by Bernd Reicheneder, MovNat Curriculum Manager, Master Instructor & Team Instructor

The human departure from life on the ground

Throughout human history, and the evolution that preceded us, our existence has been intimately intertwined with the ground. We emerged and flourished through a process of evolution that took place “from the ground up.” Approximately 16 million years ago, we departed from our grounded origins, and it took another 250 thousand years for us to become the beings we are today. Unfortunately, in just the past century or so, our lives have become predominantly characterized by sitting comfortably away from the ground. We find ourselves surrounded by tables, chairs, and seated modes of transportation for work, dining, lounging, and commuting. Despite our physiology being finely tuned for practical, social, and playful engagements with the ground, our connection to it has all but disappeared from our everyday lives.

Nowadays, we spend excessive amounts of time in positions that are unnatural and fundamentally shape us in unnatural ways. We conform to the contours of chairs, losing touch with our innate and natural potential to adapt to the sensory richness of the natural environment. As a result, we experience adverse biological changes that give rise to physical and psychological issues. This predicament is commonly referred to as the Mismatch Theory, Evolutionary Discrepancy, or the Evolutionary Trap.

Where do Natural Ground Movements fit into the realm of health?

The four essential factors that contribute to our overall well-being (excluding considerations of the natural environment, community, and spirituality) are: nutrition, movement, breathing, and sleep.

Among these factors, movement and breathing hold great importance, are deeply intertwined and entirely interdependent. Movement relies on breathing, and breathing shapes our movements. Together, they amplify the profound impact of sleep and nutrition, contributing heavily to the opportunity for a perpetual state of holistic well-being.

Many areas of fitness, such as injury prevention, rehabilitation, gymnastics, yoga, and functional fitness, often fall short in delivering these four fundamental health benefits. Considering the immense role it plays in performance, resilience, relaxation, and restoration, it is truly astonishing that breathing has been largely overlooked in most fitness practices and daily living routines, with the exception of yoga. Movement without mindful and proper attention to breathing is an outrageous oversight that fuels stress—an insidious force known to be the root cause of numerous health and well-being issues.

Simultaneously, there currently exists an insatiable craving for attaining an idealized “gym body,” engaging in extraordinary acrobatics, and witnessing otherworldly feats performed by individuals whose actions blur the boundary between cinematic spectacle and reality. However, it is essential to recognize that much of what captivates our attention is nothing more than an alluring illusion, unattainable for the majority of individuals and capable of inflicting harm upon both the physical and psychological realms. 

The escalating sense of alienation from these four crucial aspects progressively renders individuals helpless, culminating in profound and far-reaching health ramifications. It is the inherent simplicity, intricacy, and significance of movement alone that harbors the potential to revolutionize the human condition. When harmoniously united with the art of conscious breathing, it lays the very foundation upon which our most elemental human needs can be met. By embracing these principles, we are granted the opportunity to forge a symbiotic relationship with our physical beings, fostering a healthier, more balanced existence. This is the essence of Natural Ground Movement.

What is Natural Ground Movement?

The foundation of this floor-based movement system lies in a scientific concept known as the Neuro Development Sequence (NDS). The NDS describes the sequential and predictable manner in which movement develops across the globe, from infancy to upright locomotion. It clarifies the intimate connection between movement development and brain development during the critical early years of life.

Breathing serves as the impetus for movement, while movement, in turn, acts as the catalyst for brain development. This symbiotic relationship between breathing and movement begins from the moment of birth and continues to shape our lives, forming the bedrock upon which our physical and cognitive abilities are built. It is through this foundational three-year period that we lay the groundwork, preparing ourselves to traverse life’s challenges with the vigor and agility of Tarzan or Jane.

Natural Ground Movement encompasses an untapped framework that addresses vital aspects of human well-being. These purposeful movements can assume various forms: flowing gently – similarly to a yoga class, having the dynamic intensity of a forward fall, embodying the aesthetic grace of a dancer to the power-packed performance of a workout enthusiast. By engaging in these Natural Ground Movements, we tap into a system that holds profound significance for our overall health and vitality, because physical aspects like Stability, Mobility and Patterns will also nurture those same effects in your mental development.

