If you’ve read the last couple of my posts, you might notice that I always add walking as the last part of the Yoga Tune Up® reset. My latest posts have been about the feet and the hips, but even as we travel up the chain, I still think walking is the best way to assess and integrate movement. In my eyes, walking is probably the single, most important whole body movement that we do every day (even if it’s just from the couch to the kitchen).
While the legs and feet form our foundation in upright living, the shoulders and arms should not be left out of the picture just because they aren’t actively holding up us. Here’s a cute example of what happens when our arms are fixed when we are ambulating: Watch the Drool Model Walking
The clip is adorable (because the Drool Model is adorable) but also a little worrisome to see in slow motion what happens to her spinal movement when her shoulders and arms are fixed while in her wobbly jog. As the video replays in slow motion, we can see how much her spine has to contort and twist when it’s not able to transmit the energy through her upper limbs. This is not to say that the spine should be immobile while running or walking (or maybe even standing in tadasana, for that matter), but the best kind of spinal movement is a little bit in a lot of places.
Last spring, I took the first two levels of a gait training called Anatomy in Motion: Finding Centre, with Gary Ward, author of What the Foot?. According to Gary, “The arms and the feet are dialed in together to generate optimum movement.” The arms help create the counter-rotation with the legs necessary to move forward through space. (Try moving forward while your arms and legs move in the same direction.) The free swing of the arms, however, also diffuses the energy created through the feet pushing off the ground, so that it flows easily through the spine, instead of being stuck and rebounding into the neck and lower back. This is clearly what we see in the Drool Model’s adorable waddle as she is holding her arms fixed to the toy.
During the gait cycle the arms should move within their full range of motion. The humerus moves into flexion and external rotation and the scapula protracts and upwardly rotates when the arm swings forward. This gently loads and stretches the the abdominals and hip flexors, latissimus dorsi, rhomboids, internal rotators, and even the intercostals. When the arm swings backs into extension and internal rotation, stretching the chest, the top and front of the shoulder, and the side of the neck.
Do you want to go for a walk yet?
Ask yourself: How often do you walk with your arms free and unencumbered? This is not an easy feat in our culture of purses, backpacks, strollers, etc. Sometimes these “conveniences” are as necessary as they are useful. Just imagine the gift you’d be giving your body if you gave your arms a little time to swing freely once in a while!
If you feel like you have lost some of the movements that make swinging the arms light and breezy, stay tuned-in for an awesome Yoga Tune Up® reset that will restore and nourish your tightly wound shoulders and bring the spring back into your step!
- 1. Miller, J. (2014). The roll model: A step-by-step guide to erase pain, improve mobility, and live better in your body. Las Vegas: Victory Belt.
- 2. Ward, G (2013). What the foot? A game changing philosophy of human movement eliminating pain and maximising human potential.London: Soap Box Books.