Strengthen those hips, preggos! And all. You'll feel better and your hips and pelvic floor will thank you.
We learned a really great lateral hip stretch last week, today I'm going to teach you how to strength and stabilize these muscles.
We *need* strong lateral hips because they are *supposed* to be an integral part of the gait (walking) cycle, yet because we have tight and weak lateral hips (from sitting all the time, and not using them for most of our lives) our body compensates and we cheat to walk. This cheat walking is actually more falling forward than actual walking. When we lengthen and strengthen the muscles that we *should* be using to walk- we'll actually be strengthening our pelvic floor with every step! And a lot more things too- we'll be building bone density of the hip with each step as well as it will bring us into a more vertical loading of the hip. Did you know that the hip is one of the places MOST prone to osteoporosis and breaking a hip is NOT a good thing either. So if we learn how to strengthen this area and build bone density to this area- we can AGE SUPER WELL. Who doesn't want that? I also talked a lot about all the various types of hip pain that people complain of during pregnancy and it's not just because you "need to stretch more." You also need to walk more, and walk more bettah. And part of that is even being able to do so. Which is where the pelvic list exercise comes in. I observe just how challenging this exercise is to my clients who come in either with a whole lot of pain in the region, or pelvic floor disorder. Sometimes just being able to stand on one foot even while doing all the cheats I'll cover in the video, is a challenge! And you can BET if it's challenging to just stand on one foot in an aligned way for 5 seconds, that your gait cycle is not optimal. So- get more bang for your buck when you walk, get rid of your pain, and help your WHOLE body.... (wow I am really building up this one exercise, eh?)... introducing: the pelvis list (after 2 more paragraphs).
Note. I am 29 weeks pregnant. I have definitely noticed because of how freaking cold it is in Minnesota right now that my daily walks aren't as long as I'd like for them to be. My lateral hips have suffered. So- I'm upping my pelvic lists AND thankfully I'll be at the Restorative Exercise Institute next week and I plan to walk a TON. I even MALL WALKED this week because I was too whiney about the cold. Anyway- no excuses but I am posting the video even though I am fully aware that I am not perfect in it. Who really is, though? I refuse to be that expert who has no faults or things to work on themselves.
Life is a journey. Alignment is a journey. Pregnancy is a journey. Pregnancy is a journey that is definitely a more challenging time to be aligned than non-pregnancy. I'll admit that I've beat myself up a bit because I'm not as strong as I was before pregnancy. BUT- that doesn't mean we (I) can't DO pregnancy really really well and to the best of our ability. Does that mean we type-A freak out about it if we aren't perfect or worry that something terrible is going to happen if we didn't calf stretch enough times a day? No. Let go. Be where you are. Work on improving from where you are. Every day do as much as you can and make healthy choice. And let go again. You got this, mama!
I don't like to play favorites, but lately my body has really really been loving this stretch and it's kinda my favorite (shhh...don't tell the others). It's a nice, relaxing but SUPER beneficial stretch. The lateral hip musculature is a grouping of muscles that we rarely use in modern society and they become weak and they also become TIGHT. Add pregnancy to the equation and someone who once didn't appear to have any issues is not feeling pain where there once was none. This doesn't mean that the pain is *because* of pregnancy, but pregnancy is exasperating our *already there* imbalances. The exercise I'll post below is great for you non-preggos too!! I'm just relating it to pregnancy because 1) that's what I like to do and 2) I'm 28 weeks pregnant today.
PS- Holy crap- where did the first 2 trimesters GO?!?! Fourth baby problems...
Here's a picture of the lateral hip musculature
Figure: The deep gluteal (external rotator) muscles on posterior and lateral side of the pelvic and hip area. The superficial muscles gluteus maximus (1) and gluteus medius (2) are excised, to uncover the deep sacrospinosus (3) and sacrotuberalis (4) ligaments and the deep gluteal muscles. (Reproduced from with A. Neumann, Kinesiology of the Musculoskeletal System – Foundations for Rehabilitation, 2nd edition, Chapter 12 Hip, p. 496, Elsevier (2010), with permission).
