If you’ve ever been inspired after seeing someone move with absolutely mastery, this is for you.
A lot of people talk about “flow” in movement, but there’s a lot of mysticism and confusion over what it actually is – where does it come from and what does it indicate? Is flow:
- a mental state
- an attribute of movement
- something that happens after you attain perfect enlightenment
We’ve got you covered here, because it’s actually a couple of different things – the good news is we can narrow this down and make it a lot simpler to understand and practice for.
And that’s what the second half of the show is about: exactly how to go about developing your own flow. The good news is you can start today. You don’t need to be an advanced athlete or even have a ton of training experience. All you need is a handful of movements or positions you’re good at. Lucky for you, sitting and lying down count 🙂
Stick it in your earhole!
- Vitamin – Build Motor Control & Movement Efficiency
- Learn to Move Smoothly and Seamlessly with Movement Flow
Transcript of Developing Flow in Movement
Andy: All right, all right. Welcome to the Goat Milk Brownies Podcast.
Ryan: Yes. So interesting thing, today Andy and I are actually in the same room.
Andy: Holding hands.
Ryan: Holding hands, singing Kumbaya. Not right now, we already did that.
Ryan: Now we’re doing the podcast.
Andy: Right. So today’s show, we’re going talk about how to develop flow. This is something that people ask us a lot. Mostly because they see people on the Instagrams, right? Ryan posts videos of himself rolling around on the floor doing things that apparently look cool.
Ryan: Apparently, yeah.
Andy: Yeah, so I hear. If these people knew you in real life, they wouldn’t think
Ryan: See me falling down the steps all the time, geez. But I flow when I fall down the steps.
Andy: You do. You fall down the stairs very smoothly and I think that’s the thing that people want more of in life.
Andy: Because we cannot prevent steps.
Ryan: That’s right.
Andy: But we can prevent maybe some of the bruises that happen when you slide down them.
Ryan: There you go. Yeah.
Andy: So people ask us if we’re going to do a flow program and maybe yes and no, depending on how you look at that. But the thing about it is what do you mean when you say you want flow? I think this is where people get hung up is we have made flow programs. Right?
Andy: Most of our programs are flow programs.
Ryan: Yeah, they are. Most of them are, yeah.
Andy: If you want to take it to that level. But the thing is that most people see this and they think, “I want that,” but they don’t know what it is. So we’re going to talk about what is flow first, and then, we’re going to talk about how we go about developing it. Because I think the important thing is it’s more than just choreographed movements. It’s not just doing things in a sequence. But it’s also not like some kind of a mystic ability either.
Ryan: Absolutely right.
Andy: Okay. So, yeah. Let’s talk about what is flow in movement. Right? The first thing is I think it’s really important to know that there’s no right or wrong way to move. There’s no essential movements. When you look at flowing people on the internet, most of them are doing the same shit. Right?
Ryan: That’s right. Yeah, that is true. Yeah.
Andy: Yeah. So I think it’s really important to start by saying that there’s no law that you have to have a flat foot squat. You don’t have to do crawling. You don’t have to do hand balancing. You don’t have to do anything. Right? Just because everyone out there is doing handstands and squats doesn’t mean you have to.
Andy: If we all limited our vocabulary to the same 100 words, it would be really boring to have conversations. Right?
Andy: It’s the same thing with all this. So I think it’s important if you’re thinking about wanting to develop flow in your movement, that you need to understand that you can draw from your own experience. So Ryan, you like what you like. What do you like using?
Ryan: Man, there’s so much stuff. I used to do so much hand balancing stuff. I actually want to do a lot of that. But in terms of the hand balancing stuff, going from one position to another and flowing in that way. And then, also transitioning to the floor. Do you like cartwheels? Do you like a lot of the spinning and things? We both like rolling on the ground.
Ryan: And that’s stuff that we still do quite a bit of. I think, though, the thing is just what you said. It’s not a single thing so a lot of people think and they see these ground-based movement thingies and think, “Oh, that’s flow.”
Ryan: You know? But like you said before, it shouldn’t and it’s not confined to one particular movement pattern.
Ryan: And yeah, we all have something that we like.
Ryan: It could be standing. It could be anything that you want to do.
