When was the last time you did a cartwheel? If you’re like most people, the answer is probably some multiple of decades… and that’s totally valid! You probably haven’t even heard the word in a while.
So why should you re-learn (or perhaps learn for the first time!) how to do a cartwheel?
There are many proven benefits to this kind of movement. Inversions, on the whole, are associated with improving the flow of the lymphatic system (which is connected to disease prevention) as well as the cardiovascular circulation and digestion. Beyond these benefits, this kind of motion will improve your balance, spatial awareness, flexibility, and coordination. A cartwheel is also a true full-body exercise, as a good cartwheel will demand a great deal of power coming from the legs, stability from the core (abdomen, back, and waist), and strength in the arms (biceps, triceps, wrists, and shoulders)
Beyond these immediate benefits, this type of training (often referred to as gymnastics-style conditioning, resistance training, or functional strength training) improves joint health, maintains muscular development, and improves cardiovascular fitness. By practicing these types of movements you are investing in your long term health and applying a prevention mentality to your longevity: “pre-hab” instead of needing rehab later for injuries.
You may think you can’t do a cartwheel. Perhaps you’ve even tried one since you started reading this article and feel a bit discouraged. What you know but may have forgotten: the biggest obstacle between you and a cartwheel is yourself. For most of us, there is no physical limitation - it’s purely mental. You may have limitations relating to mobility and strength, but those can be surpassed. Fear and resistance, on the other hand, have to be actively addressed. There is the fear associated with being upside-down (this hits us in adulthood as children rarely have this fear.) There is the fear of losing our orientation in space, the fear of injuring ourselves, and, most limiting, the aversion to being a beginner. The adult mind wants to know what it’s doing, for what purpose, and it wants to be good at it. Right away. But the more we resist being a beginner, the more we close the door to learning new things. The more we close the door to growth.
Newton’s First Law essentially says that an object at rest will stay that way unless it is forced into motion. This is increasingly at play in our daily lives. Our culture and way of life has been largely built around us moving the least amount possible -- cars, automatic everything, working at computers all day, etc. This is all well and good and seems very efficient, but then we step off a curb and twist an ankle, or pick up a car seat and throw out our back. Or can no longer run around and play and feel freedom in movement like we used to.
Exercise as we have come to see it does not train our bodies to be adaptive to unpredictable and non-sterile environments (i.e., life.) So training things like cartwheels, which are out of our comfort zone, not only develops mental strength through the ability to persevere, but allows us to assess and improve our strength, mobility, coordination, and agility. Putting ourselves in uncomfortable situations also exercises our adaptability. We learn to respond in a clear-headed, graceful way when life brings us unexpected situations, which it inevitably does.
The good news is that you have far more to gain than you have to lose in learning a cartwheel. We will break this movement down into progressions that will be like “movement snacks.” We will make the fear factor manageable. And the process of learning will transfer to any other skills you might want to learn after you nail this one, and to so many other areas of your life.
Cartwheel is one of the 10 movements that you learn in the Namaste TV Movement Fundamentals program. We make this movement accessible to anyone, no matter your age or movement background. And we'll be here for you every step of the way.