Last autumn I engaged the support of a physical therapist who does gait analysis because, while I wasn't injured, I felt tense in odd places after my hard running season had ended. After five years of watching other runners run, rooting out their imbalances, modeling proper technique, and seeing their running become more efficient and comfortable, I'd never had a professional analyze my gait. What I found was a considerable amount of work I needed to do on the way my pelvis orients itself to the ground as well as a side-to-side imbalance in deep core flexibility. This return to the basics of my good running function put to work the beginner's mind I cultivate during my simple meditations each day.
Recently I've run with more clients than usual, adding up to seven gait analysis sessions in the last three months. In these sessions I've helped runners become aware of their knock-knees and how to strengthen their legs to compensate, how to use their transverse abdominus to allow them to run faster downhill or around curves, and how to engage their posterior chain for the first time in their lives - subsequently causing near-debilitating hamstring soreness from running.
The more bodies I observe in motion, the more I learn about the kinetics of this ancient art. When Moose pops out of the August bramble, I don't twitch away in fear but rather watch intently as his lumbering limbs somehow speed him through the brush, rack and all. When Doe runs an armslength ahead of me among the evergreens, I don't startle. I smell deeply of the contrails ruffling off her fur and notice how none of her limbs ever straighten completely when she's running (not leaping) and I hear how she breathes through her nose and her mouth at the same time. I I also learn about gait from the many bodies of wild animals I've gutted, gauging the power of ki's leap by the girth of ki's psoas or the delicate nature of ki's steps by the sinews in ki's ankles. But I'll be honest: when Porcupine runs after me I fucking book it.
By gleaning knowledge both from my clients and the animals with whom I run, this ol' brain is getting pretty darn psyched on the many efficiencies an athlete can gain from gait work - not to mention the power of mindful movement on the spirit-body connection.