Andy: And I think that this is where when you’ve looking at people who are good movers or people who are skilled at flow-like movement, what you’re going to find is that a lot of them, they’re bringing a movement vocabulary from their own background to this. So you’ll see some people have a capoeira background. Some people … Ryan, gymnastics background.
Ryan: Exactly. Right, yes.
Andy: Different marshal arts.
Andy: Yoga. Whatever someone’s background is is where they’re going to get most of their basic material from.
Ryan: Absolutely. Yeah.
Andy: And when you start following certain people on the Instagram or whatever, you end up going into an echo chamber of seeing the same people that are in the same little bubble together doing things and you might think that that’s all you can do. But it’s not. One of the best things about the internet is that you do get to expose yourself to things outside of these bubbles if you go looking for it.
Ryan: And I want to go a little bit further into that too is as long as you go looking for it. And so, I think that’s the thing that can happen is we get sucked in and we don’t move outside of our own bubble. And so, this was something too when we were first were doing GMB where in the very beginning it was, let’s say, X. But then, you and Jarlo were like, “Hey, we need to expand this and look beyond just trying to show one certain thing.” And so, when we first came up, for example, with Vitamin … our program Vitamin … that was really good because it wasn’t just, for example, my experiences. We also with your experiences and Jarlo’s, things like that. So I think that’s also important thing to do is move however you want, but also understand that there’s also some really cool stuff out there that you can be doing.
Andy: Yeah, definitely. And also, just understand that you don’t need to try to mimic a particular person or a particular group of people or a school of thought on this because trying to be like someone else isn’t really developing your own autonomy. Isn’t really developing getting better at who you are and what you want to do. So flow is not copying the way someone else moves. That’s the number one thing. So, if flow is not handstands and flow is not doing all these repetitive patterns that everybody does. What the hell is it?
Ryan: Right. And to back up just for a second-
Ryan: … Looking at … If we’re talking about straight flow. And this means that you already have a handle on particular movements that you’re comfortable with. You can look at people and use them as inspiration. But as far as copying exactly what they’re doing, that doesn’t equate to flow. And so, coming back to the question then of what is it? And smoothness of movement, right?
Ryan: That’s one thing.
Andy: It’s an attribute of movement. Right?
Andy: Right? And movement isn’t limited to a set of things. But the flow is what happens when like you were saying, you’re so good at some particular movement that they become very smooth. They can be continuous. You can improvise with them.
Ryan: Yes, yes.
Andy: Right? And so, that’s really one way of looking at it is that flow is this attribute of quality movement. Another one, and this is where I think it gets kind of … it gets confusing for people. Because flow is also … flow can also be a mental state. Right? Being mindful, being aware, being focused. Blocking out distractions. And so, when we talk about flow, I think one of the problems is that people, there’s these two different kind of definitions and people try to conflate them together and one, it makes it very confusing and very vague.
Andy: And two, it can make it feel like it’s some kind of quasi-mystical state that you’re trying to achieve and it really doesn’t have to be because what we’re really talking about in terms of trying to develop this is a quality of your own movement and an ability for you to have is really very, very simple in terms of how to practice and develop. And that’s what we’re going to get into in just a few minutes.
Ryan: Mm-hmm, yeah. Cool, man.
Andy: All right? Right. So, that’s what we’re going to talk about but I also do want to say that if you want to dive into really learning how to develop flow, we’re going to give some pretty specific things to try here but also we had an episode a few weeks ago about transitional movements where we gave some very, very specific advice on how to develop transitions. And this is where flow happens, in between things, right? We also have a few things on our website to check out. Look for the material that’s out there. I think GMB.io/flow. There’s some stuff there. Look at these things.
Andy: We also have our Vitamin course. You and Mike Fitch did a seminar and that is available also, the flow seminar, where you guys made some combinations and taught them. And we have all of that on video too. So if you want to learn this stuff, there’s lots of material out there. But you should start with basic, very simple steps how to develop flow, and we’re going to tell you what those are right now.
Ryan: Absolutely, cool. And by the way, just we mentioned those programs but again, this can be with any movement out there. So anything that you see out there, use some of the things that we’re going to be talking about right now in terms of how to develop it. And then, go out and try.
