“Here we are – a group of middle-class, middle-aged women, CRAWLING around the room!” said a student in class recently. It’s true that we often practise crawling and other developmental movement patterns in my classes. The reason we practise the patterns is both to make asana easier to do and everyday movement easier to do. If we move with more ease, then we’ll have more energy for the tasks of our everyday lives and for having fun! There are also some effects of embodying the patterns that manifest at a deeper level, which I describe later.
Immediately after practising crawling, feedback from my students included feeling ‘dynamic‘ and that a lengthy balancing sequence was easier to do. Later that day, feedback included feeling ‘lively and more grounded’, ‘more centred‘,
You may be wondering what developmental movement patterns are and why we need to practise them as adults? Ideally we’ll have integrated, or inhibited, movement patterns and primitive reflexes, in the first year of our lives. But sometimes little pieces of our development get missed out. This could happen for a number of reasons: for example, as babies we weren’t allowed the environment we needed for optimal movement development; we may have had a genetic pre-disposition to move in an inefficient way; or we may have been sick at a certain point in our development. If pieces of our development have been missed out, or not fully integrated, that can affect how easily we’re able to move, learn, coordinate and be in relationship as adults.
In the following video I’m demonstrating some aspects of the developmental movement patterns we practise in class:
MOVEMENT FROM CENTRE The first pattern in the video is navel radiation/movement from centre. As an adult, these are some of the benefits you might gain from practice:
1. Feel energy and the breath travel more readily through your body in asana.
2. Gain an inner reference for movement in asana.
3. Learn to connect with your natural impulses to move.
4. Connect with your subconscious mind.
5. Develop a clearer sense of your boundaries and a feeling of wholeness.
6. Develop an ability to get in touch with your emotions in the moment.
These are some of the things Amanda’s students have said after practising movement from centre explorations :
‘it made my asana more centred and organic’. ‘I felt so fluid – everything was possible in body and mind’. ‘I feel wholesome’.
More on moving from centre / navel radiation and gaining healthier alignment in asana.
YIELD AND PUSH is the second pattern that I demonstrate in the video. In this instance, it’s from the lower limbs but equally it could be from the upper limbs. In the video it may look just like moving from centre but in fact I’m aiming to feel a push from my feet, through my legs and then through the rest of my body. I changed the phase of the breath to try to achieve this – opening out and pushing from my feet on an exhalation.
Benefits of practising yield and push:
1. Breath movement is supported.
2. Gain the ability to fluidly rebound in movement.
3. Let go of stiff, disconnected, mechanical movement.
3. Healthier joints through finding clear conduits of force through the body e.g elbows, knees, shoulders, spine.
4. Embody the ability to set boundaries, push away from what we don’t want – say ‘no’.
5. Embody the ability to stand on our own two feet.
The third movement I demonstrate in the video involves beginning in a supine position – lengthening / extending one side of the body and shortening / flexing the other, then transitioning to the other side. In class I call this movement ‘New Moon’.
HAND TO MOUTH From New Moon I move on to practise Hand to Mouth which is a homolateral pattern. One side of my spine shortens, I bend my knee and elbow and bring my face to my hand on the shortened side. The other side of my body remains extended. Then I simultaneously change sides.
ASYMMETRIC TONIC NECK REFLEX From Hand to Mouth – I turn my head and look at the hand on my extended side. The movement is the same as Hand to Mouth but with gaze to the hand on the extended side rather than mouth to hand on flexed side. This is called Asymmetric Tonic Neck reflex – ATNR. The movement underlies the ability to belly crawl, and then to crawl on all fours. It also underlies the ability to coordinate and balance well. If you play tennis, imagine what position your body would need to take in order to serve – do you notice any familiarity with ATNR?
SPIRAL The next movement I make is a Spiral. This is a popular exercise in my classes – generally my students feel more lively and awake afterwards. But there are one or two who find it disorientating or dizzy-making.
More on practising spirals
HOMOLATERAL crawling – mentioned at the beginning of this blog – is my next movement in the video. It’s easiest on a slippery floor – the floor in my studio sticks a bit. When we practise this in class, we can soon see why babies get tired from crawling in this way and need a nap!
Hand to Mouth, ATNR and Homolateral crawling are all homolateral movements.
Benefits of practising Homolateral patterns might include:
1. Improved coordination and balance.
2. The ability to negotiate and let go of fixed standpoints in relationships.
3. And ‘What a waist workout!‘ exclaimed my students after practising the three patterns.
CONTRALATERAL Then I move on to a more sophisticated crawling movement – Contralateral. This pattern underlies normal walking and running.
INCHWORM – Spinal Push This movement is a more primitive pattern than the homolateral and contralateral ones. It involves sequential movement initiated from the soft, underside of the body. Practise this and ‘core strength’ will gain a whole new meaning to you!
More on inchworm and core support.
SEQUENTIAL MOVEMENT THROUGH SPINE – Head to tail / tail to head I then move on to explore the transition of sequential, spinal movement between Downward Facing Dog and Plank. In class we often practise this movement as a warm up.
Benefits of practising spinal movements:
1. Bring a more fluid quality to the spine in movement.
2. Bring awareness to places in the spine where there feels to be less movement – there may be places where the vertebrae feel to be ‘clumping together’ .
3. Differentiation of the vertebrae for a healthier spine.
REACH AND PULL Finally I’m playing on a gym ball – first I aim to feel the yield and push from my feet and then the yield into my hands. Then the push from my hands back to my feet again. This exploration leads towards ‘reaching’. As I reach forwards with my upper limbs and into my hands, I find a lighter quality. The same happens as I reach back through my lower limbs and feet. In these instances I’m practising a homologous version of the Reach and Pull pattern – symmetrical movement.
Benefits of practising Reaching:
1. Embody how to move towards what/who we desire.
2. Embody how to move towards what we’re curious about.
3. The reach from hands and arms is just what we need to initiate a warm, satisfying encompassing hug!
I hope you have fun practising the patterns and enjoy Happy Hugging! 🙂