As soon as a child is old enough to walk we are told we're supposed to shove shoes on their feet. Stiff, with pretty thick soles. What if we were to do the same thing with our hands as soon as we were born? Essentially, casting them. We'd loose much of the ability to use our hands to their full capabilities, would you agree?
As I have said before, our feet are our BASE. If our feet are jacked up, the rest of our body will be too. So, fix your feet! Or better yet for your kids.... don't have them to start with!!
We also stick kids in chairs and tell them to sit still. Kids are not meant to sit still. They're meant to move! Just like we're meant to move. Yet we are put in every sort of contraption except ones that require us to be active participants in our environment from the time we are born. We've been trained all our lives to sit still and pay attention and we go from sitting in a desk all day to sitting in an office chair all day. And we wonder why our body hurts! It's adapted to it's environment of mostly sitting in one position for extended periods of time.
“We spend the first year of a child's life teaching it to walk and talk and the rest of its life to shut up and sit down. There's something wrong there.”
― Neil deGrasse Tyson
Before this turns into a rant post (preach it, sista!), let me go to what I AM trying to blog on. Kids shoes. Kids alignment. Have you ever watched a toddler drop into a perfect, untucked pelvis, squat? Or walk with their feet aligned? Kids are pretty amazing! Then..... we loose those abilities. What if we didn't have to? What if we kept moving and kept our feet out of stiff, heeled footwear? Yes, most kids shoes have heels and are super stiff.... at the time when they are developing bone density and growing and learning how to use their body.
Check out this video of a little girl who grew up in Africa, who they call the real life "Mowgli." I love watching her move. And most of the time she is barefoot! FYI the video is in French, but it's enchanting!
Without further ado, here is my list of minimal kids footwear. Some of these I have tried, some of them I have not. And this list is in no way all the options out there. Thankfully there is somewhat of a barefoot movement going on so it's a whole lot easier than it used to be to find good shoes for kids. BUT, they're usually super expensive, which sucks when you have 3 kids with growing feet. BUT, it's worth it to me. They need minimal footwear more than they need that new toy, ya know? My kids are currently outside (FINALLY!!) playing with dirt, and a shovel. And some rocks. And they're actually barefoot. When possible, I try to have my kids all the way out of shoes. In our backyard is a good place for that!!
Little Skidders for the littler littles.
I get these at Target and they are cheap and really flexible.
Merrel barefoot trail glove
My middle child has these and we really like them!! They have vibram bottoms.
Fila and vibram five fingers.
I got the Fila brand from Zuililly but I'm sure you can get them anywhere. They're a little more "weird" looking because they have toes, but my kids love them. Vibram makes their five finger shoe in kids sizes as well.
Water shoes!! You can find really minimal water shoes at the big box stores for pretty cheap. Especially compared to other minimal shoes. And lots of them don't look like water shoes, either. I found these (speedo brand, I believe) at Target last year and my daughter wore them walking miles and miles and MILES in California this year with no blisters. Usually without socks. This is the only photo I could find of them and they are currently missing (under a bed or shoved in a corner perhaps? It's been too snowy to wear them anyway)
Soft Star shoes I've been dreaming of these for my kids. You can't go wrong with any of them, but I especially would like to get the BOOTS for my kids for winter. It is nearly impossible to find flexible, minimal kids winter boots. It's terrible!! They make great adult shoes as well!
Unshoes. I don't have any of these for my kids or myself yet, but mine are coming soon-ish (I contributed to their kickstarted campaign) and they make kids sizes as well!! I hope to get some for my kids as well. Or just look around and find some cheap sandals with BACKS that are flexible. Flip flops= not good for proper gait pattern. So, especially not good for developing kids!
Okay, that's my short list. Comment to me some other shoes you have found that are minimal for children.
Have a fabulous day!! Now, I'm going to go help my kids put the dirt BACK into the garden beds, as they've shoveled it all onto the walkway. And onto the baby's scalp.
Your shoes and your pelvic floor are in a relationship. Just like I said your psoas and your birth are. The pelvic floor GETS out there. It's crazy just HOW connected everything is. That's why doing something like a kegel which is targeting ONE thing, that is SO CONNECTED TO EVERYTHING ELSE doesn't make all that much sense in the grand scheme of things. For a bunch of other reasons as well that are beyond the scope of this post about shoes.
