Tim Anderson’s book, PRESSING RESET: Original Strength Reloaded, is worth reading, studying and putting into practice in our everyday life. This article is an extraction from his book and is focused on just two of the five movements that babies make in order to develop strength, perfect posture, brain–body coordination and health. As adults, when we do these same movements, you will notice some dramatic changes. Let’s look at why.
How can we regain the strength, flexibility, mobility and resilience we once had as babies? Tim says (and proves it), “By spending time on the floor and using the developmental stages of movement that we went through as infants.”
The baby’s brain, nervous system and muscles develop through natural movement patterns in the mother’s womb and during infancy. As adults we lose our natural movement patterns by being static – not moving. Sitting. The result is poor health, pain, stress, loss of balance, weakness, lack of stamina….
With every step we take, our body produces two times its weight in force. If we weigh 100 pounds, we produce 200 pounds of force with each step. And running generates six to eight times our weight in force.
These powerful forces need to travel through our body. If we have a strong core, we can absorb and transfer the energy of these forces. If not, the forces become too great and create stresses, weaknesses, energy leaks, spinal shearing. We risk injuring ourselves. We may have a sluggish metabolism. And of course movement problems – a lack of grace in how we move, stiffness, pain, arthritic joints and more.
By doing five basic movement patterns, the baby develops a solid core, which makes strength, stability and mobility possible.
The five basic patterns are: head nods, rocking, rolling and crawling. And, when standing, one more: cross-crawls.
When we do these movement patterns, we too develop a solid core, leading to strength, stability, flexibility and a desire to move as we are meant to.every
I noticed when we were on holiday that after going up the two flights of stairs at our hotel, holding onto the bannister, I was slightly out of breath at the top. Nothing too obvious. But after one day of doing the five movements that every baby does, without thinking I went up the stairs without holding onto the bannister and was not in the least out of breath at the top.
I also noticed that my spine was straighter and my head – chronically forward – was more aligned to my spine. I was sufficiently impressed that I’ve been doing the five movements every day since that time.
The baby’s head weighs about 33% of their body weight and is about 25% the size of their body – the equivalent of our adult head weighing 38 pounds!
Lying on their belly, as infants lift their large head, which is connected to their core, they are able to build the stability and strength to hold their head so it is level with the horizon. Learning how to move and control the head is where strength and mobility begin.
As important, moving the head activates the vestibular balance system of the inner ear.
The vestibular system is connected to every muscle in the body, particularly the core muscles of the abdominals and back – the muscles that work together to move the head. The righting reflex of the vestibular system keeps our head level with the horizon.
The first step in the process of activating the vestibular system is for the baby to be able to pick up its head, hold it up and keep it up. This takes tremendous strength. For example, Tim Anderson shows a photo of a baby lying on his belly, holding his head up high for over five minutes. Tim tried to hold this position and was shaking within one minute! Lifting the head while lying on the stomach develops the core and strengthens the vestibular system.
The vestibular balance system of the inner ear begins to develop about twenty-one days after conception and is fully developed within five months after conception.
• The vestibular system supports the development of the brain and nervous system, activating neural connections in the brain.
• We cannot function properly without the vestibular system. Movement stimulates this system, starting with the mother’s movements during pregnancy and continuing with the infant’s movements as it develops its capacity to do the five basic motions: head nodding, rolling, rocking, crawling and cross-crawls.
• Because the vestibular system is connected to every muscle in the body – especially the core and neck muscles – the more we move, the more we activate our vestibular system and the greater our strength and sense of balance become.
• Head movements affect the vestibular system and every muscle in our body.
• When we sit for 7-14 hours a day, often looking down, this is like a return to the womb state: the body is flexed, slouched and the head is forward and down. And the core becomes weak. As a result, when we stand, the head is now forward, rather than back and aligned to the spine. And the further forward the head, the more it weighs, which places stress on the spine.
Babies hold their head up – extension. The baby’s head position is determined by its eye position. The head follows the eyes. Its natural head movements, aligned to the spine, automatically strengthen the neck muscles, the upper and lower back and the abs.
The neck is designed for extension to its full range of motion so our eyes are parallel to the horizon. Without head control through movement, there is poor posture and loss of balance.
When the baby lies on his stomach with his head up, the baby is learning to control his head. This is critical for posture, balance and coordination.
The first step is breathing properly: using the diaphragm. Letting the belly gently rise and fall as we breathe in and out through the nose. This is the beginning of developing a strong core.
Breathing in the upper chest – sympathetic nervous system stress/emergency breathing – weakens the core, causing the head to drop forward and creates neck pain, upper back/shoulder stiffness and pain, a hunched posture, fatigue when walking, running and exercising, poor digestion and other physical and mental issues.
The diaphragm, one of the strongest muscles in the body, works with the pelvic floor and other muscles to protect the spine and develop a stable strong core.
Where we place our tongue is critical to our health. It needs to be against the roof of the mouth, behind the front teeth, except when speaking and eating.
Placing the tongue on the roof of the mouth stimulates the tongue ligaments, which are connected to the vestibular system, and frees up the neck’s range of motion.
Start on all fours, knees apart, and rock back and forth, bringing the buttocks back towards the heels. Rocking is one of the movements babies make to develop core strength and give them the energy they will need for crawling and eventual walking.
On all fours, holding the position with the buttocks slightly towards the heels. The head follows the eyes so look down and bring your chin to chest. Now look up, lifting your head as high as you can, chin in the air. Only go as far as you can without tension or pain. With daily repetition, the neck will begin to reach its full range of motion.
Try doing the head nods lying on your stomach and resting on your forearms. Or sitting in a chair, standing, lying on your back. Do the diaphragmatic breathing while flexing your head down and extending it up.
As you do this every day you will notice how it loosens an immobilized upper back, unlocks stiff hips and even helps with frozen ankles. Posture begins to improve automatically.
• diaphragm breathing;
• tongue on the roof of the mouth;
• rocking back and forth,
• and then the head nods.
SEE HOW YOU FEEL!