It's something we don't even realize we are doing until we draw awareness to it. There are many reasons we do it:
What are some issues caused by tension in the pelvic floor?
So what's a gal (or guy!) to do?
Relax it. Simple? Except not. Becoming aware of the tendency to clench is the first step in relaxing it. Standing around- am I in a kegel right now? Oh- yep, I am. Okay, relax. Watching TV in a kegel? Relax it. Talking on the phone with your mom and tensing it up again? Alright, no biggie. Relax it. You'll notice that the more you consciously relax it, the more it become your new normal. Note relax it does not mean to *push it down.* It just means to release unnecessary tension.
Try this release.
Find something this size and relatively squishy. Some people do okay with a tennis ball, but it may be too firm and intense, so I think something more squishy like this is great. Amazon link <---not affiliate link and I have not tried this product yet, just ordered! No the release is not the hand squeeze, but I posted that so you could see about the size that we are going for.
Release with a ball:
I'm gonna do a facebook Live on this release soon, in the One Strong Mama group. I make no promises until next week as this week is SPRING BREAK.
Learn how to move your body better.
There is much that could be talked about when discussing a tight pelvic floor. That's why blogging is hard! I want to talk about squatting, squat prep, walking/gait mechanics, hip extension, and on and on and on. I always feel like I need to leave the disclaimer *but there's more too it than this.* Perhaps it's implied, but perhaps not. So here's that disclaimer. I highly encourage you to seek out a movement specialist, or try out my new online program if you're pregnant. It will release in May!
Wait.... what online program?? Did you know that I have an ONLINE prenatal program coming out in May?! It's so comprehensive! Exercise and SO MUCH MORE. I welcome you to join the online community associated with the program that I just mentioned about: One Strong Mama. I have been spending the majority of my online time in that group answering questions, Facebook live-ing (is that a word?), etc. I am really proud of the program and I think you (and your clients) are going to really love it and get a lot of benefit out of it.
Comment with your thoughts and share this post with somebody you think it would help!
Did I get your attention? Good. Because this is important. And easy. Except not because we live in a butt under, sacrum smashing kinda world.
I have a whole blog post on neutral pelvis here. But quickly.... here's what you want:
Moving on, let's do a little test. First, find your ischial tuberosities. Also known as your "sitz bones." Basically, I'm telling you to grab your butt cheeks. Maybe don't do this if you are reading this post from the library or your kids school.
Now, maybe even more important to not do this in the library, find your tailbone(coccyxx). You will have to feel inside the top of your butt crack a bit.
This, my friends, is what I call your "birth space."
Now, grab back onto your sitz bones and stand up and bend over by hinging at your hips. What do you notice?
Above is a photo of me about 45 minutes before I gave birth to my 4th child. Obviously still in the dilating phase and not yet in the pushing phase. See how my tailbone is free? That is creating a lot more "birth space" than had I done this:
Now, my pelvis is tucked under like a scared dog. There is less "birth space" in my pelvis. Try finding your tailbone and a sitz bone and tucking and untucking your pelvis. Notice what a big difference it makes in the room!
Just like I said in my last blog post about pushing, if we are scared we ARE going to react. Just like a scared dog, our tails may go under. So part of it is prenatal mental prep and a good environment and team that makes you feel supported and safe.
The other part of it is if we are sitting on our tailbones all day, or standing with our booty tucked under all day, our body is USED to that position. It's not necessarily going to magically untuck without us thinking about it a the big day! All the muscles have adapted to the tucked under position. And muscles don't magically change when the birthing time begins. So work on finding a more neutral pelvis throughout the day. And work on your double calf stretch/ hip hinge. Yes, it's stretching things. And helping with pelvic mobility. And preparing for proper squatting (I could go on and on about why I love that exercise), but it is also programming your brain that when you bend over- whether to spit in the sink after you brush your teeth OR to have a wave (contraction)..... this is just what your body does.
Have a lovely birth!! XO Lindsay
PS- Here's preggie me explaining the double calf stretch. Awwww nostalgia.
I have seen exhale pushing scoffed at. I've also seen fitness professional teaching women how to push. So, I am going to try to set the record straight from my perspective as a movement teacher/fitness professional, doula, and childbirth educator. I have the perspective of knowing things in theory and also seeing things in practice since I also attend births.
First a funny story (okay, fine, probably only funny to me). During my 4th birth my midwife asked me if I could stop pushing (or maybe push less, I don't remember now- he was coming fast, though!). And the next wave (what I call contractions) hit and I said "sorry, I can't not push." It really wasn't ME pushing. My body was doing it and I was along for the ride.
