Getting Ourselves Moving

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Getting ourselves moving

Hello Guys. In this unit I want to share some of my favorite ways to get moving. The more we move throughout the day the better. There are so many little things we can do to improve how we feel, both physically and emotionally. And at the same time develop our confidence, improve our ability to communicate with our horses, and also cultivate habits that make the things we do with our horses more sustainable.

I've been a movement junkie for as long as I can remember. I love watching humans and animals move. Dance was always a fascination even though I couldn't dance a lick! Just before I turned 50 I realized I was in the worst shape of my life. By that I mean I was kind of falling apart. My feet, my knees, shoulders. Long distance hiking was out of the question. It was a major turning point to stand at the top of the White Angel Trail at the Grand Canyon and realize that kind of hike was completely out of reach.

When we go home from that trip a few years ago, I decided I needed to get back in shape. And somehow I hit on this video clip of a news story about elderly folks in UK doing Parkour. I had no idea what Parkour was but watching that clip sent me on a mission. I was floored. Talk about meeting all the requirements for a movement junkie!

Here's the video of seniors doing Parkour. We can all start somewhere!

Parkour as we know it today originated with David Belle. Parkour is a French term that refers to the method the French military learned - to evade capture. The basic principle is conservation of energy used to propel you through your environment in creative ways. You learn how to move through and adapt to your environment at speed. I was intrigued enough to see if there was anyone teaching Parkour in our area. And there was! Vinnie Coryell, who happens to be quite well known in the Parkour world. Really talented guy who trains in part to keep himself strong and healthy - he has Cystic Fibrosis. Vinnie was quite thrilled to take on Steve and I - the only adults in his gym :-) We've been at it once a week for more than a year and I achieved my goal of getting fit again. I think that trail is looking more attainable again!

These days if you look up Parkour videos you're likely to see young men mostly, doing back flips off buildings. David Belle is much more of a purist and he has some videos on Youtube that are pretty incredible. What the human body is capable of! My goodness. Modern Parkour athletes tend to make use of an urban environment (street running). But now there is a movement to get back int nature. Natural Movement and Nutritious Movement are both organizations aimed at adults.

What I've learned is that we do not use our bodies as nature designed them to be used. There is a whole range of movements we are capable of that we just never access. Climbing, crawling, hanging, swinging, rolling and so on.

Recently I decided to dig deeper. I wanted some more basic things that could help me with my weaker areas (those feet, knees and shoulders!)

Enter MovNat and Katy Bowman's Nutritious Movement

Katy Bowman's Nutritious Movement is a godsend. Any of her books are great but a good place to start is Move your DNA. This woman knows her stuff and she has all kinds of things you can do to incorporate movement into your daily life, including things to do while you sit at your desk!

If you feel Katy's work is too basic check out MovNat. They worked with Katy Bowman to design their beginning stuff. This is much closer to the Parkour things I'm learning here in town.

And here's a video I did last year showing some of the basic things we play with in Parkour class. I'll do some video over the next few days sharing some more specific things as I have a better understanding now, but this might give you some ideas. There are still some good things in this video, but my demonstration of quadrupedal motion leaves a lot to be desired so please don’t mimic me. MovNat beginners guide has a great tutorial on the beginning quadrupedal motion.

If you watch the video I posted of me demonstrating things last year, please note that when I demonstrate QM I am not doing it technically correct. I never realized how bad it was until I shot that video, our current parkour instructor never corrected me or taught me correct technique. Don't you just hate that?

Anyway, it's a great example of what not to do.

Before you get all excited and tackle QM, I'm going to shoot some video on this snowy day filling you all in some things you can do to build youself up to doing QM if it interests you. I'll start today with feet, tomorrow I'll add some arms.

Most of us no longer use our arms for weight bearing. Hence our shoulders aren't adapted to that kind of use and we can cause ourselves problems if we don't wake up all the little muscles that need waking up before we can effectively bear weight on them or hang.

Same goes for our feet and legs. We sit a lot and so some of these natural movements get lost to us until we wake them back up.

The movnat page I shared with you has some good info on how to begin QM and here is a video of someone doing all the possible QM movements just so you get a sense of what a human body is capable of doing:

Official videos for this unit:

This first video introduces some basic concepts and gets you started with ‘everyday’ movements you can implement right away:

Alignment, feet, calves

How does getting ourselves moving relate to working with our horses?

I'm so excited to finally be sharing these movement pieces. This is a topic close to my heart! In case you're wondering what getting ourselves moving has to do with this class, here you go...

One of the things I've discovered as I explore this idea of Tango with Horses is that horses instinctively respond to our body language, the way we move, the way we carry ourselves, the emotional content behind our actions. The horses consistently show me that our inconsistency and incongruency are an enormous source of stress for them. Most of us are taught to use tools or aids to cue our horses to do things. These things are only really meaningful to a horse if our body language, energy and intention match the request. Otherwise it's just meaningless noise and they have no choice but to try thing after thing, figuring out what we want by process of elimination.

Imagine what it must be like to have to guess what someone wants, knowing that if you get the wrong answer they are going to up the anty or increase the pressure, or worst case, punish you for getting it wrong? It's crucial for our horse's well being that we learn how to convey our requests with clarity and conviction. And so, by exploring our own movement potential we lay the foundation for building our own confidence, strength and balance control. Really these are all things we focus on building in our horses but rarely in ourselves! 

Following is a link to a video clip of me interacting with Kastani by way of demonstration. Kastani is the first horse I ever started. That was more than 20 years ago and I was still unclear about these concepts but I did have guidance from Mark Rashid on how to start him. Thank goodness! He ended up living with a woman who trail rode him for 8 years, coming back to us a few years ago when she decided to get out of horses. As time permits I started exploring building my relationship with him anew. I was stunned by how much anxiety he expresses, in his own quiet way. So, you all have been practicing resonance and observing your horses - see if you can see/feel what I felt, especially once I got on him for our first little exploration in body language based riding. That was all new to him and you can sure see him listening!

Sitting Movements:

Sitting variations on the floor are an easy way to develop mobility and flexibility in the hips and lower back. Our ability to get down to the floor and back up again are key to maintaining our health, independence as we age and longevity. But aside from the benefits we gain for ourselves, flexible, strong hip joints and a mobile lower back are quite useful when we work with horses - from riding to work in hand to body work. Ground movements also help us develop strength and stability in our shoulder joints and shoulder blades, something I find extremely helpful when I hold the reins, a lead line, do body work or work in hand.

In this first video I go through a wide variety of sitting positions. Please be mindful. Listen to your body and don’t do anything that causes you pain. If you have trouble or can’t figure out how to begin your sitting explorations please touch base and we’ll work together to create progressions and adaptations that work for you.

In this second video I finish up talking about the benefits of practicing sitting on the floor to working with horses and riding.