Functional Movement Patterns – The Missing Link(s)

We are each born into this world with innate tendencies to develop our bodies and minds in a way that enables our being to not only survive, but thrive. If we are allowed that precarious balance between freedom and boundaries, we develop in a rather instinctual way and movement is a part of this process.

We develop basic movement patterns that serve the need for stability and mobility of locomotion. Our little bodies learn to extend, flex and rotate our spine as well as lower the body to the ground. These “patterns” are manifest in the acts of reaching to be picked up, lifting the head when lying on the back, rolling when on the ground and squatting to get to something on the floor.

In my opinion, human adults, and even some teenagers, may lose these patterns as a result of infrequency of movement. Even if we exercise a few times a week, we spend the majority of the time disengaging our bodies from movement and our minds. The result is that the movement patterns that we have developed are quickly lost. And the key word here is “pattern”. According to Gray Cook, MSPT, our brain only recognizes how to execute what are called motor patterns. It cares little about the bicep muscle’s capacity to act on its own.

Functional movements such as reaching into the cupboard are remembered as a series of actions to fully extend the body. As is reaching for something to the side of you is a series of actions to produce rotation. You have likely known someone who has injured themselves in one of these movements…without any significant load. This occurs because of faulty movement patterns. In essence, it is a kink in the chain.

So why does this loss occur? We infrequently use these functional patterns as adults which then limits the mobility and stability required at the joints to allow these patterns to flow. If our bodies have reached this point, we can unravel the dysfunction with stretching exercises that require the body to be active at the same time. I feel this is one of the primary reasons yoga can be so effective at improving an individual’s function. The practice of yoga moves the body through patterns that stretch the body as it is required to support itself. Even the lying poses can have an element of “turning on” muscles that we are working to lengthen.

We would all do better if we stretched daily and frequently engaged in functional movement patterns. Among these are walking, extension, squatting and rotation. Requiring the body to perform a functional pattern every hour or so during the waking hours will go a long way in educating the body back to function. The following 2 yoga poses can be effective to encourage healthy patterns if practiced with regularity.

And ask me how I can help you improve your functional flexibility so you can move and feel better.

Utkatasana – Chair Pose









Bharadvajasana – Chair Seated Version



Annette Bray

Annette guides clients through movement using postural awareness techniques and the modality of yoga to bring physical and mental balance.

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