Quest Educational Foundation - Balance Programs

Balance Should Not Be A Challenge

Natural cobblestone path

Natural Cobblestone Path

Chi-Balance Cobblestone Mat

Chi-Balance Cobblestone Mat

Remember what it was like to move with carefree confidence?

You can relive the experience of safe, secure mobility with the Eas-i-Chi Balance Program.

Using an innovative form of simple tai chi technique and acupressure stimulation, this program encourages neuro-muscular integration and creates a soothing effect that actually relieves pain and discomfort in other extremities and torso.

Introduction to Barefoot Walking and the Eas-i-Chi Concept

Going Barefoot and Mat Walking.

"You want me to what?  Take off my shoes and walk barefoot over those stones!  Are you crazy?!?  Just heat up the hot coals and be done with it!!"  

...Admittedly, there’s something counterintuitive about the idea that less padding on your foot equals less shock to the body.  But that’s only if we continue to think of our feet as lifeless blocks of flesh that hold us upright.  The sole of your foot has over 200,000 nerve endings in it, one of the highest concentrations anywhere in the body.  Our feet are designed to act as earthward antennae, helping us balance and transmitting information to us about the ground we’re walking on.  

But (you might point out) if you walk or run with no padding, it’s murder on your heels—which is precisely the point.  Your heels hurt when you walk that way because you’re not supposed to walk that way.   Wrapping your heels in padding so they don’t hurt is like stuffing a gag in someone’s mouth so they’ll stop screaming—you’re basically telling your heels to shut up.  

And your heels aren’t just screaming; they’re trying to tell you something.  In 2006, a group of rheumatologists at Chicago’s Rush Medical College studied the force of the “knee adduction moment”—basically, the force of torque on the medial chamber of the knee joint where arthritis occurs.  

For years, rheumatologists have advised patients with osteoarthritis of the knees to wear padded walking shoes, to reduce stress on their joints.  As for the knee-adduction moment, they’ve attempted to address it with braces and orthotics that immobilize the knee, but with inconsistent results.  So the researchers at Rush tried something different:  they had people walk in their walking shoes, then barefoot, and each time measured the stress on their knees. They found, to their surprise, that the impact on the knees was 12 percent less when people walked barefoot than it was when people wore the padded shoes.  

Okay, so much for less impact.  But, wait just a minute, how do I walk on this path without doing myself a world of hurt?   You're so right!  The average shoe wearer has had so much support and padding that his/her intrinsic foot muscles and ligaments are relatively weak and soft. If one doesn't gradually ramp up their barefoot activity, one is asking for a world of pain.  Plus, our proprioception and joint mobility decrease with the "dis-use" of age.  

What to do???  

Learn to Walk Barefoot, across a Mat...

It makes a huge difference -- not only in learning how to adjust to being barefoot on a rough surface -- but what you experience in nature and what you miss.  

So here's how to "walk" the mat:  

It’s all about placing your foot on the ground BEFORE you put your weight on it, so that your center of gravity is in your hips. This influences you to take shorter strides. In slow-motion you would:  

  1. Touch the outside edge of your foot to the ground.
  2. Roll your foot inward until it is flat on the ground.
  3. Before adding your weight, is there a sharp stone, a rounded branch or any other object that would irritate your foot?
  4. If so, reposition your foot.
  5. Transfer your weight to your foot.
  6. Repeat with your other foot.

It ends up being much much easier to walk barefoot, so practicing on the Chi Balance Mat at home or in your yard boosts this ability.  

What are other benefits of this barefoot walking technique? 

You actually increase your chances of seeing and hearing birds and other wildlife, while your sense of smell and touch become enhanced through better focus.  

Once out-of-doors and far afield (perhaps with hiking boots on) you’ll be amazed at how much less noise you make while walking.  

Like any other technique, it takes time to master. Using the steps prescribed in the Eas-i-Chi Practical Application Booklet (Based on the Principles of the QEF Balance Program) and accompanying all mats, you practice moving and thinking: set foot down, roll, and transfer weight with each step.  Eventually the rhythm and pattern becomes second nature.

An added benefit is that your mind slows down, distracting thoughts melt away and you notice details and subtleties that often fade into the background when you’re hiking at warp speed.   

As some practitioners consider Eas-i-Chi a form of meditation.; in this tumultuous world, that’s also a nice added benefit isn't it?

And, throughout our site we have included information on Falls, Fall prevention, Why Balance Matters, the QEF Eas-i-Chi Program, and other QEF Programs.  There are links to sites that explain the science of balance, and a particular focus on Mature balance.  Enjoy!

Director, QEF.