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Ancestral Movement Summer Retreat, December 2019

Summer retreat in Araluen, December 14-21.
One solid week of camping, training, learning, exploring and awesome quiet times, in the beautiful Aussie bush of Araluen Valley, NSW, on the Deua River and Deua National Park.
Days are long in summer, so we will have time for three or four 1.5-3 hour movement sessions each day, plus rest times and dedicated space every afternoon to work on bushcraft skills.
Movement sessions each day will include a mix of “hard” and “soft” – or “external” and “internal” training: explorations of every part of the anatomy, learning simple effective tools for rehabilitating our physical ailments while developing strength, mobility, awareness, sensitivity and responsiveness through the entire body. These will also include explorations of the evolutionary history of each body part: the spine, the four limbs, the hands and feet, and the types of movements and different terrains and environments they have been adapted to over the millennia. Movements and anatomical traits we have in common with primates, other mammals, reptiles, fish, and even worms, primitive cell colonies and single-celled organisms, fungi, and plants, which help us feel, literally, the biological facts of our shared ancestry with the rest of the family of living organisms on the planet.
Simple breathing and meditation or awareness practices from various traditions, showing how these practices relate to fundamental human abilities in nonverbal communication, emotional regulation, bodily and spatial awareness, and how they can be practiced to progress from the most basic level to the most advanced.
Basic parkour, barefoot running, wrestling and BJJ, climbing, balancing, tumbling, partner and group games, juggling, acrobatics, contact improv, butoh exercises, capoeira, kali, and other martial arts.
Bushcraft and nature awareness practices including fire-by-friction, bush tucker and plant identification, weaving, basketry and rope or string making from natural fibres, primitive pottery, wood carving, stalking, and tracking.
Discussions of useful, relevant and fascinating aspects of human evolution, evolutionary biology, comparative anatomy and animal behavioural biology, neuroscience, anthropology and ecology will be infused throughout all of the practices each day, while the practices themselves work to anchor this learning deeply into our experience of the body and the rest of the natural world.
Our special guest teacher this time will be Daniel Sainty from Rewild Australia, returning again to retreat after several years. Dan is an amazing teacher of primitive skills, living the skills every day with his partner Danielle and their kids on a bush property in Yarrowitch, NSW, where they also run retreats. I’m not sure which skills he’ll be focusing on this time (so far I’ve heard mention of felting, ceramics, and I can’t remember what else…) but Dan also holds a black belt in Brasilian Jiujitsu, so we will definitely be getting some extra wrestling sessions in while he is with us.
Other guest teachers TBA!
The camp is minimal in terms of infrastructure, but open to people of all types of physical abilities and interests. Everyone is encouraged to try whatever they can, to enjoy rest whenever they need it, and every activity can be scaled according to each person’s abilities on the day.
COST: $1200, $900 concessions & regulars. A limited number of $600 volunteer spots will be available, but first preference for these will be given to returnees and regulars.
For bookings or more information email to
(Photo is of one of the local goannas, taken by the amazing and much-missed retreat regular Heike Qualitz)

Spring Retreat – September 21-29, 2019

Spring Retreat in Araluen is going down, September 21-29th. Camping and training in the casuarina forest by the Deua river and national park in southern NSW, with the local goannas, birds to wake us up in the mornings, wombats cruising through the bush at night, eels in the river, an awesome bunch of humans.

As always we will be going deeper into the body with evolutionary movement practice, balance climbing and parkour on the bush jungle gym, internal yogic practices for progressively opening up the sensitivity and power of the deepest parts of the body, every part of the spine abdomen and ribcage, spinal breathing, whole-body breathing, pranayama and qigong, wrestling and BJJ, capoeira angola, eskrima, martial arts of all sorts, contact improvisation, juggling and acrobatics, strength mobility and agility work, injury-proofing and rehabilitation, massage, meditation and deep relaxation, exercises for the senses, and the imagination.

Discussions of ecology and evolutionary biology, comparative anatomy and physiology, the science of pain, injury and rehabilitation, the practical neuroscience of meditation, memory, emotion, nonverbal communication and embodiment.

Bushcraft, wilderness skills and nature-art workshops every afternoon, ongoing once people start their projects. These sessions could include fire-by-friction, basketry, wood carving, ceramics, learning edible and medicinal plants, tracking, stalking, archery or spear-throwing, hide tanning or leather working, nature awareness skills, making paints, eco-printing, all depending on the weather, what resources are available in the landscape, and people’s inclinations at the time.

