The human body is the most complex moving system on the planet, enabling us to balance and walk easily on two feet, to manipulate tools, to sit fully upright, to perform a vast array of movements and skills, and to produce articulate speech. These abilities have not only made it possible to transform our environment but form the pantheon of skills that make up culture itself: the ability to sing and speak, to play musical instruments, to use tools and create art, to dance and perform martial arts. We spend long hours, particularly in childhood, mastering some of these skills, which form the basis for everyday activities and a host of human occupations.
While we admire the skill and accomplishment of those who have taken these skills to a higher level, what is easier to overlook is that, to be able to perform these skills, we inherit a motor system of incredible complexity. We can describe this system in terms of neural control, but it is based first and foremost on our vertebrate design, emerging through long eons beginning with the earliest marine vertebrates and progressing, through a series of remarkable changes, to the upright human primate. We observe this progression, albeit in altered form, in the infant that swims in the womb, then crawls like a reptile and clambers like an ape, until eventually standing and walking on two feet. At each stage, the system becomes more complex until, in a balanced state of fully upright poise, we become capable of fantastic levels of skill.
Precisely because our upright motor system is so complex, however, it is prone to failure. At age two, a child exhibits perfect poise, is able to sit and move easily and, in this natural state, to use her voice and arms with no discernible effort. By the age of five, such perfect poise is lost, sitting up becomes a strain, and the natural use of the arms is lost. The potential for skill remains but, to be fully realized, requires conscious mastery of the upright support system. Knowledge of developmental stages of movement is an invaluable aid in developing this mastery. By utilizing basic primitive postures and stages of movement, we can regain the postural support and sensory input required to recalibrate the system. We are also able to recognize and inhibit harmful patterns and restore natural function. This process makes it possible to effect improvements in the working of the muscular system, to gain insight into how to move more efficiently, and to progress from more basic to more advanced forms of balance and support—all at a more conscious level that elevates the process of balance and movement to a higher level of awareness and control.
In this area, we examine the unique features of our upright vertebrate design; the sensorimotor systems that serve movement; the key evolutionary sequences that lead to upright posture; and the use of primitive postures to restore function and poise. Various stages of movement will be explored, from primitive total body patterns, crawling and creeping, to anthropoid and human movement. And haptic perception…
Principles of Developmental Movement (due for publication in 2024)
PRINCIPLES OF DEVELOPMENTAL MOVEMENT