Primal Movement as Spiritual Practice: Our Fundamental Yoga

Humans are the Swiss Army Knife of Animal Movement 

We are movers. Humans beings enjoy one of the most mobile and adaptable bodies in the animal kingdom. We can be martial artist, yogis, weight lifters, swimmers, dancers, and gymnast; we can chase down caribou in the savannas or we can be astronauts. In truth nothing we do in the world happens without movement. Speaking, writing, having sex, giving birth, painting and serving the world all happen through the contraction/relaxation of muscles.

Movement is life and life is movement; the only difference between a living body and dead body is the movement of cells, the pulsing of our hearts and countless other rhythms happening in our physiology from the micro to the macro. 


An age old truth that is now being “rediscovered” by modern science, is the indisputable fact that the mind and body are integrally interconnected, as you cannot isolate one from the other. Mind and body are one. Psychosomatic is not just  a way of naming pathologies, it is what we are at a fundamental level.

In everything from the initiation rites of tribal cultures, the techniques of elite athletes, the amazing capacities of yogi’s, the life transforming qualities of a discipline like tai chi, there lies evidence of what we are capable of when the mind and body unity is realized. At a practical level, there are few vehicles as powerful as movement for completely transforming ourselves.

Movement can release old stored traumas, refine the self and be a driver for deeper evolution, causing literal and objective change: observable change. 


The body speaks your truth, the layers of your breathing, proportion, movement patterns and posture reveal what our truly lived patterns of feeling are. How we feel, think, behave and act is cemented in an objective and observable way on our bodies. The body and mind share an almost poetic way of expressing each other’s essence. I am sure you have used at least some of these statements or heard them used: 

  • A person who stresses you can be a pain in the neck

  • We may feel as though we can’t stand on our own two feet

  • We stand up for what we believe in

  • We do not want to live on our knees

  • We can grasp the situation

  • The weight of the world rest on our shoulders

  • A statement can be heavy

  • He carried the company on his back


 What does it mean if we take this mind-body reality into account and then realize we are structurally speaking, rather adaptable. Our alignment can range greatly between perfectly upright, excessively extended, rotated, tilted and heavily slumped.  These postural variations from individual to individual are unique to humans among the animal kingdom. What I personally find fascinating, is that in our most balanced postural state we are heart lead organisms. What I mean is that the thoracic cavity leads as the outer most edge in forward motion.

If our posture is balanced, meaning that tensional forces inside our myofascial matrix are just tense enough in the desired places and lax enough where you want it, we lead with our hearts.

In this balanced state we find this true neutral. If you look around it seems as though this state in the modern human is rare. Though to clarify, I mean that we default to this position without any conscious effort to hold any particular posture. We own it. 


Mentally and emotionally speaking, the mind and emotional charge that exist inside a supple, agile, fluid, open, strong, creative, balanced and healthy body is going to bring the person to life. When we come to life the baggage, tensions, restrictions and wasting of potential that we have lived with, cannot remain hidden to us.

The process of deep embodied physical cultivation leads into and becomes the process of higher awareness.   

Of course alignment is much more complex and vast than simply looking at a person standing in the isolation of doing anything else (there is also alignment outside neutral). Though, upright standing posture can be a good indicator of a person’s state. We also must consider proportion from left to right, top to bottom and front to back. Is the person bigger in one then the other?  Imagine someone who is really heavy up top, has a large torso, their hands and voice are loud but their lower body is tiny. What would that say about the person’s life?

The body is the pointer, the road map, the vehicle and the measure of our capacity or lack thereof in this world. This is true because the body is an object and thus an object-ive reference point for inner processes. 