Ever heard of people (or maybe it's you) complaining of sciatic pain during pregnancy? Do you see where that lovely sciatic nerve is? Can you imagine what tight lateral hips might do to the sciatic nerve? Here's a picture of the sciatic nerve as related to the piriformis muscle:
Ah- now I see how related they are, no? So it's important to stretch the lateral hips and the piriformis is one of these muscles that needs stretching. It's just interesting to see how the sciatic nerve is related to the piriformis muscle slightly differently in all people. The piriformis attaches the sacrum (which should be mobile via the sacroiliac joint) to the femur. If it is shortened, it's going to cause less mobility of the sacrum.
So- hip pain of any kind? Or even if you don't (why do we always wait until we're in pain, right?). Try out this figure 4 stretch that I filmed on youtube this afternoon. This is also good, like I say in the video, for mobility of the sacrum which will be very helpful for your beautiful birth! Enjoy!
I hope you had a happy holiday and I look forward to lots of awesomeness in 2015 and I hope you do too!! Working on my pain-free pregnancy course and hope to bring it to you SOON SOON SOON!
Winter has most definitely arrived in the midwest. We've shoveled snow already.... 4 times? More? Is it sad that tomorrow is the first day of December and I've already lost count?
I talk a lot about the importance of WALKING. Just like we need certain nutrients in our diet, we NEED walking. Think of walking as the movement equivalent of a kale salad, or a grassfed beef liver, or some bone stock (which I currently have simmering as we speak).
You body NEEDS to walk. And just because it's winter, that biological requirement doesn't go away.
So what's a gal or guy to do?
First... can I admit something? I haven't been very good at walking the last 2-3 weeks. Actually, I have not been practicing what I preach at all. And you know what? I started getting some pain in my right glute. Not. Cool. So guess what? I started walking again (and of course all my stretching and strengthening Restorative Exercise™ practices) and the pain is almost gone now. I know I need to move so I'm preaching it here- YOU need to as well!
Here are my quick tips for walking in the winter.
1. JUST DO IT.
Seems silly, but it's so freaking true. It's cold. But BUNDLE THE FRICK UP. It's amazing to me how whiney us Minnesotans can be (myself included, just ask my husband), but we chose (or maybe we didn't, but still) to live in a place that can get really cold, so we need to just get some WARM WARM clothes and schedule in some walking just like we normally would. Maybe get up an hour before the kids? Or take an afternoon walk (or both)? I highly recommend some layers- and that doesn't even mean spending a lot of money. Two pairs of pants on extra cold days, your warm jacket a scarf (to keep your shoulders away from your ears!!!), a nice warm hat, and some gloves. Just layer up and go! Grandma says so...
2. Like I said, BUNDLE UP!
I highly suggest you especially wear a nice scarf. I've been working a ton on my shoulders and upper body mobility lately and the LAST thing I want is to shiver so hard with my shoulders up around my ears all winter and cause that kinda adaptation in my body when I've worked so hard to DROP the shoulders down. I'm sure you don't want all that neck, shoulder, upper back tension either! So wear a scarf!
3. Minimal Winter Boots!
And wool socks. Wear the wool socks! I really love Smart Wool brand, but they're also expensive and I'm cheap, so I also have some nice socks from Costco that I love. And don't ruin your feet all winter with clunky, stiff, heeled boots! I am currently wearing Merrell Havens and Vivobarefoot Kulas when it's too cold for the more flexible Havens. They're both pretty cute! The Kulas are much warmer than the Haven's, but not as flexible which is why....
4. Do your foot work!
So SO important to keep the foot mobile with some simple exercises. Really ramp up the foot work this winter. I promise you'll especially thank me in the spring! Our feet are our foundation and if they aren't happy... the rest of us won't be either. It may take time to see the effects of poor foot health, but I promise you- just like if the tires of your car are out of alignment the rest of the car wears down quicker- same goes for your body.
