Relearning How to Walk May Ease Pains, Improve Posture

By David Wargo

My work as a movement and alignment practitioner is focused on how my clients move throughout their day and how their body is aligned. As I mentioned in my December column, most of my clients are causing some, if not all, of their orthopedic issues by how they are sitting, standing, and walking. Even my Olympic and professional-level athletes must relearn how to do these everyday, seemingly simple, activities.

Poor movement patterns and poor body alignment are epidemic in our society. This is in large part because modern humans are no longer required to move their bodies to get their basic needs met, such as finding food and securing safe shelter. With every passing decade, comfort and convenience are increasingly becoming the primary mode of life for many of us. This sedentary lifestyle has created humans that are immobile, weak, and prone to injury, breakdown, and chronic disease.

As an antidote to this widespread problem, we at Movement 360 make sure that everyone who enters the studio is taught the fundamentals of walking, which, if done correctly, can be the greatest exercise a human can do. In this month’s column I’m going to focus on a couple of tips that will improve your walking and overall posture.

  1. To begin, stand with your feet shoulder-width apart.
  2. Next, push your pelvis forward by squeezing the biggest, strongest muscles in your body, your buttock muscles. Your shoulders will naturally open and move further back on top of your hips. You should now be standing tall with your gaze looking out in front of you, not to the ground.
  3. Can you feel your buttocks engage and squeeze? If so, that’s great news! If not, that’s also OK. Just push your pelvis forward, and feel that elongated posture, with the top of your head rising to the ceiling.
  4. For almost everyone reading this, pushing your pelvis forward while standing will feel very different from how you normally stand. This is a basic skill for all of my clients. They hear my voice in their heads saying, “Always be squeezing your buttocks!” This one reminder allows them to stand up straighter from their pelvis upward.
  5. Now comes the more difficult task: learning to walk with your pelvis in this forward position. We normally don’t think about walking; we just expect our body to get us from point A to point B and only consider the motion when we feel pain or incur an injury.  It is important for you to actually think about walking correctly, keeping your pelvis forward and taking smaller steps, which will help you get used to this new way of moving through space.
  6. As you take a step with your right foot lifting and stepping forward, try to engage your left buttock muscle as you are shifting your weight forward onto your right foot. Now, as you take a step with your left foot lifting and stepping forward, try to engage your right buttock muscle as you shift your weight onto the left foot.  Repeat this process for every step you take.

This pelvis-forward, squeezing-your-buttocks method is the “Holy Grail” of walking. If you can put this one technique into practice as you stand and walk, you will begin to notice positive effects immediately, including a greater sense of ease as you perform your daily tasks and less joint pain in the lower back, hips, knees, and ankles.

David Wargo is a movement and alignment practitioner and the founding director of movement360.com. David teaches movement and alignment techniques at his clinic in Santa Fe, New Mexico.

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