Try this out: Sit down on the floor. Now, get back on your feet without using your hands in any way (even bracing yourself on your knee). Can’t do it? Okay, starting from a standing position again, get down to sitting on the floor without using your hands. Impossible? These movements are simple mobility exercises that many people in their 20s can not manage. This is a product of how unaccustomed modern people have become to moving their bodies in a functional way and less about athleticism. In fact, it’s not an athletic move at all, it’s a basic movement all humans should be able to do. My Tai Chi teacher would say the inability to get yourself off the floor without an elaborate ritual of grabbing, hoisting and heaving is a sign your body is aging at a rapid rate.
Living longer is not living better.
While modern medicine has increased the length of time people are living, the quality of life has declined. The rise of diseases such as obesity, diabetes and other degenerative conditions have muddled the joyful living we could be experiencing.
Changes are inevitable. The seasons change, the Earth changes, our bodies change with time and experiences. However, this doesn’t mean our health must sharply decline in an unstoppable linear fashion until we leave our body.
I think most people can agree that being able to comfortably complete their activities of daily living, including washing, cooking, cleaning, walking, sitting, standing, squatting, and taking care of children, pets, or other dependents is invaluable. In other words, being mobile is the crucial foundation to quality of life.
Maintaining mobility, or achieving mobility after you’ve lost some can be accomplished.
It doesn’t require going to the gym 5 days a week, running endless miles, or even “working out” in the modern sense. All it requires is a little time each day, devoted to moving your body in functional ways, for optimum mobility.
Before practicing Tai Chi, we always open the joints. The aphorism in Chinese Medicine is: The hinge of the door that opens and closes everyday never rusts. This saying is referring to the joints in the body. If we can oil the joints with movement each day, we begin to utilize muscles in a functional, dynamic way and we increase mobility. This series is mentioned in the previous blog Movement Is Life and the direct video link can be found here.
This well known pragmatism in the East is making its’ way West in the recent surge in functional movement as a science, practice and way of life. Books such as Dynamic Aging and Move Your DNA are showing movement educators leaving dogmatic systems and expounding upon the late-breaking news: moving the body in functional, natural ways is essential for living a long, healthy life.
Our bodies were meant to move in the planes of motion that are required for activities of daily living. These days, between electronics, the internet, and products being designed for ultimate comfort and support, you have to work to move in the ways your body expects you to. The aforementioned books, are great starting resources. In addition, I recommend the free resource of YouTube for wonderful series from MovNat. There’s something for every level of fitness from MovNat, feel free to start here with a 4 week series on basic mobility. There is also an inexpensive program with mobility workouts of the day from personal trainer Kelly Starrett, who believes “every human should be able to perform basic maintenance on themselves”.
Locally, right here in sweet Walla Walla, our own Julie Baron is teaching Tai Chi Sunday mornings 7am-8am at Revolver Yoga Studio at 4 S. 4th Ave.
You can work on mobility at any age, and I encourage you to start now. Even if you already have a great fitness routine, I think you’ll notice the pleasant surprise of faster recovery, and even gains in your strength and power from being able to move more fully through different planes of motion. Most importantly, regular investment in your mobility goes a long way toward vitality and a higher quality of life.