For me, trying to fix your walking or running alignment by directing ‘cues’ at your body that you have learned from somewhere or someone is like trying to break a habit with willpower. Willpower is a limited and exhaustible resource. The sooner we can begin to see everything that is going on in our mind and body as a clue to a deeper truth, the sooner our body ailments and bad habits may be remedied. Your body has a reason to do what it does, and we need to begin to look at compensations and so-called ‘bad alignment’ differently. I find it truly amazing that the body can organise itself after an injury in such a way that we can still function in the world….walk etc! If compensations didn’t exist, we all would be much worse off!
I don’t believe that movement should be a directed effort made by intentional thought. Movement should be FREE, without any INPUT from us!
What are alignment ‘cues’?
Alignment cues are pieces of information that aim for us to consciously direct our bodies to move in a way that aligns with those cues. These cues are to help us move better, you may have heard some of them – ribs down, feet straight, activate your glutes, tilt the pelvis etc. In this paradigm, there is GOOD alignment and BAD alignment. One example from my own personal journey is my flared ribs. Flared ribs I learned = BAD, whilst ribs down = GOOD
And I learned the reasons for this – flared ribs compress your spine, and can lead to a dysfunctional core and pelvic floor.…… So what did I do? Every time I could remember to pull down my ribs I did it.
1. You will only be working on this alignment issue when you are intentionally doing so when you have a consciously aware moment. The rest of the time, your unconscious mind is running the show, so you won’t even be aware of moments when you thrust your ribs or turn your feet out. Was I remembering to pull my ribs down when it mattered, so as in sequence with the rest of my body, was I doing it long enough, down enough?
2. These inputs may actually detract you from moving well. Movement should be free and effortless. When I was intentionally doing this, I held my ribs down too much and for too long. It tends to be the case when we are consciously trying to do something….we do more than is required of us. What I was left with was chronically tight lower ribs, that were a little tender in the fascia supporting from underneath. In the name of good alignment, I had caused other issues!
The antidote to alignment ‘cues’?
Get to the root of why your ribs thrust, why your glutes don’t activate, why your heel doesn’t stay down during the gait cycle. I started by deciding never to restrict movement in my body for the sake of an alignment ‘cue’, no matter how convincing the science or the teacher. I ditched the idea of ‘cues’, and with that, I felt a great sense of release and freedom. If I felt like my ribs wanted to flare, I began playing with the movement a little, stretching them upwards instead of outwards, introducing some new movement to my nervous system.
The brain runs the show folks.
For something like walking to be effortless (which it should be), it must be unconscious, without thought, without input from us. Do you think our ancestors whilst walking were constantly directing their own movements (heel down, ribs down, glutes activated, shoulders back etc)? I don’t think so.
They simply walked.
Let’s replace alignment cues with re-educating our joints how to move “as determined by their joint surfaces and sequenced together with all of the other joints in order to relearn the timings and musculoskeletal relationships using slow and specific movement practices. Allow yourself to be with your bones and let them do the walking.” Gary Ward
Let’s step away from the labelling of good and bad alignment, and let’s dig a bit deeper under our own skin for the answers to our ailments, of both body and mind.