Here are a few simple stretches:
Top of the foot stretch
Ball under the foot
Use a pinky ball, yoga tune up ball, racquet ball, or tennis ball on the bottom of your feet. You could spend a lot of time doing this- I like to work slowly up and down the far left, middle, and right side of the foot. I wiggle my toes, spread my toes, try lifting one toe at a time, all while having the ball knead out the bottom of the foot. It hurts so good! Really find those "sticky" spots and work them!
PS- my tattoo means "sister" in greek and my two sisters have the same one. Since I know you're wondering now.
I don't have a picture of this one right now (I'll take a video tomorrow perhaps, too late tonight), but try to lift each toe individually and try to set each toe down individually. I practice this in the shower, sometimes. I only tell you this because I think it's important for people to understand that the ART of movement is doing it ALL the time. Working it INTO your day. Because otherwise you (or at least *I*) just won't do it. We live for excuses (or at least *I* do).
There you have it! My super simple way to get out and get going! I am going to take my own advice and set an alarm and go for a walk tomorrow before my kids wake up. Don't hate me but the kids sleep in until at least 8am, and we often don't roll out of bed until 9am. Yes, I know come new baby things will be a bit different. So, I'm going to attempt to haul my lazy butt out of bed at 6:30 or so and go for a nice adult paced walk. I go on plenty of kid paced walks... mostly toddler paced walks. Meaning... stopping every 3 seconds to look at a hunk or snow or point out a tree or squirrel. There is such healing and love in that kind of walk and I practice a lot of balance and squatting while waiting for her. So that's good. But there is something to be said for an adult pace! So I'm DOING it. Who is going to join me? One walk a day. Whatever length makes sense for you. On super cold days maybe it's 3 blocks. But that's 3 blocks more than zero, RIGHT?!?!
ONE INTENTIONAL ADULT PACED WALK A DAY ALL WINTER. Can we do it?! If you want in, comment. Let's keep each other accountable on my FACEBOOK page. Mostly I know that if I put this out there I will be forced to practice what I preach and all of a sudden pregnancy is making me extra whiney about the cold. So I'm going to BUCK UP and I hope you will join me! ONE intentionally adult paced walk a day. And if it's get frost bite in 3 seconds cold, mall walking is permitted. I'll post pictures on my walks, and I hope you will too. If you live somewhere warmer... you can join too... but I might punch you if you post a picture of yourself walking in a t-shirt on a beach or something. Just sayin'.
May they odds be ever in your favor.
PS- No treadmills allowed on this challenge. If you want to know why, read Junk Food Walking by Katy Bowman.
With the holiday season approaching, I thought I would make a gift guide! Today will be my guide for CHILDREN and I'll do one for adults as well. I don't know about your kids, but my kids do NOT need another toy. Seriously. I recently went through my kids toys (while they were not home, naturally) with a big bag and got rid of everything that they haven't played with in a while. Which happens to be the vast majority of their stuff. I love that people love my kids so much and love giving them things, but it gets overwhelming when you have 3 (almost 4!) kids trying to fit all their stuff in your house. And our house isn't even THAT small! So.... here is my list of healthy, movement friendly gifts for children! Note: I don't get anything for any of these suggestions and I did not shop around for the best price or option for any of these- just linked to an idea of what I was talking about.
1. A Slack Line
Okay, so I kinda want this for MYSELF as well. I know they might not get to play with it outside for a couple of months, but I saw one at Creative Kidstuff (one of the coolest toy store in the Twin Cities!) that you can actually set up indoors with some stands! Awesome. A great way for kids to work on balance and explore movement! Bonus that you get to explore movement WITH your kids. The family that moves together stays together, right?
2. Indoor trapeze/hanging bar.
We have a pull up bar and I'm pretty sure we are going to buy some sort of adapter to add to it like this so that the kids can play around like this. Not that they don't already hang around on the bar. While we don't have one of these door frame ones- I think they are FANTASTIC. I can just see my kids flipping all over the place all year long. Me too.... actually
3. Or what about an indoor/outdoor hanging ring thing?
I think I am getting THIS one for my kids. My husband and I are busy at work on our indoor monkey bar set and this will hang from it for hours of hanging fun- especially great that the 2 year old will be able to reach it without someone lifting her up!
