How many times have we all been told that in order to embrace a bright shining future, we must let go of the past? That to move forward with freedom and ease, we must break old habits and patterns, and read everything on the Oprah book list? Well put down your self-help books ladies and gentlemen, because today we will be reclaiming one of our oldest patterns to shape a future of greater strength/mobility, improved coordination, better connectivity between right and left brain hemispheres and a beautifully anchored mind-body connection. (Pause for dramatic effect…) Yes, I am talking about crawling!
Cross-crawl movements (connecting opposite arm and leg) and crawling have the same benefits for you as an adult as they once did for you as a developing child. Crawling is a core developmental pattern that creates neural pathways and efficient communication between the left and right hemispheres in the brain.* In addition, “it integrates your vestibular system(your balance system), your proprioceptive system (your sense of self in space), and your visual system.” These movements are so powerful and effective that they are key exercises in the Brain Gym program developed by Dr. Paul Dennison. The program uses cross-crawl movements to help both children and adults overcome the effects of dyslexia, difficulty focusing, and other learning disabilities.
Now, I know some of you might be thinking “well that’s very interesting Sara, but I like my neural pathways just the way they are, where is the strength and mobility you promised?” No matter where you are on your health and fitness journey, there is a variation for you. Cross-crawl movements can be done seated, standing, lying down, crawling like a baby, or for a huge challenge, crawling with the knees elevated. Depending upon the variation, cross-crawl and crawling exercises can create tremendous strength in the obliques, rectus abdominus, transverse abdominus, psoas, pectoralis major/minor, deltoids rhomboids, lattisimus dorsi, erector spinae, glutes and that’s just to name a few!
Tim Anderson, coach and author of Original Strength, explains that “the greatest benefit to crawling is that it builds a foundation of reflexive strength…Your reflexive strength, also known as your reflexive stability, is your body’s ability to anticipate movement before it happens and/or reflexively react to movement as it happens…Your reflexive strength is your foundation of strength. If you are lacking reflexive strength, you cannot be as strong and as mobile as you are meant to be.”
As a leading force for mind-body education and learning how to “live better in your body,” Yoga Tune Up® is full of brain nourishing and body integrating cross-crawl exercises. Come back on Friday to learn how to execute two of my absolute favorites: Frog Crawls and Double Bicycle, and be prepared to sweat your way to brilliance. In the mean time, take a little trip down memory lane and try some baby crawls. Have fun, and let me know what you feel!
*Tim Anderson “Original Strength”, Xulon Press 2013
Enjoyed this article? Read Snap, Crackle and Pop – Part III: Crackle and Crepitus
I love how many blogs connect to beyond the physical. It’s fascinating the effects of dyslexia, difficulty focusing, and other learning disabilities can be affected through physical movements that create new neuron pathways. I’ve never heard of reflexive stability before and makes a lot of sense!
Not only do cross-crawl movements offer tremendous rewards, but as the article states, there should be a variation available to everyone. Yoga Tune Up and Original Strength are two programs that provide effective cross-crawl suggestions.
Working both neural pathways AND strengh and mobility… I’m in! I will definitively add some of these movements in my daily life. Thanks for sharing
I remember doing bear crawls up and down the field and if really “lucky” up and down a hill during football practice. The gains in endurance and strength were impressive as was finding those “secret” muscles I didn’t think I had. I also recall that running and directional movement changes were improved after the crawls which makes sense after reading about the balance, proprioception and visual benefits outlined in this article. ~Thanks
So many variations allowing you to explore how each feels and what it can do for your body! Perhaps if we had so many options as babies we wouldn’t have been in such a hurry to walk!. Not only is this an interesting idea it’s also just fun and people love to move around like this. Thank you.
New obsession, cross crawl movements. Gonna start looking for them everywhere! Have been adding some to my chair yoga class and it always gets everyone laughing at themselves…bonus!
As a baby I experienced extreme developmental delays which created neural deficits that showed up much later in my life.
For years I felt different from my peers because I had difficulty with simple tasks such as riding a bike or navigating unstable surfaces like walks across rocks at the beach.
I never understood why I had such problems with these kinds of tasks that “should” have been simple.
I learned how the absence of crawling stunts brain development and movement efficiency. And although it was disheartening to discover this I also had hope that I could give that development back to my poor brain.
