One of the coolest parts of my job is figuring out why people move the way they do. Our bodies are living, breathing, moving monuments to our history of experience. Take me, for example. I took ballet for thirteen years and have worked very hard for the past seven to rid myself of the automatic turnout that has caused myriad up-the-body effects.
I wanted to share some other examples of how our body’s history can impact our present-day movement patterns.
Case study 1: I had a client in class months ago who seemed to be very strong on her left side and disproportionately underdeveloped on her right. After class, I approached her to ask if she had a history of scoliosis or injury. She said no and so I asked her whether she was aware that the two sides of her body performed very differently. She said she was a dancer, but that she couldn’t think of a reason why there would be an imbalance. I said there was some evidence that abdominal muscles in ballet dancers tend to be imbalanced from side-to-side, but that the difference in her was visible to the naked eye and didn’t require MRI as the studies do. “I’m a pole dancer,” she said and then it all clicked. “Do you always hold the pole on your left side?” I asked. “Always,” she said. “I never vary it.” It all made sense.
Case study 2: A long-time client has been working to reduce her “rib thrust.” A rib thrust is when your rib cage is not aligned over the pelvis and it’s kind of a chronic, widespread issue. (In other words, she’s not the only one and you probably thrust, too!) To read more about it, RUA Rib Thruster is the best resource.
This client has a history in the marching band. She was a drum major. According to this Drill Manual from the Regimental Drum Major Association, the posture a drum major is to assume is “borne of military heritage.” (p. 12) This includes a stance with:
- heels together
- toes at 30° angle
- chest up
- chin above level
One of the reasons my client struggles so to retrain her body away from the rib thrust is that for years, she was trained in this “chest up” position.
Case study 3: Sometimes, in class, we will pick up heavy things, usually weights, and practice walking with our ribs down, feet forward, striking with the heel, and pushing off with the ball of the foot. We work to keep our knees straight, but not locked out. And, in this context, I can usually spot a former ballerina a mile away, what with their turned out feet and hips that won’t extend from the neutral position.
However, one time I had a client serve as an example in class and I noticed that while she would start her stride with feet facing forward, at the end of the stride each foot would kind of whisk out to the side. It was something I had never seen, so of course, I had to go over to her after class and talk about where she might have acquired this subtle movement.
“No,” she said, she had never danced. So I described to her what her body was doing, we watched her in the mirror and when she saw it, she said, “You know, I swam. I wonder if that’s where it came from?” A light bulb literally popped up over my head, I am sure of it, when I asked, “Did you, by chance, swim breastroke? Because that totally looks like a breastroke kick.”
Ding! Ding! Ding!
Bells totally started ringing when she said, “Yes!”
Case Study 4: I don’t have a Case Study 4. Yet. Because it’s YOU!
Think about your movement history: What sports did you play as a child? How did your parents move around? What activities did you do that you don’t think about as movement-related (like reading) but are either because of position, lack of motion or micro-movements (think about your eyes when you read.) What injuries have you had?
Think through it all and share if you want, or just use it to be better informed about how and why you move the way you do.