Why the Floor Is Your Friend

The floor, after all, is for foot traffic. It's hard... needs a good cleaning, and is much farther away from our derrières than the comfy sofa. The floor has a bad rep. But as a movement therapist, I have learned that the floor is my friend. Here are three reasons why:
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photo courtesy of FGNA

If you're like most of us, the word "floor" probably makes you think more about tile, hardwood and carpet than friendship....it's not the first place your mind goes when you think of relaxation, repose and rejuvenation. The floor, after all, is for foot traffic. It's hard... needs a good cleaning, and is much farther away from our derrières than the comfy sofa. The floor has a bad rep.

But as a movement therapist, I have learned that the floor is my friend. Here are three reasons why:

1. When I lie down on the floor, its firm, flat surface reflects the state of my posture. Whether I lie prone, on my back, or on my side, the floor helps me feel inconsistencies, imbalances and tightness in my musculoskeletal system. As I gently move around on the floor, I have a better sense of what hurts and what doesn't, and as I gradually adapt to the floor's firm surface to find a comfortable, effortless position, I relax some of the tensions that are hard to detect when standing or seated. Movement scientist Dr. Moshe Feldenkrais, said that the floor acts as a mirror to help us complete our self-image.

2. When I stand on the floor in my bare feet and walk around, I can sense the ground better. If I do this slowly and attentively, focusing on how my feet contact the floor, I become more grounded. This practiced sensation of grounding not only promotes dynamic posture and helps me balance as I age, but also calms me when I become anxious. It reminds me that I can be more rooted to the Earth with little effort.

3. When I practice getting up and down off the floor, I'm building resilience in my musculoskeletal system. Being able to get up and down off the floor is an essential movement skill. It is not only one of the first things we learn as infants; it is one of the last things we want to lose as we age. In fact, the ability to get up and down from the floor is associated with greater longevity. People who do this regularly are counteracting the long-term effects of gravity and maintaining their proprioceptive abilities that are part of maintaining upright balance and navigating the world with less risk of falling.

So what can you do to help your family become more floor friendly?

1. Clear a dedicated open space on the floor, perhaps where your family gathers. Move some furniture away from the TV if need be. When your family watches television or your kids play video games, encourage them to sit on the floor instead of sinking into a soft couch. It's harder to sit still for long periods of time when seated on the floor, and that's a good thing. Sitting on the floor makes it necessary to squirm and adjust position periodically to stay comfortable. It helps develop a better kinesthetic awareness that leads to a more dynamic posture.

2. If you have a new baby or infant and she is on the floor for tummy time, join her....the floor is most certainly HER friend; make it your own as well.. "Play with a few stretches and breathing exercises while your baby explores her own world on her tummy" says Marianne Ryan, PT, OCS, Author of BabyBodBook. What a great way to share in the experience and watch her develop her own kinesthetic awareness while you reinforce your own.

3. If you are elderly, or simply no longer confident in your ability to get up and down off the floor, find a good practitioner, a Physical Therapist, Feldenkrais teacher, or other movement professional who can work with you to re-learn this essential skill. When you have safe and easier ways to get up and down, you reduce your anxiety about losing your balance, which reduces your risk of falling. Once you're more comfortable, join a movement class that helps you explore movement while being on the floor, such as Yoga or Feldenkrais. "Yoga is a practice of being aware of the support that is always present. When you have a friendly attitude towards the ground, you can feel how you can harness that support to explore conscious movement." Juliana Plank, PT, DPT, Certified Yoga Teacher

4. At home, consider dedicating a portion of the floor as a place of rest, repose and rejuvenation--a spot where a tatami mat, prayer rug or yoga mat can be spread out. Mabel Todd, author of "The Thinking Body," developed a simple floor exercise to help reduce body tension. For this constructive rest position, you'll need nothing more than a scarf and perhaps a small pillow. Lie on your back on the floor, bend your knees, and spread them hip distance apart. Tie the scarf around your legs just above your knees so you can fully relax into the support. Add a small pillow or folded blanket under your neck if needed. Spend 5-10 minutes in this position and let gravity do all the rest.

5. Consider eating a meal on the floor, as many cultures do. Make it an inside picnic and have foods that are easy and fun to eat. Make this a time to unplug devices and engage in conversation.

6. Take a look at the latest sport and performance enhancement strategies that link to child development, such as Dr. Mark Cheng's Groundwork progressions.

7. When your job or life interferes with actual floor time, you can always imagine being on the floor. Sit in a firm chair, and imagine the sensation of the floor. While you are there, can you imagine yourself when you were young and more able? Research tells us that our brains are problem solving and linking to muscles that connect to the task even if we just imagine the movements.

So my TOP reason for getting on the floor?

...To get up close and personal with my four legged friends....

Photo courtesy of Jane Searle, BAppSc(Phys), MPT(Neuro), CFP®

You can find Stacy Barrows on the floor with her Smartroller or at Century City Physical Therapy, CA.

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