By Alison Pignolet, Certified Yoga Instructor & MovNat Certified Trainer
How Yoga and MovNat® Fell into My Lap
I was never athletic or “coordinated.” Rather, I was the gangly kid who was enthusiastic about sports but couldn’t really help the team. I took group exercise classes to feel the joy of movement without having my performance measured. So, when I found yoga, it felt like home. Gangly translated to really flexible. I was GOOD at yoga!
So, I became a yoga teacher. Since the beginning, I have gotten extreme joy helping other people fall in love with the practice and come home to their bodies.
Several years ago, I started to realize something was missing. I could do some crazy advanced yoga poses and I thought I was in really good “shape,” but I still had pain and couldn’t get around in the world with ease and fluidity. I remember hiking with my family in Sedona and saying, “you go ahead, I’ll just wait here.” I was daunted by the terrain and the climbing. It was then that I first realized I lacked real world capability.
My journey to more functional movement took me first to Yoga Tune Up® which taught me to translate yoga into fundamental movement principles and add real life context to what I was teaching. I learned that a lot of essentially hyper-mobile humans are attracted to yoga because they perceive they are “good” at it (like me), when in truth what they need is to build strength and motor control in ‘normal’ ranges of motion.
One day a fellow YTU teacher mentioned her love for MovNat. Click! Wait – my “practice” could actually be preparing me to move confidently off my rectangular mat into the real, physical world? I could get stronger by playing out in nature and using my body in the ways it was designed? Whoa.
MovNat’s mobility and movement practices were the missing piece. The movement became practical rather than esoteric. The sense of progress was aimed toward attaining a skill rather than a pose.
It was a comfortable transition – like yoga, MovNat has mats (but they are round – so much more freedom!); there are named positions that you move in and out of and many of those positions are the same; you focus on your breath and bring your mind into your movement; and both can induce a “flow state.” But, while in a yoga class you usually work toward a peak pose that may or may not have any useful purpose off your mat, in MovNat you work toward a skill that has a practical context.
While yoga emphasizes flexibility with some necessary strength, MovNat trains true mobility.
How I Use Yoga and MovNat Separately to Improve My Mobility
In yoga (ie, Modern Postural Yoga*) we tend to equate mobility with flexibility; ie, being able to get “deep” in a pose. Our more dynamic “mobility” training is mostly found in the transitions between poses.
For example: stepping forward from Downward Dog to a Warrior pose. This particular movement is not necessarily functional because it’s a transition between movements that aren’t found in everyday life tasks. To work around most student’s lack of mobility in this movement, it’s typical to add momentum and speed by first lifting the leg in the air and then swinging it forward. In the poses themselves, it’s also a common practice to instruct students into extreme ranges of motion that they can’t yet “own” and then “go deeper” with gravity, time, or external assists.
Oftentimes in yoga our goal is attaining a pose without considering whether it is useful or right for our bodies. For this reason, I use yoga as a tool for unlocking deeper ranges of motion, which is one aspect of mobility.
MovNat approaches mobility as the life skill it is. What do you need to be able to get in and out of a squat? How do you get up and down from the ground? How do you land when you jump or fall? How do you get over or under that obstacle? MovNat also introduces play with hanging, swinging, and climbing. Things we could all do as kids but no more. When you find yourself struggling with a new skill while practicing MovNat you simply slow it down until you can do it with control instead of adding speed to circumvent the weakness.
Therefore, I use the foundational movements found in the MovNat curriculum for improving the other important aspects of mobility: control and coordination (for a more in depth understanding of MovNat’s definition of mobility, see this article: How to Start Building Your Mobility Practice).
How Yoga and MovNat Work Together to Make Me a Stronger Person
While a vinyasa practice is a moving practice – we flow between poses – MovNat is more oriented to moving through the world. Both practices ask us to understand our connection to ourselves and the natural world, albeit from different angles.
Just as MovNat can benefit a yogi who is fundamentally flexible, a yoga practice can benefit a MovNatter who is super strong but might need to add some range of motion. That way, he/she can attain all the aspects of mobility required to move with efficiency, without just “muscling through” the movement.
MovNat and Yoga are very connected and have much overlap. Pretty much ANY position a human body can take could be called a yoga pose (asana), and many of the most commonly practiced are the same as MovNat positions. Sukhasana is Cross Sit, Malasana is Deep Squat, Toe Balance is Deep Knee Bend, Hero is kneeling, Dandasana is Long Sit. We take Bent Long Sit as a preparation for many seated poses, Deep Hip Hinge is very similar to Downward Facing Dog. At some point in yoga, we do all the ground positions and quite a few transitions. Both yoga and MovNat are, at heart, movement practices; both emphasize breath and mindfulness in movement.
Today, MovNat makes my yoga better, and yoga helps my MovNat practice. Yoga teaches equanimity in the face of challenge – and MovNat can be challenging! Through yoga, I know how to stay connected with my breath and bring myself into a state of calm. And now, thanks to MovNat’s movement-centric language, I find myself asking myself and my students to be aware of their “base of support,” their “center of gravity,” and to feel their “body weight shifting” over their “points of support.” We work on Rolling and Get Ups as important life skills to restore.
While I will always love the breath, flow and spiritual uplift of a good vinyasa class, I recognize that many aspects of MPY no longer feel appropriate for my personal practice. My shifts to MovNat (and YTU) have given me the tools to develop my own functionality in terms of how I move. I can still love yoga, but in a way that keeps my body moving with skill and efficiency.
Build Your Movement & Mobility From The Ground Up, and give your body the freedom to move Well for a Lifetime
We’re excited to announce our brand-new e-course, MovNat® Mobility, is NOW AVAILABLE!
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!
Oh, and did we mention it’s on sale? From now until Monday, February 15th, save $75!
*Throughout this article, in general I am referring to the physical practice of modern postural yoga (MPY) and not the vast, overarching spiritual and philosophical underpinnings.