Ryan: So starting off, first thing when we’re looking at how to develop it is that you need to remember that it’s not just you trying to copy other people. I mentioned this earlier. You can use people as inspiration and whatnot but the thing is is flow is going to come down to your mastery of a particular movement and being able to use it for yourself.
Ryan: So, what you’re going to do then is you’re going to look at building upon what you’re good at. And let’s say, for example, that there’s one particular movement that you really, really like. You do quite a bit of it. Being able to just do it is good. But looking at how many different ways you can do it. So something that I actually like to do is choose some of your key foundation movements that you have. And rather than just trying to string those together in the very beginning, look at how you can go in and out of that movement in as many different ways. Then, you can look at testing that. How well are you able to do that? How smoothly are you doing it? Are you aware of what’s going on in the movement?
Ryan: And then, once you have that, then you can start combining those movements together. And that’s where things really start to flow. So it’s not just a matter of stringing movements together. It’s how well are you aware of what’s going on? If your body is moving in one particular way, are you letting your body continue to move into that way, into another movement? Or is it still rough?
Ryan: And so, testing things out, seeing what’s possible, being aware, that’s really where it’s starting with. In terms of those movements that you already own.
Andy: Right. And so, this is really key is starting with what you’re already good at. And there’s a couple things and one is that this comes from your background and what you already have practiced. The other one is if you’re not good at anything yet, then you’re not going to be able to develop the ability to have mastery of these movements and to move with flow if you don’t have the basics down.
Andy: And this is a thing where it’s real easy to try to put the cart before the horse but you have to have a handful of basic things that you have down cold that you’re very good at that you can now start to put together. Step one is definitely just get good at a few things.
Andy: It doesn’t matter what those are.
Ryan: It really doesn’t, yeah. Just get good at them. That’s it.
Ryan: That’s it.
Andy: And then, now that you have your foundations, you can start to move in and out of them and learn how not to just be in a sitting position but move in and out of that position. And that’s where you’re going to be able to flow through that position. Right?
Ryan: Yeah, yeah.
Andy: So, that’s where the next step is starting to combine it with other movements. And this is where we get into transitions. Right?
Andy: And that’s what we had an episode about not too long ago but the just is that every kind of motion, it starts, it goes, and it finishes.
Andy: Right? So that starting and ending part is where it’s going to connect with something else. And that’s where you need to pay a lot of attention to slow it down and make it smooth.
Ryan: Yeah. And that’s where it is. It comes back to that awareness. And if you’re just trying to just hurry up to the next thing, then you’re going to miss out on that. So we talked about this in the transition episode and Andy just mentioned, you’ve got a beginning, a middle, and an end. And you can always separate that movement and focus on the beginning portion of the movement, the middle portion of the movement, the end of the movement. And the end of that movement actually becomes the beginning of the next movement if you’re really aware of what’s going on. So that’s number two, I guess you would say, in terms of what to look at.
Ryan: And that is master those transitions.
Andy: Right. And so, the next thing is really to embrace your strengths and weaknesses. I know that we’ve harped on this a lot of times not trying to do what someone else is doing but to play your own game with this. But this gets really important when you have now started to work on transitions between a handful of movements, you’re going to find that some of these transitions, you have certain things that you’re strong in, certain things that you’re weak at. You have certain areas of your body that are very flexible or maybe stiffer. Right?
Andy: You can try to fight those and try to put together transitions that are maybe too challenging for you, or you can work with what you’re able to do, and you will find your own natural way to transition from one movement to another.
Ryan: Yes. Right, yeah.
Andy: So it’s not about the right way to move from one thing to another and you try to learn that way and force your body through it. You can try to do challenging things and develop that but if you’re really trying to learn how to develop flow and how to move smoothly, you should be working with what your body already can do, what is natural for you. And if you have strength in a particular dimension like Ryan’s hand balancing skill and he has a lot of upper body strength, he can do these slow transitions from handstands, lowering himself slowly, into like a pledge or some kind of something. Right? He can do these things because he has that strength. So he would make these transitions slowly.