Shoes. I could talk a lot about shoes, but the one part of the shoe I'm going to focus on today is the HEEL. Ponder this picture:
I talked about pelvic alignment, and I talked about backing up. Both important for loading the body properly (which will help with birthing, decreasing pain, bone density, and so many more things!). But guess what? There is no way to stand or move in alignment with any degree of heel. And this does not just apply to a million inch high stilettos. This is any degree of heel. Think "Well, I don't wear heels so I'm fine." That's what I thought too. I've never been into heels and always felt awkward in them. But then I looked at my shoes. Even my ATHLETIC SHOES and they all have some degree of a positive heel. Which means that the body is having to make compensations.... otherwise it would fall over.
So, if you wear heels all the live long day and now you're pregnant you need to get rid of them, right? Well, not exactly. If you've been wearing heels for years and years, your body has.... you guessed it.... adapted to where it is most of the time. One of those adaptations is shortened calves. And that chain travels all the way up the body. The pelvis is probably going to have a more difficult time untucking. Basically, all those short muscles coupled with a now big belly are going to exasperate the problems already there that are associated to footwear choices. Of course the same stuff applies whether or not someone is pregnant. Man or woman. But, pregnancy is going to exasperate the problem. So the back pain, PFD, etc is not a result of pregnancy. It's a result of alignment with the increased load that pregnancy brings. So whether or not someone was pregnant the problem was there. The pregnancy just sped up the progress to issues with it. With the tucked pelvis and weight shift compensation the pelvic floor is not going to be strengthened and will actually be weakened. SO slowly start coming down off the heels rather than going cold turkey. And rrrrreally start to stretch the calves and hamstrings and think about your alignment. You can't overstretch your calves and hamstrings. Here's the single legged calf stretch:
I tried taking photos but I seriously get 3 seconds after I hit "take photo" until the photo takes. That is not enough time to RUN into a calf stretch, yo. I need a solution and it's not bribing my children.
Can you keep your weight back in your heels while stretching your calf? Hold each stretch for a good 60 seconds. And see if you can do this stretch 3 times a day, minimum. What about while you're cooking, checking your email, brushing your teeth? Work it into your day!! If you don't have a half dome, a rolled up yoga mat works almost as good. Or I've done a calf stretch on a fallen over tree branch on a walk before. Seriously, just be creative, but thinking about it doesn't lengthen your calves. You have to actually DO IT. JUST DO IT, like Nike says.
And get outta those heels. I even take the inserts out of my heel-less shoes because they usually do give you some degree of raised of heel.
Here are some of my favorite shoes. Keep in mind that there are more comprehensive lists out there, these are just the ones that I *own* and have personal experience with. Note: I am not getting paid by any of these companies.
Merrell Havens. (I take out the insert and wear wool socks for winter). I had such a hard time finding good boots that didn't have any heel. I like these! Side note: I like my fringy Minnetonka Moccasins too for their lack of heel but they are a little bit tight in the toe area.
Lems. My husband and I both have these and I wear them more often than any other shoe. They are the shoes I wear to births and around town. They have a flexible "barefoot" bottom, but they aren't such conversation starters like my vibram five fingers are. Because sometimes you just want to get through the grocery store without having ten conversations about your shoes.
Vibram five fingers. These are truly awesome but if you are used to heels I would not suggest you go immediately from heels to these. I also would be careful about running and doing long long walks on concrete. Find some good dirt trials or something. I wore them when I was about 14 weeks pregnant with my 3rd child on a nice long hike in Kauai, Hawaii.
Ah, rats, we didn't have a full body shot of me in mine, but I promise i have them on. They're my favorite color... turquoise. Here is a photo of my husband in his. Ahhh, Kauai, I hope we meet again someday soon! Moving on...
Unshoes. I have not gotten these yet, but I am SO EXCITED TO GET THEM. I contributed to their kickstart so I could get a new style! Support small businesses, yo!! One of the amazing ladies at my training in California has some and I fell in love. Honestly, there were so many great shoes in California at my training... it made me want to go out and spend a bunch of money on barefoot shoes!! Seriously. These will be great for..... whenever it eventually gets warm in Minnesota. Not today when it feels like a million degrees below zero because it's ALMOST FREAKING APRIL. Ahhhh! Anyway, these look great and are much better than flip flops for a good shoe for the warmer weather. You can find cheap sandals with a back and zero heel as well... I had some last year that I got second hand from my little sister (yes I get my little sister's hand me downs. It's awesome!)
Flip flops are *not* good for alignment because we have to change our walking pattern to keep them on. I know you don't feel like you have to, but you do. This is coming from a former flip flop junkie. So, I didn't wear heels all day long, but I definitely wore flip flops. And because of that, I really have to work on my top of the foot stretch!! Here's a photo of it:
Seriously, 3 seconds!! Darn photo booth. I run and stretch! Anyway, my front leg is straight (sorry for the baggy pants, hard to tell) and weight is still back in the heels. Try not to cheat by letting the ankle come out to the side.
