Movement Flow Begins at the Level of Assessing Gait Mechanics

This video is an introduction to assessing gait mechanics from the half kneeling position for beginner-level TAOFit Method movers.

Imagine if your car alignment was “out of balance.” How many driving miles before tires, steering, and suspension prematurely wear out and need replacing? Your body is no different.

A well balanced pendulum is mechanically efficient (flow) with lower stress points at the joints (longevity). A poorly balanced pendulum is mechanically less efficient (drag) with higher stress points at the joints (wear & tear).

Something I say frequently to clients,

“Gait mechanics ARE the movements that we perform more of… than any other movement over our lifetime. If there is an imbalance in gait mechanics, then we are literally feeding imbalance (dysfunction) into our body through every step that we take.”

I use this movement series for three primary purposes:

  1. An assessment of the relationships between the hips, spine, and shoulders related to the pendulum of gait mechanics
  2. A juicy feeling lubrication & mobilization of the hips, spine, and shoulders related to the pendulum of gait mechanics
  3. A movement corrective to balance the pendulum of gait mechanics (dynamic alignment)

I learned this movement sequence years ago from my good friend and mentor, Joseph Schwartz of Dynamic Neuromuscular Assessment.

REMINDER: Do not move into pain. If you experience pain with any of these movements, take a break and schedule a free consultation with me (click here).

Did you love this movement session? Do you want to support and sponsor more movement lifestyle content? Please consider contributing a few bucks a month to the TAOFit Patreon Tribe.

Jesse James Retherford

Hip Pain Movement Assessment using “The Shin Box” Position

Greetings Tribe,

It is not unusual for there to be a common “Pain Complaint” theme-of-the-week. Last week was “the foot”. This week was all about the hip.

  • anterior hip pain
  • piriformis pain
  • sciatic pain
  • hip & low back pain
  • & IT band pain (knee)

In the below class, I take you on a deep dive into the hip through the “Shin Box Exploration”. This class should not hurt. If you are currently experiencing hip pain, please contact me directly prior to following this video.

Assessment Assumptions
General hip pain will have a paradoxical cause/effect relationship to the function of human gait mechanics –

  • The compensatory inefficiency and imbalance within gait mechanics leads to an inflammatory response “with pain”. 


  • A new pain presents, leading to pain avoidance, compensation, imbalance, and dysfunction within gait mechanics… Eventually provoking the inflammatory response followed by increased levels of pain.
  • It quickly becomes the question of what came first “chicken or egg” (answer: the egg – a chicken is just an egg’s way of making another egg).

Inefficiencies and imbalances within gait mechanics will be felt on every level of human movement. From restorative to performative. It includes the physical (muscle, fascia, bone & joints). As well as mental and emotional.

When working with clients dealing with these common hip pain complaints, the “Shin Box Exploration” is one of my go-to movement assessments. As long as it is Not Painful, the Shin Box, as a  position, is a fantastic assessment of the complex three dimensional mobility/stability relationships between the hips and segmental spine.

For long term hip maintenance and health, a daily/weekly addition of the Shin Box Explore is a great way to smooth the compensations, imbalances, and dysfunctions within your gait mechanics.

Smoother gait mechanics = improved recovery and better performance.

Jesse James Retherford

Click here to schedule a free online consultation.

Introduction & Case-study – How to use Movement Therapy for an Ankle Joint Injury

New Joint Injury: Introduction & Case-study

I have a long and complex injury history (six knee surgeries, multiple concussions, whiplash injuries, and other joint injuries). Starting around the age of fifteen, physical pain was one-of-the-many daily factors of my life.

With an extensive injury history, such as mine, the addition of any significant acute injury, minor or severe, can send the nervous system into a downward pain cycle. The Pain Cycle sucks. It is no fun physically, mentally, or emotionally. So, with any injury, big or small, I set my intentions towards supporting the healing process; restoring pain-free function; a speedy return to the active and moderately-risky lifestyle that I enjoy, and to do so in a way in which I can grow functionally stronger and more resilient for the advancement of the aging process.

