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How To Get The Most Out Of Your Personal Movement Practice
I know that sooooooo many of us find that the biggest challenge with creating a movement practice is picking and choosing what to work on. There’s so much to do, and it’s all so compelling! Feet are so important, and my shoulders are tight, and my core needs to move and what about WALKING??!! If I’m left to my own devices, I often don’t get the best results because I try to work on everything. That just leaves me discouraged (who has time to do all of that!?) and means I don’t make much progress because I’m always moving on to the next bit.
Instead, I prefer to use these simple guidelines to structure my personal practice. Even though everyone’s practice is going to be different, these simple rules can help you create a plan that will help you nourish your body with better movement – without driving you crazy trying to do it all.
The key is using four basic ‘buckets’. My goal for each day is to get at least a little bit from each of these buckets. I know that over the course of a few days, this means I’ll get a chance to move most of my ‘bits’ – but also that I get focused time to work on my trouble spots.
Practice Bucket #1 Focused correctives.
Focused correctives are the exercises I do to work on my own body ‘stuff’. Right now, that means I’m working on retraining my breath and my deep core to co-ordinate and stabilize more effectively. This is my first priority practice, so I do it first thing in the morning to make absolutely sure it happens every day. I wake up, I meditate, then I make myself a tea and get to work. This takes about 20-30 minutes.
Ask yourself: What are your personal trouble spots? Pick one of these and pick some focused exercises to help you address your issues. Not sure where to start? Most people could really use some foot work. You can try:
- Mobilizing on a ball (instead of rolling).
- Using your hands to mobilize.
- Learn how to lift up each toe all by itself.
- This awesome Yoga Tune Up sequence.
- Some tough strength challenges!
Practice Bucket #2 Movement for the rest of me.
The rest of my body needs some love too! My favorite way to get the rest of me moving is to do a class. Which for me means videos, because there aren’t many people teaching live Restorative Exercise in Toronto! Fortunately I have every single class Katy Bowman has ever recorded, which will keep me busy for a long time.
Learning from another teacher means I do exercises I would never think to pick for myself, and I challenge myself more. On weekends I set aside an hour to do a whole class at once – total luxury! On weekdays, I use classes as breaks from work. 30 minutes on the computer means 5 minutes of moving goodness.
If I have time in the evening before bed, I like to do some gentle releasing, yoga tune up ball rolling, and slow, delicious luxurious neck and shoulder stretching. This doesn’t happen as often as I’d like, but it’s a nice time to get some self-care in when I’m not too sleepy!
Practice Bucket #3 Movement Macronutrients – walking, squatting & hanging.
Walking, squatting and hanging are the movement ‘macronutrients’ that your body needs every single day. For me, the biggest purpose of doing all the exercises in Buckets #1 and #2 are so that my walking, squatting and hanging techniques improve and become better for my body.
These big picture movements are easiest for me to accomplish when I work them into my daily life.
I walk to work and to run errands whenever possible. This easily gets me to my 5-6 mile daily walking goal while I accomplish the other things that need to happen in my life. Usually this means some days are super long – as much as 10 miles – and other days it may only be 2 miles, which is fine.
Squatting is pretty easy to fit in as well – I make sure it’s a movement I use regularly when I’m typing, gardening, cleaning and cooking.
And I’m working on a year-long hanging challenge – my goal is to hang for 7 minutes per arm, every day this year. I’ve had to modify my goal a bit so that it doesn’t include holidays, but it’s been almost two months so far and I’m right on track. I break up my seven minutes into 1-2 minute chunks, and use these as work breaks as well. In fact, I’m going to go hang right now. BRB!
Ask yourself: Can I fit some new movement macronutrition into my day? For most of us, just adding a ten minute walk can make a big difference!
Practice Bucket #4 All day movement.
This is where the lifestyle factors come in. I’ve redesigned my world so that my environment and my habits help me move. This Bucket is great, because it’s the one that takes no extra time to fill!
I start – and continue – with working on my standing and sitting alignment. That means making sure I don’t lean on stuff, keeping my hips over my heels, letting my ribs stay relaxed, and all that good stuff!
We sleep on the floor and sit on the floor, so that means right off the bat that I’m getting bodyweight exercise each time I sit or lie down. Similarly when I’m sitting on the floor, I shift around whenever one position becomes uncomfortable – so I rarely stay in the same spot for more than 5 minutes at a time. I use lots of cushions and bolsters to help me maintain a neutral pelvis and get lots of movement variety.
When I’m working, I’m either standing, squatting or sitting on the floor. If I’m standing at the computer, I move around a lot and fit in lots of brief stretches and exercises. And I take lots of breaks – 20 second eye breaks every 10 minutes or so, and a full 5 minute break every half hour.
I also make sure I have lots of movement equipment easily accessible. There’s a balance beam on my porch (it’s really just a 2”x2”), I have half domes and yoga tune up balls in every room, and I have a couple of rocky surfaces I can stand on. With all that stuff around, it’s really easy to play around with it and add movement without really having to think much.
Ask yourself: Can you think of one thing in your environment you could change to amp up your movement?
These ‘buckets’ are simple but they’re incredibly powerful, especially when you hold yourself accountable. Challenge yourself to doing some daily movement from each bucket for the next 30 days, and see how incredible you feel at the end of it!
Tell me in the comments below about your favourite way to organize your practice! What’s the best way you’ve found to work on your tricky bits but not neglect all the other parts?!
Petra is a movement educator and personal trainer with a passion for helping people find greater ease, joy and health in their bodies. She believes that better movement can help every body - and she's always happy to chat about it. When she's not teaching, you'll probably find her hanging out on a set of monkey bars.