So, go check out your shoe collection and report back on your findings! Also, comment with some of YOUR favorite shoes so I can add to my drool list of wants. And, go stretch your calves and the top of your feet.
and you should probably know about it!
The psoas (pronounced: SO-AS) muscle is really important. For life. For birth. For BEING. When I hear from a mom that she had a very long and challenging previous birth, one of the first things I introduce to her after the lower body stuff like the calf stretch and double calf stretch, is a good psoas release. But even if she hasn't had that previous experience or is a first time mom, I will say that I have yet to meet someone who could not use a good psoas release. So I think that EVERYONE should learn to release their psoas. But since this post is about mamas... I really really think that pregnant mamas or women who are considering getting pregnant should know about their psoas. We sit more than we stand and we have a lot of fear and stress! All of those things will cause this amazing muscle to shorten.
Here is a picture of the psoas. As you can see, it comes all the way from the spine and wraps around attaches to the upper leg. The psoas is a large muscle that attaches at the bottom of the thoracic spine and along the lumbar spine, then runs through the pelvic bowl, down over the front of the hip joint, and attaches at the top of the femur (thigh bone). It is the only muscle connecting the spine to the leg. If it is short, it will pull the pelvis under (tucked... check out THIS post to learn about why we don't want that). And/or it will cause the ribs to thrust. Both are not good for health (pain, discomfort, other issues) or for birth.
Why is everybody's psoas so tight? Because our body adapts to the way it is, most of the time Adaptation is not always a good thing. Check it out:
Yes, I just took a shower (cue angelic singing!) and yes my hair is crazy. Don't let it distract you from my adorable kids, I mean, my crooked artwork, I mean, my psoas demo.
I am a huge huge HUGE fan of optimal fetal positioning and Gail's work at Spinning Babies. I also feel that when we find alignment through this Restorative Exercise TM work during pregnancy, that it is going to aide in our babies being able to find optimal position because there will not be restriction in the muscles, ligaments, and bones making it more difficult for baby to find the best way out. This goes for preconception too! Or any time! Why are we only doing the work during pregnancy? Tangent, but guess what, YAY, this stuff also helps us to feel better, to optimize our human machine, decrease pain and increase whole body wellness and health. So it's not like you necessarily have to wait until pregnancy to start working on this stuff, and even if you're never planning to get pregnant again, believe me, your psoas ES IMPORTANTE!
Here is a great quote from Penny Simkins via Gail's site:
Penny Simkin brought it up this summer in her talk about What We Don’t Know About the OP Baby.It is less important to know the fetal position than it is important to respond to the needs of the birth. The muscles, ligaments and bones may need accommodation regardless of fetal position. In other words, tension in the psoas pair of muscles or pelvic floor can delay an anterior baby and a posterior baby. Extension of the anterior fetus’ head can prevent engagement in some pelvises. The main point is that we can, when needed, promote progress regardless of fetal position.
Found originally HERE
WOW- this is very profound to me and a good reason for us to promote a healthy psoas (among other things too- tights calves and hamstrings anyone? More on that soon.)
Here is a quote from Liz Koch, who has devoted her whole LIFE to this amazing muscle: An essential aspect of the fight-flight-freeze response, also known as the fear response, the psoas expresses our innate sense of safety. The psoas is both an instinctive as well as an emotionally responsive muscle and by tuning into this muscle (without the use of invasive or manipulative approaches), we can gain a deeper sense of calm, integrity, and empowerment.
found originally HERE
Wow again! So it seems that release our MINDS is also important for allowing our psoas to release, then. And likewise, releasing our psoas will aide in releasing our fears. Come at it from both angles for maximum benefit, I say!! I teach an amazing program for childbirth called Hypnobabies and one of the things that it does is help moms to release their fears about childbirth, mothering, etc.
I always want to leave you with something to DO from here. So, why not check in with your psoas?
The first photo is of me laying flat on the ground while trying to get my ribcage to the floor. In an ideal psoas world, the back of our ribcage and our hamstrings would both touch the floor when we were lying flat on our backs. When your ribcage is neutral, do your hamstrings pop up off the floor? Maybe your knees even bend like this? Just observe, no reason to freak out (since that, after all, also is a psoas shortener).
Alright. This next photo is of me getting my hamstrings on the floor. Look what happens to my ribs! Holy rib thrusting batman! I'm holding my shirt up so that you can see just how off the floor the back of my ribcage is.
