Written by Dr. Jessica Groves on September 1, 2020

Full disclosure: I hate transitions. When I first began training in natural movement, the basic movements were quite difficult. For the life of me, I could not get contralateral crawling. I considered making t-shirts for Team Ipsilateral to help those of us challenged by the opposite arm/leg movement, it was that bad. Throw in some transitions, like an underswitch or tripod transition, and I was done. D-O-N-E.

Unfortunately, or perhaps fortunately, I am also hella stubborn. I like to call this determined, but perhaps it’s a fine line. Failing is not an option. Failing (for me) = shame, and I will do anything to not experience that. It took me 3 months of practicing crawling before I stopped getting mixed up during my own practice. Teaching it without messing up, 6 months. Proficiency to the level of not even thinking about it, a year. Learning takes time. I know this, intellectually, having studied learning models all through graduate school. Living it is something else. If learning the basic pattern was so difficult, one can imagine that complicating that pattern by switching my body around would be even more work. It was. It was uncomfortable, awkward, and downright vulnerable. If I hate anything more than transitions, it is vulnerability.

Before we dig deep into vulnerability, let us start with why transitions are hard. First, they require strength. You must be strong enough to lift your body up and rotate around your center of gravity to place yourself in a new position. Take the underswitch, for example. In this movement the goal is to move from a hand/knee or hand/foot quad position to an inverted crawling position (think: crab crawl). This can only be achieved if certain physiological criteria are met. Core, leg, ankle, shoulder strength; and foot, ankle, shoulder, spine, wrist mobility. The transition requires your entire body to move in a certain way to achieve the goal of turning you over. One leg pulls under, as the shoulder and foot rotate (video example provided below). Yes, in learning this transition I got tangled up a lot. I would mess up which hand and foot were staying stable, I would fall, it was rough. The word grace did not come to mind. All of this was very humbling.

I have taught the underswitch, as well as other transitions, to many individuals of differing abilities. It is always humbling. Nervous laughter, scowls of frustration, sighs of effort are par for the course. Some give up. Some I must tell to take a break. It is exhausting. Transitions are learning, adapting, moving, and being all at once. It is easy to forget to breathe here, your brain is often working overtime. It is normal to feel vulnerable in transition. There is a lot that is unknown. Will I have the strength to make it over, or will I fall on my butt? Can my shoulder rotate all the way around? How do I get my foot and ankle to do that? Transitions ask us to trust and listen to our bodies. It is a commitment. You cannot hesitate in the middle of a transition when learning. Slowing it down comes AFTER mastery. The vulnerable feeling, it may or may not go away. It will lessen, and eventually, with enough practice, that transition will not require as much work. But it will not ever become easy. Why? Because it requires us to be present.

Deep breath break.

This is where I circle back to the vulnerability part. Transitions highlight weaknesses in our movement capabilities. Highlighted weakness in ourselves makes us feel vulnerable. It does not mean we are weak or less than, simply that we are human and have room for improvement.

Society, however, has trained us to believe that this means we are not good enough. If we listen to that, then it becomes overwhelming to face our own weaknesses. To face perceived weakness, we must first accept them. This is where shame likes to sneak in. We feel ashamed that we are weak. But why? Bodies age, we get injured, we get busy with other life things, we stop moving. Shame says we ARE bad for being weak and incapable, when the reality is that we just became less active. We can accept the guilt of that, but it does not define us. We did not fail or lose anything that we cannot regain. Strength is achievable and recoverable. Capability can be improved upon. Mobility can be practiced. Stability is still there, within us.

We are not bad, we are human.

How do I deal with the vulnerability of transitions? Movement or otherwise, I allow myself to feel those uncomfortable feelings. I allow myself to be present, through the breath, in my body. I collect data and process it logically, sometimes out loud.

For example: ‘My shoulder is tight and not willing to move like I need it to.’
Okay, I can regress to working on shoulder strength and mobility. Maybe I just piece out the rotation part of the transition and practice that first.
Another example: ‘I am afraid that I will fall on my butt.’
Fair enough. I will pay attention to my fear, and then let it go. Besides, I have plenty of padding there to keep me safe if I land on it from a quad position.

My body has done many incredible things, and it has also survived and endured many hard things. To date, it has not completely failed me. I am still alive.

Movement IS vulnerability.
It is seeing every part of ourselves and accepting where we are right now.
The only question left to ask then is:
Are you ready to transition?

Transitioning with vulnerability,

Dr. Jessica


Transitioning takes us from one position to another fluidly, with grace and ease of movement.