Functional Movement and Yoga
As we have come to better understand the impact that physical activity has on our health and wellbeing, the term ‘functional movement’ has appeared in conversations regarding training and exercise. So, what does it mean?
Functional movements are movements that mimic actions you perform in your everyday life. Imagine you are bending over to pick up a heavy bag of groceries. If the bag is on the ground, you might perform a squat to get low enough. Alternatively, if it is at knee height, you might hinge from your hips. Both of these are considered functional movements.
Practising these movements through exercises such as squats and lunges can help prevent injury and make simple tasks far easier. While this training can be done at the gym, many people don’t realise that these movements are often also performed and perfected through yoga.
Mount Martha Yoga offers “yoga classes near me” to people across the Mornington Peninsula with a focus on improving balance, flexibility, and training functional movements to help with everyday life.
Categories of functional movement
A squat involves several muscles in your upper and lower body working together, including your quadriceps, hamstrings, abductors, and hip flexors. These muscles help you to walk, run, climb stairs, get up from a chair, and bend over.
You can squat using just your body weight or add weights and resistance bands. In yoga, a movement known as malasana invokes a deep squat, opening up your hips to manage tightness often associated with sitting at a desk all day.
A lunge involves positioning one leg forward (slightly further than a normal step) and bending both knees at a 90º angle. Your front shinbone will face forwards whilst your back shinbone will face the ground.
When you perform a lunge, many muscles are involved in stabilising the body. This includes the quadriceps, hamstrings, calves, obliques, and more. Some of the most basic yoga poses involve this movement, including banarasana and anjaneyasana.
Pushing can be divided into two categories; horizontal and vertical. Horizontal pushing might be invoked if you’re moving heavy boxes on the ground. Vertical pushing could come into play if you’re trying to push an object into an upper cupboard. Both require strong, stable shoulder muscles and joints.
For many people, traditional push-ups are very difficult. By incorporating the plank, downward facing dog — and for the more advanced yogis, crow and crane poses (kakasana and bakasana) — you will effectively build upper body muscle to help with everyday tasks.
The opposite of pushing is pulling, and both movements are equally important for muscular functionality. Pulling involves much the same muscle groups as pushing and comes in handy if you’re trying to tug open a heavy door.
Some practitioners believe there is an imbalance when it comes to push/pull movements in yoga. While it’s true that there are fewer pull-based exercises, dhanurasana (bow pose) and natarajasana (dancer’s pose) can both be incorporated to improve this functional movement.
Hinging involves having a slight bend in the knee while keeping your back straight and pushing your hips backwards. When practised in isolation, it may seem difficult to master. However, it’s an essential everyday movement that helps us pick items up safely and without damaging our hips and back.
There are many yoga poses designed to open up your hips. From the butterfly stretch to ustrasana, or camel pose, aligning and strengthening our hips can have a considerable impact on day to day life.
Buckling ourselves into the car is something most of us do on a daily basis, but we rarely stop to think about what muscle groups are involved. Twisting, or rotation, calls mainly upon your obliques, which also help with posture and spine stabilisation.
You could spend hours at the gym performing sit-ups, crunches, and Russian twists. Or you could perform a yoga routine that involves any number of common poses, including ardha matsyendrasana (seated twist pose) and parvrtta trikonasana (revolved triangle pose).
We often take our ability to perform functional movements for granted. It’s not until injury or old age prevents us from bending over to pick up a bag of groceries or putting something heavy on a top shelf that it becomes apparent just how important these movements are.
Mount Martha Yoga offers yoga classes for people of all ages, experience levels, and abilities. Emily is passionate about providing her students with an understanding of the holistic benefits of yoga, including its ability to improve basic movements essential for everyday life. If you’re in the Mornington Peninsula region and have been searching for “yoga classes near me”, contact Mount Martha Yoga today.