Movement is the way we are, not just what we do. When movement stops, life stops. Without movement, nothing lives. Life requires energy to flow through us, right down to the molecular and cellular level—and beyond, even to the quantum level.

When you open an anatomy book you see illustrations of cadavers—dead bodies. Western culture, rooted in reductionism (dividing things into pieces and parts to understand the whole), views the body as a system of muscles, bones, and joints. While true, this is really only a part of the picture. The whole body also contains connective tissues that integrate the various organs and systems of the body. Without paying attention to the role of connective tissue, we miss the body’s experience of movement.

Today, in the 21st century, we face an epidemic of chronic back pain that affects people in all walks of life. The solution lies in greater awareness of our mind-body connection. For example, a whole-body connective tissue approach to movement helps us focus on what happens in the body as a whole, integrated unit. In short, for optimum health and fitness, everyone needs to learn moves that encourage whole-body connection, strengthening the back and opening the hips. Try these moves:

Move 1: Squat

Why squat? Because too much chair sitting, too much time on the phone or computer—which creates stressful living—tightens our hips. Doing squats is a whole-body movement that effectively opens the hips and relieves stress.

How to Squat

Squats are best done barefoot.

  • Begin by sensing the bottom of your feet, yielding into gravity. As you squat down, you begin to feel the lift of your abdomen away from gravity.
  • Next, feel your feet fully supporting the rest of your body (and sense the connection between your feet, pelvis, spine, head, and hands).
  • Send your “sit bones” back as you hinge forward slightly and begin bending the knees to squat. Arms can be down or forward.

It is important to feel the process of squatting instead of just tracking the beginning and end of the exercise because the body searches for integrity throughout the process.

Move 2: Back Extension

Why back extension? Because it, too, opens the hips. The more you have a healthy mobile lower back, the less tight your hips will be (and vice versa). When done effectively, this movement is essential because, due to modern lifestyles, many people have developed the habit of a forward head posture, which strains the neck and the rest of the spine.

How to Extend the Spine

It is not about coming up high. It is about eliminating tension as you extend.

  • Lie down on your stomach with legs open and lower back relaxed.
  • Place your hands a little in front and outside your shoulders, with elbows bent, keeping them down to avoid tension in your shoulders.
  • From here, you need to do only four things: (1) Let your pelvis feel heavy. (2) Stretch your legs long, away from your hip socket. (3) Feel the weight of your forearms. (4) Push the crown of the head up toward the sky.
  • Your heavy forearms will help extend your spine.

As you experience your spine extending, you release tension in your lower back.

When approached from a whole-body perspective, these two movements not only address the problems of a stiff lower back and tight hips—so common today—they also integrate your body’s connective tissue, uniting the body as a whole. Your energy starts to flow more freely, and you become aligned with how you actually experience your body’s movements.