Recently, while climbing at Crux Climbing Center , I injured the joint of the left ankle/foot.

**This is not medical advice.**

My hope is to use this injury as a learning/teaching tool for how I integrate “the TAOFit Method” to facilitate my body’s healing response. Paying strict attention to supporting the stages of tissue healing.

Mechanism of Ankle/Foot Joint Injury:

While on the climbing wall, my right foot slipped with my left foot unloaded. As I dropped, the tip of my left shoe caught the hold. With the knee extended, full body weight loaded the left ankle into dorsiflexion. It jammed hard and deep into the anterolateral region of the ankle/foot (front/outside ankle) .

I was able to walk it off, but my ankle and foot neurology was “off”. There was also noticeable edema forming. Pics show light to moderate swelling. Once swelling takes hold in or around the joint, it affects “fluid flow,” and all kinds of systems go “offline”.

Note: the swelling moved down into the midfoot between 2 & 6 hours post injury. This had a noticeable impact on motor control of the foot and toes.

First 12 Hours

At injury onset, I look for signs of tissue damage (ruptures or fractures). Considering that I didn’t hear/feel a noticeable pop or crack, and was able load my foot/ankle with minimal pain, my concerns about a “worst case” scenario faded – ie no apparent tears or fractures.
At this stage, I treat all joint trauma in which the inflammatory response is triggered, as potentially serious/catastrophic. I do this because, over the years I’ve learned that an early active intervention that supports the healing process, leads to an effective and efficient recovery, with better overall outcomes (get better faster with less overall pain). Plus, I know all too well how “minor” joint trauma can quickly becomes chronic when ignored or inadequately treated.


There was immediate swelling. A positive sign for joint trauma with some degree of tissue damage. I also noticed neurological “distortions” in my gait between the left and right sides.

Over the first 12-24 hours, I am treating this injury “as if” it’s a mild to severe ankle/midfoot jam/sprain. I immediately implement the TAOFit Method movement protocol and will continue to assess this injury for the next 4-6 weeks (or longer if it lingers).
**If I see any of these signs, I seek medical support!** What I consider positive signs for a potentially severe injury: inability to bear weight, elevation of pain 7-10 on a scale of 10, major swelling causing skin ballooning and/or discoloration, deep ache, pain, numbness, and/or loss of sensory/motor function (ankle, foot, or toes). Since this injury appears to be minor, I am not seeking help. 

The Body is made of rivers and streams

With any acute injury, there are two primary therapeutic theories of “active-recovery” that I  want to focus on.

  1. The TAOFit Method of Movement Therapy to assess and monitor the progression/regression of “Non-Painful” ROM.
  2. Promoting/maintaining full body “fluid flow”

[Fluid Flow – the literal and metaphorical complex transport system for cellular respiration ie “nutrients in” and “waste out”]

Over the first 12-24 hours, while the inflammatory response sets in, it can be difficult to assess the severity of a joint injury. Especially if there is no imaging and swelling (x-ray, MRI). Swelling can have a major impact on the fluid flow dynamics not only through the injured joint, and surrounding tissue, but also the rest of the body,

Systems of Fluid Flow 

  • Circulatory
  • Lymphatic
  • Neurologic
  • Movement
  • and more…

Once home from the gym

I had a slight limp with mild pain upon loading of the left leg (level 3-4 on scale of 10). Noticeable moderate swelling at and below the ankle. Neurological motor control was challenged in inversion/eversion and flexion/extension of the ankle/foot/toes (especially along the lateral three rays, with neurological distortions in lateral compartment of lower leg). Basically… I jammed it “good”.

My Self Treatment Protocol:

Above is the Movement Therapy class which I wrote specific for assessing this ankle injury. Below is a  brief description of what I did to facilitate the healing process i.e. my version of active rest.