Andy: I don’t have nearly that kind of strength so if I find myself on my hands, I’m going to be trying to come down quickly and smoothly probably into a roll or something.
Ryan: Yeah, yeah.
Andy: Right? And so, this is using your strengths, understanding your weaknesses, and being able to use that to guide what transitions you choose, how you do these things. Right?
Ryan: And this is a good lead into the next thing is looking at limiting what’s going on. And so, you purposely limit yourself in order to focus on certain things. But the other cool thing about this in terms of limiting yourself is it forces you to get creative. And so, an example would be what we already mentioned before where rather than just trying to string a bunch of stuff together, take that one movement and see how many different ways you can do that movement going in and out of it, doing variations of it. And then also, seeing what your body can do with it. So that’s just one example of limiting yourself in terms of looking at a single thing and trying to see how many different ways you can do it.
Andy: Right. So if you’ve ever done music or art of any kind, you know that putting limits on something can give you a lot of creative ideas. And so, this is really important. Just kind of off-the-wall thing because this last week I heard this. Somebody took that Santana song, Smooth.
Andy: And transposed it where it was all in whole tones.
Ryan: Oh, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah.
Andy: And a whole tones scale for those of you who are not music nerds, a whole tone scale is something where it’s basically it’s all full steps. There’s no half steps. And so, the interesting thing with whole tones is that it really doesn’t go anywhere. There’s no tension and release. And so, if you listen to a song that’s played in whole tones, well, it sounds like crap usually. But Zappa loved whole tones because since they don’t really go anywhere of themselves, it gave him a lot of creativity to … there were very few wrong notes then. Right?
Ryan: Yes, right.
Andy: Or actually literally half the notes were wrong, half the notes were right. So basically, it opened up the playing field, and so, he loves playing with whole tones because of that. And so, where I’m going with this is, one, don’t go to SoundCloud and search for Santana’s Smooth in whole tones because you’ll hate it. Two, purposely limiting what you do, it makes a lot of things wrong, but it predefines what’s right too.
Ryan: Yeah, yeah.
Andy: So tangible example of this is Ryan used to do a lot more hand balancing stuff.
Andy: And I remember when you were in Hawaii one time, you were doing some flow in the park and what I noticed is that anytime your hands touched the ground, you would instinctively kick up into a handstand.
Ryan: Right, right.
Andy: And so, I challenged you then to-
Ryan: I remember that, yep.
Andy: … to not put your hands on the ground.
Ryan: That’s right. And it was … I remember that challenge. And I spent a lot of time working on that, and that was great.
Ryan: And so, that’s an example too of even taking it further beyond just looking at one movement is creating a theme, right? And so, what you’re going to do. I remember that. That was really, really good.
Ryan: I think, and I just want to say too, creating these limitations I think is one of the biggest things that’s going to actually help you to get creative. And so, you can have a lot of different movements in your movement toolbox but really limiting things and forcing yourself to only look at one or even just two things within what you’re doing there is that’s where creativity’s going to happen because you’re going to learn so much about what you can and you can’t do. And then, what you’re going to do is say, “Okay, what do I need to do in order to figure this out?” And that also makes it a lot of fun. A lot of fun.
Andy: So, the next thing that will really help you in trying to develop flow in your movement is as you’re working on transitions, as you’re experimenting with things and you’re trying to find your body’s natural strengths and weaknesses that will help guide the direction you go, is you’re going to find places where you have resistance. And some of these might be where you can’t push through them. Right? But some of them, you might find that there’s resistance where you can work on reducing it. Right? And that will open up your ability. So examples might be like tightness. Right?
Ryan: Yes, yes.
Andy: If you have tight shoulders, starting to do things with bridge work is going to be probably not accessible to you at first so you’re going to have to find other ways to move. But at the same time, working on opening up your shoulders and being able to improve that as you are practicing other things is going to give you more options. So reducing the resistance due to stiffness gives you more options. Right?
Ryan: Right. And I had to deal with this too when I broke my ankle and I was coming back into this. And so, I actually had to relearn so much stuff. The cool thing was was because I was forced to limit what I could do, I had to work around that. And it actually improved my flow down the line because, again, I had to not just relearn things but actually look at things in a different way in order to be able to do that. So working around that tightness actually helped me.
