Why i walk backwards or ball and socket synergy

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walking has been one of the most incredible ways to heal my body, connect with le bébé, and feel more embodied after la grossesse, l’accouchement, et le travail since Justin-Thilou has come earthside. 

i’ve practiced many gross motor skills in my time, from gymnastics, to racing 5Ks, to field hockey and lacrosse, to looong walks/hikes (like, 22 hours of continuous walking on the 40 mile Maryland stretch of the Appalachian trail, par example). i love feeling my muscles werk and, yes, feeling my joints under the stress of stretching, moving fully, and even pounding.

recently, however, simply going for a daily 4 mile walk has taken a new hold over my body and soul. it’s not only my daily movement practice (yup, even more regular than Pilates, folx!), it’s also a chance to connect with my baby on an energetic level – Justin-Thilou is all wrapped up against my breast, and i know that he is safe, snuggled up for his nap. the fact that il y a du soleil (it’s sunny) in Saussay la Campagne France, and our walk takes us among the golden fields of du blé (wheat), doesn’t hurt either. 

as bipedal humans, we are actually designed to walk more than any other gross motor skill. as a bodymind movement teacher, i revel in the beautiful symmetry of our 4 ball-and-socket joints – nestled among our 2 shoulders and our 2 hips – and the spiraling, circling movement of the human body on top and around those balls both as i walk up and down the little slopes of les petites rues and when teaching movement class.

i even (or perhaps especially!) walk backwards. actually, walking backwards has some beautiful physical benefits, not to mention it has the potential to literally change the way we see the world in front of – or in this case behind – us. if you don’t already have a walking practice, make one! it can be as simple as getting up each hour from your home office and walking outside around your yard or neighborhood or home, or meeting a friend a few times a week for a walk in a pretty park. i also suggest you try walking backwards – yes indeed! – on a safe, car-less road, sidewalk or space, of course. it will do your body and mind so so good. here are some more reasons why:

1.     WALKING BACKWARDS REWIRES OUR BRAIN

which inextricably helped to heal my left hip, which may have (had) a labrum tear. i learned this from a friend/PT who recommended it as part of my rehab. by walking backwards, we’re suggesting to the muscles and joints that usually work together in a certain functional pattern to build new relationships, and to stimulate new pathways. all while WE’RE building a new relationship with the pathways we’re moving through – j’adore such synergy!

2.     IL Y A DU VENT / IL Y A DU SOLEIL 

it’s windy here in the winter and it’s sunny here in the summer! because Justin-Thilou and i continue to have our walk/nap/wrap ritual in the morning, gathering him snuggly to my bosom, and either bundling us both together under several layers of monteaux (coats) or lightly with a chemise (light shirt) and going for our daily walk is one of the best ways for him to rest, and for me to get to have a moment to my own thoughts. i still wrap le petit coco in front, and when we walk around the fields, we cannot escape the wind or the sun here in la campagne. to keep JT protected and content, i walk backwards to shield him from the wind and to keep his little face (covered by un chapeau and sunscreen too, of course!) from the sun.

3.    IF YOU DON’T USE IT, YOU’LL LOSE IT

i’m referring to the range of motion of our skeleton. the hip joint and the shoulder joint, both ball-and-socket joints are made to be moved in flexion, extension, rotation, circumduction, and add-and-abduction – basically ALL the ways. by walking backwards – and in turn turning around to do so – we’re getting (mostly) full use out of our hip joints each day. it may not be our full ROM, but we’re definitely giving some love to our hips and shoulders, and even our back and knees by giving a breather to the regular pattern of movement. plus, that “regular pattern of movement” means we’re moving forward. not just through space, but also curving our neck, shoulders and spine forward to see the computer/phone/tv/tablet. by initiating the natural movement of walking with extension (to the back) rather than flexion, we are stretching into the balance needed to keep us upright longer and with more ease.

4.    WALKING BACKWARDS IS A BEAUTIFUL METAPHOR

for 2 reasons: 1) it reminds us that we don’t actually have to see where we’re going to know that we’re where we’re supposed to be; and 2) it allows us to literally see where we’ve been, how far we’ve come to arrive at this moment, this time, this place. it’s a surrendering to trust that we won’t fall, we won’t be knocked off of our path, and that we’re protected by a deep knowing that our connection to something greater, e.g. Source will guide us safely, ALWAYS.

FINAL THOUGHT:

walking backwards IN PUBLIC may seem a bit odd to other folx. once, two cyclists passed by me whilst walking backwards and asked “ça va?” with a bit of a laugh. i must say, i felt proud to be the pop of “weirdo” in rural France. 😂 so, among all the benefits of walking and simply moving your body through space in ALL directions, add to that, EMBRACE THE WEIRDO INSIDE! ‘cause honestly, if it’s something inside that intrinsically needs some rewiring or attention, who cares what others outside extrinsically may think? who knows? – you just may make someone smile or laugh simply by trusting that inner voice.

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Stephanie Y Jolivet

Stephanie Y Jolivet is a mover and a shaker and has been since in the womb. as she now embarks on her own journey through pregnant person/motherhood, she is grateful for her lifetime of movement practices. she is some things: a certified comprehensive Pilates instructor for over 15 years, a GYROTONIC® Level 1 certified instructor, a certified Yoga Trapeze® instructor, an advanced intuitive reader, a holder of an MFA in Experimental Choreography from the University of California, Riverside, a holder of an MA in English Literature and Language from Oxford University, a recipient of the Maryland State Arts Council solo performer award, and a recipient of the Metro DC Dance Awards for upcoming choreographer.

but mostly, she navigates time and space by teaching amazing folx the joy of moving in their uniquely gifted bodies through her now virtual studio, Sayezz Pilates & Beyond in Saussay-la-Campagne, France, living there with son mari, Ludovic. here’s what she has to say about that: “part of my purpose on this planet is to share the beautiful harmony between the physical practice of movement and the intuitive practice of listening to your body’s own deep knowing. in this synthesis, we learn to live free in movement, from pain, and to breathe deeply, and remain calm under everyday stresses. together, let's unlock your LIGHT, you rockstar!”