Beautiful bush to explore, a camp library full of amazing books, hammocks, hot fire baths, a clear river to swim in, and plenty of time to really deeply chill. We have no clocks and no phone reception on retreat (there’s phone reception up the hill).

We will be organising another visit with Patricia Ellis, Yuin elder from Moruya, sharing knowledge and culture of the Yuin people who have lived on and maintained this country for countless thousands of years. Other guest teachers include Janet Ranken and Harry Townsend, both sharing amazing skills and knowledge in the bushcraft and skills sessions and holding things down in the craft space every day. Our main guest teacher and further special guests still TBC.

Cost is $1200 (this does not include food). $900 for regulars or concessions, and several half-price ($600) spaces available for volunteers. Further concessions are always available by negotiation for people who need them, and also payment plans for people who need to pay in instalments over time.

$400 deposits are required to save a spot. Numbers are strictly limited, the last few have all booked out quickly so don’t leave it to the last minute if you really want to come.

For further enquiries or to book a spot please email

and the ancestral movement facebook group if you’re not already there:

(jungle gym photo by Rafael Florez)



Ancestral Movement is an approach to practice exploring the patterns of anatomy and biomechanics retained in the human species through our four-billion year evolutionary history, from the ancient oceans to the present day.


Training these patterns can awaken strengths and movement abilities from the very depths of the body, abilities which form the foundation of all human movement but which are often hidden due to layers of tension and cultural conditioning.

Working with the fundamental movement patterns of the torso and central axis, and of the four limbs we uncover universal movements common to all primates, mammals, reptiles and amphibians, fish, and even worms and other invertebrates – and through this we get a greater appreciation of the incredible movement abilities that are completely unique to our species.

We gain more of the inherent power, agility, natural grace and ease of movement of our animal cousins; a deeper experience felt in our bodies of the fact of our evolution over geological time and our shared ancestry with all other living creatures.

Ancestral Movement incorporates deep and very physical embodied practice with comparative anatomy, basic neuroscience, evolutionary biology, animal behaviour, physical and cultural anthropology. This powerful model helps us to see a common theme within all embodied experience and running through human physical cultures across the world, from modern pain science and injury rehabilitation to psychology, yoga and Eastern meditation, devotional or religious practices, dance, ritual, anthropomorphism, animism, theatre, storytelling and mythology.

Although the material is quite “conceptual”, this is a MOVEMENT workshop, concepts will be directly applied and we will be practicing movement for almost the entire time. The practices are accessible to people of virtually any level of strength and fitness, but will be challenging for even very advanced movers or athletes.


– The practical science of body awareness: basic neuroanatomy, neuroplasticity, sensation & motor control, awareness & attention, pain, emotion, memory, nonverbal communication.

– Awakening the torso: exercises for feeling, relaxation, strength, power, responsiveness and expressivity of every contractile structure of the abdomen, pelvis, and ribcage.

– Awakening the spine: opening up fully three-dimensional movement at each individual vertebral joint, developing a sensitive and powerful spine like that of a snake or an eel.

– Spinal breathing and whole-body breathing: learning to direct the breath into specific parts of the spine or torso at will, using relaxation and internal pressure, and eventually to develop blissfully relaxed whole-body breath and internal awareness.

– Wave movement, connecting the limbs: linking the two primary body waves with the four limbs to generation the basic patterns of animal locomotion, crawling, jumping, walking.

– Spiral movement: leading with the eyes, reaching and rolling, turning, tumbling and carthweeling, soft sensitive and agile three-dimensional movement.

– Mind and imagination in physical practice.


Simon is a lifetime practitioner of mind-body traditions and physical culture with a background in evolutionary biology and medical science. He has extensive experience in Yoga, Buddhist meditation, Shiatsu, Thai Massage, Chinese medicine, Capoeira Angola and several Asian martial arts as well as Western physical therapy, exercise rehabilitation, Feldenkrais and Pilates. He is currently living in Australia teaching small regular movement classes, training Brazilian jujitsu, learning wilderness survival skills up and down the east coast, and working towards a Master’s degree in Ecology. He also runs a seasonal movement retreat in the forest in southern New South Wales.

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