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.