Chances are pretty good that your psoas could use some relaxing!! But how how how?? Since it's already been done I'm not going to reinvent the wheel. You can use my affiliate link if you want to buy me a latte (not really, I'm cheap and probably won't use it for a latte, just sayin') and get Katy Bowman's really awesome alignment snack called "Frankie says release your psoas" Go HERE to get it for $5! Seriously, I was actually shaking in response to my psoas releasing during the class recently.
And here (scroll to the bottom after reading the whole post, of course) is a couple good photos of a psoas release. One of my favorite psoas releases. I sometimes read in a psoas release. And it sounds really nerdy and weird but after the kids are all in bed when my husband and I are "sitting down" to talk (you know, on those nights that one of us is not WORKING!) I usually am in this position. So try it out. And don't do it for 2 minutes.... hang out there for a little bit!
Make is a great day!!
You've probably been hearing a lot of buzz about the squat. And many have been touting it as the go-to thing to do for pelvic floor health. The more squats you do, the stronger your pelvic floor, right?
I shall begin with a quote:
What I can totally see happening twenty years from now is people doing as many squats a day as they were kegel exercises. Magazines will be touting the squat as the go-to exercise for pelvic floor disorder. Every physical therapist and every birth educator and every personal trainer will be handing out the squat ExRx like it’s a dollar bill. And we’ll have the exact same problem: the sarcomeres of the pelvic floor being positioned away from neutral. And guess who’s going to look like a jackass in 2033? I am.
I'm a squat lover FOR. SURE. But I think that it's so easy for us to take a very small piece of the huge picture and boil it down to one thing: squats=strong pelvic floor. Have urinary incontinence? Squat more. Want to have an easier birth? Squat. Want to strengthen your pelvic floor for whatever reason? Squat. No lie, people really *are* handing out the squat exercise prescription like it's the new kegel. And SQUATTING IS NOT THE NEW KEGEL. Squatting is one part of a whole body movement program and a systematic re-learning of how to use your human machine (body) is ways that optimize: birthing space, functionality, well-being and minimize: pain and disease. There is not one exercise that is going to be THE exercise that you need to do, it's about how you carry your body most of the time. Exercise does not replace movement. Restorative Exercise is just that, designed to restore us to the way we were designed to be. And we were really designed to move a lot more than we do right now. We were not designed to sit on couches and chairs all day. We were designed to squat to eliminate. To walk many miles a day. So, it isn't really about the exercises at all. It's about getting to a place where you don't even need to correct yourself through exercise at all because your body is moving optimally all the time. We live in a modern world, of course, and alignment is a journey and not a destination. There is SO MUCH that we can do to bring ourselves in a place of more natural movement. And squatting is one of those exercises. It is one piece of the puzzle.
If most of the time you are sitting. With a tucked pelvis. And thrusted ribs. Then I can promise you this: doing 50 squats a day isn't going to do what you think it's going to do. And you are not going to be able to do the squats like you think you are doing them. Don't get me wrong, I am all about doing something is better than doing nothing, but if you're lazy like me and want the most bang for your buck, you might as well get the most out of every squat you do! Here is a photo of me, squatting. Except I'm not getting all the benefit of the squat that I could be getting.
Let me say it again. Squatting is part of a whole body movement and systemic re-learning of how to use the body.
So as I've said and will say again (broken record, much?) it's not about the squat, itself, but the strength and the range of motion/length of the muscles that we need to get into an aligned squat and the strength that this squat will build. This, then, aides us in being able to walk in a more aligned way- with a neutral pelvis and hip extension. This, in turn, will engage the glutes during walking rather than all the muscles that we are probably currently using that are not really designed to be used in that way. Namely, the quads and psoas.
"it’s what the glutes do while walking that gives the pelvic floor, always contracting under the load of the abdominal and pelvic floor organs, the constant resistance to generate an eccentric force that it needs to keep from shortening." Katy
So, you say, "Lindsay, this is all good and well, it's not just about the squat. So what should I do?" I am glad you asked (okay, I know that was really me, but you KNOW you were thinking that question).
Here are some pointers.
1. Work on the squat prep.
Squat prep in going to help you to be able to have the range of motion for a good ol' awesome squat.
