The fact is you weren’t born with walking ability. You learned it when you were an infant. What you might think of as your ‘natural’ walk is the result of the environment in which you learned to walk as a baby and how that changed over a lifetime of habits, injuries, compensations, cultural & family influences - basically how you meet your life circumstances shows up in your walk.
Learning how to walk in a way that feels light, joyful and keeps the integrity of your joints takes conscious practice not unlike martial arts, Qi Gong, Tai Chi, meditation or any performance sport like skiing, soccer, surfing etc.
Myth #2: I don’t have balance issues. I haven’t had a fall. I don’t need to learn about walking.
Having had a fall, or having unsteady balance and fear of falling are among the survival reasons to seriously address walking. And while it is possible for some people to recover from that degree of deterioration, for some others it can be too late.
Here are just some very good and inspiring reasons you might consider improving your walking skill:
- You like to hike, climb and be active. If you’re in that category, you’re an enthusiast. You don’t lack will and with some skill and knowledge of how and what to pay attention, you can double the enjoyment, intensity and length of your activity.
- You have neck/hip/back pain. The biggest shortcoming of most traditional approaches to treating or thinking about pain is that they are static. Unless we apply what we learn about our problem in the upright orientation of walking, it is difficult to sustain improvement in many cases.
- You play a sport like skiing, ice skating, skate boarding, bicycling. The principles that hold true for ideal walking apply to sports that involve weight transfer from one leg or sitting bone to another.
- You want to be independent and mobile for as long as possible. You want to age gracefully. J
Myth #3: Walking is about finding stability
Humans are built for instability. Being two legged creatures, we balance our weight on a very narrow base of support. This implies that we have a very high center of mass relative to other four legged mammals.
It is this instability that also gives us the potential for maximum mobility, very unlike a bull that has high momentum but also a high turning radius making it hard for it to change direction quickly. Walking is about learning to leverage this instability so we can move in any direction without hesitation.
Some of the ways that hesitation shows up are
- Inability to find counterbalance
- unnecessary muscular contraction, tightness or pain
- inability to line up your joints to transmit the reaction force (the opposite of our weight F=mg going into the ground), in other words shearing in the joints – achiness or pain in knee, hip, ankles.
- inefficient distribution of load, for example the low back pain from carrying the weight of your legs
- All of the above show up in the breath being held
I hope that this gets you thinking about walking in a different way than you have. I invite you to pay attention to your walk. In my next post, I will write about questions you can ask yourself to begin to investigate and refine the quality of your walk.
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