4. Minimal Winter Boots
Here is my 2 year old in the winter boots my kids are wearing this year. They're actually rain boots with liners because they are relatively inexpensive for a minimal option, have no heel (have you SEEN kids winter boots?!) and pretty flexible to boot (GET IT... TO BOOT? Moving on....). They are Stonz brand. Keep in mind that Stonz makes winter boots as well, but those look pretty darn beefy with a heel and no flexibility. Maybe it won't be your kids FAVORITE gift. Or maybe it will. Who knows.
5. Make them some indoor monkey bars!
I really really REALLY want to do this in the hallway upstairs. AND I'M GOING TO. My husband and I are not super handy, so if anyone wants to seriously trade private sessions for making this in my house. Let's do this. How fun and awesome would this be? Both for the kids AND the adults. Might be hard to wrap but... they won't mind!
I actually got about halfway done with this post and my husband and I actually just bought to wood to drill into the walls this afternoon- so its really happening! WHOOP!
6. Stocking Stuffer- Toe Socks!
I think fun colors of toe socks would be great in the stocking! It helps kids toes and feet... and therefore whole body. And they're just plain fun, too. My kids love wearing toe socks! Who would've known in the 90's that they would "come back" but in an aligned way, right? I should've saved all my multi colored toed socks. Seriously. Wait, am I the only one that wore toe socks in the 90's?
7. Rope Ladder.
How much fun would this be? Climb, babies, climb!! I plan to attach it to the monkey bars, but you could really just hang eye bolts from the ceiling or find something to attach it to. I'm sure a tree branch would work in the warmer months as well!
9. And last but not least.... consumables! Always a part of our Christmas shopping. My kids LOVE crafts, coloring, markers, crayons, paper, cool art supplies. I am NOT going to take a picture of what our craft room currently looks like.... but... it's bad. Or good, depending on how you look at it. It definitely gets used.
Continuing on with my series on easier birth, here's another way that we can ease the birthing process. Decreasing intra-abdominal pressure. We have a lot of upward pressure in the abdomen created from years of sucking in- whether to make our belly look flatter, or to "engage the core." Have you ever heard a fitness instructor tell you to "pull your belly in towards your spine" ? Chances are, what you were doing was not in fact engaging your deep core musculature, but just sucking your belly in and increasing the pressure in the abdomen. And when we suck in we are actually also sucking UP and thereby the pressure gradient is moving upwards.
THEN, come time to push anything out- whether it be something that you push out into the toilet once a day or.... the much cuter.... A BABY. We have to push harder to push against the upward force to create enough pressure downward to cause baby or, um, something else, to move down and out.
BUT there is hope! We can begin to release that pressure by de-training our bodies from sucking in all the time. Most of the time, we don't even realize the habits we have formed over our lifetime. So here is a little exercise that will help you begin to release the belly and be mindful about it more during the day.
Relaxing the belly doesn't mean that we never fire the abdominal muscles. It means that they shouldn't be on *all the time.* And most of us don't even know how to fire them properly. Pulling the "belly to the spine" is not an adequate cue for engaging the core because it leaves out the transversalis (our god given girdle and deepest core!) entirely.
If you are local and want to learn more about the core I have a workshop coming up in November where we will be doing some great exercises to help heal and strengthen our abdominals. We will release our bellies as well... they shouldn't be turned on ALL THE TIME. They should be able to respond to the need to turn on, but they should be able to relax as well. For better birth, and for better digestion!
Here's the event page
Please email to register! There is a pelvic floor class and a class for birth professionals in November as well! And as always- I do private sessions as well!
ALSO- if you're having pelvis issues- imagine when we suck in that all that would be hanging out has not disappeared.... it's just displaced our organs. And the organs gotta go somewhere so sometimes... it's outward causing prolapse issues! So sucking in causes a lot of damage and not just to the pushing process of birth- though that's the issue I choose to cover mostly in today's post!
Have a fabulous day!! Enjoy the beautiful fall!
