Functional movement is the ability to move around freely to perform everyday tasks. It partners moblity, stability and flexibility. In dynamic movement like walking, running the changes from stability to mobility between adjacent joints occur quickly. Flexibility helps to improve the range of movement appropriate to the everyday task.
Sprinters – in one “package” , covers so many important aspects of mobility, stability and flexibility. Primarily, we move the ankle, knee and hip through a range of motion that helps us understand that our joints as well as our supporting muscles and ligaments are individual to us:
- establishes good foot placement
- ensures that the knee tracks over the foot
- the above both help us to activate the quads evenly (really important)
- Activates the hamstring of the front leg and lengthens the hamstring and the muscles of the lower back leg
- lifting the body uses core stabilty – or else we would not be able to lift
During human walking, the muscles, tendons and other biological tissues of the lower limb perform work at/about the hip, knee and ankle joints, and in the feet.
The previous blogs show the heel strike, rotation and push off from the toes in walking. A circular 3 point transfer and absorption of load. Running differs in that the first strike is futher forward and the load on muscles and bone is greater :
Look at how cleverly Sprinters works on both walking and running.
The photo shows the starting point. Movement is generated entirely from the feet as the spine is lifted and the body adjusts to load. When we first practice Sprinters we tend to “rein ourselves in” because it is new to us. Thus we notice things for the first time:
- unable to keep the front heel down? – move the front foot forward a bit.
- Hard to flex the toes of the back foot/ they are killing you? – Prop the kneeling knee on a block or cushion.
- the front knee caves in when we try to lift the body?- plant the outside of the front foot to provide stability. Look at illustration above. (Little toe helps, thus my toe challenge)
- chin lifts as as we lift the spine because we can’t relax the upper body and or – because we can’t fully place the feet – turn the hands palm up and rest on the floor (this helps to relax the shoulders and the neck) ***
- can’t lift the body over the front thigh – perhaps lacking the strength at the beginning. Plant the front foot for stabiity (see above illustration) and rock the kneeling knee up and back a few times to prep the body for “lift off”. Out breath helps. It will happen.
- back foot doesn’t flatten to the ground – lengthen the back leg as far as you can without forcing. Forcing may cause you to tweak the knee of the back leg if you over stress the muscles and ligaments.
Modification is the key. It is only by modifying and noticing when and how to make the movement more comfortable that you can begin to answer some of the above questions. This is when your teacher would help you in class – with a suggestion, a prop, with reassurance. In sprinters we are shifting load from the floor up. Strength and stability helps us to plant the front foot, to keep the knee aligned over the foot but the way we can truly understand how to manage this load transfer comfortably is to to stop, investigate, repeat – to retrain the body when fluidity of movement breaks down
** Relaxing over the front leg and turning the palms up is an interesting modification. No-one has asked my why but it is because when the palms turn up, the shoulders rotate outward and the chest opens (helpful if you feel a bit “scrunched up ” ). The cervical spine, in response, lengthens slightly and it directs our eyes forward. You may notice this more when sitting and breathing or in meditation. In Sprinters you are relaxing your head and your neck, so the eyes can gaze down and soften. This should help you to keep your chin relaxed and switch off the strong extensor muscles of the neck.
Sprinters is a great gift from Pete Blackaby – it is a “narrative” of movement that we can immerse ourselves in. I am forever grateful for Pete’s generous sharing of his work and research. Others , I have linked others who work on movement in a slightly different way are Jonathan Fitzgordon, Susi Hately , Katy Bowman and Dean Somerset. Dean Somerset’s site is entitled “Old School Movement with a New Age Twist”, which marks his move from focus upon strength to an increased awareness of functional mobility in strength training. The approach in our yoga is to set an intention – listen to our nervous system – so that through heightened appreciation of our individual movement we can make long-lasting changes.
So many of my blogs make mention of sprinters, here just a few:
It is worth repeating that the key to injury prevention is recognizing our boundaries. Modification means more than using a yoga block or brick. It involves taking a step back, reducing effort so that understanding and re-wiring truly happen. There is nothing wrong with practising a Warrior 1, for example ,with the feet further apart – although I would insist on both feet facing forward – if you can maintain length at the back of the waist and maintain good foot placement as well. Nothing wrong with practising more quickly than I might teach – as long as you can sense when part of your body is not handling excess load – knee caves in
Be aware that shifting load in the body can create problems. Increased lumbar lordosis in wide leg lunges; sudden shifts of load in fast paced transitions, for example. Mobilization is so important – mobilization of the respiratory muscles at the beginning of a session; the dreaded” toe/foot moves; sprinters; side lying shoulder mobilization etc.
If Sprinters is largely about mobility and stability , what would you move into after Sprinters? How might you prepare to do Sprinters?
Don’t hesitate to contact your yoga teacher for help and advice.