I have seen a trend among fitness professionals to talk about doing core work as a way to help with pushing. So you will be strong enough to push baby out. While I do believe that we need a strong, functional and reflexive (does what it should do without us thinking about it) core to support the whole body, I believe that if a woman is in a supportive, undisturbed environment (read: no fight or flight going on! More on that later) her body will know what to do. The strong and amazing uterus is the primary "pusher." Yes, the deep core muscles are involved, but a lot of traditional "ab exercises" will actually increase intra abdominal pressure and tension (more on that in another post), which we do not want for birth or for longterm core/whole body health. Follow me on Facebook or Instagram (button above!) and I will be posting my reflexive core exercise sometime this week, and will add it to this blog post once it's up (because right now.... #4kids)
Pushing should ideally be mother-directed. An involuntary urge. Just like your body tells you when you need to eliminate your bowels and nobody has to show you how to do it (unless there is a problem), your body tells you when it's ready to bring a baby out of it and how to do it. And it's MUCH cuter than the thing you push out every day!
So what is coached pushing?
This AMAZING mama gave me permission to share her beautiful photo. There were circumstanced that necessitated her to push like this and like I said there is a time and a place! I thank her from the bottom of my heart for allowing me to use her photo to teach about pushing! This kind of pushing should be the exception, not what every single mom does.
Often, providers and nurses direct mom as to how to push. I am not here to say there is not a time and a place for this. I've seen some stuff in my years and hundreds of births as a doula. And in that time I have learned to appreciate modern medicine and it's role in getting babies safely in the world. But I am here to offer an alternative to consider. Not an end all be all hard and fast rule of pushing [End disclaimer]. Mom is coached to pull her chin to her chest and hold her breathe to push. She is told to hold her breath and push for 10 seconds, deep breath again, and hold and push for 10 more, take a deep breath, and hold breath and push again for 10 seconds. It has been called "purple pushing" because of the color many woman's face turn. Pushing this way increases the likelihood of more significant tearing, trauma to the pelvic floor (1), and can cause problems with baby. When mom is told to hold her breath for so much of the pressure wave, babies are not receiving as much oxygen and it has been shown to lower APGAR scores (2). I also find that when moms are pushing in this way, they are tensing everything- their butt, their pelvic floor, their jaw instead of exhaling and reflexively (without thinking about it) engaging the deep core alongside the uterus while also RELAXING THEIR PELVIC FLOOR (underlined and capitalized because it's important, so I'm virtually shouting it).
Perhaps a mom starts out with mother-directed listening to her body's urge pushing and then someone comes in and starts telling her what to do. Coming from an 'expert' like nurse, midwife or doctor, mom figures they know better than she and starts doing what she's told. Maybe she needed to (progress isn't being made after a long period of time, medicated birth, safety of baby, etc), but maybe she didn't. (This is why it's important to ask questions so you know- is this being done because of protocol or is there a true need for it?). Maybe she is checked and found to be fully dilated and so the stirrups come out and she is told to "PUSH!"
Enter exhale pushing.
In some circles this is known as "breathing the baby out." I have seen this taught in MANY childbirth classes, and have taught it myself in Hypnobabies classes (the best childbirth class ever!!!). AND I LOVE IT. Mother directed pushing and exhale pushing really can help protect the pelvic floor and perineum from the extreme force of "purple pushing."
However, I have heard from women who have told me that they were not able to make much progress pushing this way. Reflecting upon my own birthing experiences and observing many others, I have come to the conclusion that we can exhale push with our core reflexively helping the process, or we can exhale and still resist the strong sensation of baby coming down and out by not relaxing the pelvic floor fully. Both will appear to be exhale pushing, but they will yield very different results. Maybe this is why some providers and nurses scoff at the idea of doing anything other than holding the breath while pushing and say things such as "Don't make any noise, hold your breath!!"
While I don't think women need to be specifically taught a technique that they then go and use during birth, I do think that working on exhaling to engage the deep core while relaxing the pelvic floor during pregnancy can be a helpful practice for birth, but also for life.
Mama, relax your pelvic floor. And an exercise for you to try... (video will be added later this week)
I find doing a kegel can help us realize if our pelvic floor is held tense all day long. Note I said A kegel. Not 100 kegels. Anyway....
Draw your pelvic floor up and then drop in down, maybe more than it was initially. Take note if you are in a constant 1/2 kegel all day. You won't magically not be when it's time to push a baby out if you have that tension all day long. Now, take a deep breath, and exhale like you are blowing out 50 birthday candles (or one ridiculously annoying trick candle that won't extinguish). Blow out slowly and keep going until you have no breath left. Keep going, keep going. There. Did you feel that? Without forcing it or "drawing your navel to spine," you might be feeling your core gentle corset in, hugging you and if you are pregnant, your baby. This is your deep core muscles (TrA) engaging. This is the kind of exhale that I see women using (often intuitively, without anyone teaching them) effectively during the pushing stage. It's amazing to know something and then to see women, who have never given birth, just DO it. But why isn't this always the case? Besides the tension we are carrying in our pelvic floors all day long for years and years (and all the things that I normally talk about that increase that tension like sitting on your sacrum all day, and on and on..., medicated birth, baby malposition, etc) I'll give one other big reason:
In comes the fight or flight reaction:The mind-body connection to the pelvic floor
When scared, fight or flight instinct goes off and women draw their pelvic floors up and while maybe they exhale, they're not REALLY exhale pushing. They're really just fighting against that strong sensation of a baby coming down and out. It's like when I see a kid running towards me at full force while I am laying down in psoas release. I instinctively tense my abs to avoid extreme discomfort when they jump on top of me. I believe that many women tense up their pelvic floor for a similar reason.
