Laying the Groundwork is a presentation of how I conceptualize movement. My intention is to share the tools and methods I use in hopes that it helps others build their own culture of movement. There's nothing magic here, just an in-depth look at basic movement that through practice will yield greater awareness, foster new connections, and set the stage for substantial growth. Movement is a gift - value it, enjoy it, and share it.
Shifting the Movement Paradigm The current state of affairs. Societal norms devalue creative living. The vibrant idealism present in childhood is all too often stamped out as we’re funneled into an assembly line existence. Exercise is comprised of predictable, linear, and grueling movement. Our obsession with controlling outcomes and amassing achievements are depriving us of joyful exploration. Our culture of instant gratification is clearly reflected in current headlines promising short cuts to an aesthetically pleasing body. Health is an afterthought, assumed to be a by-product of fitness.
Zoom out. There's more to life than making it to the end as quickly as possible. Looking from inside the fitness opportunity, I see an incredible opportunity for meaningful change. A paradigm shift focused on slowing down, savoring experiences, respecting the body, and the embracing the natural flow of life.
Why movement? Because natural human movement is as fundamental to our overall health as breathing, eating, and sleeping.
Our current line of thinking equates movement with exercise, while disregarding the role movement plays in healthy physiological & cognitive functioning. The benefits definitely don't end there - self-expression, awareness, confidence, spiritual connection. Did I lose you? A little too esoteric? I promise I'm not starting a cult here. But when movement engages us, it allows us to tap into our humanity. In a day and age when everyone is chasing happiness, these "side effects" of movement transcend fitness to enrich our lives in unfathomably deeper ways.
The Prone Groundwork Series The prone position is next up in my groundwork template. In life, we’re bound to find ourselves face down in the mud at times. What matters is our ability to get up. On the literal side, the ability to press the body up from the ground is so basic we take it for granted. You should be mobile enough to rise up without pain, assistance, or it taking 10 seconds. So if you’ve got that ability: 1) Express some gratitude. 2) Practice often to maintain or improve. The video demonstrates a small selection of variations, let me break them down.
My favorite element from this position is the spinal extension (cobra). We spend so much time in forward flexed positions that this opening of the front line is always welcomed. The action is initiated by the back line of the body contracting. The back, glutes, and hamstrings are all working to lift the body away from the ground. This is vastly different than simply using the arms to press up, your spine will tell you the difference.
The pec stretch should feel like the classic doorway chest stretch. Here we add in some active spinal rotation and full hip extension for one amazing stretch. This action is also a nice precursor to rolling.
Ugly push ups kill me. Collapsing into the shoulder girdle, low back sagging, head craning forward, uncontrolled range of motion...gross. This doesn't just look bad, those sloppy bro-reps feel terrible. The palms should be fully pressed to the ground, especially the first knuckle of your index finger. The shoulder blades should glide together upon lowering and apart upon pressing up. Low reps, proper progressions, perfect practice.
The arch body hold builds back line strength and may hit some long neglected areas like the lower back and posterior shoulders. For those not ready for the full arch body, just lifting the legs is a good start. If your t-spine and shoulders are really tight a Brettzel stretch and some segmental rolling might be a better place to start.
Lastly, show your body some love with rolling patterns. In the language of movement, rotation is often underutilized. Most people I observe go out their to avoid twisting movements. This makes sense when we think of all the movement-phobic advice out there. When was the last time you really took time to feel your spine twist from the inside out? Segmental rolling is a great place to start. Use the arms or legs to reach across the body and feel each segment of the spine - cervical, thoracic, lumbar - rotate in sequence. Rigid rolling requires more control as you use weight shifting to roll from arch body to hollow body. No worries if you’re flopping around a bit, this is a fantastic way to boost your overall spinal awareness. As these rolling patterns get mapped into the brain, they serve for some beautifully seamless transitioning in free movement.
And free movement is really what this is all about. This series is meant to provide a starting to point to safely and progressive develop a free movement practice. The movement, the philosophy, the implications - I realize it's a lot, but better to just lay it all out there at once. The movement provides context for the larger issues. The larger issues reinforce the importance of moving mindfully and growth. It's all intertwined, nothing occurs in isolation. I'll conclude this series with a final piece combining these developmental positions / movement variations into an example of free movement.
Until then, happy holidays. See you in 2015!