  • Followed the Rules of Pain (found on my website).
  • Self-lymphatic massage and joint manipulation of the foot and ankle to promote lymphatic flow.
  • A light foam roller session to promote fluid flow on upstream muscle/fascial tissues.
  • Non-painful Movement Exploration through primal/ancestral postures (similar to above video)
    • assessing the quality of both passive and active ROM
    • encouraging pain-free joint mobility
    • facilitating full-body fluid flow (so that swelling can be reabsorbed)
    • and maintain neurological sensory/motor function.
  • Rested with my foot elevated above heart level (allowing gravity to assist with fluid flow back to the heart).
  • No ice – I tend to stay away from ice unless the swelling/pain is severe.

Vagus Nerve Entrapment Causing Atrial Fibrillation with Tachycardia – Case Study

My theory: I have a Vagus Nerve Entrapment Causing Atrial Fibrillation with Tachycardia due to the reverse curve of my neck.


I occasionally get A-fib with tachycardia – an irregular heartbeat with an increased heart rate. I believe these episodes are caused by a Vagus nerve entrapment. I started having episodes in my mid to late twenties. The medical diagnosis was that it was caused by a hyperactive thyroid. At the time, my entire metabolism was haywire. I was burning over 5000 calories a day at rest, not including exercise (measured through resting and active VO2 testing) and had lost over 20 pounds in less than two months. I would experience A-fib episodes that lasted 5-8 days (day and night).

Over the years, my thyroid has returned to normal function, but I continue to have A-fib episodes, although much briefer in duration (a few to less than 24 hours). I’ve seen endocrinologists and cardiologists. They don’t know the root cause and the only solutions they have been able to offer are either pharmaceutical drugs or surgery (ie pacemaker). I tried drugs. The side effects were untenable and I’m not willing to have invasive heart surgery when the doctors really don’t understand the cause of the condition. I’ve witnessed way too many people have these types of surgeries which either didn’t solve the “problem” and often made things worse.

These episodes are not comfortable. My nervous and cardiovascular systems are in a state of overload and stress. My heart is working 25-35% harder at everything I do. It basically feels like I’m running… when I’m sitting, lying down, and sleeping. Physiologically it feels like I’m having an anxiety or panic attack. Any kind of physical activity, such as climbing stairs or working out, immediately leaves me breathless and occasionally dizzy.

Reverse curve compared to posterior curveI also have a posterior or reverse curve to my cervical spine (as seen on x-rays). The cervical spine should have an anterior curve. This is a significant structural adaptation that has more than likely developed from my extensive injury history – concussions, whiplash injuries from multiple car and motorcycle accidents, knee surgeries, and many other injuries.

Vagus Nerve (a very rough overview)

The Vagus nerve (CN X) is a cranial nerve that is directly linked to the parasympathetic nervous system, playing a role in heart rate, respiration, and digestion. The Vagus nerve helps to down-regulate or slow down heart rate after the body goes through a sympathetic “fight or flight” response – ie the massive adrenaline rush after a scary situation. In our modern world, most of us are in a constant state of stress creating a low-level “fight or flight” response. The sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems are constantly interacting with one another to maintain some semblance of homeostasis or balance.Vagus nerve

The Vagus nerve originates in the brainstem, traveling down through the neck (external to the spinal cord and spine). Since it travels outside the spinal cord, it is exposed to potential muscular, fascial, or structural entrapment.

My Theory

Due to the reverse curve in my neck, any kind of excess tension or restrictions in the muscle/fascia or vertebral position of the cervical region can occasionally entrap the Vagus nerve. If the Vagus nerve becomes entrapped, the electrical signals between the brain and heart (or respiratory and digestive systems) can become inhibited – ie experience some loss of signal. This loss of signal affects the balance between the conversation of sympathetic and parasympathetic related to heart rate and can cause heart rhythm irregularities. In my case, less signal to downregulate the heart rate which leads to an increased heart rate and arrhythmia.

