Twenty people gather on a hill in the mountains of Hohe Wand, Austria: 19 men, 1 women. 15 countries are represented. We’re here to learn from MovNat’s best. The goal is to achieve Certificate III in MovNat training and we all have a sense that the qualification is closely guarded by the organisation. It’s not just an accreditation, it’s a status.

Anyone with a MovNat Cert III is expected to be a living breathing example of the philosophy and natural movement practice of MovNat at its highest level.

We all received the course preparation materials months ago. We’ve trained hard to be here. That much was obvious to me yesterday during the spontaneous play at the Sports Halle.

We’ve prepared our bodies for the unexpected.

If we haven’t we’re likely to fail.

Now is our time to find out.

THE AGENDA: ALL OF ME!

Over the next four days we’ll learn a bunch of advanced MovNat skills. That’s for sure. But to me, achieving Cert III seems to be about much more than simply learning a bunch of skills. A trained chimpanzee can do that. And better than we can.

At this level of the accreditation hierarchy I get a sense that MovNat not only wants to see how you move, but how you think about your movement. How you cope with discomfort. How you work as an individual (and in community) and how you relate your movement to the place that your movement evolved from and was made for: in nature.

All of this means, to me at least, is that my entire being is open to scrutiny.

RITUAL

No one called what we did to start the day a ritual but they could have. We formed a circle, sat down on the earth and shared stories. A practice as old as the human form itself.

Each person was given an opportunity to share their name, where they are from and their connection to MovNat. The why of our here.

From every person I hear impassioned stories articulated with the kind of precision that comes from having lived an experience and taken it seriously.

I learned of accidents, injuries and physical recovery. How life-pathways took unexpected turns and how years of either sedentary behaviour or limited movement practices diminished their body’s mobility and how all of this was reclaimed through their involvement with the MovNat practice.

GROUND DWELLERS

As you can imagine, 20 personal stories can take a long time to tell but no one looked uncomfortable. We’re all seated differently on the floor and our positions shift constantly as the sun rises.

This is befitting of a MovNat group. We’re comfortable on the ground. We’re ground-dwellers. The opposite of a chair-dweller.

Ground-dwelling is an important lifestyle choice. The number of shapes the human form can take when seated on the ground is not indefinite but it’s infinitely more varied than the predominant shape most people make whenever we’re seated in chairs; in the car, at dinner, at work, in front of the TV!

A continued ‘chair shaped’ position forces, molds, the body into the same postural shape and reduces spine, hip, calf and ankle mobility, which over time can have devastating consequences to a person’s mobility (To understand a little bit about why this is so, read my article on S.A.I.D).

SOMETHING TO THINK ABOUT:

‘Ground Living’ is a thing. A health and lifestyle choice that is worth your attention. Some enlightened westerners have given up on chairs in the home altogether. Here is an interesting article on why: Do you spend enough time on the floor?

 And here is an interesting family that did just that!

So today we began where we should: outdoors and close to the earth. It’s also the place where anyone beginning their MovNat journey will begin their ‘workout’; on the floor, slowly working their way through a natural development sequence (NDS). More on that another time.

As we sit and share, Anders shares another gem that effects me deeply. He says,

“I come to MovNat because I did not want to be homeless in my own body.”

Deep!

My overactive brain is over-activated and the philosopher in me is positively tingling. For the reminder of the day I’ll keep coming back to this thought, “What does it mean to feel homeless in my own body?”

It effects me personally because it puts flesh on my experience of the journey back into fitness.

Learning to be functionally fit again was not simple. I suffered injuries and had to recover. I had to rethink my training practice. I had to learn. It took time.

One thing I learned was that even without having an injury, a body that can not bear it’s own weight, squat to the floor or move efficiently through all that it is capable of, that kind of body is broke and you might as well consider it ‘injured’. Any training you do to get this kind of body ‘back on track’ needs to be approached with a remedial/rehabilitation mindset in order to the return to fitness without doing further damage.

Whole body movement training was a ‘home-coming’ for my body. A welcome return to what a body can and ought to be able to do. And MovNat was the program that gave my return to fitness a rigour, structure and a purpose that it had previously lacked.

And now, on a hill in Austria, MovNat gives me a family. A group of like-minded people who are inspired by the relationship between the earth and our abilty to traverse across it.

THE SKILLS: FROM THE GROUND UP

Once our stories are finished and we’re all feeling a little closer to each other, a little sun burnt, sun-kissed and a little bit super charged with Vitamin D. So, we start MOVING! It’s on and I can sense  excitement and nervousness.

The order of the skills we tackle, learn, deconstruct and workshop, neatly follows MovNat’s training recommendation of ‘foundations first’ and a ‘developmental sequence of progression’. (Again, more on that another time!)

We start with Slides, Crawls and my nemesis, the Single Leg Get-Ups. And just as we’re winding up for lunch my iWatch blinks me a digital high-five!

To Be Continued …

Damien Norris is the founder and senior whole-body movement and lifestyle coach at The Wilding Project (LINK), Perth Western Australia.

Recently featured in TEDxPerth (LINK), Damien teaches children, young people, adults and seniors how to move and live a full life!

Olympic Fun & Fitness and The Wilding Project like Rewilding is dedicated to a movement rich life. Programs like Gymnastics, GymFIT, FootyEDGE, Parkour, Workplace Athletes, ActiveAgers and more all follow a simple philosophy, “Learn to move well and then never stop.”

Damien Norris