Walk Like An Egyptian…Or An Indian

The Bangles in ’86 or Tonto 50 years before. Most of us have an image of how ‘Egyptians’ or ‘Indians’ walk. Any good old muscle-head knows how ridiculous the newbies are when they do their ‘lat walk.’

OK, but what does your walk look like? How do you sit? 

A recent book from On Target Publications prompted the musings that will follow. I can’t really tell you who the best commercial target of this book might be though I know the authors have something in mind. However I will tell you that anyone interested in health should buy this book, read it and understand how it applies to themselves. The book? “Movement.” The subtitle really nails the content: “Functional Movement Systems.” The primary author is Gray Cook. I don’t know Gray but I like his work. Let me tell you why you should care.

Grey’s Anatomy is the name of a popular television show however ‘Gray’s Anatomy’ refers to one of the most significant textbooks of human anatomy ever written. There is a little bit of history about this text that illustrates the conceptual problem that Gray Cook’s book solves.

Gray’s Anatomy was first published in England in 1858; not many years after an American version began to be published. The two editions began to drift from one another not only in content and spelling but concept. The English version published anatomy in functional units: for example “The Nervous System” or “The Musculoskelatal System.” The American edition published anatomy as regional anatomy: for example “The Leg” or “The Head.” Same stuff, pieces of the body, but very different approaches to the conceptual underpinnings of how the body ‘fits together.’ At my medical school the American edition was used. I bought and used the English. OK, I am prone to swimming up stream. Bear with me this is going somewhere that will help you.

Well Chiropractors are all quacks! Or so I was taught; I never believed it. They were cracking bones I was cutting, sawing and sewing; clearly a more advanced activity. They said spinal alignment caused everything and I saw ugly fungating masses eating away legs or arms or livers: cancer.

A few decades later, a little more perspective and thousands of patients later I am here to tell you that the pain she feels in bed, the weakness he feels when he tries to walk up the stairs, the fear of sudden movement, the stoop (what is he staring at?) when he walks, the fall, broken hip, pneumonia and death that follows: the pain and suffering of life, the diminished world where you can’t exercise enough to raise your HDL to prevent cancer, the loss of potency and passion- all of that is because we don’t know how to walk or sit or stand. We not only don’t know how to do these things we don’t even know how to begin to care. And that’s where “Gray’s Movement” comes in; and no scatological images allowed.

So the English version or the American version? They both miss the point. It is still just stuff when what matters is more like an idea. It lives in movement, in pleasure and pain, it lives in aesthetics.

Stretching as conventionally understood does more harm than good. Fascial stretching is the new version. Deep tissue work, Feldenkrais, just dance, quit exercising because it hurts! I’ve tried them all.

I don’t agree with everything in the book but I do agree with so much that the differences are available to dialogue not dueling at dawn.

Gray Cook’s approach soundly shows you how to look at functional units of movement and test them for integration and symmetry and then how to put the units all back together to restore a sound walk or sit or sleeping position. You can then take that restored mechanically sound body and run, jump and play…which is the best medicine there is!

Smile and God Speed,

Dr. Mike

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