2. Get a squatty potty
This is going to get you into a squat as often as you go to the bathroom. Use it for both #1 and #2 (I've had that question so feel the need to clarify). This is a great way for your body to find the range of motion of a squat while eliminating. This is how we are designed to eliminate. In my opinion, the porcelain throne is a huge contributor to the vast amount of people in our western society with pelvic floor issues. Statistically, we have a lot less babies than cultures with a lot less pelvic floor disorders, and there are just as many people with PFD that have not given birth. Ah... another tangent. Just get a squatty potty, yo!! And use my affiliate link and I'll give you a high five (virtual if you're not local).
3. Every time you get up from sitting, try to use vertical shins! Here's a short video. How many times a day do you have to get up? Probably a lot. Every time, see if you can engage your posterior leg muscles by not allowing your knees to go past your ankles. You have to get up anyway, right? So might as well get this added benefit, right?
4. Get out and get to walking! Humans are really designed to walk 5-6 miles a day. Don't start there, start with walking more than you are currently walking and build up! It does not have to be all at once. But circling around the parking lot for the closest spot is not going to aide you in your alignment journey. Just sayin'. Walking with hip extension engaging the posterior leg muscles is going to start happening once we lengthen and strengthen the muscles that will allow us to do so. If you don't know what that means, just get out and walk more for now.
5. More Restorative Exercise! Click here and get a really good alignment snack that is only $5 and you can download it and watch it as much as you want and learn about hip extension and the pelvic floor. It's called "All Fo' the Pelvic Flo'" and you'll love it! Additionally, I'm putting together a LOT of classes and always have private sessions available! Learn how to use your human machine optimally!!
6. And squat, too. I'm not anti-squat and I hope this post didn't come off that way. I am just anti-ONLY squatting and not doing anything else. Or handing out the Squat recommendation without any of the other stuff. Does that makes sense like it does in my head? I sure hope so!
Here's a series of photos of me attempting to squat in alignment, with my kids. Is my squat perfect? No. BUT, I've learned what my limiting factors are, and I'm working on them so that I can squat better. I'm also using my squatty potty, walking, and doing my Restorative Exercises. And I am taking deep breaths and not stressing about it, because it's not about the final destination, and the movement choices that we choose to make, every day.
Seriously, as you can see by the ridiculousness of all these photos, a lot of work goes into blog posts! I thought it'd be fun to just post all the outtakes (since they turned out to ALL be outtakes!) of me squatting while also taking care of little tiny children. As you can see, it's a journey, a MOVEMENT journey. And I'm on that journey as well!
Check out Susanne's awesome work in Restorative Exercise on her webpage and on Facebook
Share this post with childbirth educators, doulas, yoga instructors, moms, and everyone who is thinking that it's all about the squat. Remember I'm pro-squat, but anti-only squatting.
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Your feet, that is. Why? Our feet are our base and if they are not lined up, then it's going to jack up everything above it. Think about your car's alignment. If the wheels are not in alignment what it going to happen to the rest of the car? Well, I'm no car expert, but I'm pretty sure if the wheels are not aligned than the rest of the car is going to break down and the wear and tear is going to happen a lot quicker. I think people kind of look at me funny when I have them do foot exercises for/during pregnancy or postpartum. But it's YOUR BASE. We can try and fix other things, but if your alignment is not optimal starting at your foundation, than other stuff is not going to do you as much good. And remember? I'm lazy... or I guess the word is BUSY. I don't want to do something unless it's going to give me the optimal amount of benefit. Mama AINT GOT TIME.
Okay, you say, point my feet straight ahead. That's easy enough. But, can you do it all the time? While walking, while standing? What happens to your feet when you're not thinking about it? Check in with it!!
And, lots of us (myself included for a long time!) THINK we're pointing our feet forward, but actually we're pointing our toes forward. And our toes are attached to our feet, but they are subjective and based upon... you guessed it.... where they are placed most of the time. If they're placed in a pointy toe shoe most of the time, they'll probably start to look like a pointy shoe. Have you ever seen someone's feet who spent most of their life in tight shoes of a certain shape? It's amazing that their feet are actually a different shape! Our feet are designed to be wide, our toes are designed to spread. To lift. To be as mobile as our hands. But we've put them in casts, so to speak, for our whole lives. From the time our parents strapped on our first pair of "supportive" walking shoes.
But alas... this is not a post on foot mobility (but I should write one!). This is a post on foot position. SO.... tell me what you see in this photo:
Yes, it does look pretty good, but alignment is not about appearance. That's why we don't call it "posture." Because posture is about what we look like, alignment is about what our body is actually doing. It seems like a semantics thing, but it's really not. It's a totally different thing.
