Keep moving naturally
During a browse in the library a couple of years ago, I came across a book by American biomechanist, Katy Bowman. “Alignment Matters” is a compilation of Katy’s blog posts about a “new” approach to health and fitness, simply called natural movement. I say “new” in quotation marks because natural movement is all about returning to the ways that we used to move before modern life and all of its conveniences got in the way.
This book opened up a new world of exploration for me, confirming a lot of my own hunches, and vastly expanding my understanding of the importance of movement. Natural movement is about moving as much of ourselves, as often as possible, in the many ways that our bodies are designed to move, such as walking, running, hanging, reaching, climbing, carrying, squatting, and sitting on the ground. As well, barefoot walking and minimal footwear are key components of this approach.
Natural movement is not about exercising. Exercise is something that we have developed in an effort to compensate for a sedentary lifestyle. People used to be active all day long. Now we outsource many of the activities necessary to our survival to other people or to devices and machines. This lack of varied, regular movement contributes to many health concerns, ranging from minor aches and stiffness to life threatening conditions such as cardiovascular disease.
The ailments we consider an inevitable part of life and aging are not inevitable at all, but the result of the misuse or disuse of our bodies. Our lifestyles may have changed but our bodies still need the same amount of movement, throughout the day and throughout our lives.
So how does one incorporate natural movement into modern life? It is easy, free, and takes little or no extra time. Here are some ideas, but really, the possibilities are endless.
Walk around your house barefoot. Get the 33 joints and 100 muscles, ligaments and tendons in each foot moving.
Think outside the chair! For happy hips and a stronger core, sit on the floor to eat some of your meals or watch T.V. If you don’t have the flexibility to sit on the floor, sit on a stack of cushions or a bolster. You may find that your flexibility improves over time.
If you use a computer, set a timer for regular breaks. Stretch and walk around. Look out the window into the distance to give your eye muscles a different movement. If you have a laptop, set it up on a box to make a standing desk, or work at your kitchen counter. Or set the laptop on a low table and sit on the floor.
Walk to do errands. When you walk, go “off roading” as much as possible. Walk through the park on the grass, up and down hills, on gravel etc. to give your feet and ankles a wider variety of movement. If you have to drive, park farther away from your destination.
Try the monkey bars. (I’m not kidding.) If you haven’t done that for a while, go slowly. Just hanging from one bar or even the top of a doorframe with your feet still lightly on the ground feels great!
If mobility is a challenge for you, keep in mind that even the smallest of changes, like sitting in a different type of chair, has a positive effect on your body.
Whatever you choose to do, make changes gradually and be patient. Our bodies are capable of amazing transformation, but it takes time.