Thankfully there is a whole revolution of second time crawling that has helped me tremendously. What a gift.
YES! This is the most initial pose when we were babies, no one teaches us to do so, we just do it. It is what we meant to be moving around but we withdrew it and adapted to walking. Thanks for all the examples and human absolutely need those. By the way I love the frog crawls too!!
YES! This is the most initial pose when we were babies, no one teaches us to do so, we just do it. It is what we meant to be moving around but we withdrew it and adapted to walking. Thanks for all the examples and human absolutely need those. By the way I love the frog crawls too!
I absolutely love how many different variations you came up with that encourage cross crawl movements – I never really thought about about just how many there are our there! I’m often crawling or bear walking around with my toddler so it will be interesting to see if she will be interested to add to our repertoire. Plus I had no idea of all the benefits to cross crawl movements outside of core stability! Lots left for me to dive into after reading your article – thanks!!
Thanks for your article on crawling, I am in the YTU training now and we just learned the crawling excercise, what a great way to work your abdominal muscles and keep classes fun and challenging.
I absolutely love sidewinder. I cannot do Frog crawls so this is my alternative. It is such a great core workout and it makes me feel stronger in my every day movements and simply sitting in correct posture.
I love crawling! And think it is an amazing exercise, although I often forget about movements that are not in a quadruped position. It’s a great reminder to continue to do and have my clientele perform cross crawls in other various planes of movement. Thanks for sharing!
It’s funny because I discovered this as I was always nannying children growing up, and then I became a young mother. But, parents would never get down to the child’s level and play or communicate with them. I was also learning the importance of communication with children and respecting them eye to eye instead of the towering over effect. When I became a mother I would always be crawling, and the way I am I started crawling in different ways and with my knees elevated, and realized that I could start to get back and strong in my body just by actively playing with my daughter. Of course it was fun and established this awareness that living through the wonder of a child is the way to eternal youth. Then I started doing it more focused with the GMB program which is fun for movement progression, but subsequently finding Yoga Tune Up completely pulled it together in a way I always dreamed of doing. I am so happy to have found this and proud to become a part of it. I have so much respect for everyone here.
Thanks for suggesting a new way to release the inner child! Our culture is so rigid and restrictive about returning to movements that are so much a part of our primitive brain.
I’ve only dipped my toes into the crawling world – but what i have done has been extremely beneficial. thanks for sharing!
I didn’t know that crawling could help with reflexive strength and proprioception! I found it interesting that reflexive strength was the foundation of your body’s strength. Thanks for the inspiration to get crawling and make peace with the frog pose!
Awesome post, Sara! I feel like most adults don’t spend enough time on the floor. We’ve gotten so detached on how to move in different planes of motion; and crawling is a good way to get (re)-introduced to it! I love how you explained the bilateral connection and how it affects even our cognitive functioning. My students love when we do frog crawls. Thank you for sharing.
good one a lot of people think they are using all there back muscles just because they can do an updog or wheel they have a strong back! interesting point I so agree!
Thanks Sara. After learning frog crawls and sidewinder moves in Yoga Tune Up level 1 training, I’m definitely going to start incorporating these into my practice. Too often as adults we forget what it’s like to let go and be kids again, enjoying some of the playful movements of our past while reaping health benefits for our future.
I learned how to Frog Crawl and Double Bicycle this week in Level One Training. I found the coordination a little challenging at first so I’m going to spend more time polishing my floor in Frog Crawls.
Excellent post. Some parts of our life just never go away, i.e. crawling.
I did no realize that crawling can have so many benefits for the young and old. This just might be the move that many of us need to do regularly to increase any focus issues that we might experience. I can hardly wait to read the next blog to learn more about crawling moves and give crawling a try.
Very informative! The neurological impacts of crawling are very fascinating. This primal movement is definitely a great overall functional exercise. Improving reflexive strength will also be great for injury prevention with my clients. Thank you for sharing.
Crawling has just become another tool for me is teaching students how to activate their reflexive core! I look forward to trying out the frog crawls and double bicycle.
What a fun way to work your core. I never realized it could help you neurologically. I think this would be a great activity to do with my kids!
