My priorities when it comes to my movement practice is a threefold path:
Restore balance & relieve abnormal pain
Build flexible, strong, and resilient joints
Develop movement competence & athleticism
This threefold path reflects a hierarchy of priorities. Thinking in this way is a strategic way to approach our movement practice. We can work on all three folds at the same time, but the proportion of our practice spent on each fold depends on the condition and needs of our bodies. Each fold represents a different priority:
A Restorative Focus
A Foundational Focus
An Athletic Focus
Finding The Right Proportions:
Depending on what we need to work on, our focus should lie mostly in one of these folds, however, that doesn't mean that we shouldn't be focusing some energy on the other folds. It's just a matter of building our training regimen in a way that reflects our priorities and changes as we progress.
Here's an example: If we suffer from abnormal pain, tension, or structural misalignment, our top priority should be relieving those restrictions by focusing most of our effort on approaches with a restorative focus and a some attention paid to foundational training, and just a bit of focus on athletic training.
It will probably be appropriate to focus some effort on the foundational stage, and even on the athletic stage, but in such a case, the majority on one's practice should be restorative exercise, complemented by foundational work to improve the function of the joints.
Athletic development at this stage should be more focused on technique than conditioning, and movements that aggravate one's limitations should be omitted for the time being. This means, someone with knee pain, might want to focus on self-treatment, and developing functional flexibility in those joints, while avoiding athletic skills that put stress on the knees for the time being.
Focusing some effort on athletic skills such as climbing, that won't aggravate the knees would be a good idea, but they should probably take a break from running and jumping until their situation changes. That said, the proportions of how much time they spend on athletics should be dwarfed by how much time they are devoting to restorative work.
A Restorative Focus
A restorative focus is required when we suffer from some kind of abnormal pain or tension, or structural misalignment. If we neglect this fold, and focus on athletic training or foundational work without addressing the underlying problems, we will just be inclined to develop deep compensations that lead to deeper imbalances.
In my practice, self-Shiatsu, and Sotai movement therapy are restorative practices. Shiatsu involves palpation, or application of pressure with the hands to the body to relieve pain and tension, and Sotai is a method that involves slow active movement of the body synchronized with the breathing in order to recalibrate the nervous system and realign the structure.
There are countless modalities that fit into the fold of a restorative focus. Some kind of palpation like Shiatsu or massage, and some kind of therapeutic active movement like Sotai or Feldenkrais method, are needed to complete a good restorative program. I have been practicing and teaching Sotai and Shiatsu professionally for nearly two decades. I feel like these methods are more deeply effective than most comparable approaches due to their consolidation of both eastern and western medical principles. That said, it's not the only way to meet the need for a restorative aspect of training.
A Foundational Focus
A foundational focus is required when we don't suffer from any pain or strain, but our joints are stiff and/or weak. If we don't have the range of motion to support athletic performance, correct technique is impossible, and the likelihood of incurring injury is high.
In my practice, the Meridian Stretches, which was developed by the founder of my style of Shiatsu, is one of the things that meet the characteristics of a focus on building our foundation. This stage is also where the foundational skills of Natural Movement training come in to play. Ground movements like sitting transitions, crawling, and getting up and down from the ground, as well as hanging for shoulder health, and balancing skills are important parts about building our foundation. Standing and the way we shift our weight and walk are also foundational.
There are many practices that focus on one or two elements of a foundational focus, such as Yoga, or Functional Range Conditioning, but most of these methods leave out some very important elements of building a foundation. So if you really enjoy your yoga practice, you probably don't need to focus that much extra time on ground movement and balancing, but you'll probably want to supplement with some hanging and a few practical movement patterns.
An Athletic Focus
An athletic focus is where we build our capacity for greater physical competence, skillful movement, and real-world fitness that enhances our ability to move and navigate our environment. Based on how our ancestors moved throughout the day, we can get a good idea of what types of movement we need to stimulate the most, which need moderate stimulation, and which need minimal stimulation.
The highest priority athletic skills for humans include running, jumping, and carrying heavy things. We would do these things quite a bit every day just navigating our environment. The next highest priority are throwing, climbing, lifting heavy things from the ground, and swimming, we would do these opportunistically and not always every day. The lowest priority skills would be fighting skills like grappling and striking, which were vital, none-the-less, but not something we had to do very often until much more recently in the existence of our species.
This means if your exercise consists entirely of going to the gym, lifting weights, doing chin ups, and running on a treadmill, you have a lot of supplementary training to integrate. You should be doing more carrying that lifting, more jumping than chin ups, and running on a treadmill is great "cardio", but it's not really the same thing as running. (read Katy Bowman's Move Your DNA to learn more about that.) Training our athleticism in this way creates a stimulus that is relevant to our biological needs, and throwing off those proportions leads to imbalances and deeper problems.
MovNat Natural Movement is the perfect system for developing and unlocking the full spectrum of biologically appropriate human movement patterns, and my approach prioritizes the proportion of those skills to even more deeply reflect the movements of our ancestors, releasing us from the imbalances caused by our inescapable modern conveniences.
Why Do We Train?:
Natural Mobility is about relieving pain & tension; developing strong, resilient joints, practical flexibility; and honing greater efficiency in natural movement patterns so that we can reclaim our birthright to use our bodies the way that nature intended, and to our greatest potential.
We live in a society that has removed us from our natural environment as human beings. On an evolutionary scale, we haven't spent nearly enough time in this relatively new way of life to be able to make the appropriate adaptations. When we look at indigenous societies that live as their ancestors do, there are certain natural movements that are performed many times per day. The most predominant movements in this regard are transitioning between floor-sitting positions, getting up and down from the ground, standing, walking, and carrying things. Other movement skills are important, but without these key movement patterns, our bodies create strange patterns that distort the alignment and balance of tension in our bodies. The vision of Natural Mobility is to inspire a paradigm shift in how you take care of your body. You should be able to move freely, interface with your environment with confidence, and feel healthy and happy in your body. There is a transformation of mindset that must occur, and this comes with learning the tools that allow you to take control of your health and well-being. Drawing from nearly two decades of professional experience in the healing arts, martial arts, and the pursuit of natural fitness, Alex is devoted to helping people learn about their bodies and how to maintain health and balance in our modern world. Our bodies should support what we want to do with them. If we're suffering from abnormal pain, tension and misalignment, that starts with restorative movement. If we're feeling fine, but our bodies lack strength and stability, it starts with developing natural strength and flexibility to lay a strong foundation and prevent injury. Once a strong foundation has been established, our training can begin to explore more athletic movement patterns like Parkour skills, lifting and carrying, aquatics and combative skills. Not everyone will be interested in getting deep into all of these categories, but the point is to create the capacity for our bodies to support what we want to use them for.