We found out during my last blog post about rib thrust that when we drop our ribs we not only reveal our hyper kyphosis (over rounding of the thoracic spine), but we also reveal just how much our head is going out in front of our bodies. When you enter the room, is your head entering the room first? If so, you've got a case of the turtle heads. This is really hard on your cervical spine, which is being displaced (neck pain and/or headaches anyone?)
So I've created a 5 minute video that you can watch to learn some SUPER SIMPLE exercises that you can do on your own, hopefully multiple times throughout the day, to help yourself. I've also demonstrated "head ramping" which will help your neck find a more natural alignment. While you're sitting at a computer, which we all inevitably have to do in this modern world, try to ramp your head back so your not "turtle heading" as much.
(Title of this post is meant to be sung to the tune of the Salt-N-Peppa song. Anyone anyone????)
Rib thrust.... baby, it's about you and your core it's about all the back pain and the degeneration it creates. Let's talk about rib thrust.
Okay, maybe it's a good thing I didn't go into song writing as a career. Moving on.
Rib thrust. It's ridiculously easy to spot it in a yoga class.
It's pretty easy to spot in everyday life as well. Ever been told to "pull your shoulders back" for good posture? Or to "stop slouching"? What do you do to create a better supposed posture? You thrust your ribs. Right? Well I say stop it! It may look better to hide the problem, but it's not addressing it. So you are causing yourself unnecessary pain and degeneration of the back and are instantly weakening your core.
Rib thrust causes pain and degeneration of the thoracic spine. It causes excessive compression on the vertebra that are being distorted. And we mustn't forget that our spine is protecting our spinal cord and nerves- so we risk compromising those when we are causing harm to the vertebrae.
It also weakens the core. I just did a talk at the Twin Cities Birth and Baby Expo on Diastasis Recti (abdominal separation) and a HUGE HUGE HUGE piece of the puzzle is rib cage alignment. When we thrust our ribs, we weaken our core. It is not longer able to fire properly to do it's job. With the added stress of pregnancy (or heck- even without that! Plenty of people get issues without pregnancy) the core has nothing to do but to split.
So- what does dropping the ribs actually look like?
Our bottom rib should be lined up with our ASIS (anterior superior iliac spine) and our pubic symphysis (check it video below to see a demo). This is easier said than done as our bodies have likely been thrusting for a long time. Plus, we look like THIS when we stop thrusting:
Rib thrusting hides our hyper kyphosis (aka hunchback-ness) and also our turtle neck poking out in front of us. Mind you, it doesn't FIX it. It doesn't actually address it at all. So once we start dropping the ribs- then we can start addressing the issues that have led to the hyperkyphosis, truly. It can be emotional, it can feel weird to start seeing ourselves the way we really are. But I promise you- the first step in fixing it is knowing that it's there!
You core will thank you. Your back will thank you. Your whole freaking body will thank you.
Rib thrust is really big in yoga classes. I know because I'm a yoga instructors. BUT It's so important in yoga classes that you go to that you keep your ribs down during the poses. It looks a lot nicer to thrust the ribs and get way "deep" into a pose... but it's not helping you in any way, and it's actually just doing you harm. So- leave your ego at the door and drop dem ribs, save your core. Even if everyone else in the room is thrusting their ribs- be the first person not to! I cue rib dropping in my yoga classes and I find it REALLY important.
And don't get me started on rib thrust during pregnancy (which I happen to be, by the way). It's rare to find a pregnant mom without pretty significant rib thrust. Add the weakened unyielding core with the intra abdominal pressure and the growing baby and you have a recipe for abdominal separation! BUT- if we can drop the ribs both mindfully and by releasing the muscles which are holding them in the thrusted position (like the PSOAS), then we can protect our core (and our back)!
Here is a super short video of me showing rib thrust vs. dropping the ribs. I tried to just take photos but... my photo both gives me 3 seconds and that is NOT enough time to take anything worth showing... believe me I try and I look ridiculous!
Crap, now what do I do? I look so slouchy and gross.
first... don't panic. Like I already said, the first step in changing something is knowing it's there.
