2 positions you can get your body in that will improve your health. Part 1
My friend Johnny sent me over a podcast the other day on the amazing movement teacher, Ido Portal. He gives a lot of food for thought on his philosophy of movement as a teacher for life and how it extends beyond fancy handstands and Instagram posts. Ido has contributed greatly to a culture of movement where people move for the sake of moving and use movement as an exploration of what the human is capable of. There is a lot of gold in there and if you have the time, it's worth a listen, but if you need a hit now, here are two great takeaways which I think should be applied by everyone. This week I'll go into the squat and next week I will be discussing the overhead hang, so please forward this to any friend who may benefit.
Part 1: Squating
Ido puts forth a squat challenge, with the notion that squatting can deliver huge benefits with such a simple position. A position that so many of us neglect in today’s age of cars, offices, lounge rooms and Lazy boys. The benefits of the bodyweight squat being for some, decreased back pain, neck pain, knee pain and hip pain and improved digestive functioning. Gary Lineham from The Human Garage in Venice, has an interesting theory on why he believes this might help your digestion and many of your other organs too. He believes that atmospheric pressure, something that effects everyone on earth effects our organs and the pressure of cavity they reside in. He points out that our diaphragm, (the beautiful muscle pictured above, also responsible for drawing air in and out of the lungs) has two holes in it (one for the esophagus and one for the arteries, veins and nerves) and when we squat, pressure which has built up in the lower cavity slowly gets released after 5-7 minutes of squatting. It is a great stretch for your hips and ankles too and it forces you to breathe diaphragmatically which stimulates the 60% of the bodies lymph nodes that sit under the diaphragm (movement of this is good for the immune system!)
If it’s been a long time since you dropped into a squat like this, I wouldn't go recommend that you crouch down for 5 right off the bat. It's something that should be worked up to, giving your joints time to adapt to the added tension; 5, 10, 20 or 30 seconds at a time is a great place to start if it’s been a while. Ido’s squat challenge is that you work your way up to 30 minutes a day, taken in whatever intervals you need, for 30 days in row (Johnny had chronic back pain and attributes this as a huge part of overcoming it). Writing that last sentence reminded me to move, I moved away from my exercise ball and desk, popped my laptop on the ground and clocked up a little bit of squat time to continue writing.
Another version of the squat, which I have been using with my clients since the day I started this movement stuff, is the breathing squat. Some clients of mine don’t respond well to holding a squat for a long time but find the breathing squat quite painless. I use this as a moving meditation, in which the breath becomes the focus and the movement becomes as soft as a feather. You can try this wherever you are by taking a shoulder width stance and keeping your knees soft. As you inhale through the nose, open up your chest and shoulders and bring the breath into the belly, exciting the bodies extensor muscles. As you exhale through your mouth (which excites the flexor muscles of your body eventually bringing you into the fetal position) bend from the knees and hips coming into a squat. Try to time the end of the breath with the end of the movement and only squat as low as comfortable and repeat for 10-15 slow breaths.
I had a client who spent three months on a tour bus and told me that whenever he could get away to do this, 10 breaths was all it took and it was as if all of his stress would melt away.
So however you decide to get, just make sure you’re getting it… your squat time. You need nothing except your bodyweight to make this effective, so if you are blessed with an able body, you really don’t have any excuse not to!