Part 3 – Developing Limbs

Evolution of Movement – Part 1

The next step is on to land, development of fins into limbs. You may well ask, why on earth am I reading about fish on a health and human movement page? Fascinatingly the study of evolution helps us understand some of the movement maps within our own body.

Developing legs

These reptilian-like fish (375 million years ago) began to develop limb buds, which helped locomotion in shallow water environments. It was at this time development of the lungs occurred as moving up onto land became a good way to avoid predation in the water.

TiktaalikThere are still strong connections between the arm position in our posture, and the lungs (in terms of where we breathe in the torso and fullness of breath). Change the position of the arms, and it opens or closes the shoulder girdle, changing the breathing pattern.

Welcome breath and quadrupedal movement!

In locomotion, one arm will come forward, followed by the opposite leg. This sets up a counter-torsion movement that we still use today when walking upright (with the opposite arm swinging forward to the leg).

Here’s an example with Ido Portal:

Sideways Undulation with limbs

This exploration into evolutionary movement dynamics is beginning to be explored by practitioners in movement & health around the world.

The exercise below is inspired from the experiences and study of movement with Giovanni Fusetti (Helikos, Italy), & Pol Charoy and Imanou Risselard (Wu Tao, Paris).

EXERCISE: Exploring reptilian movement

Lying on a clean wooden floor (or a surface that you can easily slide around on), lie belly down, face to the floor.

Close your eyes and take a moment to feel the entire length of the back of your spine. Imagine you have eyes at the base of your skull and imagine looking around with these. This gently elongates the fine muscles in the back of your neck.

lizardLeading with the top of your head create a snake-like S-wave through the spine. Your head will lead the movement and go from side to side. Explore how it feels when these s-waves are large or small. Different sensations will arrive from fine subtle movements and the larger more physical waves.

When comfortable with this s-wave, bring your palms to the floor, and allow your knees to move and also be in contact with the floor. As the pelvis moves from side to side, one knee will swing up towards the elbow creating the beginnings of counter-torsion.

This is an incredible conditioning exercise for on the flat, or up and down stairs.


In the very early stages on land, the head and neck movement would lead the spinal wave. Over the next steps we will explore the development of a neck (with head articulation separate to the body), migration of the eyes, and the next layers of mammalian movement.