The ease with which we can transition into and out of the various Archetypal Postures of squatting, kneeling and cross-legged positions – as discussed in Why We Should Sit on the Floor – is related to our biomechanical tune. These postures serve as a corrective mechanism to preserve a harmony of movement between our muscles, fascia and sinew, without which we can find ourselves at odds with the freedom of movement. For example; knee joint crepitus (the crackling noise associated with joint movement) can be directly associated with the loss of ease in the Archetypal Postures. When you cannot squat (heals down, knees over toes, with arches lifted) the knee experiences intra-compartmental pressure that are malignly altered so that wear and tear on the joint is accelerated. Over the year, being out of tune will gradually distort your musculoskeletal structure and lead to premature again of the legs and lower back in particular.
Why can’t I stretch my way to tune, like we used to do in gym class? Before you bend over to touch your toes, listen to what former U.S. National Gymnastics coach and author of Building the Gymnastic Body, Christopher Sommers has to say; “flexibility can be passive, whereas mobility requires that you can demonstrate strength throughout the entire range of motion.” The individual muscle concept presented in traditional anatomy class gives a purely mechanical model of movement by separating things into discrete, executable functions that fail provide an accurate picture of the seamless integration seen in a living body – when one part moves, the body responds as a whole. Thus, the ability to transition into and out of a squat requires more than any one muscle being flexible. The approach to mobility parallels biomechanical tune, in that they engender a systemic or whole-body foundation. Efficient structural relationships, therefore, must be exposed and resolved within the individual so that one can grow out of a the dysfunctional pattern.
We can achieve better biomechanical tune by:
1. Enacting a healthy load upon the system that will positively remodel its architecture. Regular loading (read: floor-sitting and rising) within the healthy limits of an individual induces a muscle and it’s surrounding tissues to remodel elasticity on a progressive basis. A lack of loading not only reduces the mobility surrounding a set of muscle and tissue, but will also reduce the available recoil native to that muscle. In other words, a sedentary person leaving the couch will face a much greater challenge getting into and out of any given Archetypal Posture
2. Training the body to react to a variety of postures. Working on isolated groups may stretch that muscle well, but it can leave out many fascial tissues necessary for a healthy body’s functional movement. For instance, tight hamstrings are often thought to be the cause of low back pain and as such individuals will proceed to do the standard hamstring stretch to little benefit. As stated before, no movement isolates a single muscle. Our body’s all work by things pulling in different directions with an appreciable balance, so why not work on mobility the same way. Moving the body to the floor and back up again, while experiencing the varieties of squatting, kneeling and cross-legged postures not only builds elasticity within tissues but the strength in the muscle and sinew allowing for greater coordination of movement.
How can I get better at any given posture? The answer is fairly simple… move into and out of a variety of postures as often as you can. Here’s how:
Start here if you're a beginner:
If you have not lived on the floor since you learned how to walk, then you will need to reestablish your foundation. Have a solid chair present that will allow you to make your way down to the floor. Do it step-by-step, respecting any pains you encounter. From a cross-legged posture, use your arms to reach out for the chair to help you twist up to a toe-sitting posture. Twisting your way up and down from the floor is the most biomechanically efficient way of transitioning. Once you are in a toe-sitting posture, bring one leg through so that the foot is flat on the floor and the knee is at a forward angle – make sure the knee doesn’t fall inside the line of the big toe, but maintains a steady position over the smaller toes. To get up you will need to push from the back foot, transitioning the balance of your weight onto the front foot as you rise. Help yourself by using your arms if needed.
Complementary Exercises: Leg Swings
If you are comfortable on the floor in most of the Archetypal Postures then you will want to work on strengthening your erector muscles (those that help you rise) by repeating transitions from floor-to-standing through a variety of techniques and repetitions. Start with 10 times up/down using the exercise mentioned above, alternating the forward leg with each subsequent transition. If possible, do not use your arms for assistance as it makes a big difference. Try transitioning all the way up 10 times form a supine position by rolling to either side and then twisting to a sitting position, then fully erect. There is no right way to rise, ancestral cultures have adapted to many different styles so allow your body to find its way. That said, do remember to keep good form. If you get tired and your form deteriorates, then you should stop. Injuring yourself and collapsing to the floor does not count toward reestablishing a solid relationship with the floor.
Complementary Exercises: Foam Rolling & Walking Spider-man's
If you have perfected your technique and are capable of repeated transitions with good form then you may want to increase the difficulty (and fun!) of the exercise. From a fully supine position try to rise without utilizing a twisting motion. By brining your knees to your chest to gain momentum, roll back and go straight into a full squat and rise straight up. Repeat 10 times. From a standing position, drop down into a full squat (heals down, knees over smaller toes, with arches lifted) and rise back up, keep arms out in front as a counter-balance if necessary. Repeat 10 times with arms out, then 10 times with arms in. From a cross-legged posture, bring your feet in close and spring straight up, untwisting your legs as you stand fully erect. Repeat 10 times. From the toe-sitting posture you can explode out of the position by pushing your hips forward and landing in a full squat position. Repeat 10 times. Again, there is no right way to move. Have fun and be safe with your erections.
Complementary Exercises: Cossask Squat & Overhead Squat
These exercises, or erectorsices, are a fundamental movement pattern. They have naturally emerged from floor living, so return to them often when you eat your meals, read your books or visit with your friends.