“This second armor expresses itself in the concept of himself the student has developed, in values and beliefs he holds, in his human relations, in his habits and style of life, and in his work. Any (and many times all) of these areas of life are limited and distorted in ways that express and extend the student's pattern of muscular armor. People often develop their life style, values and beliefs, friends and love relations, and their work in the service of their emotional defenses”. - Charles R. Kelley: EDUCATION IN FEELING AND PURPOSE

Due to our adaptability and the possibility for a very large variety of activities, having a reference point of universal movement patterns and an ancient biological inheritance that is as old as life itself on this planet, is what primal movement is all about.

This unique human animal body is likely billions of years old if we take our ancestry back to origins of life.

Things like the push ups, rolling, rocking, squats, lunges, crawling, kneeling, tool usage and swinging a club can be both used to reawaken dormant parts of us, remove unwanted tension, and ground us. 

My experience has been that laying a foundation in certain patterns can help reactivate a deep root system. It can also act as a platform for activities that have no outer context (like meditation) and can potentially reconnect us with our bodies quicker than other non “ancestral” systems.  

There are people who mediate an hour daily and yet cannot enter into some of our most basic default positions of our species like a squat! Having access to our fundamental patterns can help stabilize our spiritual practices in the raw experience of life. 

We share many of these movements and features with a lot of the animal kingdom; in some ways we are still worms and reptiles. You could think then that if nature has passed these things around so much that there is a particular type of primordial intelligence there. Using these patterns and anthropological perspectives, can be particularly healing in today’s industrialized world of nature aversion.  

As much as many of us claim to love animals, there is often a separating of them from ourselves: there are people and then there are animals. We see ourselves outside of nature looking in instead of seeing ourselves intertwined into the fabric of the natural world. 

I believe and have also experienced that one of the most powerful ways, that is easily accessible, to recover our animal selves, is through primal movement.  At a fundamental level - primal movement is simply primal ways of FEELING because patterns of tension and relaxation are patterns of feeling. 

Engaging in these fundamental human patterns of movement, as well as exploring our capacity for emotional expression through catharis then adding complexity, thus exploring their limits and ranges is helps bring us into the primal reality of our bodies.
These are ancient inherited ways of orientating in the world; sitting at a computer is rather new kinestehetic experience

Our ingrained movement patterns at neurological, metabolic and myofascial levels will thus then, affect our base mode of sensing.

Our emotions are also greatly affected by movement patterns because armor (excessive muscular tension) is created when we repress emotions, to “lock” them up energetically. So when we are not grounded on these level's in the form of moving like a human animal, we are fundamentally disconnected from a rich, healing and earth based set of psychosomatic experiences; the experience of being a creature of the earth.

 

The original meaning of the word yoga is to “yoke” or to “unite” the separate strands of ourselves into a whole, which is why primal movement is a fundamental physical yoga; moving the body as a whole, tying together structure, movement and breath and connecting us to the natural world.This is a necessary set of experiences for all humans because they are needs. We as a species, like all other species are designed to move and behave with certain patterns. But due to the shift of going from hunter gathers to computer age warriors many of these earth based sensations have been lost.

Moving in these ways can heal the disconnect between mind and body, between the primal and spiritual, it can remove our aches and pains, increase our energy, awaken the spiritual and physical athlete, reduce our stress, ground us and restore the vitality that is our birthright as wild animals on planet earth.

We are not meant to be sick, broken and weak but strong, capable and resilient. 


If we were to look at the poetic relationship between mind and body alluded to above, what type of poetry would we be writing and experiencing with a healthy dose of ancestrally inspired movements? It is difficult to engage in this and not have at least a baseline respect for the wilderness and our connection to the rest of life. To progress in this discipline, in any real manner will require certain character armor’s to be shed.  Again, it is not a nostalgic rendering of how we should be but a recovery of who we are. You can be wild and live in a city, because wildness is a state of being. It is how we think, feel, walk, perceive and relate. Though there is no magic bullet or cure all, primal movement can be a boon if your intent is inner freedom; it certainly has been for me and for others on this path. As you free your body, and reacquire your confidence in it's potential, lots of beautiful transformative processes to your spirit can occur. This is not something to achieve, it is something to unleash.