Extreme stability teaches you how to work from the ground up when creating stability, whether you are doing poses on your hands or your feet (or some combination of both).
The feet, ankles and lower legs are effectively one unit.
Rotations of the shin (relative to the knee) can affect the arches of the feet, movements of the feet can affect the arches. In addition, the stability of the heel, ankle, and side of the foot can affect the calf muscle and other muscles that cross the ankle and the knee.
The Foot, Ankle, Lower Leg and Knee
In extreme stability, the focus is on stabilizing the foot, ankle, and knee working from the ground up.
With the lower leg stabilized past the knee, muscles that work on the knee and hip have a stable foundation from which to control the thigh and pelvis.
More Strength, Greater Flexibility
One possible advantage of learning to stabilize the lower leg is that you can have stronger standing poses. With your leg (or both legs) stable, you may find it is easier to control your upper body since the stability radiates upwards.
Another possible advantage is that hip and leg flexibility is easier to improve. Whether working on flexibility or strength, muscles need a stable foundation so that they can effectively shorten or lengthen.
With the lower leg stabilized, the muscles that cross from the lower leg to the thigh or pelvis then have one fixed point meaning that they can lengthen or shorten to allow the pelvis to move relative to the leg.
A Possible Starting Point for Low Back Pain
Lower leg stability may also be a starting point for dealing with low back pain. One muscle that acts on the hip and lower back is the psoas. If there are hip muscle imbalances, the psoas may be affected and thus create an imbalanced pull on the low back.
However, the hip can be affected by imbalances in the low leg, so if you fix the lower legs first, it may then be easier to fix the hips and then the lower back.
This isn’t to say that you shouldn’t also be able to stabilize your core. However, one thing that is often missing in core training is the idea of a fixed reference point.
Are you moving the ribcage relative to the pelvis or the pelvis relative to the ribcage? Starting with the lower leg it's easy to stabilize your pelvis so that your spinal muscles have a strong foundation from which to control the spine (and that includes the lower back).
Creating Reference Points
Learning to stabilize your lower legs is a starting point not only for stability but for giving your muscles fixed reference points from which they can act systematically.
(Give yourself a fixed reference, your brain can help take care of the rest. It's a little like using cell references in Excel.)
Note that this isn’t a brute force “just engage your muscles and go from there" approach. There is some finesse involved. You’ll learn how to use the weight of your body to anchor your leg in addition to engaging your muscles. And to do that, you'll practice feeling your body weight.
With extreme stabilization you’ll learn to stabilize the elbows and knees even when they are straight. This may go against some preconceived ideas that when the knees or elbows are straight, the muscles that control them relax. Instead, you learn to deliberately active muscles so that these joints become stable even when straight. This same muscle control can be used when the elbows or knees are bent also.
And while the main intent is learning to stabilize these joints when their associated extremity is bearing body weight, for the forearms in particular, you’ll start by learning to activate them while they aren’t bearing weight.
Stability in Extreme Positions
It is also possible to directly stabilize the hips and shoulders. And these can also be very useful to learn to stabilize. And those are covered in other programs.
However in extreme positions, for example, side splits, direct stabilization can become a little bit harder.
Sometimes the muscles that help stabilize a joint actually get in the way. Or the position of the joint is so extreme that the muscles that directly control it haven’t got room to activate (the distance they span is too short). Or, other joints are affected in such a way that the brain doesn't allow you to go further.
As an example, in side-splits, the limiting factor might not be the hips, but the knees. So learning to stabilize the lower leg is helpful because it helps to keep the knee strong even as you sink lower.
A Systematic Approach
Extreme stability isn’t the be all and the end all to body awareness, improved flexibility, and strength. However, it is an important stepping stone.
If you have knee problems, extreme stability may be helpful since it shows you how to stabilize the entire lower leg, not just the foot. But it may only be a starting point for fixing the problem.
So why bother if it doesn't fix the whole problem? Because the body is a complex system, and the only way you can learn to understand a complex system is by focusing on little bits at a time. In this case, the lower leg, and forearm are the parts focused on, and these can be viewed as systems in their own right.
One Person's Testimony
This routine is unlike any other!
After many years of weightlifting, yoga, acupuncture, and mobility exercises, I have finally found something perfect for bringing awareness and stability to my body.
While yoga has helped me with awareness of the breath, it does not bring the awareness of the muscles that this routine has. I feel like I have truly felt my body for the first time in doing this routine.
I feel hopeful that I can undo my poor flexibility and mobility that has debilitated me for so long, by following this routine regularly.
It is truly worth checking out if you have longed for the tranquility of balance.