We can help avoid this both prenatally and during the birthing process by training our minds (I used Hypnobabies and it is fantastic!!) to believe in ourselves and the birthing process, hiring a doula, choosing a supportive provider, and setting up a calm birthing environment conducive to "the great letting go" as I like to call it. And then having someone there to remind us to let go of our pelvic floors if we need it (I do not say "let go of your pelvic floor" during birth. If I did I might get punched. I usually say something in a calm soothing voice like "welcome your baby down with each breath you exhale" But it depends on the mom.)
"Let your monkey do it"
Just like animals tend to find a dark, safe, secluded cave to give birth, we too need to feel safe in order to give birth. The mind-body connection can not be ignored. If an animal in the wild is running from a predator, it needs to have the ability to "turn off" the process of birthing in order to get to safety. We may not have literal tigers that we are running from anymore, but we most definitely have "inner tigers" in the form of the fear around childbirth that is ingrained deep within our subconscious from living in a society where the media portrays birth as horrible and scary. We also have the birthing environment to consider. Bright lights, people we've never met, machines that go ping, monitors and cords attached to us. It's no wonder we have a hard time letting go and letting our body do it's thang. And maybe the environment is nice and calm and then "She's pushing!!!!" everyone runs in (who are all these extra people?!), the lights flip on, including a spotlight on the vulva. Mom is told to get on her back with her feet in stirrups. I've even had providers yell at me (the doula) to turn off the music! It's like all of a sudden things have to be chaotic and amped up because mom is pushing.
Note: I am pro hospital birth and think it's a fantastic option for those who either 1)feel safest there 2) want to be there for any reason or 2) need to birth there for medical reasons. But I do think we can make that environment less "hospitaly" by doing things like dimming the lights, having less unnecessary people there, quiet voices, calming music, a doula for support, hiring a supportive provider, etc.... way more than I can cover in a blog post on pushing.
I would like to end with a FANTASTIC video of a mom who is making noise during her pushing stage as she is involuntarily pushing. She isn't being coached to push (Note- HER MIDWIVES ROCK and both these ladies were at two of my own births!) ad she is "breathing her baby out" beautifully. Note that breathing your baby out does not mean that you never hold your breath. But, it's not sustained for 10 seconds, breathe, 10 seconds, breathe, 10 more seconds. It's reflexive.
Thank you for reading!! If you like this post, please share it! They take quite a bit of time to put together and it gives me more motivation to do them amidst the chaos of raising 4 kids and running a business if I know people are getting something from them. XO Lindsay
Today I would like to write about preparing your body for birth. More specifically, a vaginal birth after cesarean or VBAC (pronounced "v-back"). If you would like more info on VBAC, cesarean, etc please check out ICAN (International cesarean awareness network). My local Chapter (Twin Cities, MN) is fantastic, and you might have a chapter near you with local meetings as well! I am grateful that we have c-sections, and also grateful that VBAC is a safe and wonderful option for so many! This post is not going to go any further into any of that for time's sake. But know that this post has nothing to do with helping you decide what the best option for your birth is- that is something you can explore yourself with your provider, partner, and with wonderful resources such as ICAN.
First, WHY should we prepare our body for VBAC?
You may have heard it said that "we were made to birth." And I do agree with that statement. Our bodies are incredible and were made for birth! But, we live in an artificial environment. Our bodies do not move the way that they were intended to move. We have outsourced the work of our muscles and we aren't moving in the variety or frequency that we really were designed to. Because of this, it's really essential both for minimizing pain and also for an easier birthing, to change our movement habits to stack the cards in our favor. Does this mean that everyone who "prepares their body" will have a successful VBAC? No. Does this mean if someone has a cesarean that it was their fault? Absolutely not! Does this mean that everyone who has a vaginal birth doesn't need this *exact same stuff*?! No, no no! I am simply giving you a tool that will both help baby to find optimal positioning for birth, and also help your pelvis to be at the optimal function for the birthing process. These same principles can apply to all pregnant moms!
1. Walk daily. Walking is an essential movement, not just an exercise. Think of it as an essential movement vitamin that your body NEEDS to function properly. Walking not only aids the birthing process, but also whole body health and longevity. Our ancestors likely walked 5-7 miles a day! Aim to slowly increase your miles. Take at least one mile walk every day (in flat shoes) and a longer walk on the weekends. Increase your miles further by spreading them throughout the whole day! Making mindful choices like parking in the back of the parking lot and walking somewhere instead of driving all count in your miles for the day.
2. Sit less and use variety with your resting positions. Research is showing us that sitting for prolonged periods of time has an impact on long-term health and longevity. Additionally, it weakens the birth muscles and decreases birth space. If you are chair sitting, make sure you sit with a neutral pelvis (see above) and take breaks to stand, walk, and stretch every 15-20 minutes. Consider a dynamic work station that alternates between standing, sitting (in a variety of positions, if possible!), walking and stretching throughout the day. Try sitting on the floor more often than in a chair, if possible.