The anatomical markers for feet pointing straight ahead are the head of the 5th metatarsal (base of the pinky toe) and the lateral malleolus (bony knob sticking out the side of your ankle). The position of our toes are subjective, as I explained a bit above. So is judging by the inside of the foot, You can see in the photo above that it looks ike my right foot is ESPECIALLY lines up correctly, eh? Because you can see through the line on the hardwood floor that it's pointing straight ahead and lined up with the baseboard perfectly. BUT when you look at the anatomical markers take a look at what happens:
I was going to maybe draw on the photos that you guys posted on Facebook, but I decided that you can check in with them and see what you think. But, I did not see any aligned feet! I will tell you that this is one of my big struggles, especially my right foot. Like I've said, our body adapts to the way we are, most of the time. For me, it's a constant check in and I'm also addressing the way my body has adapted to turning out for so long via Restorative Exercise. So that I don't get foot, knee, hip... everything problems!! Fixing our feet can help us all the way up to our head!!
Today I'm going to share with you a quick little video on neutral pelvis. It's MUY importante for mamas to find neutral pelvis. It's going to increase space for baby and it's going to help the pelvic floor, among other things.
I spoke last night at the local ICAN (international cesarean awareness network) chapter meeting. What an inspiring and amazing group! It was truly an honor to just be in the room with these women. I left my pelvis model in the car, and then my husband drove it to work. So, alas, no pelvis except the one in my body for today's video.
Watch the video on pelvic alignment and then I'll leave you with a few of the visuals I promised in the video.
And to add to my video- want to know the best way to strengthen the pelvic floor? MOVING in pelvic alignment. Walk walk walk! But you say you can't walk in pelvic alignment without muscling your way there? Oh I hear you!! THAT is why I teach the Restorative Exercises that I teach! So that we can walk, move and be in an aligned way just NATURALLY. Without even thinking about it. Alignment brings us more space to birth a baby, less pain, less pelvic floor and back issues, and be more functional and feel MO BETTAH. But, our bodies have adapted to the way that we've moved and sat and been holding ourselves since we were born, and it is going to take time to counteract years of sitting with a tucked pelvis. But- every little thing you do helps!!
So, just check in and see what your pelvis is doing... and then post and let me know. Is your pelvis tucked all the time? We didn't even GET to the psoas yet, but once I teach you about the psoas and how to release it, you'll begin to see even more WHY your pelvis is tucking all the time. But for right now... just check in with it and see if you can begin untucking it in whatever position that you are in throughout the day- standing, walking, sitting. Find something to sit on to help!! Props are our friends!! I've been cueing for neutral pelvis a LOT in my prenatal yoga classes and it is SO interesting to feel a yoga pose in alignment vs. trying to have the appearance of being really good and being able to go really deep into a yoga pose. It doesn't benefit any of us to have the appearance of being able to reach farther or flatten are feet more in downward facing dog. And actually, it probably is causing harm. You will be able to get into downward facing dog with your feet flat on the ground a LOT easier if your pelvis is tucked. BUT, then your pelvis is tucked.
Here are a few posts on pelvic alignment with the visuals I promised. I'm still trying to find a program that will let me draw on pictures (anyone know of any???). Plus, I figure why redo what's already been done, right? So ready HERE and HERE The visuals I told you I'd post are in these posts, so CHECK THEM OUT.
Whoa, I can't believe I did all that with no kids running around me. Nap time win.
Before I continue on my series on stance (which started with backing up) I wanted to address a question that I received on my (NEW!) Facebook page and also from a few people in person and another person on a comment on my last blog post (yes I read them, so comment and I'll respond if I can!)
Here's the question, in a nutshell:
Where do I start?
For me, personally, it was (IS) easy to feel overwhelmed. And to feel like there could not possibly be TIME IN THE DAY for anything else. We are all pulled in so many directions that it feels like too much to do anything else. But the thing is, I'm lazy. I guess lazy isn't the right word. I like to take the easy road. Case in point: my kids sleep with me when they are babies so I can just nurse and keep sleeping and not have to stand up during the night. I use Hypnobabies (which, I will say, is a big time commitment during pregnancy FOR.SURE.) which enabled me to have calmer and more comfortable births. And I'm always looking for shortcuts. Mama aint got TIME. Check out the comedy bit below... I laughed so hard when he said having 4 babies is like drowning and then somebody handing you a baby. Maybe too hard.
Okay, back to alignment.
So, it's not about doing more, necessarily. It's about being smarter with how you are throughout what you are already doing during your day. And, every time you make an aligned choice, it helps. Every time you choose to stretch your calves while you are on the phone, or cooking dinner, or answering an email... it makes a difference! Every time you choose to walk somewhere instead of drive, or anytime you choose to stand instead of sit. Or sit on the floor instead of lounging on a couch.... you make a difference in your body!!
