Natural Movement Principles for Better Living


Now that the weather is changing and becoming more pleasant, it’s a perfect time to do more natural movement training. Most of you probably know that I am a MovNat Level 2 Trainer, but I thought it was worth mentioning again. I was with my daughter at the playground today, and I had a chance to work on jumping, climbing, and balance. I have been considering going to the MovNat level 3 certification course in Albuquerque, New Mexico at the end of September. I don’t think I am going out on a limb here in saying that this will probably be one of the toughest certification tests I have ever faced. Sorry, no pun intended there but I probably will literally have to balance on a limb during the test. Suffice to say, I’m going to have to step up my training. I’m hoping I can round up a few of you out there who might be interested in some natural movement training. It would be great to have a group that meets up from time to time. I definitely want to be prepared for the testing if I am going to put in the time and money to travel and test.

For building effective movement techniques, consider these three categories from the MovNat trainer certification manual:

  1. Posture/Breathing
  2. Tension/Relaxation
  3. Sequence/Timing

As I was doing a foot hand crawl on the balance beam (try it, you might find it’s tougher than it sounds) at the playground, those three principles above came to mind. However, I also came to the realization that being aware of these things are not only applicable for sound and efficient technique, but they are useful in every day life.

Probably just about everyone could use a posture check throughout the day. Especially for those who spend a lot of time sitting at a desk. In fact, you should try to get up and move at regular intervals throughout the day if you find yourself sitting a lot. I have mentioned recent research in previous blogs that implicates long periods of sitting in providing poor health outcomes. Prolonged sitting is not doing your posture any favors either, and it’s probably the reason behind a lot of back and shoulder problems that are becoming more prevalent these days. Kyphotic upper backs and internally rotated shoulders are a recipe for limitation when it comes to lifting your arms overhead properly. Breathing can be tied right in with posture. It’s important to bring awareness to your breathing while training, but also check in with your breathing during your other daily activities. In most situations, we will want to keep are breathing centered in our belly. Chest breathing can cause muscles of the upper back and neck to become tight due to an inefficient breathing pattern that calls upon secondary breathing muscles to be prime movers. Poor posture can increase the likelihood that we will breathe poorly too. If we are in an emergency situation, then it may be appropriate to engage all breathing muscles until the situation has subsided. The rest of the time, we will be well served to breath deep and easy in our abdomen. Remember, we should strive for efficiency.

I am most often aware of tension and relaxation during balancing activities. I have a tendency to become stiff and tense during activities that require extreme concentration. My Aikido instructor was always telling me to relax my shoulders when I was doing a technique because I was always tense. This slowed me down and weakened my technique. I found that I was using a lot of constant tension when I was doing a balance walk and the tension was really only needed for brief moments. That brief moment we lose balance, we should use tension until we regain our balance, and no longer than that. With relaxation we can conserve out energy. In Aikido, we can use tension when performing a technique such as a throw, but we don’t need constant tension. Constant tension will quickly drain our energy, and hamper our performance. There are other ways we can use tension and relaxation in our lives. Being able to stay relaxed is probably the best strategy to limit daily stress, but there may be times when we should call upon tension. An example may be at times when we need to stand up for ourselves or our convictions. Hopefully, it’s in the verbal form and not physically. We may need to be firm with our voice and presence.  Another example could be making changes in our lives. That may be a job, the place we live, or the friends we associate with. Making changes may cause tension in the short term and that is probably just a normal thing. We can work on returning to a state of relaxation in the long run, knowing we our taking steps to improve our lives (let’s assume we are making positive changes). A state of relaxation can be enhanced by socializing with good friends, exercising, getting enough sleep, and breathing exercises/meditation/prayer.

Sequence and timing are very important for performing good technique. If I jump, then swing my arms, and then straighten my legs as I land, the sequence of steps is completely out of order. I’ll probably have a poor jump and land painfully. The order in how we do the steps is important. If we need to give an informative presentation at work, we don’t want to give the speech, then create our notes, and then do the research. The order matters. Timing is closely related to sequence. Going back to the jump example, if I land with completely straight legs and then bend them 2 seconds later, my timing is off. To guarantee a good soft landing, I would want to bend my knees as soon as I landed to absorb the impact. In everyday life, timing is important too. If we have done something outstanding at work, it would probably be a good time to ask for a raise. If we’ve made a massive mistake, it’s probably not the time for making demands. Sequence and timing are important.

Movnat Mod

I am looking forward to increasing my training in natural movement. One of my Summer projects is to install monkey bars and other climbing structures in our backyard. It will be great for working out, but most importantly, having fun.  As we can see, the natural movement principles can be useful in more than just physical techniques. We can make use of them in every day life, to make our lives better, more efficient. I recommend putting some natural movement training into your workouts, but at the very least, use them every day in your hobbies,work, and relationships.

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