3. Get out of positive heeled footwear and flip flops. Wearing shoes with even a slight heel will alter skeletal alignment and cause muscular imbalances that can contribute to pelvic floor, back and SI joint discomfort and issues. Choose flat shoes and take note that even most standard athletic shoes do have some degree of a heel. You’ll also want to make sure your sandals have a back, as flip flops cause similar imbalances in the body. If your body has grown accustomed to positive heels (they're even in most athletic shoes!), do correctives and slowly transition to minimal footwear. Check out Katy Bowman's book "Whole Body Barefoot" for tips on transitioning.
4. Squat to eliminate. Our bodies are designed to squat to go to the bathroom and in fact many cultures still do today! It will help with the mobility of the pelvis for optimal birth mechanics and will also help with easier elimination of the bowels. You can get stools to elevate your feet, or consider a product like the Squatty Potty that brings the feet up into a squat position. They even sell that at Target now!
1. Use a neutral pelvis. Sitting on your tailbone will weaken the pelvic floor, hurt the back, and decrease birth space. Roll forward onto your “sit bones” (ischial tuberosities) so that your pelvis is neutral. The top of your pelvis (ASIS-Anterior Superior Iliac Spine) should be in a vertical line on top of your Pubic Symphysis. You will see your natural lumbar curve. Relax your upper body and avoid trying to arch your back. It is often helpful to sit with something under your sit bones (a rolled up towel, yoga block, etc) to allow your pelvis to roll forward into a more neutral position. Video of me explaining neutral pelvis HERE.
In "lifestyle modifications" above I mentioned that you should sit in a variety of positions throughout the day. GET OUT OF THE CHAIR! As much as you can. A chair shaped pelvis is not a happy pelvis. Try more floor sitting! But when you do- bolster yourself up so that you can easily find neutral pelvis. Check it out for yourself. Try sitting on the floor. It's not too easy to get into neutral pelvis without REALLY FORCING IT. Next, try sitting up on a block, bolster, or cushion and then just RELAX into neutral pelvis. No forcing it and causing additional tension, please. That's not what we're going for. We are allowing ourselves into neutral.
2. Weight Back in your heels. Now that you have neutral pelvis, it's time to get your weight back where it should go. Pregnancy and baby carrying tends to shift our weight forward. Not because it SHOULD, but because we let it. We outsource the work our posterior (back of the) leg muscles. This not only puts a lot of strain on our core (diastasis recti anyone?), but it also turns off the muscles that should be holding us up all day. These are also muscles that support the pelvis.
3. Feet hip distance. This helps to use the lateral (outside) hip muscles that support the pelvis. Women often stand with their feet much closer together than hip distance. Additionally, when we walk we tend to allow our feet to swing in quite a bit! Check out your foot prints if you walk through snow (rain? sand?) and see if your foot prints are actually hip distance apart. Chances are, when your foot hits the ground it is closer than hip distance. If we can think about bringing our feet back to hip distance and keeping our feet "in their own train tracks" while walking we can increase the strength of the lateral hips (I have done several blog posts on lateral hip strength. Check out THIS ONE as to why lateral hip strength is important for pregnancy pain)
4. Relax the belly. We spend a lot of our lives sucking our belly in. Whether for vanity sake, stress, or because we think it's proper core engagement. Note: It's not proper core engagement and even if it was, we should not be engaging our core all day. I added stress to the list because I personally notice that when I'm stressed out that my core sucks in more! It's amazing how these habits sneak in! So take a deep breath and then RELAX your belly away from your spine. Notice if you are sucking it in and then be like Elsa and LET IT GO! This will help with the 2nd stage (pushing) of birth because it's releasing all the intra-abdominal pressure that has been built up from all the sucking in that we then have to push against whether to go to the bathroom, or to push out something much cuter, but less frequent- a baby! Check out this video of me explaining it (I was pregnant in the video, too!)
These exercises are designed to help the body transition back to more optimal alignment and aid in teaching the body how to function properly through all that we do throughout the day. For example, are you getting up off the toilet for the one millionth time that day (baby on the bladder)?! You can do this in a way that uses the posterior (back of the leg) muscles and uses the "squatting" muscles. Or it can be done in a way that keeps the pelvis tucked and doesn't use those muscles at all. Think of how many SQUATS you could get in a day if you just used the appropriate muscles every time you got up?! THAT is the goal. To optimize what we are doing ALL DAY. Because our body adapts to how we hold it and move it throughout the entire day and is not as concerned with the one hour a day (HAHAHA- I have 4 kids so I laugh at this) that we exercise. So don't think of these exercises as the end all be all. They are simply a tool to help us move better. Know that this is in no means an exhaustive list. I encourage you to seek out the assistance of a Restorative Exercise™ Specialist to get your own personalized assessment and correctives. Okay... after that way too long disclaimer, here they are....
