Parkour in a forest. Those are the words that were going through my head as I attempted to explain what I had gotten up to this past weekend at 42 Acres, a beautiful, wooded retreat site in Somerset, south west England.
But actually, that’s selling the experience short. Last weekend I had the opportunity to be guided through a full weekend of tribal discovery by Tony Riddle, The Natural Warrior Expert.
The crash course in natural movement focused on getting back to basics in the way that we move, nourish, rest and sleep our bodies. As Tony explains, our species spent 35 million years as primates, 6 million years as hominids, 400 thousand years as the most feared predator on the planet, 10 thousand as farmers, and just 200 in what he describes as a “worrier” state that does not do justice to our origins, especially when you put into context that we are the product of the strongest genes that survived that evolution.
To move naturally we have to look at how our bodies evolved, and what modern-day, artificial stresses we are constantly putting on them. From chronic sitting, to eating processed, refined foods, we are barraging our body with forces it was not designed to handle. With effort, we can recondition ourselves to use our bodies in a more functional way.
For movement, we were guided through a series of exercises from crawling on logs to jumping up walls with particular emphasis how we use our feet (hint: your modern-day, soft, rubber-soled shoes are not doing you any favours). On a more applied side, we learned sitting positions that use your bones and muscles the way they were designed to support your weight, to reduce the strain during a day at the computer.
Check out some demos here:
For nourishment, we explored the evolution of our diet, and how our natural stress response can seriously disrupt digestion by throwing our stomach acid out of balance. Combined with a diet that’s far removed from our hunter-gatherer days, and you have a recipe for exhaustion and low immunity among other problems. We stuck to lots of greens, and lean protein sources like bone broths and organ meats.
For rest, we learned how circadian rhythms get out of balance in the presence of too much artificial light (Harvard agrees). We detoxed from our phones, went to bed when it was dark, and woke up in the morning to natural light.
The weekend culminated in the opportunity to apply everything we’d learned in a play session in the forest. We went off on our own to explore the grounds, climbing trees, balancing on branches and vaulting over logs – all things where I tend to find myself the happiest.
I hope this marks the beginning of a long learning journey for me, using my body to the fullest, and getting back to more logical, caveman roots.