Functional Movement

I use the term frequently.   Essentially it is about training movements not muscles.  It mirrors how the body naturally moves and helps to improve that movement.  

In our yoga classes we focus upon our walking pattern quite a lot.  We flex and extend our toes then balance on our haunches.  By strengthening the arches of the feet and the lower legs, our stability improves.   We then add side bending and rotation as we rock from side to side.  As balance increases, we release alternate knees forward – we mimic our gait pattern.  For some, deep knee bends are not helpful and alternatives can help students notice how much movement they do have.  Whilst still working upon the walking pattern, the nervous system begins to generate solutions to movement restrictions.

It is helpful to identify restrictions in rage of motion so that unique dysfunctions can be isolated and improved.  So – what happens when we have practised Sprinters for a long period of time and knee valgus  continues to cause problems in other activities?   Sprinters helps us to notice and to begin to correct dysfunction in foot – ankle knee-hip alignment.; an integral part of our walking pattern.  If the knee caves in when we practice, the body is compensating for a lack of support.  By pausing, we can begin to connect the dots between safe stable movement in a yoga class and movements performed outside the class .

Related image

Is it best then to pause and to go back to the starting point, in Sprinters for example, or to complete the whole movement and to repeat with real attention on the point at which fluidity of movement broke down? 

Let me know what you think.

If we understand how to organize the foot, ankle, knee and hip when practising Sprinters, we have a global model for rising from and returning to the ground; from a chair; for walking and running. But you know that if you have read:

Sprinters – the challenge? The vote?

Knees need to move

Standing and walking – free the pelvis

I work on the premise that the shape of a pose or completion of the final pose is not always as useful as pausing and noticing.  When I lose touch with my breathing, I know that I have lost touch with my yoga.  This has grown out an 8 week Mindfulness Course and from my teachers but this approach is a bit too stripped down for many in a goal-driven  approach to practice.  It demands a high degree of  patience and to some it probably is as exciting as the Raisin Meditation in Mark William’s Book Mindfulness. A practical guide to Finding Peace In A Frantic World  (p73-75).  

We have to have time to be in the mindset to pause, of course. It’s easy for me to pontificate I know, but we can make time in a class setting  by not rushing to get to the final pose, by not competing.  Whilst we share the commonality of functional human movement, we are all  unique and moving outside out range of comfort usually results in compensation and injury.  This does not mean that you can’t challenge yourself, it means that through intelligent awareness you move better and move more.

If you have time, there is always the chocolate meditation . A little more exciting perhaps?

As is this clip – 3 Knee exercises from the Russian Systema System  which focuses upon breathing, movement, relaxation and posture.   Go to 0.55 seconds in and look at the movement which could be an extension of our rolling from side to side and from head to tail!!!  (Reactions please).  Then go to about 1.35 mins and listen to the presenter’s words about proprioception and where the body is in time and space. 

***Not a suggestion for your weekly practice, rather an interesting comparison with the way we find our feet when we practice tree pose.  We do not lock the knee of the supporting leg (ever) and we often move the free leg around in the hip-joint.  I sometimes ask students to imagine the movement of an oar in  the water. The presenter echoes the  principles that we adhere to:

Relax,. Relax more

Move better. Move more.













4 thoughts on “Functional Movement

  1. Liz – thank you.- sprinters definitely highlighted how misaligned i am on one side particularly, but very helpful in strengthening feet, ankles, calves, knee – the lot. Had a quick listen to the chocolate meditation – shame I don’t particularly like chocolate, but will give it a go with cheese. see you tomorrow. Alison 


  2. Thank you Liz. A lot of stuff to think about here! I haven’t had time to study the clips yet as had daughter and grandson here for a few days then all the family at the weekend…lovely! I think that say in sprinters when I know that my knee is going inwards, it’s best to pause and go over carefully again. With all these movements slowly and carefully is key. Thanks again and see you on Wed eve Jill x

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  3. Grateful for your response Jill.
    I find that I don’t alway notice in Sprinters that my (left) knee collapses a bit. Where I do notice it is in Tree when I try to balance on my left leg. I notice that when I lift the right leg and begin to turn it, I wobble a bit because my left knee has lost it’s moorings and because the arch of my right foot doesn’t support my leg so well. An old injury which does improve but – very slowly.
    Guess that knowing our knees do misbehave at times we can then really use Sprinters to strengthen the blue print in the mind , as well as to strengthen the ankle and, for me, improve the arch support. As I come up in sprinters, I try to lift my arch to remind mysef of this weakness.
    So useful to have a dialolgue. We are all diferent and the stuff we do together leads to different experiences.


  4. Hi Alison – we have chatted about the increased mobility in your feet and ankles, as well as the balancing of your hamstrings, which I think has come about using sprinters, as well as our foot exercises. I also think it’s a result of not holding poses for the sake of it – this does help us to notice things (I think??) – rather than I mentally saying “What the… and When can I come out of this, my hamstrings are killing me?”…and the like.

    Always so useful to share experience and to realize that we are not alone in trying to sort out “wonky bits” : ‘cos none of us is pefect and – if we were we woldn’t be having this interesting exchange. See you soon.


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