1. Calf Stretch. We want to lengthen the posterior (back of the leg) muscles. This will help with pelvic mobility and pelvic floor health (I could write a whole blog post as to exactly why). Think of your calf stretch as your Vitamin C. YOU NEED IT. I try to do at least 3 calf stretches a day. You can calf stretch while brushing your teeth, talking on the phone, combing your hair.... the possibilities are endless! I keep a half dome in my bathroom, living room, kitchen. They're all over! You can also roll up a yoga mat and it works almost as well. Keep the weight back in your heels and your pelvis neutral (your correct alignment as discussed above!). Only walk your non-stretching foot forward if your hip doesn't come along with it. Hold for 60 seconds on each side. VIDEO of me demonstrating calf stretch HERE.
2. Double Calf Stretch
Does your pelvis even move? It should! When you bend over to pick something up (toys, dishes, laundry.... story of my life) do you do it by flexing your lumbar spine, or do you do it by allowing your pelvis to move? This one is going to help with pelvic mobility and also with all the muscles down the backside of the legs- hamstrings and calves. Only go as far as you can go until your pelvis stops moving and your lumbar spine (low back curve) starts flattening. This and the single legged calf stretch are HUGELY important and are prep work for squatting..
3. Psoas Release This exercise feels like you're doing nothing. Because you are. Except, you're not. You're allowing the resting tension of your psoas muscle to relax. This muscle deserves many of it's own blog posts. Here is one I did a while ago.
First, find a bolster or supportive cushion (or sleeping bag rolled up in a sack- get creative if you have to!). Next, sit up tall with your feet in front of you and feel your hamstrings touching the floor. When you lay back into a bolstered position, you only want to go as far as you can go without your hamstrings popping up off the floor. If, after you're down in this position, you can drive a matchbox car under your hamstrings, then you need to bolster yourself higher. It's not unusual for me to need to double bolster people! Position the bolster so that the back of your ribs is NOT on the bolster so that it is just under your shoulders. Put a rolled up blanket or half dome under your head so you don't feel like your head is uncomfortably flopping back. As you rest here, allow the back of your rib cage to relax down towards the ground. When you start, you may notice your ribs thrusting way up towards the sky. But as you continue to relax here (great place to watch a movie! I just introduced Star Wars to my kids in this position last week!) notice the tension in your psoas releasing by the back of the rib cage coming down towards the floor.
4. Hamstring Strap Stretch I am a big fan of doing this stretch in the psoas release position. It protects the core because it is allowing the ribs to relax down and it helps us to not go past our boundaries because if we do, the opposite hamstring will lift off the floor. After getting in your psoas release position, bring a strap just underneath your toes. Slowly lift the leg up, but stop if the opposite hamstring lifts off the ground, because this is showing that your pelvis is beginning to tuck to compensate for being at the end of your hamstrings range of motion. Relax the toes towards your body. No barbie feet! Try to avoid the mindset of "the more I feel this stretch the better it is." You may feel more of a stretch if you were to pull you hamstring way up towards your face, but it's not going to help you any more than just being *where you actually are.*
After about 60 seconds of stretching straight back, send the foot across the midline towards the other leg. Keep the hips on the ground and avoid rolling.
5. Inner Thigh Stretch
And there you go- this is an EXCELLENT start to your alignment, movement, and corrective exercise journey! This is by no means an exhaustive list. But I wanted to give you a few things to get started with! If you'd like to learn more- I do in person and Skype sessions!
Working on movement and alignment not only helps to prepare for birth, it also helps ease pregnancy pain and helps with a smoother and easier postpartum recovery. And don't get me started on pelvic floor and really... whole body health! The great thing about this work (or maybe not so great thing depending on how you look at it) is that everything affects everything. So a byproduct of working on alignment for you birth is that you're going to start helping that wonky knee. That annoying foot pain. That digestive stuff. It's all connected! Our body is not a bunch of parts working in isolation, so we can't fix or help anything in isolation. We must look at everything in relation to everything else.
PS- taking photos with a bunch of our kids is kinda chaotic. I might have to do a PART 2 with more.. They were totally at their limit. You probably are after this super long post too. Don't blame ya!
MANY thanks to my beautiful friend Jessica Anderson of Peaceful Beginnings for letting me take photos of her. She is an ICAN leader, cesarean and VBAC mom, doula, childbirth educator and mother of almost 3! She is teaching a VBAC class along with another amazing VBAC mom, Katie Champ of Empowered Birth at the studio in a few weeks. Sign up!
It's that time of year. The time of year that family wonders "what in the world does she even want?" It's hard for me to think of something that I want for myself. Maybe it's because I'm so hyper focused on the KIDS. So, I've decided this year to do a gift guide not for kids (maybe I'll do that too if I find the motivation), but for the active adult in your life. Maybe you'll get a few ideas for yourself as well!
