Stephen Opper

B.A., NCLMBT #2955

Stephen Opper practices Structural Bodywork, and teaches Therapeutic, and Natural Movement Systems in Asheville, North Carolina

Ancestral Movement Patterns (Part 1, Introduction)

Over the last several years, I have been amazed and gratified to see the rise in popularity of quadrupedal movement among fitness enthusiasts and movement practitioners.  As someone who has been practicing animal locomotion for 20 years I must warn you, it is a rabbit hole, which will take you places you might not expect. 

        I was introduced to the basics of the practice through Shaolin Gongfu, Baguazhang, and African groundfighting (Kupigana Ngumi), it was later reinforced and deepened through the study of animal tracking. Soon after that, I found it to be an answer to the question of how to integrate Taiji Chuan principles with bodyweight training, as a form of 4 legged standing meditation. This attitude allowed me to train “strength” without sacrificing the relaxed body-unification and sensitivity I was otherwise working to achieve.  Unexpectedly,  animal movements proved to be an excellent laboratory to study biomechanics, as I was subjecting myself to the same forces and body positions which designed much of the internal architecture of our-selves and our animal kin. Continued practice led togreater observation of animal movement patterns, and the natural tendency to look for underlying patterns in these movements led to an inquiry into our evolutionary past: to know when we adopted different strategies, in response to different environmental pressures, and the mechanical/morphological changes which followed suit. 


Another reason I stuck with quadrupedal movements was that they had the additional benefit of not aggravating my Iliopsoas, Quadratus Lumborum, l5/s1 joint, or Sacroiliac joint, all of which had been injured, and severely restricted what I could do for a decade and a half. Meaning, I could train hard on all 4’rs without ending up in more pain, while most other exertions left me unable to stand up straight.  Not aggravating an injury is step 1 in the healing process. Steps 2 and 3 don’t need to take you over a decade as they did for me, but live and learn. 

                After that old injury finally exhausted my L5/S1 disk, leaving me temporarily crippled with a bulging disc pressing on my spinal cord, I returned to ancestral movement patterns, first as a necessary means of locomotion, and second as a means of methodically rebuilding my internal structure-for which they are uniquely suited.


                Every conversation begins somewhere in the middle, and this one is no different. Over the next few weeks I will pull on a few of the threads mentioned above, and follow where they lead.  Until then, be well!