I am not going to give the "do these magic 10 exercises" because, it's not about the exercises, even though there are exercises. If we lived in a society that moved around all day and had from infancy, we would not developed the habits we currently have and we wouldn't need the corrective exercises. Did the hunter gatherer woman need to stretch her calves? No, because her calves had not shortened from habits and shoe wear choices.
So, even though it's not ABOUT the exercises, they are still important because they are going to take us to a place where in an ideal world we wouldn't need them. But, as you know, we do not live in an ideal world. At least I don't! So, here are some tips.
1. Start reading some alignment blogs, of course I hope you keep reading mine. Unless you hate Jim Gaffigan. Because then you'll probably hate me because I'm like the female birthy alignmenty version of him. Just kidding. But I do think he's really funny! Tangent. Focus. Also, check out my teacher's blog, KatySays. She has a podcast in the works as well! She also wrote a few books and I encourage you to check them out. Alignment Matters is a really good way of learning the basics of alignment and it has good pictures and exercises and there is even a study guide if you're a nerd like me and like that kind of stuff.
2. Start moving more.
The human body is really designed to walk (no, you can not substitute running for walking, it is completely different). And it's designed to walk several miles a day. This doesn't mean you go out and walk 6 miles right now in one spurt. It means, move more than you're currently doing. RPE...reasonable physiological expectation. If you're used to not moving at all, then you're doing more harm than good by walking 6 miles. Can you make simple changes. Park farther away in the parking lot and walk in? Is there any place you could walk to instead of drive? Can you get out and take a daily walk around the neighborhood?
3. Start sitting less.
We go from sitting all day at work, to maybe doing an intense hour or two of exercise, and then we sit back down, and then we go to bed. We can absolutely NOT replace all day full body movement with 1-2 hours of intense exercise. People who exercise 1-2 hours a day are simply NOT healthier than those who do not. We can not undo the damage of sitting all the freaking time with that intense bout. And some of what we are doing in that intense bout is damaging us, anyway. When you work or are on the computer... try a standing work station. I personally stand at my counter and answer emails, work on blog posts, etc. If you must sit.... sit on the floor, or on a bolster on the floor. There are a lot of ways we can sit that are not in a chair or lounging on the couch with the pelvis tucked under.
4. And I'd start with stance.
Which... yay! Is what I choose to start this blog with. You learned how to back up, and next I'm going to teach you how to point your feet where they are supposed to be pointed. After we go through stance, then we'll talk about simple stretches that we can do that will help lengthen our walking muscles so that, you guessed it.... we can walk more AND get more benefit out of the walking that we do (See what I did there? Yep, I'm all about the most benefit from one single thing. That's the "mama aint got time" way!!).
5. If there is a Restorative Exercise Specialist in your area, check them out!!
*think of the photo of someone checking someone out that I am not actually going to post*
Not like in a creepy way, but in a call them and sign up for a session kinda way. You do not KNOW how much goes into getting certified. Katy is NO JOKE and she doesn't want those people she certifies to be either. So we have to learn a LOT. If there is not a REx if your area, there are many that offer Skype sessions!! Here is a list of graduates or those in training.
Now... get up, stand up go out on a walk (sung to the tune of Bob Marley if you so desire)
My journey into alignment (which is ongoing, of course!) began before I knew anything about alignment or Restorative Exercise. With my degree in Exercise Science, I learned how to think critically, to love the science of movement, and to read a gazillion research articles and critique them (thank you Dr Kelly Quick for that!).
After college, I started my work as a personal trainer at a regular gym. It was okay... but I got a nagging sense that I wasn't really helping the people who I wanted to help. I left college well prepared to prescribe exercise, but intuitively I didn't feel like what I was doing was "it." I left my job in the fitness world while I was pregnant with my 2nd child and after his birth I began my work in the birthing community and never looked back.
Or so I thought.
I continued working in the fitness industry, sort of. As a prenatal yoga instructor. I was always helping my mamas from a physiological perspective with their pregnancy ailments and optimizing the birthing space. Of course, I got really into Spinning Babies (Thank you Gail Tully for this amazing stuff!) because it was like the body stuff that I was so into, but for birth. I saw it help my moms SO much during their births and I am honored to say that I got to help spin many babies and see how helpful it was to birth.
