Everyday I see numerous patients with back pain. And naturally once they get better, the key is to sustain that state as long as possible. Like I like to tell them, this is only possible with a healthy lifestyle and I always encourage my patients to stay active, which is not always easy if they are busy or lack exercising in general. Also, what should they do? Weightlifting? Yoga? Stretching? All of those are great but there is one type of work out that I love and my patients love too: Ginástica Natural. You probably never heard of it unless you are a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu nerd, but it is one of the best workout for back injury rehabilitation or to stay overall in good shape.
What is Ginástica Natural?
Ginástica Natural is a type of work out that has been developed in the 80s by a Brazilian athlete and Jiu Jitsu practitioner called Alvaro Romano, who also has a university degree in Physical Education and deep knowledge in Hatha yoga. Professor Romano spent his entire life researching eastern techniques and the “movements of the primitive men”. The main influence of his technique is ground movement of jiu-jitsu, combined with natural body moves, stretching and breathing techniques. Whereas most other rehabilitative therapies focus on a specific muscle or muscle group, Ginástica Natural makes all the muscles to connect together in fluid movements.
This holistic approach spread out rapidly outside Brazil and became very popular worldwide among athletes, especially MMA fighters, martial artists and surfers who saw great benefits by adding this workout in their routine. But the most amazing part is that when I introduced Ginástica Natural classes to some of my patients, they started to notice improvement in their symptoms and increase in mobility!
Today, Alvaro Romano continues to teach classes and education programs to physical therapists, personal trainers, and instructors. More than a work out, it is considered as a lifestyle that promotes good health and balance of the body and the mind.
How is it different?
So let’s have a look into it to see why is it different from conventional rehabilitative methods:
It is mostly done on the ground
Because of its influence from Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, most of the movements are performed on the ground. After an injury, when most of the activities like bending forward and standing upright for a long period of time are still painful, the ground (which is usually a tatami mat or on the sand) provides support to the back and allows the inflamed area to rest while working on the core strengthening.
It only uses the body weight…yet it is a complete workout.
No need to use weights, or machines (even though you can for advance classes). You only use your body weight and perform natural movements, allowing you to work on your strength and endurance while minimizing the risk of aggravation of your injury.
It rehabilitates a vast array of athletic functions.
And that is perhaps the most important point. After an injury, most of the training programs focus on strengthening, and maybe add a little bit of stretching. But how do you retrain your balance (which is very often affected after a back or leg injury)? How about your proprioception? And your coordination? Don’t worry, you are not the only one who doesn’t rehabilitate them. But unfortunately (or fortunately), those functions are as important as strength when it comes to rehabilitation. Why? Because they feed the body map in your brain to allows better awareness and control of our body, smoother movement and appropriate firing of the postural muscles. By working on that, you will improve your biomechanics and your performance while significantly decrease the risk of re-injury.
Movement is life
Life is all about the flow. And so is your body. Whereas other workouts focus on isolated, individual exercises, in Ginástica Natural each exercise is connected by transition movements that allow to end up in a position for the following exercise. This makes it look almost like a choregraphy, but most importantly this flow allows mobility of your entire body.
Let me give you an example: let’s say you have lower back pain and your doctor told you to do planks or pelvic tilt exercises. You most likely will be able to do those exercises fine. But yet during your activities of daily living you back still hurts sometimes or it would feel unstable. Why? Because in real life you rarely isolate a single muscle, but it instead requires an entire chain of muscles coming from your legs to your core and all the way to you upper body. Well, because one of the key component of Ginástica Natural is full body mobility, you are working on this entire muscle network, even the smallest stabilization muscles of the spine that you can’t exercises with conventional training.
The 3rd dimension
Have you noticed that when you are at the gym or doing any kind of rehabilitative exercises, you mostly will perform those exercises in a plan? When you do a squat, you translate your body vertically. When you run, you translate your body horizontally. But guess what, the world is in 3 dimensions! So why would you limit your movements in a 2-dimension plan only? By doing that your body is like a bird in a cage, it looks nice but it doesn’t do what it is supposed to. Ginástica Natural will force your body to do the movements it once did. It makes your body move horizontally, vertically, rolling backwards, jumping on the sides,…And it’s only by moving your body in all those directions that it can reach its full potential.
Bottom line, I highly recommend all of my patients (whether they are in acute injury or not) to take a Ginástica Natural class. This of course does not replace every other therapy exercises but it is the missing link in between them which will dramatically improve your back pain and speed up your recovery time.
To learn more about Ginástica Natural, click here
To see how Ginástica Natural helps professional surfers, click here