Over the years I have helped numerous people transform their bodies, relationships, and zest for life by adopting and sticking with a daily movement practice. When you move you increase blood flow throughout the body carrying nutrients to tissues and organs. You increase oxygen supply to the brain and may experience clarity, creativity, and a fresh perspective. Movement is a form of self-expression, a means to release built up tension, and exercise your will and determination. The benefits you gain in as few as five minutes of movement can create a ripple effect of positive actions throughout the day.
Charles Duhigg writes, in his best selling book The Power of Habit that "exercise is a keystone habit that triggers widespread change."
A movement practice is different from the stereotypical sweat dripping workout. An old school belief is that a workout must be jaw clenching, grueling, rigid, and intense to be effective. (Recall scenes from the movie Rocky.) It's no wonder that many people feel intimidated by gyms and boutique studios.
The beauty of a movement practice is that movement is not limited to a gym or boutique studio. It moves with you.
YOU are the greatest machine ever invented. There’s a variety of exercises and forms of movement you can do that require nothing but the motivation to get started.
We are all unique. We have different past experiences, injuries, health history, and overuse injuries. The ego may urge you to try the cool tricks you see on Instagram or run a circuit of trying every boutique fitness studio in the city, but it takes a dose of maturity to see yourself, sense where you may be out of balance, and then move towards alignment.
Below are 3 elements to incorporate into your movement practice for a solid foundation.
1. Mobilize your spine
Your spinal column houses the nerves that innervate your organs and muscles in your body. A healthy spine is literally the backbone of high quality movement and quality of life.
Move to try:
Segmental Cat Cow
2. Human First
Repetitive use injuries, poor posture, and lack of movement impair the health of the joints and limit range of motion. Each and every joint- all 360 of them need your attention. Movement is what keeps the joints healthy. Lack of movement around a joint leads to dysfunction.
Movements to try:
1. Mindful walking
Aim to walk more throughout the day. Sure, you've been walking since you were a toddler, but do you walk in a way that is sustainable for your joints and engages the proper muscles?
In the video Chuck Tillotson discusses key steps to walking correctly:
1. Push with your toes
2. Proper stride length
3. Legs close together
4. Move your shoulders opposite your legs
5. Focus with your eyes on the distant horizon.
2. Joint Mobility- Controlled Articular Rotations
Motion is the key to keeping joints healthy as joints do not receive nutrients from the blood like our connective tissue does. We want to have control through the full range of motion at each joint, ideally.
3. Core Strength
Your core is your power center, literally. The muscles of the core support your spine and keep you stable, transfer movement from upper extremities to the lower extremities and vice versa, and initiate movement. Keeping the muscles of the core- the abdominals, hip musculature, glutes, and shoulder girdle strong and resilient first with isometric movements leads to dynamic movement and hopefully a dynamic life too.
Once you have the prerequisites complete find what moves you and let it flow. You can use your movement practice as a way to exercise your entire being, not just your physical body. One day a movement practice may be a structured resistance training routine when you need to feel your inner strength before giving a presentation or moving forward with that business idea you've been ruminating over for weeks. Another day you may move to the beat of the music in improv dance in a group setting, and another day may be a soulful yoga flow in solitude when you need time for yourself.
When everything is constantly changing a movement practice can be like an anchor to keep you grounded. The key to starting a movement practice and making it stick is to designate a time, move with intention, have a plan of action, and work towards a goal. Keep moving; it's medicine!