What is Animal Flow?
International sportsman George Skuodas describes the journey that inspired him to put down the weights for good and embrace the strength, control and mobility that is Animal Flow.
Movement is one of THE lifestyle buzzwords right now. I use the word lifestyle rather than fitness industry as for some it is a total lifestyle obsession – cutting the legs off their dining room tables, removing chairs and discarding their coffee grinder in favour of hand driven alternatives. That’s all very well and I am genuinely interested in their choices, but for me the word movement hasn’t quite reached those levels yet. I would like my movement to be a silky flowing sequence of impossible gymnastic hand balances with balletic poise and improbable joint and muscle mobility, but again, it hasn’t quite reached those levels yet. I wouldn’t be unhappy if my movement was jumping, leaping, balancing and rolling from building, to wall, to bar and then escaping security in the company of grungy, saggy jeaned youths, but like the previous examples, I have not, and probably never will, reach that level!
So, having established what it isn’t, what is movement for me? Movement is what I do every day: it’s my wake up, my warm up, my mobiliser, my exercise, my therapy; it’s a massage for my brain, my challenge, it makes me feel good. I can find a space anywhere in the world, I don’t even need a pair of shoes to enjoy it. I am now lucky enough to not even need a plan, I just listen to my body and move. I can’t take all the credit for this, there was no holistic epiphany, I didn’t invent anything, I was just fortunate enough to discover Animal Flow.
In the summer of 2015, I happened to come across one of my Personal Training coaches, yes you Richard Scrivener, posting a video of his Animal Flow movement practice. It was an enthralling mix of strength, control and mobility. Amongst it I could see hints of yoga which then looked like breakdancing, switching to martial arts, summoning gymnastic precision and finishing with explosive power. I had to try it for myself. I did and it was hard! The precision of controlling my limbs to lift and land at the same time made me feel like Bambi on ice. Holding any position for more than 5 seconds set my quads on fire. Supporting and rotating my bodyweight through my shoulders and hips with any sort of fluidity was brutal. It took ALL my brain power to complete each individual move. How could it be so hard? How could I be so bad at supporting my own bodyweight when I could easily push that load if it was on a bar in the gym? How could my limbs have a mind of their own and fatigue after 10 seconds when I could run a 10k in 45 minutes?
Let’s wind back a little and look at my voyage to get to this point… I had been an international sportsman, a Professional Sailor competing at the Olympics and 2 America’s Cups. It was my job to be as strong and as fit as possible to be able to compete for hundreds of days each year. Year after year. When I wasn’t travelling or competing I would find a gym to push and pull impossibly heavy weights with the sole goal of Neanderthal brute strength. However, around my 45th birthday, with my competitive best before date fast approaching and Animal Flow and a new kind of movement in my vocabulary I decided it was time for a wholesale change, to put down the weights for good and master moving my body.
5 years previously I had discovered, with my incredibly patient yoga teacher wife, I was probably one of the least flexible athletes on the planet. My first comedic efforts at yoga established that I could barely bend enough to see my toes never mind touch them. I persevered with yoga, I still do, making some progress. I registered for my Animal Flow Level 1 instructor course and spent the next 4 months clumsily practising the basics. The course was amazing. I still felt like a cart horse but I was starting to feel joy in my movement and whilst it was hard it was addictive and, more interestingly, made me feel good. Roll on another 12 months and I am in London taking the next step up, my Level 2 instructor training with the inventor of Animal flow, Mike Fitch. What is now comfortably in the bank becomes the building blocks of discovering my own flow, my unique movement. Mike talks to us about our style, our signature, our expression and amazingly I know what he means.
While the challenge of mastering Animal Flow has been physically demanding, I never anticipated how amazing it would be for my head. On days where I am distracted, having a million things on my mind, the call to action, to ‘practice’, to move seems to clear all the noise in my head. Through my Animal Flow practice I find a connection between my mind and body. It makes me feel amazing: clear headed, exhilarated, accomplished, centred. The movements in Animal Flow don’t claim to be new, the way they are packaged is what makes it different from other exercise regimes I have engaged with. With Animal Flow, the journey to reach each end position is as important as the final hold. This challenging technique has become the focus for me learning to move in a way I never thought my body was capable of. Check out my Animal Flow practice and progress on Instagram @ptgeo
Interested? Join George and discover Animal Flow for yourself – click here to find a class.