This is on my list for the studio! I have a chain that the contractor left that is solidly into the metal beam so I wanted to find something fun to hang from it. How fun would this be for adults and children to play with? I'd love to have one at my house as well. Hmmmm... I wonder if they ever have BOGO deals?! I really am digging Yogapeutics and their hammocks look awesome. I also love that they do a lot of work with kids! Happy to support a small business like this one appears to be!
Pull Up bar
We love ours! Before we got our hallway monkey bars, the kids used to have contests of who could hang for the longest. Here is our now 3 year old as a 1 year old hanging. Cropped because she was completely nude. Here is the one we have.
Pull Up assister
I would love something like this so that I could work on my ability to do a pull up!
I love this thing! We use it at the studio and we have one at home at we use all the time as well. You could purchase Katy Bowman's BOSU BOOTCAMP for whoever lucky duck on your list gets one of these and they'll be all set!
Climbing or some other adventure outing gift card
My family has a membership at our local climbing gym and we really enjoy climbing together! Our climbing place is called Vertical Endeavors. They have auto-belay which means I can hook the 6 and 8 year old in and they can climb and I can climb next to them. It's pretty nifty!
On that note, I think that many people already have plenty of STUFF so a gift card for some sort of adventure or activity is honestly one of the best ideas for a gift, in my book! Whether it be a membership at a park that you'd love to frequent, or a hiking trip, or WHATEVER. Get creative!!
Yoga Tune Up Set
THIS looks amazing! I have Jill Millers The Roll Model book and it is fantastic! I also have several of her YTU therapy ball products and they are all excellent. Such wonderful self care. I've been "rolling" almost daily, lately. And really enjoying it. I recently did a self care session for a group of doulas during a retreat and the contented sighs were great!
ANY/ALL of Katy Bowman's books and movement snacks
And there are quite a few of them!! Heck, get someone all of them, they're all fantastic. I believe that every human being needs to read Move Your DNA. Just sayin'. Her new Diastasis Recti handbook is on pre-sale right now. The studio will have copies of all of her books for sale shortly. Here is a link to the publisher where you can order! You can get them on Amazon as well.
She also has great alignment snacks, which are short videos you can follow along with from home. I have all of them and think they are great to cycle through. Even if you *know everything there is to know about alignment* (you don't and I don't), it's so nice to follow along with a video every once in a while. And I learn new nuggets of truth every time I do one of these. It's like your body and brain need to do something ten gazillion times for certain things to click. Why as a movement specialist I have to MOVE A LOT MYSELF to really understand best how to teach others. Practice what I preach, yo. Okay, here's the ALIGNMENT SNACKS link
Did you know that I'm not the only one who does this work? I have colleagues all over the world! Find one HERE! And if you are local to me, I can make you up a sweet gift certificate if you want to buy a session or a package of sessions for a loved one. Give the gift of alignment and health!
Okay okay, this one isn't movement oriented. But I really want one! I have 4 kids, a business, a home and I we like to eat a whole foods based healthy diet. Meaning- lots of prep! Sometimes it's 4pm and I.have.no.idea.what.is.for.dinner. Or it's 5pm and I have no idea. I have friends who swear by pressure cooking. So, I'm hoping to give it a shot! Let me know if you've tried it and if you like it, or not.
It should be noted that I do not get anything for endorsing any of these products. I just think they look cool! I am an affiliate for the alignment snacks
It brings me SO much joy to announce that Mama Aligned is opening
Mama Aligned Community Movement Studio!
Contractors are already hard at work renovating and building out the space! Estimated Guess Date is sometime in September. If only my babies gestated so quickly! Our lease at our current office is up in September so when this perfect opportunity presented itself it was seriously just meant to be!
Our studio is going to be located in the soon to be renovated detached garage of Roots Community Birth Center in the flourishing area of North Minneapolis where my family and I live. We love the Roots mission and feel that they are the perfect sister business! Please like them on Facebook!
Picture a fully functioning glass garage door. Open air classes when it's nice out, anyone?
So just what is a COMMUNITY movement studio?
We believe that everyone should have access to movement and yoga classes! The prices of classes have consistently been rising over the years with expensive drop in rates and monthly memberships that are far beyond what some people can afford. As a result, these classes have not been accessible to many people. At Mama Aligned, we want everyone to have access to our classes. Because of this, we have intentionally chosen to put our faith in our students and operate under the donation model. No packages, no longer term commitments or monthly recurring payments. Just pay what you can classes! Our hope is that those who can pay a little bit more will choose to pay more in order to assist those who can not pay as much.
We also want to be a space that movement practitioners in the community can hold their classes and earn a living wage and keep the majority (minus a little bit to keep the lights on!) of what students pay for class. We KNOW how much time, money, and work goes into all the trainings and certifications and continuing education it takes to be a really great teacher and we want teachers to be compensated well for that!
As usual, we will continue to offer our private Restorative Exercise™ sessions and other workshops and offerings out of the studio.
Our mission is and will continue to be to help people align their bodies, restore to full health and well-being, and truly thrive. For women to eliminate or lessen pregnancy pain, prepare their bodies for an easier birth, have pelvic floors that are functional both during and after pregnancy, and cores that are strong and fully functioning! We believe that everyone deserves to feel good in their bodies!
