By Danny Clark, MovNat Performance Director & Master Instructor
“Mobility” is a potent concept. Once understood and ingrained into a simple practice, it has the potential to profoundly alter and enrich the course of your life. Mobility gives you the power to feel capable and confident. It grants you a longer, better feeling life. In short, it makes you feel FREE. And, the great news is improved mobility is something that is accessible to all, no matter your starting point.
The path to improving mobility can also be full of traps, but it doesn’t have to be that way. With a solid understanding of how to approach building a sensible practice, you can avoid the common pitfalls and dead ends. This article is going to help you navigate the waters, avoid the eddies that can lead to stagnation, dodge the obstacles that can lead to injury, and make starting your journey to a better life as smooth as possible.
For starters, we need to understand what “mobility” is. At MovNat, we agree with the Oxford Dictionary definition:
The ability to move or be moved freely and easily
In our curriculum, we also break down mobility into a trifecta of 3 aspects:
In order to make your path to better mobility as easy as possible, I’m going to guide you through three key principles. Then, I’ll offer you actionable steps to make your mobility practice flow naturally.
Principle 1 – You are designed to move naturally.
The first step to becoming more mobile is to acknowledge that you are made to move naturally. From an evolutionary perspective, your body and brain have been shaped to execute practical natural movement tasks, such as squatting deeply to build fires, walking long distances to gather food, lifting and carrying objects of value, etc. When you practice the natural movements that honor the form and function created by eons of evolutionary processes (even if its in the comfort of your home), your range of motion, motor control, and coordination improve together. And when your mobility gets closer to its natural state, movement feels easy and enjoyable, as it was meant to be.
With this in mind, we at MovNat see the root of modern mobility issues as deficits in various natural movement aptitudes. For example, we often see “tight hips” show up as an inability to perform a Side Bent Sit Reverse and/or Deep Squat with ease. We often see unstable or weak shoulders as lacking the ability to Inverted Crawl, Overhead Press, and Dead Hang easily.
More often than not, focusing on the specific practical and natural tasks that limit you will help you build better mobility most effectively and time efficiently.
- Navigating complex, natural terrain is how we evolved.
- Your body and mind works most optimally when you can perform diverse natural tasks with grace.
Avoid these traps:
- Too much sedentary time.
- Too much time just doing one or a few natural tasks, such as sitting or lifting.
- Too many unnatural tasks that move your joints in ways they weren’t designed.
- Isolated work on one joint without integrating it into a natural task.
- Focusing on just one aspect of mobility, such as flexibility, without ensuring the others aspects are in check.
Principle 2 – Mobility starts with ground movement.
A few simple questions:
Can you sit comfortably on the ground?
Can you sit in more than 2 ways on the ground, and for prolonged amounts of time without discomfort?
Can you kneel?
Can you squat all the way down to a resting position?
Can you get up and down from the ground in a few different ways? How about without using your hands?
Do all of the above feel effortless and smooth?
If you said “no” to any of the above, think back to when you were younger. Would you have performed differently back then? When you were a developing toddler, you were incredibly flexible, durable, and willing to move to meet nearly any demand. Except maybe when you were throwing a tantrum, you held no unnecessary muscular tension and you breathed in a natural rhythm. You sat on the ground, played on your belly, crawled to get things, and got up and down off the floor countless times throughout the day.
As adults, we acquire unnatural lifestyle rhythms (such as sitting at a desk for 8 hours), and as a result, we breathe shallowly, carry chronic tension, and struggle with moving at ground level. So, it’s for these reasons that we start improving mobility with educating ourselves on how to be younger. We learn how to breathe and release excess tension, as well as reacquaint ourselves with simple ground movements such as sitting, kneeling, and making simple transitions between them.
- Restoring mobility starts with relearning how to breathe and execute simple ground movements.
- Releasing the the excess tension you carry creates a better base for effortless movement.
- Starting with advanced movements.
- Trying to release tension forcefully instead of practicing gentle movements.
Principle 3 – Practice slowly and mindfully.
Principle #2 highlighted the idea that practicing mobility is a learning process. As such, you improve fastest by becoming aware of how you move, both during practice and in your daily tasks. Hypothetically, you could be practicing all the right movements, yet still be rushing or just going through the motions to avoid confronting the aspects of each movement that are more challenging for you.
At MovNat, we have a saying “Speed hides inefficiencies.”
By slowing down and paying attention to the sensations you feel while moving, you give yourself the chance to figure out what limits you. For example, when you do the Side Bent Sit Reverse, do you move quickly through the middle of the movement because it feels “ratchety” or throws you off balance? During a Tripod Transition, can you go super slow as you transition from sitting to the crawl position? If not, it’s time to slow down even more and practice whichever of the three aspects that limits you most.
Another common saying in the martial arts world is “Slow is smooth and smooth is fast.”
In other words, moving slowly allows you to iron out the issues that help you move with more fluidity. In turn, moving with more smoothness allows you to move faster with less effort. Since the ultimate goal of practicing mobility is to make movement more effortless, it’s important to start on the right foot by slowing down and becoming fully engaged in the learning process.
For movements that feel inaccessible, it’s important to use bolsters or other supports to make the movements doable. For movements that are static (ie, don’t require movement, such as Long Sit), adding natural movements such as reaching in different directions can make improving the position more effective.
- Slow down your movements and become aware of the sensations you feel.
- Figure out which of the 3 aspects of mobility limits you (see diagram above).
- Practice, and over time the movement will become smoother and more effortless.
- Focusing on quantity (such as repetitions or time) instead of quality (smoothness).
- Ignoring or tuning out the sensations you feel.
How to integrate these principles into a mobility practice
MovNat’s curriculum organizes the practice of Natural Movement into a progressive learning sequence, starting with ground movement. This model is weaved all throughout the MovNat curriculum, and is taught in-depth in our Certification Program.
Trying out some of the ground movements in our YouTube library would be a good way to start familiarizing yourself with them: MovNat Natural Movement Library on Youtube. From there, setting aside 5-10 minutes each day to get on the ground and practice them would be a simple recipe for steady progress.
Also, here are some short follow along videos that can get you started:
Note: we will be releasing Part 2 of this restoration series very soon!
Note: Check out the rest of this video series on our MovNat For Mobility page.
Finally, you can check out this additional guide with 7 Natural Movements To Loosen Up And Improve Your Mobility & Fitness.
The incredible thing about mobility is it’s a practice that builds on itself, and can lead to acquiring abilities you previously may have thought weren’t possible. Stay tuned for our upcoming follow along e-course on Mobility, to be released in early February.
Build Your Movement & Mobility From The Ground Up, and Give Your Body the Freedom to Move Well for a Lifetime
MovNat Mobility is a revolutionary four-week program built with simple, practical, natural movements that can be applied to your everyday life.
Whether you want to propel your Natural Movement® practice to the next level, learn the tools to help guide your clients, or start exploring the benefits of Natural Movement® for the very first time – this e-course is perfect for you!