If you are reading this you likely participated, or are currently enrolled in my 2018 Holiday Special, incase you missed it you can click here to start now. In this special I’m exploring things I’ve learned over the last year and how my ideas about movements have progressed. Something I find myself talking about more than ever is a constantly varied approach to movement and how it can help us.

The first time I heard about a constantly varied approach to movement was in a CrossFit class about seven years ago. It was the opposite of what I had previously believed a movement practice could or should be, just incase you don’t know me, I came to strength after years of Ashtanga training. When I started CrossFit I began to learn about the benefits of being a well rounded athlete, how doing one thing really well was great, but being able to do many things was even better. Imagine what this was like after literally doing the same thing every day for the last five years!

The more I branched out and worked with other trainers and coaches the more I learned about having a more general approach, as opposed to practicing like a specialist. Immediately my movements started to feel better, my lower back felt better, my body got stronger and everything in my life started to change. Initially I thought that the lack of passive stretching was helping, but as I’ve learned more I realize that there are so many factors that contribute to pain and experience.

Over the last year I’ve had conversations with a number of physiotherapists and pain science educators including Greg Lehman, Jules Mitchell, Shannon Marion, Antony Lo and Shelly Prokso (these last two recordings are coming in 2019, don’t worry you didn’t miss them.) I’ve learned a lot about novel movements and why doing new things can help people feel better.

One great thing I have learned about novel movement is that our brains don’t have any associations with them, it’s like we have a fresh slate when we do new things. Associations, ideas, past experiences and other factors can have a significant impact on the way we feel when we move. As I like to say in my workshops “whatever you are practicing is exactly what you are practicing.” If novel movements have little to no associations, we can have new experiences of our bodies when we practice. This is really good news for those of us who have experienced pain and injury or are just feeling uninspired.

From my experience, people typically wait until something doesn’t feel right before they consider changing their ways. When our bodies don’t feel good this affects more than just our movement practice. As we know, pain is complex and nuanced, it is poorly correlated with tissue damage and we know that looking at biomechanics alone is not enough. You can read more on this here. When we practice and move in new ways that we aren’t used to (but are accessible and appropriate for us) we are able to have new and hopefully enjoyable and playful experiences of our body. When we learn new strength movements we are able to experience ourselves as strong and capable, this provides benefits that far surpass tissue health and bone density.

One thing I think we can do as teachers is offer a sense of curiosity around novel movements and changing things up. What if we practice the triangle pose in different ways, with different alignments, how might this change our experience of the pose and thus our experience of ourselves? I grew up practicing yoga thinking there was a right way to do the poses, some perfect alignment that would make the shape feel good as long as I practiced it just so. In my own experience, I practiced poses with the best “alignment” in the world, but after a certain point everything felt worse.

Movement affects us deeply, everyone knows how they feel when they trip on the sidewalk. In an instant the way we move can help us feel totally capable and empowered, but it can also make us feel shame and pain. When we approach our practice with a sense of curiosity I believe we open ourselves up to a whole new world, and this will help us make our cups bigger and be more resilient.

What can we do right now? Find a place in your space, set a timer for five minutes and do something you don’t usually do. Crawl, hop on the spot for a minute, walk around with your eyes closed, sing a song, do something new.

Want to learn more about pain science, progressive loading, varied movement, stability, joint centration and the methods I’ve used to build my method? Click here to check out the brand new Mindful Strength Method Online Course.