Then I found Katy Bowman. And the Restorative Exercise Institute. It was like a coming home, of sorts. She talked a lot about the pelvis, a lot about the pelvic floor, and about pregnancy and childbirth too (which is a HUGE HUGE passion of mine). When I started reading her stuff I just knew that I had to learn more. It fit so well with my passions.... and in fact even brought me home to my original love of the science of movement and combined it so perfectly with my passion for pregnancy, childbirth and postpartum. My favorite courses in college were Biomechanics classes. If there had been an entire degree on Biomechanics, that's what I would've majored in. And now this lady.... was speaking about things like the pelvic floor from a biomechanics perspective? Cue nerd excitement!
And the thing was.... once I started giving my mamas this information and the restorative exercises, I really could see it help them with birthing! It really did optimize space in the pelvis. It really did decrease the pressure gradient upwards to allow for an easier time with pushing. And moms who walked all day, or stood more really did seem to have shorter birthing times. When I started introducing the ideas into my prenatal yoga classes people seemed hungry for more! I started having people line up after class with questions about how I can help them with this pain or that ailment or this baby position. And.... I loved it.
So, I signed up for a Whole Body Alignment course. And spent many many many months listening to lectures, doing the exercises myself, and learning what it meant to bring the body back to the way it was, really, designed to be.
In the process, my back started feeling better. I'd been having horrible mid back pain for 4-5 years. Likely caused by hunching over to nurse a baby, babywearing almost all day, and going through pregnancy 3 times in a generally short amount of time. Being a yoga instructor and generally active person, I wasn't supposed to be the one with back pain! I was "in shape" so what the heck, right?! I had started learning about this stuff to help OTHERS, but I helped myself in the process. I learned a LOT about myself. And my body. I'm in no way perfectly aligned, BUT I do know where I am and where I am headed and I am on my journey. My back is still kinda hunchback-y (technical term is actually hyper-kyphosis), BUT it's getting better, and I'm feeling better in the process!
I spent a week in California learning from master teachers of Restorative Exercise and Katy Bowman, herself. It was challenging, humbling, intense and amazing. Restorative Exercise really has a way of helping us to break through walls. I learned that my "go to" is just muscling my way into a pose or exercise. I learned I can not even do a head hang properly because instead of relaxing my head down, I PULL it down. I learned that I was doing most of the exercises at least semi-wrong and that it's SO easy for the body to cheat. It took my alignment practice to a whole new level!
I couldn't be more excited about this missing link that I've found! I really feel like this stuff is the missing link for a lot of people. I know it has been for me. People who have been told that they need surgery for this or that. Or that this issue is just "apart of being a mom" or "aging" or "pregnancy." Or moms who were told they could never birth a baby vaginally because there isn't enough space. Or moms who have yet to give birth but want to optimize the environment in their body for birthing. It JUST MAKES SENSE. We can reclaim our bodies, we can live without pain, we can birth our babies, we can NOT pee our pants afterwards or have our organs falling out. We CAN. And we will, if we only begin to shift our daily habits and patterns of movement.
Restorative Exercise is not an exercise program. It's a whole body wellness program of teaching you how to use your body, your "human machine" in the best way. In a sense, it's the manual of how to use the body in the most optimal way to decrease pain and ailments and increase strength, vitality and well being. It's a way of coming back to the way our bodies are designed to be. It's reclaiming our biological RIGHT to pain-free full body movement and wellness.
And this is why I have shifted my business (if you can call it that, because I love it so much!) to the name "Mamaligned." Alignment is for ALL- If you have a body, this stuff will help you. And I can and will help ANYone who comes to me in pain or wanting to learn how to "drive their human machine" better, but mamas are and will always be my true life's work and calling and so I'm okay with my name being restrictive, in a sense. I truly believe that those people who need me, will find me. And I'm okay with owning my niche of working with women. But know, that I can and am taught to teach this stuff to everyone. In fact, my final practical exam was with a 70 year old man! And he loved it and I'm told the next day he couldn't stop talking about what he'd learned at a Super Bowl party. Awesome. I want to excite people about this stuff as much as I am excited by it!
I will leave you with a few quotes to ponder from my teacher, Katy Bowman:
"Ninety percent of your ailments right now are self-induced by the way you move-too much or too little, At friction generating angles, with too high loads" ~KB
"If the cause of most ailments affecting affluent populations- osteoarthritis, diabetes, osteoporosis- is the lack of movement, shouldn't exercise be the solution? No. Exercise is a poor substitute for movement."
"You'll never be able to recreate what our body needs in an hour or two of exercise. You have to learn how to move through life so that you don't even need to exercise because the body is working all the time."
Mama Aligned is Lindsay McCoy.