Andy: Yeah. So another form of resistance when you’re trying to do continuous movement is just decision lag. Making decisions. If you’re trying to think of what to do next, it slows you down.
Andy: Right? So there’s a couple things that go on here. At the high level, the goal is to be able to improvise these things so that you don’t have to think of what to do. You just it looks like you’re naturally falling into the next thing because it’s just there.
Andy: And this is probably one of the things that everybody sees that’s so attractive about this movement flow is you see somebody who’s really good at it, somebody like Ryan, who is able to just improvise and move from one thing to another and not have it all planned out. And you can see that it’s not a choreographed thing, that they have the ability and the freedom to just be able to do so. And most people cannot do this, and that’s why it’s very attractive. But the thing is that you don’t just jump to improv.
Ryan: Right. That’s what it comes to, right.
Andy: So you can’t do that. So how do you reduce that decision time in the short term. And the answer is patterns.
Ryan: Yes, absolutely.
Andy: The answer is patterns.
Andy: Put patterns together. Work on these patterns. If you decide that you’re going to go from squat to A-frame to shoulder roll. If that’s a pattern that works for you, whatever it is, get really good at that. And then, that’s two times that you don’t have to think what to do next.
Ryan: Absolutely. And you’re automatically going to know, not necessarily what comes
next, but what will come next for you.
Ryan: And then, once you have that down and you’re able to string things together, you can go back and you can start exploring that pattern even further, looking at other ways. And so, the flow starting with that one movement, combinations of movements, full strings of combinations, and then, going right back to the beginning and look at seeing how you can change that up. So it actually becomes pretty endless which is a pretty cool thing.
Ryan: And yeah, if you look at sports too, and basketball … I’m not a basketball player. To be honest, I’m not really even interested in it. But simply the fact watching, if you watch someone who’s really good on the basketball court, they flow. Why? Because they’ve spent so much time focusing on their movements on knowing okay, if this is going to happen, then this. And they have this awareness of their body. It doesn’t matter if it’s basketball or any sport out there. That’s just what it is.
Ryan: So if you’re listening to this and there’s other things that you’re also interested, just remember it’s not just about these silly movements that we do on the floor.
Ryan: It can related to literally everything out there.
Andy: Yeah. So patterns. Learn patterns and practice them, and that can help reduce the resistance for decision. The other thing that can add a lot of resistance to your flow is endurance.
Andy: Because if you’re moving constantly, right? I mean, continuous movement. Well, how long can you do that before you get tired?
Ryan: Yeah. And this is a huge one that I see with a lot of people who are just coming
into this. And they say they want to flow and things like that but they do not have the endurance to be able to do that. And so, how do you do that? Well, you just start off with one movement pattern. You do it and you take a break. You do it again and you take a break. And you get to the point where you’re able to build up that endurance. And it’s like anything. You’ve just got to do a little bit at a time and work up to it. But working on your endurance is really a big thing that’s going to help you to be able to develop your flow.
Andy: Yeah. Absolutely. So, that’s a lot of stuff to try to keep in mind while you’re doing this. But one of the really most important things is finally just to make it be fun because that’s how you’re going … the whole point of this is to enjoy it.
Ryan: A lot of people forget that. They get so focused on, “Oh, I’ve got to do this.” You don’t have to do shit. Okay? What we’re after is being able to do this stuff and really enjoy it, have fun with it. Andy and I, last night, we went to a concert and it was just so incredible, not just because the guy was so good at what he did but he was loving it.
Ryan: He absolutely loved what he was doing. And it was flow. We were watching this guy flow on stage.
Ryan: And that’s what we’re after with everything is being able to really enjoy. Get to the point where it just almost happens naturally.
Andy: Yeah. And we’re not saying practice won’t be work anymore.
Ryan: It is. It’s work.
Andy: It’s work. Yeah. But you have to enjoy this stuff. You have to be able to have fun with it so that … because otherwise, there’s really no point. But fun is one of those things that opens the door to … Talk about flow as a mental state again. Fun is one of the things that puts your brain in this place where it’s open to new things to experimenting, to trying things. And to finding new options. That’s where creativity is going to come from. That’s where when you are able to begin improvising more. Being able to enjoy it is going to let you put your mind in a frame where you can come up with different things that you probably wouldn’t otherwise.
