Babies are perfect examples of this, as we get to witness movement progression first hand. They come preloaded with some survival skills, such as suckling and grasping (to keep them fed and from falling off mom as she frolics through the wilderness), but every other movement comes in steps. They learn to support their head before they can support their shoulders. They learn to sit up before they stand. They learn to crawl before they can walk. You sure as heck don’t see babies walking, then figuring out crawling, and then wondering why they have knee pain.
Which gets me to my point – we focus too much on the grandiose movements and not enough on the building blocks to get there. Perfecting the nuts and bolts of the movement is what will maintain the ability to do the movement for many years to come.
Take picking up your groceries, for example. To load your tissues, joints, and spine in the most efficient way possible, you must perform a proper squat, (which requires good range of motion in the hips, knees, and ankles) in addition to stabilizing the shoulders before you pick up the bags. What is that? You just hoist the bag from the cart and toss it into your trunk? That’s ok, I do that too, except my scapulae know where they’re supposed to be before I lift, so I don’t have to think about it.
This has not always been the case for me. It’s a daily task keeping the tension in the front of my chest at bay so my posture is not a mess. And it’s not like you have to spend all of your waking hours thinking of what your joints and parts are doing, because to be honest, that would be incredibly boring and exhausting. This is where practice of the finer movements comes in to play.
In Yoga Tune Up(r), we focus on the nuts and bolts of human movement. It is my job to teach my students how to locate their tissues so they can better embody them. In addition to the stretching, releasing, and strengthening of many layers of tissue, we also retrain the nervous system to be a better communicator. To not only down regulate after a long day, but to also repave the neural highways that may have been unused for decades. Take isolation of the big toe, for example. Are you able to lift and lower your big toe, without moving any of the others? Are you able to do this, without allowing your big toe to cross over your second toe? It’s not that you were not designed to do this; you’re just out of practice. Instead of being a well-traveled busy highway, this neural pathway has become a dark, desert highway, and just in need of a repavement ;)
This week in class, we spent time working on spinal rotation in various planes. Those movement blocks were definitely present when I went to the batting cages on Friday night! Side Note – if you are looking for a way to seriously challenge your rotation, go to the batting cages. It requires integration of every single joint in the body to make contact with the ball. Your balance, hand eye coordination, timing, and strength must match precisely to hit the ball. Just like any other skill, the more you practice something, the easier it becomes. But practice doesn’t make perfect, it makes permanent. Which is why mastering the basics is so important before you move on to the larger, total body movements. Well, I guess you could skip all the ground work and just get right to the grad level movement, but your rehab is going to include the basics, so might as well master them now and avoid injury all together!
We must learn to crawl before we walk. Walk (properly) before we run. And squat before we lift!