you'll be able to build your highest and strongest relevé (heel lift). In kinesiology it is called eversion, and those if you take classes are familiar with it from our foot warm-up. It is simply a slight movement at the ankle joint which pulls the ankle and the toes laterally toward the outside of the body. In every day life, strengthening the muscles that perform foot eversion is extremely beneficial in the injury preventative sense. Ever sprain your ankle? By the force of nature, it was probably a sprain on the outer side of your ankle- those exact same muscles!
Here's quick little demo showing foot eversion.
Foot eversion happens first in our foot warmup, but then your foot/ankle stay in that everted position for like... the ENTIRE REST OF CLASS. But really- check out some of the places it pops up below.
You'll see here that all lower body joints are aligned- hip, knee & ankle. Two nice parallel lines, like train tracks.
This is a safe and constructive position for the body to work in. 💪
When done incorrectly, you'll see that your train tracks are a bit bent out of shape, with your ankles misaligned from the rest of "the track". This is bad news for a few reasons:
-You're overextending/stretching those muscles on the outside of the ankle joint. The ones that are most prone to sprains and other injuries. You're also causing a few mishaps in the knees and hips with this position. Your LCL (Lateral Collateral Ligament) on the outside of your knee gets quite a pull in this position as well. You never really want to "stretch" your ligaments - they're much less like rubber bands than your muscles are.
Similarly in 2nd position, your alignment starts at your feet.
Eversion is working hard here, and your primary goal is to keep that hip-knee-ankle/foot in line!
While the alignment is certainly aesthetically pleasing when correct, it really is a matter of safety and injury prevention.
When done incorrectly, it doesn't feel OR look as nice. It actually kind of looks like we're on the verge of breaking our ankles, doesn't it?
Once you're standing, this becomes even more important as you've got gravity working AGAINST you.
Be sure to focus and set your alignment up with accuracy and efficiency during the mat work so that by the time you get up for barre/cardio work you've got some muscle memory in your back pocket.
You can clearly see that hip-knee-ankle line here in standing 2nd position, whereas in the incorrect positioning below, you can see the misalignment in the foot.
In any standing position with a leg extension, your job becomes significantly more difficult.
You've got arms/legs extending away from the center while you're still trying to keep all of your form (neck/spine alignment, ab engagement, hip-knee-ankle alignment, etc.) intact.
These one-legged standing positions should always come with a turned out leg, so bring that heel forward and send the weight of the body toward the inside of the foot.
If you notice between the two arabesque photos - the relevé is the same, but the one with correct alignment is definitely higher. Keep working to build your relevé - you've got a higher one in you than you may think!