2nd- here are my suggestions for quick classes to help you address your hyper-kyphosis (slouchy rounded upper back)
Also, you can check out a couple of Alignment snacks. They are just $5 and you can download them and watch them over and over. I do 1 alignment snack every day, without fail. It's awesome. Click the link below and I recommend:
~A Real Pain in the Neck
~Can't get enough shoulders
~Everyone needs a little shoulder bolster
~Frankie Says relax the psoas
Click to set custom HTML
And you're on your way to a stronger core, eliminating back pain, and feeling just WONDERFUL!!
Is our pelvis shape predetermined by our genetics or do we have a say in the matter?
Guess what? Yay, we have a say! (and I'm a poet and I didn't even know it)
You may or may not know that there are several types of pelvis shapes. I learned from the amazing and incredible Gail Tully of Spinning Babies that pelvis shape can play a big part in the ease of childbirth. Particularly if baby is in certain positions such as posterior (Looking up- babies spine against mom's spine. Also called "sunny side up"). While I don't think it's a good idea to stress about your pelvic shape, I do think that it can be empowering to know that YOUR PELVIS SHAPE IS NOT FIXED. You can change the shape of the pelvis from front to back based upon how you move your body around! It's not a case of "Whelp- I was born this way, so there is nothing I can do about it, I'm destined to have harder births." This is absolutely NOT the case. First of all, there are many cases of individuals with pelvis shapes that tend to cause more issues having no issues whatsoever, and additionally, you can make changes in how your pelvis is shaped based on (important so I'm saying it again) HOW YOU CARRY YOUR BODY AROUND.
So you say- well my mom had a *insert pelvis shape* pelvis, and I do so how is that not genetic. What is interesting is that we DO tend to move and sit the way that our parents do. If your mom is a pelvis tucker or sits on her tailbone, then there is a high probability that you do to. As children we are great observers and we learn a lot about how to stand, sit, and move with our bodies by how we see others doing it. So you MIGHT have the same shape pelvis as other women in your family, but likely it's because you move like them.
Let me say this again because I find it amazing! YOUR PELVIS SHAPE IS NOT FIXED. Is this completely amazing and mind blowing to anyone else as it was for me to first time I heard it? Have you ever heard a woman told "you just can't give birth vaginally- there isn't enough room"? Imagine the implications of this little piece of knowledge. And PS- it's not always that there truly isn't enough room- sometimes it's just good old fashioned B.S.
Our sacrum is designed to be MOBILE. Ever heard of someone complaining of SI pain? They're referring to pain at this joint. The SI is the Sacroiliac JOINT. And why do we have joints? For movement, of course. Unfortunately, in our culture most of us don't have moveable sacrums anymore because we don't often put ourselves in positions that require the mobility of the SI. And the body works in a "use it or loose it" kinda way. The sacrum is designed to move in and away from the pelvic bowl. If you're a nerd like me, the technical term for the motion of the sacrum is "nutation and counter nutation." See picture below to see the joint that in an optimally functioning body allows the sacrum to move.
Next, let's consider the distance from the Sacrum to the Pubic Symphysis
For childbirth and also optimal pelvic floor health for ALL, it's optimal for the distance from the sacrum to the PS (pubic symphysis) to be greater. This will, in turn, lengthen the pelvic floor and bring it to a more optimal length (yay for pelvic floor health!) and create more space for a baby in the pelvic cavity.
There are 4 defined pelvis shapes, shown in the picture to the side. These are defined by measuring the pelvic inlet. This blog post isn't going to define the different types, but there is much information out there on the different types including this article from Spinning Babies. You can see that the Gynecoid pelvis is much rounder vs on the other side the platypelloid pelvis is much more oval. Let's use the platypelloid pelvic shape, for an example. You can see clearly from the picture of the pelvis shapes that platypelloid pelvi are more narrow from pubic symphysis to sacrum. This can create a more strenuous birthing process for all parties involved and more potential damage to the pelvic floor, to boot! But- once a platypelloid not necessarily ALWAYS a platypelloid.
PS- my computer likes to autocorrect that to "platypus" so be on the lookout for typos!
