Do you struggle with tightness and general immobility? Want to use natural movements to become more fit and flexible? Check out today’s Q+A with someone who asked us: “Hi, I’ve always been really tight – could never touch my toes and just generally feel like I’m all wound up most of the time. Any tips on how to get more flexible?”
There are many excellent methods for increasing mobility and flexibility. At MovNat, instead of merely using range of motion drills, exercises, and warmups, we also emphasize practical, natural movements that improve fitness naturally – including mobility, flexibility, and just as important, stability.
While we do incorporate many basic range of motion drills and also natural movements most people would label “stretching,” our primary approach to improving mobility and flexibility is through a systematic and progressive Ground Movement practice. More specifically, learning to become comfortable and capable in various ground positions and transitions. Things like sitting on the ground, reaching in different directions, getting comfortable and breathing deeply into different positions (e.g. squatting, kneeling, rocking, etc.), among others.
While Ground Movement is the foundation, many other natural movements provide mobility and flexibility benefits as well. For example, hanging or gently swinging from an overhead surface (e.g. tree branch or pull-up bar) can be a great way to mobilize and strengthen the shoulders and surrounding tissues. So, a complete Natural Movement practice that includes the full spectrum of natural human movements will go a long way to improve and maintain optimal mobility and flexibility.
The key is that you get started and challenge yourself at an appropriate level, without forcing things or going too hard, too soon. So, here are seven natural movements to help you loosen up and improve your mobility naturally.
Even though sitting is often portrayed as damaging to the human body, it’s actually quite restorative when you do it right. Part of that includes using proper posture and sitting in a variety of ways, instead of only ever sitting in chairs. Here are some ways to optimize your sitting positions so that this activity builds you up, instead of breaking you down.
Keep in mind that sitting is just one of many Ground Movements. And a lot of the benefits happens not just in the positions, but between the positions, too. So, feel free to explore the many ground positions and transitions. You can find many examples in our MovNat Movement Library and also in The Practice of Natural Movement book.
While you’re exploring the many sitting positions (along with kneeling, squatting, etc.), you can try reaching in many different directions: forward, backward, overhead, to the side, etc. Try to imagine really reaching for something that is just too far away to grasp. Pay attention to your breathing, making sure that you’re able to breath in a relaxed manner (no breath holding!). Here are some examples…
Rocking from the Knee Hand position is a great way to improve the mobility and flexibility of the hips, knees, ankles, and surrounding tissues. Move slowly, and explore different variations of the basic position (e.g. knees wide vs narrow, feet flexed vs toes pointed, etc.), being mindful of your spinal position.
Not only is rolling useful for changing your orientation while lying down, it’s also an excellent movement for mobilizing the hips, shoulders, and spine. And it feels really good, too. There are many variations of rolling. The Side Roll demonstrated below can be initiated with the arms or legs. Here is the arm version…
Remember, MovNat is not just a collection of natural movements. It’s a system for developing real world fitness and capability. So, keep in mind that many of these movements can be deconstructed, slowed down, or held as a deeper stretch, as is taught in this video…
5. Stepping Under & Over
Simple, practical, and surprisingly challenging for many people. When you’re stepping under, try to get as low as you can while maintaining a neutral, lengthened spine. While stepping over, try to raise your leg as high as you can while maintaining a neutral spine.
If you have tight shoulders, hanging can be a great way to restore optimal function. You can hang with a forward or sideways orientation, with your scapular shoulders loose or stabilized (e.g. pulled down, AKA “packed”). You can even swing a little bit for an extra stimulus. Some people find overhead ranges of motion to be quite difficult and even painful. So, if there is any pain (with ANY of these movements), it’s probably best to avoid those as you figure out the root of the problem.
Note: Here are 13 Ways to Hang From Your Arms For Better Climbing & Upper Body Conditioning.
Swinging movements are also an excellent way to build off the basic hangs to further improve the mobility of the shoulders, like this Side Swing Traverse…
7. Deep Breathing
What should you be doing during ALL of these movements? Breathing! But not just any breathing. Mindful breathing. Deep breathing. Intentional breathing to help you loosen up.
MovNat Performance Director, Danny Clark, says, “Deep, controlled breathing is essential to movement performance and efficiency, and it pays out great dividends once mastered…proper breathing supports mindfulness, relaxation, and movement efficiency. It also reinforces the perception of proper posture, helps the body to relax… improper breathing will cause the body to create unnecessary tension that competes with our attention and limits our performance…At MovNat, we teach that the breath should be trained both independently and through movement. Starting with very basic drills while sitting or laying on one’s back, you can focus on breathing deeply into the diaphragm, trying to fill the whole abdomen (i.e. breathing deeply into your belly, ribs, and back). Eventually, the breath can be trained during movements, starting with Ground Movements and positions, then progressing to simple Get Ups and Crawling techniques, and working up from there.”
Whether you are sitting, reaching, hanging, or stepping over/under, paying attention to your breathing can help you relax, loosen up, and yes, even improve your mobility and flexibility. You can learn more about efficient diaphragmatic breathing here: How to Control Your Breathing for Better Physical & Mental Performance.
Keep in mind that most other natural movements have a mobility and flexibility component as well. For example, the Shoulder Crawl isn’t a mobility drill, per se. It’s a supine crawl for staying low on your back and/or getting under something. And yet, the Shoulder Crawl will help mobilize and stabilize your scapular shoulders, and strengthen the surrounding musculature.
Another example is the Side Bent Sit Reverse, which is excellent for improving the mobility, flexibility, and stability of the hips since it involves both internal and external rotation. As your skill, conditioning and mobility improves, this movement can be performed with a load for extra benefits.
Similarly, Hinging can be a great stimulus for lengthening the posterior chain muscles; Kneeling is excellent for the knees and ankles; Squatting is like TLC for your hips; and the Inverted Crawl can be a great shoulder and chest opener.
Suffice to say, every time you practice MovNat, you will likely be improving or maintaining your mobility and flexibility. It’s just built into the movements themselves, and various physiological adaptations are a natural result of practicing them.
Getting started can be as simple as practicing these movements a few times per week as part of a warmup or practice session, to help you wake up in the morning, or relax and unwind after a long day. A few minutes here and there will go a long way.
Remember, if a movement or position is very tight or uncomfortable, don’t force it. Instead, ease your body into the changes you wish to make. Go easy, relax, and don’t forget to breathe!
If you’d like a more structured plan to follow, check out this free MovNat for Mobility Program, which incorporates many of these movements into an 8-week plan.
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!