Movement Session

Today, I am experiencing an episode of A-fib with tachycardia. There is also tension/restriction in my neck related to specific movement patterns. My focus of this session is to improve neck and spinal mobility through the combination of self-massage (using a Thera-cane and lacrosse ball) and Movement Therapy to free the Vagus nerve from entrapment. The past few times I’ve had an episode, this combination seemed to help resolve the arrhythmia pretty quickly.

When searching for the underlying root cause of a “problem”, it is easy to get into a game of the chicken or the egg. The “problem” is rarely ever found with just one simple solution. The human body is a complex system of complex systems. Each system is intricately connected to one another in a constant feedback loop. When one system isn’t working properly, it affects change and can cause other systems to stop working properly, which then feeds back into the larger system, wreaking havoc. This is just one theory that I am playing around with in my movement practice.

**UPDATE to this Case Study with Follow Along Movement Class**

Neck Mobility Vagus Nerve Flossing – Movement Therapy – Feb 04, 2021

Are you Seeking a Natural Movement Lifestyle Upgrade?

Check out the TAOFit Method on Patreon and join our Movement Mentorship. For as little as $3/month, you will gain access to a library of classes, workshops, movement snacks, and personalized TAOFit Method coaching to help change your relationship with pain and your body.
Move better. Feel Better. Life change. 
Jesse James

big feels – a pome by Jesse James Retherford

My heart stirs.
The deeper I dive…
the older the wounds I find buried within.
My heart has been locked up tight…
Prison for a lifetime…
I don’t want to hold onto this any longer.

Movement is healing…
Movement is relief…
Movement pushes me deeper,
exposing older wounds. 

To move exposes pain,
I am forced to feel and left with the choice…
bury it, lock it up tighter, and stop movement…
or surrender…
dive deeper…
and free my Self.
I will always choose freedom over confinement.

Degenerative Joint Disease of the Knee

According to scientific research studies, just the mere fact that I’ve had one reconstructive knee surgery (I’ve had three on the right knee alone), I am automatically placed in the “at risk” category for degenerative joint diseases of the knee such as arthritis (x-rays already show arthritis in my right knee), chondromalacia patellae, arthrochondritis, and a future knee or hip replacement. Having surgery alone is a risk factor, just as being over the age of 65 is also a risk factor. What is not considered a risk factor is the lack of a deep resting squat.

Many doctors (as well as quite a few physical therapists) have told me over the years that “once you’ve had just one knee surgery, you should never squat again.” Their fear and concern is that the shear forces which take place within the deep knee bend of the squat, damage the articular cartilage that protects the soft delicate structures within the joint space. This could exacerbate and speed up the process of degeneration.

I agree that this is a potential risk. And a very real risk. I take this risk very seriously considering that I will have to live with these joints for the rest of my life functional or not.

So why do I move the way I move?
More Epic with sound 😃

I disagree that squatting, or the types of movements I perform, will speed up the degenerative process. In fact, I believe the opposite. I believe these movements are vital to not only maintaining the precious joint surfaces I currently have, but they also repair and heal the joints slowing down the degenerative process.

In the 20+ years that I’ve been learning and teaching movement, I’ve seen a fair amount of degenerative knees and hips. In my estimation, not a single one of those hip joints degenerated because of a squat. A squat couldn’t cause degeneration, they hadn’t squatted in years. By my assessment, it is because they hadn’t squatted that caused the degeneration. Regular, adequate, challenging and pain-free movement is necessary for the long term health and function of your joints.

What equates to regular or adequate or challenging varies from person to person. If you are experiencing knee or hip pain and don’t know where to start, please feel free to schedule an in person or online consultation. I offer a free one-hour consultation (limited by availability) to anyone seeking guidance towards a natural movement practice and lifestyle.

