It All Started With The Hip Hinge (or lack there of)
One day I was watching my friend and colleague teach an outdoor vinyasa yoga class. It was a full class and I kept focusing on one gentleman in the middle of the group. They were doing sun salutations and every time he bent forward he was bending at his waist and not at his hips. It didn’t seem to bother him at all. But it bothered me. Being able to hinge at the hips is a key movement for a healthy body. I felt like I was witnessing an injury in the making — a herniated disc waiting to happen.
I kept thinking there was an opportunity to correct his movement and save his spine. That he needed to be coached to start moving differently. It was in that moment it became crystal clear to me that yoga by itself will not fix movement limitations, nor will it bring people into optimal musculoskeletal alignment.
The man who could not flex his hips properly in the forward bend was one of many examples that I see regularly. We all bring our poor movement habits with us wherever we go, whether we are walking, sitting, working out or doing Yoga. Nine times out of ten we will reinforce those poor habits even when we work out to get “fit” or when we do yoga. And it will never be resolved unless we know how to look out for these things or seek a professional to help us move better.
You might ask: What’s the big deal? We all have asymmetries and movement limitations. The body is meant to compensate for us so we can keep going. If we are not in pain why bother addressing it? Because poor movement habits lead to injury. Correcting and improving movement is a preventative measure meant to maintain our longevity before we wear it out or injure ourselves.
This is why I started incorporating Corrective Exercises and Functional Movement principles into how I teach.
What is functional movement?
The Wikipedia definition for functional movement: movements based on real-world situational biomechanics. They usually involve multi-planar, multi-joint movements which place demand on the body’s core musculature and innervation.
My definition of functional movement: beneficial movements done with whole-body alignment that promote optimal mobility, stability, and longevity. In sum, when it comes to how we move, use it well or lose it. Tweet: When it comes to how we move – Use it Well or Lose IT!
When I mention functional movement I am referring mostly to Gray Cook’s Functional Movement Systems. When I first heard him speak I felt like I came home. He speaks to the heart of my passion for improved movement quality. In addition to creating FMS, he is a Physical Therapist, author, lecturer and strength coach. Everything he says applies to the movement of yoga too. In order to apply the FMS philosophy to how I teach I completed the FMS (Functional Movement Screen) Level 1 Certification. I include FMS Corrective Exercises in my group classes while I use the FMS with private clients. FMS is a quick 10-minute movement screen which reveals compromised movement patterns and asymmetries in the body. If we find any poor movement patterns or asymmetries I then create a customized corrective exercise program to help improve those patterns. For more on FMS go to http://www.functionalmovement.com/fms
To further delve into functional movement I also completed Dr Emily Splichal’s Barefoot RX® training. This one is close to my heart because it’s all about the feet. And the knees. And the hips. And the core. Thanks to my grandfather who was a podiatrist (who I was very close to), I understand how important the feet are. And thanks to him I have always tried to take care of my feet.
Dr Splichal is a Podiatrist with a passion for human movement. Her basic premise is that the root of much of our joint pain and joint dysfunction is due to the fact that our shod feet don’t move like they are designed to and it has a direct effect from the ground up on the rest of our body. All the padding, added heel height and toe squishing from our shoes has desensitized and compromised the joints in our feet. When the foot and ankle joints don’t function properly then other joints up the kinetic chain malfunction too.
Feet have more sensitivity and more nerve endings than our hands. Imagine if you wore gloves with padding all day and tried to get things done like that! Our feet are asleep at the wheel. Barefoot RX® offers cool exercises to wake the feet up, strengthen the intrinsic foot muscles and get us moving in a more integrated way. For more on Barefoot RX® go to http://evidencebasedfitnessacademy.com/brx-certification.html
One of my favorite Gray Cook quotes is, “Move well before you move often” and I want my students to move well before they do yoga often. Again, this is why I incorporate functional movement into my classes. I rotate 5 key sequences that address musculoskeletal balance – Core Strength, Backbends, Balance, Healthy Shoulders and Healthy Hips. I call it Integrated Yoga because my goal is to integrate mind, body, breath, strength, flexibility, mobility and stability. I want the sequences and movements to be useful and beneficial for daily life so that we move in an integrated and functional way.