If you would like to help support our mission- please donate by clicking the link below. All proceeds will go towards build out of the space. If we get enough we may even be able to put in a set of indoor monkey bars!
I do not have the ability to do much of any blogging lately, as you've probably noticed. Holding a newborn constantly (as I should be!) is not very conducive to blogging! So I have "vlogged" instead, Here is a video of the babe and I demonstrating proper newborn holding. It's SO easy to fall into thrusting the pelvis forward... which puts a lot of pressure against the possibly already weakened abdominal wall. It's no wonder so many mamas have split cores that will not heal! The newborn phase is GRUELING so if we are just a little bit mindful about how we hold our babies- we can really help ourselves down the line!
I wrote a while back about why the squat is not the new kegel. Check out Part 1 HERE
I want to write on this again because I still get people asking me and each other "what should I do- Kegels or Squats?" Of course, I direct them to my previous post, but I figure I would expound on what I said there for further clarification.
Here's what I just posted on facebook last night, while thinking this over:
"Looking to strengthen/fix/optimize the function of your pelvic floor? The question should not be "should I squat or should I kegel?" Because there is not one exercise that will strengthen/fix/optimize the pelvic floor. It's a whole body problem and requires a whole body solution."
Squat vs. Kegel is NOT the question we should be asking. We must think of our body as a whole. There is not one exercise that will fix/heal/strength/optimize your pelvic floor because your pelvic floor responds and adapts (whether positively or negatively) to how you move all of your body all of the time. So a squat, or a kegel for that matter, is not going to really do what you hope for it to do if you're not walking and if you're sitting in a desk chair on your sacrum all day, for example.
Let me give you an analogy that may help make this clearer. The kegel vs. squats debate is like debating a high grains/low fat diet vs. a Paleo diet. Only, instead of learning all that goes into the Paleo diet you say that being Paleo means eating red meat all the time and pretty much only red meat. After all, you just read a couple of blog posts on the benefits of red meat, so that MUST be what being Paleo is all about, yeah? Not realizing that red meat is part of the Paleo diet, yes, but it's just one small piece of many different vital nutrients needed and even the red meat that is consumed is not just any old red meat, but a specific type of red meat (grassfed, for example). Eating a bunch of red meat does not make one a Paleo anymore than doing a bunch of squats makes someone have an awesome pelvic floor. Yet, of course squats are a fantastic part of a whole body movement program that optimizes the function of the pelvic floor and the stability of mobility of the pelvis.
Or maybe this one resonates with you more. You know kale is healthy. So you just eat kale, and only kale. All day, every day. And nothing else. Would you really be healthy? Or maybe you eat Snickers bars for the rest of the day and then gorge yourself on kale at night. WOULD YOU REALLY BE HEALTHY? No. You need the nutrients in kale, of course, but you also need a whole spectrum of nutrients throughout the day too.
So let's stop debating squatting vs. kegels and let's start:
Check out some "alignment snacks" HERE for just $5 for a nice way to learn some of these stretches that will in turn help strengthen your pelvic floor (and.... the rest of your body too! The great thing about it being an all body problem is that the all body solution fixes a whole bunch of other crap too!). A few that I suggest:
~Walk this way, stand this way
~All Around the Thighs We Go
~All fo' the pelvic floor
~Leg goes forward, leg goes back
~Stretch the standing muscles
Lower back pain during pregnancy. We're told it's "normal." But does normal=natural? Does normal=required? I propose that what is normal in our society is what is typical or common, but not necessarily the way our body is intended to be. Rather, it is a result of our current movement (or lack thereof) and alignment habits. SO! If lower back pain is not a requirement of pregnancy, how do we fix it? Or better yet, prevent it?
It's about where your pelvis is, in relation to the rest of your body. Check it out:
Most people are *already* forward leaners. And then they get pregnant. It's not the pregnancy that is causing the back pain, but the habits we already have coupled with an extra 10, 20, 30 pounds out front. This habit of forward leaning and pelvic thrusting not only compresses the low back (lumbar spine), but also causes us to thrust the contents of our abdomen forward into the core (diastasis recti anyone?). It causes less mobility of the sacrum because we're using the muscles in the front of the legs instead of the muscles we should be using that are behind us. Not to mention, the implications all of these issues cause for pelvic floor health and optimal birth mechanics. Can't you see how related it all is? Why ALL THESE ISSUES ARE SO PREVALENT?! Why often times someone with core issues, for example, also has pelvic floor issues. Or people who have back pain also have diastasis recti (splitting of the '6 pack muscle'). Not all movement is created equal. We have to move more, yes! But we all have to move mo' bettah as well.
NOW- TEST YOURSELF!! Grab your cell phone charger and flip it over so that the heavy plug in part is on the ground. Make your own plum line like the one I drew on the picture above and stand how you normally stand and SEE where your pelvis is in relation to the rest of your body. It can be very revealing!! It may be helpful to have someone else test you because often times we need to shift a lot more back than we think we have to. You will probably need to lean your upper body forward to counteract just how far back you have to lean. Otherwise, you'll fall over.
