Every efficient movement should involve the whole body. Some parts of the body will occasionally be stable to allow efficient movements to occur, but eventually all body parts will be involved in an efficient movement. A movement that is isolated to one joint or one small part of the body is not efficient or strong and could eventually lead to arthritis in the joint that is overused. Even as I (Staffan) am typing this, there is movement throughout my body. As I reach my fingers toward certain keys, my body will rotate a bit. The reach is coming from my sitting bones if I am sitting or my feet if I am standing. Try it for yourself in the following movement exploration.
- Type using only your fingers or forearms. Keep the rest of the body stiff. How long can you keep this up?
- Continue this as you hold your breath. Is it comfortable?
- Breathe and allow the rest of your body to participate in the typing. Notice the difference. How does the breath move the spine and involve it in the typing action? How often do you hold your breath, or breathe very shallowly, when you are typing or doing something else that requires concentration? Paying attention to the breath automatically softens your body and allows more of the body to participate. Paying attention to the breath also ties into the previous principle of allowing a combination of mobility and stability. When you inhale, the body becomes more stable and when you exhale you allow more mobility. That is why in yoga, twists tend to be performed on the out-breath. The body allows for more mobility on the out-breath.
Quality Movement Is Coordinated
Good movement quality shows coordination. In movement, muscles are categorized as agonists, antagonists, and stabilizers. The agonist muscle shortens and moves the joint, the antagonist muscle relaxes and lengthens to allow the movement, and the stabilizer muscle creates a secure platform on which movement can happen efficiently. Think about what happens when you bend your elbow. The biceps muscle is the agonist and flexes the joint, the triceps is the antagonist and relaxes so it doesn’t fight the movement of the biceps and elbow, and the muscles around the shoulder blade stabilize. If the triceps muscle does not relax and lengthen when the elbow flexes, the movement is not well coordinated. The body is working against itself. This is a simplified and isolated way to look at coordination. Much more is going on in a well-coordinated movement as the muscles are engaged throughout the body, but for our purposes it is enough to think about the main muscles involved in movement and stability.
Quality Movement Is Grounded
A good quality of movement is grounded. You may wonder how grounded the dancer who floats above the ground is, but what is meant here is the person is aware of the ground and knows how to use it. A dancer or athlete pushes off the ground in order to perform amazing feats in the air. They are also aware of the ground before they land, are grounded in their own bodies, and know how the ground and the body perform together. They use the ground for efficient, graceful movements. The following exercise lets you explore your relationship to the ground.
This is grounding. Know how you and the ground interact. Sense the grounding in your body. This is important when you start doing the asanas later in this article as well as in any activity you perform. Have you ever thought about how you use the ground when you are walking? Play with it!
A quality movement blends stability and mobility, is distributed through the body, is coordinated, and is grounded. Effective, efficient, quality movements set the stage for a long, healthy, active life.