It’s fascinating to know that crawling has the same neural benefits for adults (efficient communication between left and right hemispheres of the brain) as it does for infants. I had never heard the term ‘reflexive stability’, that was really helpful!
Wonderful post! I have incorporated crawling with my clients and they cannot believe how hard it is and how challenging of an exercise . It is a great way to restore function.
I never considered the importance of reflexive strength. This article does a good job of highlighting that. Thanks for the info and book recommendation!
It’s nice to not have to “let go of the past” once in a while and go back to our roots. We are always so quick to abandon our infancy. This will be an excellent way to strengthen all those “core” muscles and for those with bad knees a chair or supine is great alternative.
I just did Frog Crawl today as part of YTU Level 1 training, and before starting the journey across the floor, I wrongly assumed it would be just like regular crawling – just a bit flatter and a tad more uncomfortable. The muscles called in certainly were not used to this movement – and even more surprising was that the brain power it took was way more than I had bargained for. I can see the benefit of the movement whole-heartedly and will plan to use this one regularly given the impact it had on my fully body.
I did not realize that crawling was so key to our proprioception. I have heard of the Brain Gym, and will look into reading more about it. I practiced the Frog Crawls for the first time this week and realized how difficult this cross crawl activity actually is.
Sometimes going back to basics is just what we all need. Great article to remind us that poses and movements do not have to be some elaborate choreographed thing. Taking time with the basics and mastering them has great rewards too!
Crawling is a foundational human movement that can provide so many benefits! It’s amazing how the brain and nervous system can also be stimulated through crawling movements. I love the frog crawls and I’m looking forward to using them often in my YTU practice!
i love working cross body movements with my students. i find especially for seniors this provides much needed neurological stimulation to help them facilitate their right/left brain integration as they age. people never think about the fact that crawling is the first major transportative movement we make as humans-and the fundamental physical and neurological skills developed play a huge role in growth and development. integrating these movements into the YTU practice is like returning to our roots-helping to repattern our brains for improved movement in day to day life. not to mention its ability to open up awareness of blind spots as you can easily compare mobility side to side.
Thank you, for this article. I tink, sometimes we feel funny to do crawling on the floor. But it is a good idea to do that in a sitting position. And maybe later we would like to do that on the floor like little childs.
I think the link between the brain and cross-crawling movements is an amazing phenomenon. It makes total sense that as a child we develop, however, as we get older, we forget about all of those core movements that were there to make us stronger during that early period of our lives. It completes the thought process to think that using it later in life, something the body will remember, will bring us back and make us stronger.
Thanks for that!
Great submission Sara, especially on delivering the message of the value of crontra-lateral movements applying to everyone!
Thank you for pointing out that crawling enhances reflexive strength so that one can anticipate or react to movement for reflexive stability. I am excited to share this news with my community!
Awesome fun article! I’v a background in Chiropractic and cross crawls have been something i share about often, and now you’ve reminded me to put the standard ones into a “snow globe”,and look at what you’ve come up with! I love it, frog crawls here I come! thanks
Tracy Arnold you should check out the book “The Brain’s Way of Healing” by Norman Doidge. Fascinating, informative, and accessible book on neuroplasticity and definitely dives into different means of recovering from brain trauma and neurological disorders. And yes, cross-crawl movements are used in stroke recovery!
Who knew crawling is so complex! Interesting about reflexive strength and reflexive stability. I wonder if crawling variations could be effective for people recovering from a stroke, some surgeries, maybe even dementia, as crawling helps to create neural pathways and effective communication between both hemispheres of the brain. Can crawling re-connect and re-activate these neural pathways in people who have suffered trauma to the brain and body?
The gym I work out at has us crawl sometimes and it’s quite funny to A- watch people do it and B- watch their reaction while trying to crawl (myself included). Sometimes it is second nature and other times it is completely awkward. Oh to be a baby again!
Yes, it seems that by increasing your movement in different orientations like crawling will make mobility in your body and everyday life more effective. Really dynamic stretching at its best! Can’t wait to try it!
I was just talking about this the other day with my daughter’s therapist! I want to work more with her on cross crawl movements for learning issues, and now I am inspired to do more of them myself! Thank you.
Love this Sara! I am a follower of Tim Anderson’s “Original Strength” blog and hope at some point will take his workshop. His book is great! Thank you for sharing and keep on crawling!!!