When working with a client or student we often “prescribe” the regular practice of getting down to and up from the floor. Recently, after receiving this recommendation, a very de-conditioned client curled his lip and plainly asked; “Why?”
“Why,” indeed! Why should we practice getting down to and up from the ground? For some the short answer is (we absolutely do not intend to be sarcastic here): “because you are unable to.” For others; “if you don’t use it... it flies out the window like every other movement skill you stop practicing.” And still others; “it’s good for you.” But we’ll do ya’ one better. In this short blog we’ll attempt to provide the most fundamental reason to maintain a practice of getting down to, and up from, the ground. So here we go:
When you were a baby you experimented with all kinds of movement. Have you ever observed a baby waving her arm in the air, lifting and stomping her feet or flexing and extending her fingers while she lies supine? Usually a baby will visually fixate on these seemingly random movements as if she has made a discovery. As it turns out, those movements, especially the ones a baby makes after the second or third month of life outside the womb, are not so random. They are a willful experimentation with the fundamentals of more complex movements humans execute later in life. So, all those attempts we made to roll over, all that pushing one foot into the ground to lift our hips, all the rocking back and forward while on our hands and knees was a willfull experimentation with movement. In fact, by experimenting with those movements, you were building a movement repertoire. That movement repertoire is like a blueprint for all the positions in which you can place your body and all the ways you can combine movements to execute motor skills. This motor blue print is stored in the basal ganglia in the the middle of your brain. It governs your personal movement style and your ability to execute certain movements without great mental effort. What does all this have to do with getting down on the ground now that we can readily reach most of our world without being on our hands and knees? ...glad you asked!
The answer is “fascial pliability.” Yes, those movements you made as a baby tuned up your nervous system, gave you the strength to lift your head, helped you shape your spine and hips for an upright posture. But all those skills were still useful to you when you could stand and walk. Did you stop getting down on the ground after you learned the upright behaviors of your older counterparts? If you hail from parts of the world that have been even a little westernized, and you were an able bodied kid, you probably remember playing with toy cars while lying on your belly or making your dolls come to life while you sat to play on the floor. Think about the body mechanics you demonstrated in those positions.
When you sat on the floor to play, your hips needed to be fully flexed. Your femurs were either extremely internally or externally rotated. Your spine was likely extended, keeping your torso upright even though your hips were flexed and your legs were tucked under you. From this postition you could easily pop up to stand or easliy move to lying on your belly, propped on your elbows. To position and freely use your joints and limbs this way required pliable connective tissue (fascia). This is a good thing! Pliable fascia allows generous range of motion. The opposite of pliable fascia, sticky and disorganized fascia, traps toxins and inhibits free range of motion.
By the way, any movement or position that exists on your blueprint can dissapear if you don’t continue to use it; therby shrinking your blueprint. You can grow and maintain your blueprint by using movements you’ve practiced and learning new skills.
So now let’s wrap these two ideas together: fascial pliability improves when you maintain and grow your blueprint. Fascia becomes sticky and unpliable when you shrink your blueprint. The good news is that you can recover the models for movements that have fallen off your blueprint by practicing them again. This restores fascial pliability.
Do you see our point? By practicing movements you learned early in life, you can keep your movement repertoire and fascia in good shape. Getting down on the floor is a skill you learned early in life. So take a break from your desk, chair or couch. Get down on the floor. Roll around! Crawl! If you want some help to incorporate natural movement like this into your movement practice call us here at Structural Elements. This type of movement is part of functional training and we are good at teaching it. If you’ve lost the ability to get down on the ground we have some ideas for you too.
Whether you decide to come play with us or work on your own, we invite you to try to remember all the creative ways you moved before your world was lifted to desks, chairs and counters. Do your body a kind favor by practicing the essential skill of getting down to and up from the ground.