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By Exploring Our Mobility
Exercise helps us feel good in our bodies. Movement is often the best medicine for stiffness, lack of energy, low mood, and many other ailments. It unlocks our body, restores our balance, and increases our capacities.
A huge piece of this is our mobility. This is our capacity to move freely and easily. It’s our ability to control movement through a range of motion. A lack of mobility restricts us or causes pain during activities of daily life. Unfortunately, when I ask clients and friends about mobility, the answer is often similar. It's not great. I should do more. It’s boring to work at. I don’t like how it feels to practice.
I get it. I used to hate mobility training. For years, I’d have habit trackers and to-do lists begging me to do my daily “15 minutes of mobility.” I dreaded it. The rigidity of the routine. The tightness in my body. It felt like a chore. Even after finishing, I’d feel dissatisfied. I’d only discovered more areas of tightness that needed work.
The problem is that while mobility training is intended to help us move easier and feel better, it also highlights how stiff and limited we currently are.
So let's explore some ways to make it more enjoyable:
From directing to listening
When I look back on my previous approach to mobility it was rigid and prescriptive. I obsessed over finding the optimal technique and following the perfect routine. It was all about directing my body through exercises to overcome my limitations.
So my first invitation is a shift to listening. Instead of following a prescribed routine, make the intention to move for 5 or 10 minutes without a plan.
Start to move. Open to whatever ways your body wants to do. Don't guide it with your mind. Just listen and let your body drive. Drop into the flow of what emerges. Bring awareness to the feelings within. Notice the instincts that bubble up and continue to move based on these.
In this, there’s no right or wrong way to move. You can do it standing or on the ground. You can move a little or move a lot. Just let your body guide you and embrace whatever happens.
I call this Spontaneous Flow. I'm sure others have different names for it. The point is to practice listening to the body. This allows us to connect with how we move and how it feels. We notice where our movement is already free and easy. We bump into the edge of capacities naturally. We experience how good it can feel to move our body without forcing or controlling it.
From following to exploring
The next invitation is a shift to exploring. Instead of looking to others to tell us what stretch we need, make the intention to investigate it yourself with curiosity.
Pick an exercise (squat, lunge, press, etc) or a stretch (toe touch, butterfly, downward dog, etc) to explore. Do a few reps and notice: What muscles activate? Where is it smooth or sticky? Is there an area of restriction or tightness?
Once you find it, begin to explore if there is a stretch or movement that aligns with that area or muscle. Play around with variations and notice how they feel. Does the restriction or tightness lessen?
Now do the original movement again. Can you notice any shifts or differences? Can you make it feel 10% more fluid?
I call this Movement Pattern Exploration. The intent is to link the restrictions within a movement pattern with mobility techniques that unlock that capacity. The key element is discovering and experiencing this connection within the body.
At first, this may feel impossible or inefficient. If you feel lost, look to others for inspiration and create a menu of common stretches, movements, and techniques. Experiment with these and see what works for your body. Over time, this will strengthen your intuitive capacity to enhance your mobility.
Integrating and Expanding
These two techniques aren't going to magically transform our mobility overnight. Yet, they get us to begin to explore our mobility with curiosity. They give us a taste of how good it can feel to move our bodies through a fuller range of motion. They increase our confidence that we can actually increase our mobility.
Like most of exercise, mobility is an infinite game. The gains compound slowly. You have to use it or you lose it. The key is to integrate these mobility practices into your life so they don't feel like a chore.
I like to do this by incorporating them into the beginning and end of workouts. They are great warm-up and cool-down activities. Heck, you could even mix them into a workout between sets. Another option is to sprinkle them throughout the day. They are good activities to incorporate when we start our day, need a break during work, or want to relax at night.
Once you begin to experience increases in mobility, opportunities for practice emerge everywhere. You realize how your strength training, pilates, or yoga are all a form of mobility practice. You notice and play with your posture as you sit and your movement as you walk. You seek out new techniques and integrate them into your practice. The concept of mobility expands and it becomes an integrated part of life.
Playing with these ideas
Here are some prompts to explore these ideas in your own life:
Reflect: How do you relate to mobility in your own life? How would increases in mobility enhance your daily life?
Experiment: Try incorporating Spontaneous Flow and/or Movement Pattern Exploration as a warm-up to your workout or as an activity to break up your day.
Experience: Bring awareness to how the shift to listening and exploring changes your experience of movement within your body.
If you’re looking for more inspiration as you explore mobility, here are a few resources:
Movement Parallels Life is my favorite youtube channel for inspiration for flow movements.
My On Renewal Podcast Episode with Sam Martin provides a deep dive into practices to help us move better and hurt less.
I’d love to hear any reflections, ideas, or questions you have in the comments or by replying directly to this email.
Thank you for reading. Please consider sharing this with a friend if you think they will be interested in Intuitive Fitness.