IF we change the way we move our body (skeleton!) around- we can increase the anteior/posterior distance in the pelvis (the distance from sacrum to pubic symphysis). Cool huh? I wouldn't worry so much about figuring out what shape of pelvis you have. If you already know- cool. If you don't know- this information is going to help ALL of us.
Here's a few starter tips for how to increase the anteior/posterior pelvic space and also helping to free of the sacrum so that it is more moveable:
1. Squat to elimiate. Seriously, get a squatty potty! I say this all the time, but our body is designed to SQUAT to eliminate. The squatting causes the illium to widen, which decompressed the SI joint... allowing it to move into the optimal position. (note: I'm an affiliate to squatty potty- by clicking on my banner you support a hard working mama)
2. Change the way you sit and stand.
I've discussed both of these before so I'll just post links to those posts:
~Where you pelvis is in relation to the rest of you
~Below is a short little video relating to pelvic alignment when sitting. Think about it this way. Either you are sitting ON your tailbone, or you are sitting on your SITTING BONES (ischial tuberosities). We want to avoid sitting on our tailbones because it draws the sacrum IN to the body- creating the opposite of what we want for easier birth (and pelvic floor function).
3. Hip opening and Squat Prep!
Just because squatting is awesome, doesn't mean that it's awesome FOR YOU AT THIS EXACT MOMENT IN TIME. Here's a post I did a while ago on the Squat
Truthfully, we must spend a lot of time doing squat PREP. Preparing our bodies to be able to squat more effectively so that we can get benefit from our more aligned squatting. We also need to lengthen our calves and hamstrings to give us the length we need to get deeper into the squat without compensating in some way. Since it's already been done- click on the squat post linked to above and within that blog post I linked to a post that will specifically take you through some of the squat prep exercises.
I have alluded many times to the fact that alignment helps with the birthing process. Here's how:
1. Creating more space in the pelvis
2. Removing the restrictions in the body that can cause baby to find a less than ideal fetal position. In other words, body alignment.... better yet, moving more with better body alignment... helps with optimal fetal positioning.
3. Decreasing upwards internal pressure gradient (thereby making pushing not so strenuous since we don't have to push down against an upward force).
In an ideal world, we'd have been moving throughout most of our lives, sitting on the floor, squatting to cook our food (what's with these convenient COUNTERS I tell you?!). But, this is not the case. We have been in one position for most of it. Sitting, in a chair. Don't get me wrong, there is nothing inherently wrong with sitting or with chairs. It's the amount of time we've spent over the course of our lives in mostly one position as opposed to a variety of them. Starting from kindergarden or sooner- sitting in a chair. Our pelvis, and really our whole body, has adapted to the position that we are in most of the time and has created restrictions. A shortened, tight psoas. Tightness and weakness in the lateral hip musculature. Habits of tucking the pelvis (thereby tightening the psoas even more), etc.
So, by optimizing our alignment, doing corrective exercises to lengthen the muscles that need to be lengthened, strengthening the muscles that need to be strengthened, releasing the tension in muscles that need that.... we can create a "paleo pelvis" That is... our pelvis will be become more like it was intended to be. The pelvis of our ancestors- who moved a LOT and did not have modern conveniences that have let to our bodies only being used in a very small variety of ways.
This might seem overwhelming to you. I know it does to me, some days. But the great thing about it is this: ANYthing you choose to do is going to help you. ANYthing is better than nothing. AND as soon as you start you'll start feeling better too. Don't Type A freak out about it- just realize that you aren't maybe where you want to be an start making steps towards a more healthier you with more abundant space in your pelvis to birth a baby through!
I'm not going to give you all the corrective exercises right now because it's not the time nor the place and that would be a LONG LONG blog, but I will give you some quick tips to get you started!
My quick tips:
1. Read Move Your DNA by Katy Bowman for the basics! I have copies if you're local and need one. She also sells it on her website and Amazon.
2. Start walking more and start moving and resting in a variety of ways. Change it up! What if you sat on the floor instead of the couch after dinner? What if you ate your dinner sitting on the floor? What if you changed the position of your legs while sitting on the floor (We always sit in the most comfortable position first so even crossing your legs the other way for a while is good!). Work more movement and standing throughout your day.