Moving Well Beyond Restoration

The Pareto principle, known as the 80/20 rule, asserts that long-term success hinges on expending 20% of our energy to yield an 80% benefit. Let’s take a look at a few common fitness/movement modalities. “Prehab” (preventing injuries through proactive measures), while very beneficial, finds itself trapped within the confines of the medical realm. Similarly, traditional fitness practices tend to focus solely on muscle development, while physically demanding sports offer various advantages such as skill-building, playfulness, competition, and community. Unfortunately, the intensity and extrinsic motivation associated with these activities often surpass the acceptable limits and resilience of the majority of individuals, exacerbating the issue(s) further.

Now, imagine if there was a practice that could provide a return on investment of 100% or even more…a practice that could restore our bodies to the condition and skillfulness of a three-year-old!

Enter Natural Ground Movements (NGM) – which encompass four crucial factors:

  • The restoration of movement freedom and competence that children possess but adults have lost. These movements have been an integral part of our existence for hundreds of millions of years. While we tend to focus on bipedal movement, it merely scratches the surface of our inherent ground-moving capabilities.
  • Ground movements not only restore our musculoskeletal system but also impact our brain. According to the Neuro Development Sequence (NDS), these movements play a pivotal role in the first three years of life, and are equally relevant for lifelong neuroplasticity.
  • Breathing, too, originates from the floor. Alongside diet, exercise, and sleep, breathing holds immense significance in determining our overall health and well-being. The restoration of breath awareness, regulation, synchronization, and decoupling can be uniquely linked to Natural Ground Movements.
  • “Flow”, commonly regarded as an optimal state of consciousness where performance and emotions align harmoniously, is often considered a magical experience discussed by athletes, sports enthusiasts and “biohackers”. However, this state of flow is not exclusive to this group of intensely dedicated individuals, but can be accessible to everyone at various levels.

By embracing Natural Ground Movements, we tap into a holistic approach that not only revitalizes our physical bodies but also nurtures our minds, breath, and sense of flow. It is a pathway that offers immense potential for reclaiming our natural abilities and leading healthier, more fulfilled lives.

What does Natural Ground Movement training look like?

Natural Ground Movements transcend the limitations of a confined mat and extend far beyond mere imitation of animal motions. They form the fundamental basis of human movement development. They lay the groundwork for becoming a resilient, unyielding individual or, conversely, if neglected and lost, for succumbing to a life of confinement, challenges, and discomfort.

The stages of positions and movements that a child progresses through—lying, crawling, sitting, kneeling, standing, alongside the basics of climbing and lifting, balancing, and walking—are an inexhaustible treasure of sensory input.  These movement possibilities manifest in the exceptional capabilities we witness in accomplished martial artists, acrobats and dancers. Think of it as owning a set of Lego blocks that, once understood and mastered, allow you to construct anything you desire. Natural Ground Movements can serve as your main course, your appetizer, or your dessert, consistently providing you with the assurance that they are inherently beneficial.

Natural Ground Movements are not monotonous, impractical, and fragmented motions; this system is about recreating the intricate complexity of nature through exploration, feeling, coordination, and the free choice between gentle flows or physically and mentally demanding movement sequences. 

Routines can be tailored to specific joints, while the fusion of movement and breath can be gradually and progressively honed. Strength, coordination, and endurance can be cultivated within structured workouts, while also embracing the softness and relaxation inherent in movement experiences.

Natural Ground Movements encompass the essence of gymnastics, martial arts, and dance, converging into a unified practice.

This basic movement methodology alone, and especially when coupled with conscious breathing, provides a significant portion of our health management toolkit. It is accessible and safe. It encompasses prevention, rehabilitation, fitness, meditation, play, exploration, relaxation, and adaptability to any individual, situation, or environment. Moreover, it extends beyond mere exercise; it is intertwined with the very fabric of our existence as human beings. If you have strayed from this path, Natural Ground Movements provide an evolutionary-proven route to rediscover and realign yourself with your innate potential.

A quick look at the MovNat Natural Ground Movements workshop

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