This is important… Movement

I cannot express the value and importance of this… as a starting point for developing a movement practice… This is important… Movement! A daily full body joint by joint check-in… assessment… preparation… recovery tool.

It doesn’t matter what else you do for movement… Yoga, Pilates, Crossfit, martial arts, parkour, MovNat, climbing, running, or even just sitting in front of the computer (yes that is a movement practice too). This is where you learn about you… how you move… why you move… your limitations, fears, anxieties, excitements, passions, and so much more.

You are a human mover… this is where it begins… You Must Move… every day… even just a little.

I didn’t feel well last night, canceled plans, and laid down in bed at 8p. I didn’t get up until 9a this morning… Thank god for an easy Saturday work day. Upon getting out of bed, my back and knees ached… which with my injury history is pretty normal. This daily practice is what keeps me moving at the capacity I do considering all the damage I have done to my body already in this life.
This is what keeps me alive… not in the life support kind of way… but in the engaged, mentally, intellectually, emotional, spiritual way. If I don’t move… at least a little bit every day… I feel a little piece of me dry up and die inside. Moving is living support.

My back feels better… My knees ache less… My heart is full… My mind engaged… How do you feel this morning???

This is important… Movement!

#movement #movewell#movemore #movementculture#movementlifestyle#movementismedicine #movementquality#yoga #crossfit #climbing #pilates#movnat #parkour #mobility#jointmobility #spine #spinalmobility #hip#hipmobility #knee #kneepain #backpain

A Day of Playing – Checking in to Move Well

No school, no clients, no kid…

It’s a totally free and clear day. What am I going to do??? I am spending the day playing at Austin Boulding Project… checking in, writing, shooting videos, climbing, experiments with Instagram stories, and whatever else catches my fancy.

I’m extra excited… I replaced my 15-year-old climbing shoes which were falling apart with these @sportiva.climbing shoes.

Checking in - New shoes


When your day is devoted to playing… Where do you begin?

I begin by checking in.

I woke up with some minor aches at the medial right knee with walking and general right side low back tension/tightness/restriction. Considering the swelling in my knee from last week and an active day yesterday with mountain biking… I pretty much expected this. Nothing feels more inflamed or painful than usual… but I do want to check in with my body before pushing myself.

At austinboulderingproject, they have a nice fitness room setup with a floor movement section and massage tools. I love using the foam roller as a part of checking in with where I am holding tension in my body. Things I noticed during this 10-minute foam roller session… Right side calf tension and right side low back. I give an extra bit of love to these areas… not for release… not to fix anything… but more to just bring blood flow and attention to how I’m moving through these areas of my body. This section of the video is only sped up by 2 to show how slow and soft I am on the foam roller.

Also, considering I will probably be climbing a fair amount, I make sure to roll out my forearms… just enough to bring blood flow.

Checking in continued… hip to spine mobility

After foam rolling, I am checking in with full body joint by joint mobility. This is an exploration of how all the pieces are playing with the whole.

I generally begin with my hips… moving through shin box to pigeon. I am noticing the tightness of my right nip in external rotation and its relationship to the right low back tension/tightness/restrictions… and play with this a bit… feeling… can these two individual parts connect… can they play well together. It is an easing and opening into movement.

This video is only sped up 2x… I’m hoping the slowness of the movement can be seen.

Checking in Continued… fingers, wrists, and forearms

Since I’m just getting back into climbing after a long layoff and I have a history of shoulder and elbow issues (seven months of elbow tendonitis last year), my fingers and forearms are a huge weak link. I want to develop a healthy climbing practice that will last me the rest of my life…

This is simple joint mobility work for the fingers, wrists, and forearms. Again, I’m checking in to make sure everything works. After climbing last week, I’ve noticed some minor joint compression in my right third and fourth fingers at the DIP and PIP joints. It’s not enough to cause worry… but enough to let me know these areas need my attention.

This video is sped up by 2.