I was talking to someone the other day about what a tough sell what I do is. It really is a paradigm shifting thing for most people. People want "3 simple exercises to do 3 times a day." But I can't offer that. Plus, if i did it wouldn't REALLY solve your problems. Especially if you're thrusting and forward leaning the rest of the day. What we NEED to do is get your alignment back where it should be... and what we need to do to get you there is to help your muscles to re-adapt to being at the proper length to hold you there. Got it?
Here's a few steps:
1. Get out of positive footwear.
You can't not lean forward and alter your alignment in any degree of positive footwear. I'm not just talking high high heels. Even most athletic shoes are positive in the heel. Any shoe with the heel higher than the toe box is positive.
2. Be mindful about your alignment.
Now that you KNOW it, you need to adjust it. It's a brain thing called proprioception. Your brian is used to you leaning forward all the time, maybe. So, it probably feels weird NOT to do that. This weird feeling doesn't mean that it's not more optimal. It just means that your habit needs to change. It might feel weird for someone not to smoke all the time, but that doesn't mean they shouldn't quit smoking. Ya feel me?
3. Walk. As much as you can. In your heel-less shoes, with your weight back in your heels and your feet staying hip distance apart. Some day I'll blog about gait mechanics more, I promise. But just WALK AS MUCH AS YOU CAN. My teacher, Katy, says in one of her books that walking is not exercise, it's a biological necessity. In the same way that we know we need certain vitamins (example: we'd get scurvy if we didn't get vitamin C) there is going to be a consequence if we are not walking. I'm not trying to freak you out.... and I'm not trying to say that every little bit doesn't count. But definitely want to stress that walking is really super important.
4. Lengthen and strengthen the muscles of your backside.
Here are a few to try right away:
Calf stretch (PS- old video and MY GOODNESS that girl has grown up since then!!)
Double Calf stretch (which is more about lengthening all the muscles along the back-side, not just the calf like the name implies
Hamstring Strap Stretch- keep the pelvis untucked and the opposite leg on the ground (opposite hamstring should NOT come off the ground at all). PS- I just happened to have this photo but now I'm thinking- I should take photos of my kids demonstrating all the exercises!! Photo booth gives me 3 SECONDS ONLY to get into a position to take a photo... hence all the vids.
I'm in my third trimester now (actually, I'm considered full-term next week! So sorry for the lack of blogging- I've been nesting instead!) and I've started to notice how much harder it is to TAKE A DEEP ENOUGH BREATH! So, I've been focusing on opening up the thoracic region so that I can breathe into my ribs more.
Wait... what does that mean?
So, there are a few different ways we can breathe. We can breathe UP. Watch someone breathe this way or try it yourself- your collar bones move up and down when breathing. This way isn't good because it causes issues with the cervical spine and neck. The other way we can breathe is DOWN. Into the belly. Plunging everything downward with every breath. This isn't good either because it increases intra-abdominal pressure and pushes organs downward. I definitely think those of us who tend towards belly breathing are the ones who feel this "I can't get enough breath!" when breathing during pregnancy because baby is restricting the ability to do what we want to do- breathe DOWN. The third way we can breathe is OUT- into the ribs. Our ribs are designed to MOVE torsionally. That is, they kind of flare outwards during breathing (Don't worry- I'll post a video). This helps with bone density of the ribs. And it doesn't cause any other issues during breathing- there are no compensations that our body has to make to breathe into the rib cage.
BUT- what if the rib cage is restricted in some way? Likely it is from years of rib thrusting, pushing the shoulder blades together to hide our hunch backs, etc. We've lost the ability to mobilize the upper back! So, yes, it IS going to be harder to breathe properly if we have some restrictions. So- in addition to being more mindful about rib breathing, I'm trying to continue to open up my upper body region so that I can really take a deep breath like I want to and not compensate in my body in any way.
Here are a few stretches I like:
Place a Yoga Tune Up, Pinky ball, tennis ball or other on each side of your spine (or if you have one do one side at a time). You can either do this standing, seated or you could lay back on your back if that still feels comfortable. Press into the ball and slowly work it up and down- releasing some of that tension on either side of the spine. At the back of the rib cage. Silly 2 year old in your lap= optional.
Have a very wonderful day and please comment/like/share if this was helpful to you! Spread the love so that your friends can experience better breathing as well!! My mission is that we ALL feel as great as I feel this pregnancy!! This is of course helpful for non-preggos as well, but since I am OH SO VERY PREGNANT right now, it's definitely on my mind how much more mindful I have to be about my alignment, walking, and Restorative Exercise™ practice.... but guess what? I can say confidently that I have NO PAIN IN MY BODY WHATSOEVER this pregnancy. I truly feel stronger than I've ever felt!! I guess in a way pregnancy is good feedback because it kind of forces us to take care of ourselves better.
Mama Aligned is Lindsay McCoy.