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10 simple movements for a healthier lifestyle

Omni Kitts Ferrara, CEO of Yoga Mechanics

We have all heard the old adage, “If you don’t move it, you lose it.” There is great wisdom in these words. Contrary to popular belief, movement among us is on the decline. Generally speaking, most Americans live sedentary lifestyles. Our culture no longer necessitates a wide range of movement. We walk on concrete, level streets. We travel on escalators. We sit in chairs. We shop online. We have our food delivered. We communicate on phones. The list goes on and on. All of this non-movement leads to physical pain, loss of mobility, a decrease in full body strength, and decrease in response time. Even among those of us who make an effort to exercise, that movement still tends to be rather limited. Oftentimes, we practice our favorite moves, which only require a certain, or specific range of motion. The problem with this is that our bodies are still, evolutionarily speaking, “hunter-gatherer” bodies. They have evolved over time in response to the stresses of the environment around them. But, to be optimally healthy, our bodies actually require a full array of movement, in response to a variety of pressures. When we don’t move in a wide variety of ways, we decrease our bodily blood flow, range of motion, strength, and flexibility. In short, when we don’t move optimally, we decrease our bodies’ overall health. So, here are ten full body movements that help stave off that insidious beast called immobility. Do them. Ideally, every day. They are simple, and they will make a difference in how you feel. Full disclosure: you might hate them at first, but stick with them. Ease into them. Pepper them throughout your daily schedule. These movements are rarely required by our cultural environment, but deeply needed to sustain our bodies’ health.

1: Sit on your heels with your toes tucked. If your toe joints fail to give you much movement, alternate the weight being placed on your feet. Do one side at a time and then together. See images 1a and 1b for reference.

2: Stretch your calf muscles. Roll up a blanket and step on it. Step your other foot in front of the blanket. In this position, you force your ankle into dorsiflexion by pointing your toes back towards your shin, and help regain range of motion in your ankles. See image 2 for reference.

3: Turn your feet forward. Why? Because that is how the machinery is meant to be used! Good foundational alignment directly affects your knees and hips. Walk with your feet forward too. See image 3 for reference.

4: Squat. Many times a day, at different heights (see 4a). If this is difficult due to muscle tightness, put a rolled blanket under your heels (see 4b) or use a chair for additional support (see 4c).

5: Bend over with a flat back to lift something and use your hamstrings to lift yourself back up. Image 5a is what to do and image 5b is what to avoid.

6: Sit better. Create more optimal stacking of vertebrae in your spine while sitting (see 6a). Change the way you sit. Don’t use the back of your chair, for instance. Change levels, and sit on a bolster (or, if you don’t have a bolster, roll up a towel or a small pillow) (see 6b), or on the floor (see 6c). See image 6d as reference of what to avoid.

 

7: Breathe and use the breath to tone the muscles around the front and back of your core. Notice: on your inhale, the muscles of your belly/waist should expand (see 7a). When you exhale, they will contract (see 7b). Practice both the release of your muscles and the deep contraction of your muscles.

8: Stand better. Neutralize your pelvis and ribs. This is an important one (and really needs its own blog!). Try to stand in such a way that your pubic bone, hip bones and the bottom of your rib cage all line up in a vertical plane. See image 8a as reference of the correct position and 8b and 8c as the incorrect position.

9: Stretch your arms up and over-head. Straighten your arms. If this is difficult, hook your thumbs. To make this more challenging, combine this movement with those in number 8, and do both at the same time. Need more of a challenge? Hang and hold your body weight. See images 9a and 9b as reference of the correct positions, and 9c and 9d as the incorrect positions.

10: Do Quadruped position. Play here. Move your shoulder blades on and off the back. Extend and flex your spine. Crawl. For more of a challenge, hover your knees off of the ground. See image 10a for reference.

This newsletter piece provides a “taste” of a much deeper, more complex conversation on movement. Here is a great start to begin introducing a more diverse range of movement into your daily routine. These movements help. Pick one and get going!