Checking in Continued… Spine

How do I find the movements of gait when my gait exhibits dysfunction?

My low back is sore… tight… achy… especially the right side low back. This is the norm. Since the most recent knee surgery, I don’t express my gait pattern fully through my left knee. This means I also don’t express my gait pattern fully through the right side lumbar and thoracic spine (as well as other places). This means my gait is a dysfunctional movement pattern.

These are some of my core work for segmental three-dimensional movements through my spine. This is what keeps me active. When I don’t do this… I hurt… I hurt bad. I used to have such bad back pain that I would be laid up for weeks from a single episode. These types of movements… every day… keeps the pain away from the 7’s, 8’s, 9’s, and 10’s out of ten… and more around 1’s, 2’s, and 3’s.

This video is sped up 6x. I am moving slowly… feeling each segment of my spine moving in all three planes of motion.

Checking in continued… toes, ankles, knees, hips, shoulder, and spine…

Checking in… feeling into my structure… taking the toes, ankles, knees and hips, shoulders, and spine joints through some loading patterns… checking in to feeling… is there pain? Stiffness? Restriction?

I noticed the left knee to foot feels a bit disconnected in the squat variations and in the tripod with rotation when loaded on the right shoulder … something I will keep focus on throughout the day.

My body feels much improved from the stiffness and achiness of this morning. I’m still noticing a little knee tenderness… I don’t want to aggravate this… so I’ll continue to check in with it throughout the day.
Now… it’s time to climb

One more before I go climb. I’ve been sitting writing up my movement series for a while.

Just because I am sitting… doesn’t mean I’m not moving. Even as I sit… I express movement… feeling my back, neck, breathing, shoulders… stagnation is a sign of death. I am alive… and movement is my expression of life.

Movement Calibration and Reset – Jul 9

I finished the first summer semester of Physics with an A. I’ve decided to take the rest of summer off from school so I can focus on some business ideas, movement, and most importantly… myself.

My mom was in town last week. It was a really good visit… and a challenging week overall. Anyone who knows my history… understands that these visits are ripe and fruitful for introspection and big feelings. This visit, combined with parenting and relationship challenges, was not a disappointment.

Whenever I get into the big feels, it is easy to take the focus away from other aspects of myself… breathing, meditating, journaling, and moving my body. When this happens I tend to feel stuck. The practice of moving internally and externally is so important to keeping the emotional energy flowing. When this happens I need to recalibrate. Today is restoring focus on moving, feeling, flowing, surrendering, and just being. It opens me up to trust and gratitude… and that I am right where I need to be.

My heart stirs.
The deeper I dive…
the older the wounds I find buried within.
My heart has been locked up tight…
Prison for a lifetime…
I don’t want to hold onto this any longer.

Movement is healing…
Movement is relief…
Movement pushes me deeper,
exposing older wounds.

To move exposes pain,
I am forced to feel and left with the choice…
bury it, lock it up tighter, and stop movement…
or surrender…
dive deeper…
and free my Self.
I will always choose freedom over confinement.

Neck Pain Self Care Using Thera-cane

In this video, I demonstrate how to use self-massage to work out tightness/restriction in the neck using a combination of movement assessment and a Thera-cane.

In the short time since making the video, my neck has improved. There was still a niggle of tightness at the base of the right side occipitals that I missed while filming. Probably due to being a bit rushed. I have since used the Thera-cane on that spot and my neck feels much improved.

I hope you find this video helpful. Below is a link for the Thera-cane. Please leave a comment if you have a question about this video or suggestions for a future demonstration.

Link to Thera-Cane on AmazonNeck Pain Self Care Using Thera-cane

This is an Amazon affiliate link. I am sharing for two reasons 1) because I love the product and 2) If you make a purchase after clicking it, I will get a commission. This is a great way to help support The Art of Fitness. Thank you for your support.

Neck Discomfort Self Care Using Thera-cane

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