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Movement as Nourishment

movement Apr 07, 2018


Movement. It’s in our nature. 

We used to squat to the ground to forage berries, climb trees to pluck fruits, run from danger and carry our children while walking long distances. We were wild. 

Natural movement (or primal movement) goes back to a time where movement was a way of life, as opposed to a workout. We did not evolve to sit in chairs or cars and stare at screens all day long. We were designed to crawl, walk, run, climb, swing, throw, push, pull, jump, dance and play. 

Nowadays, everything has been made easy. Our environment does not offer as much novelty or complexity, we don’t need to move as much to get through our day. Movement has been replaced by convenience. But at what cost? For the first time ever, the biology of our species is slowly degenerating.

Some days we go without enough movement. Some people go months or years without a single day in which they get enough. But movement is vital to our very existence. “Movement is our birthright” – Annie Adamson. Without movement, our human bodies cannot thrive, or let alone survive. 

Like food, water, sun and air, movement is an essential component of our proper development and wellbeing. It is something that we should be doing all of the time. Movement can be medicine for unbalanced bodies that don’t move enough. It holds the power to heal. But movement is beyond medicine; it is nourishment. Our body needs more than medicine to thrive, it needs nourishment on a daily basis. It’s like saying that a meal is medicine for starvation. It’s not medicine; it’s just food. We need to eat; it’s a biological necessity. It’s the same truth when it comes to movement. We can think of repetitive movement as a nutrient deficiency in our body; fat, protein and carbs is as bad as just thinking strength, cardio, and stretching. There is more to it!

For millions of years, we moved daily as hunter gatherers in the wild. Our abundant and nurturing landscape sustained our ancestors for a long time. And today, some of those natural settings have grown into cities, void of any wilderness. Our modern society does not reflect the primal movement our ancestors performed on a daily basis. Like the water flowing in a stream, our bodies “self organized” in a continuous interaction with a stimulating environment. 

The industrial revolution came with the decrease in movement. Our modern technological world advanced rapidly and left our natural bodies behind. Our biology has not been able to keep up with the demands (or rather lack of demands) forced on it by modernity. Our DNA is still the same as it was in our hunter gatherer days. We are the same human beings we were ten thousand years ago. Human beings that need to move. We are all still primal in the body, primal in the heart.

The complexity of nature is simply unmatched by any manmade environment. When we run on uneven terrain in the forest, hang off tree branches with different diameters and jump from rock to rock, we are feeding our muscles, joints and nervous system with far more movement diversity than offered in a gym or concrete and wooden floors. To limit natural movement in a controlled environment and repeat the same motions over and over lacks much of what makes it natural, and most importantly nourishment. We need load diversity for all of our fascia to properly integrate and develop.

Lions run to catch food. Apes climb trees. Kangaroos hop and hold their babies in their pouches. We are mammals that have evolved performing a large variety of natural movements, multiple times per day. These movements not only allowed us to thrive; they ensured our survival. If we could not perform these basic functional movements (natural movements), our life was at risk.

Today in our modern world, our life may not be in immediate danger, but our lack of movement is correlated with much of our time’s increase in chronic and degenerative disease. It is said that one in five North Americans suffer from severe depression. Pschycologist are finally beginning to recognize the role of “nature deficit” in clinical depression. At the same time, movement specialists are recognizing a phenomenon that may be referred to as “natural movement deficit disorders.” 

Every traditional mind-body practice is concentrated around nature. Studies are popping up suggesting that outdoor exercise is a more effective treatment for depression than pharmaceuticals. Depression is only one tiny part of the problem. If you take a closer look, obesity, heart disease and type 2 diabetes are all on the rise. The human species has strayed far from our natural, physical selves. It’s not uncommon to see even elite athletes who suffer from side effects of the Zoo Human syndrome. 

Your body is craving movement nutrition. It’s never too late to rewild your life and find a purpose to attach your movement to. Challenge your body with different movements every day. Wether you want to master a new skill, be able to play with your children more or ensure you can perform basic daily tasks like carrying groceries, having an inspiring reason beyond loosing the “muffin top” will have a deeper meaning. 

Our body adapts and becomes stronger when it is challenged (hormesis). Our bones increase in density and our muscles grow with load. Like the saying goes, if we don’t use it, we lose it. Since going back to natural movement (we all moved naturally in childhood), I’ve been a much more joyful, vital, resilient, and adaptable human being. I’ve fused two of my greatest loves (yoga + natural movement) in my primal vinyasa practice. I root my practice both in nature and other stimulating environments and focus on the movements human beings evolved doing. 


Photo credits: Natalie Gildersleeve


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