Ryan: That’s right.
Andy: So fun is an important aspect of this, so don’t forget to enjoy your practice.
Andy: So this is all sort of tied in with a lot of the things that we teach at GMB. You can look at some of our programs and you think, “Oh elements, well, it’s just crawling.” Well, kind of, but it’s crawling in a certain way. We’re practicing things and we’re practicing basically just as we talked through this, building foundations and starting to put them together. Working on the transitions. Limiting things so that you can be creative with that small set of skills. Right? And building up your endurance, removing the resistance by increasing your mobility and strength. Right? All of these things, that’s part of what we’re doing is the practice and the play and the awareness. And also, the fact that we specifically make our videos … and this is true if you look on all of the free stuff on our website too … we don’t really do follow along workout videos.
Ryan: No. No, no, no.
Andy: The videos are designed to teach you what you need to do so then you turn off the video and then practice. If you’re following along with a video, you’re not going to be able to focus on your movement well enough to workout the kinks and make it smooth. Right? And you’re definitely not going to be in a flow state while you’re watching some jackass on YouTube.
Andy: So, this is all stuff that’s been built into the way that we teach pretty much all along.
Ryan: Yeah, man. Just to go a little deeper into it. It’s just like having a mirror when you’re doing martial art. In the very beginning, yeah, it helps to see what’s going on. But you want to step away from that mirror and not use it as soon as possible because it’s just going to bring better awareness into your body of what’s really going on.
Andy: Yeah. But you do need a mirror if you’re doing bicep curls.
Ryan: Oh, and the squat rack.
Andy: That’s pretty much-
Ryan: It’s a given.
Andy: … it’s a law.
Ryan: It is.
Andy: It’s a law. So the main things to think about with flow is just remember that it’s not one thing. We talked about a lot of pointers but if there’s one that was maybe most important, it’s to slow things down, focus on very basic things. That’s two things, sorry.
Ryan: Well, let’s say it this way. Focus on awareness. And how do you do that? Slow things down.
Andy: Right. Right. And yes, we do have a program for this called Vitamin that just so happens to be very good. I know it will surprise anyone listening to this to hear me say that I think our program is good. But Vitamin is … the interesting thing about Vitamin is that the whole point is that every day you do something different. And so, what it does is it kind of builds up that vocabulary of basics and then helps you start to put them together in combinations. So it can be really helpful for people that are trying to sort of build their own movement style, build their own flow and figure out how to get started with that. Vitamin is a good option for that.
Ryan: And as you work through that too, the cool thing that we find with people, and it’s almost like we thought of this is that Vitamin, the program, the way you look at things changes. You’re more open and you’re seeing options in there and allowing yourself to explore. Because really that’s the big part of this is exploring the possibilities that are out there.
Andy: Right. And again, if this is a topic that you’re interested in, if you’ve listened to us talk for this whole episode and you weren’t interested in this, you aren’t very smart. Sorry.
Ryan: Better stuff to do with your time.
Andy: But if you are listening to this part of the end of this podcast, remember to check out the other episode that we did on transitional movements. That went into a lot of detail on things that are helpful for this.
Andy: So Ryan, let’s give everyone one kind of very simple flow experiment-
Andy: … that they can do.
Ryan: Yeah, cool. So we already talked about this. Let’s limit your options. Okay? So what I suggest you do is first you choose one movement. It really doesn’t matter. I mean, this can be, as I mentioned before, something else you’re doing in your life like walking down the street. It really doesn’t matter. But it could even be like getting up from sitting on the couch or something like that. But choose one movement, and then, see how many different ways you can get in and out of it. And then, once you’re able to do that, see how it would flow into another movement. So rather than trying to decide exactly what that next movement is going to be, first focus on limiting yourself to that one movement and see how many different ways you can get in and out of it, and then, see what happens leading into another movement. And that’s it.
Andy: Cool. I am going to practice my fridge opening, beer can getting flow.
Andy: That’s right. All right. Thank you for listening.
Ryan: Thank you.
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