3. See you Restorative Exercise Specialist for an assessment and your corrective exercises!! There is lots of free info on the web- I give lots of it too! But there is something so helpful about someone trained looking at your body and helping you notice your "sticky spots" where you are not as mobile, or carrying tension, etc. I know that I thought I had it *FIGURED OUT*... until I went to my certification week and learned how little I really knew about how I was moving and stretching my body. I'm all about getting the most bang for my buck.... so you're going to get MORE out of everything you do if you are doing it correctly. So I can't stress how helpful seeing a RES was for ME and I bet you'd like it too!!
4. Squat to go to the bathroom. Seriously. Get a squatty potty (I have an affiliate link right here on my website if you want to support a super hard working mama!!). Our body is designed to SQUAT to eliminate!
*I will be covering the 3 different items: Pelvic space, optimal fetal positioning, and internal pressure gradient each in their own separate blog posts, stay tuned!
I interrupt my regularly scheduled blogging to write a post for my fellow heart moms. It's a club that none of us want to be in, but once you're in... you're in for life. It's something that I always thought happens to OTHERS, but never ever imagined it would happen to me or one of my children. It was a surreal thing to experience. How could this happen?! Anyway, I have a lot of doulas who reach out to me with clients who are expecting a child with a heart defect, so I thought I would write a little guide of what helped ME. You may not know, but my 3rd child was born with a critical congenital heart defect. At 10 days old she was on a ventilator for almost a week in congestive heart failure and then at 3 1/2 months old the heart failure got too severe to control with medication anymore so she underwent open heart surgery to correct her defect. This was almost exactly 2 years ago now, Sept 6th 2012. She is one of the most joyful, happy, silly and sweet 2 year olds I have ever met. One thing I've learned is that babies are a lot stronger than adults... they WANT to survive and thrive. Though we had touch and go moments (which I am pretty sure everyone does before/during/after open heart surgery)- we got through it! I learned a few things during my time so I thought I'd write a quick list for those preparing (can you ever REALLY prepare for something like this?).
1. Say YES to all the help offered to you. ASK for specific help if you're not getting what you need.
Our first hospital stay was completely unexpected. When we went in I had no idea that I literally would not see the sun or walk out of that hospital for over another week. I had nothing but the clothes on my back and was very newly postpartum. Thank GOD for the Childbirth Collective- my birth worker sisters really were there for me. My doula set up a meal list and people brought food to me in the hospital. Which was SO nice because I literally couldn't even leave the room to go to the cafeteria because I didn't want to leave my baby for that long. People I didn't even know that well dropped off care packages- not just food, but PADS (I was newly postpartum after all!), Tylenol (I had an excruciating headache and asked someone for it), nice drinks, magazines (that I never read, but still sweet), chocolate, lotion, GOOD coffee, chapstick, etc. It's really hard for me to accept help from others, but if there is one thing I learned during all of this is that YOU WILL NEED HELP. So accept it. If you are not getting the help you need- ASK. Seriously. Asking for help is one of the hardest things for me to do ever, but having a child who must undergo a major surgery or have prolonged hospital stays- you will need help. And sometimes people just don't know HOW to help and need to be told.
2. Just because you say yes to help does not mean you have to entertain visitors if you don't want to.
Some people maybe would love to have others sitting with them during all of this. That was the last thing I wanted. I was a mess, my world was spinning, everything felt like a dream, and I didn't really feel like sympathy from others. It was nice when people came that most knew to drop off the goods and not stay very long. Don't get me wrong a few kind words were nice, but I didn't want to sit and hang out, except with a few specific friends perhaps. There was one time I remember specifically where I was just really extra emotional and exhausted after being up most of the night that I told the nurses to tell anyone who came that I wasn't accepting visitors. Which brings me to another point.... make sure people know to give you a heads up before they come. You may be pumping, you may FINALLY be sleeping, you may be talking with the care team. There are definitely bad times to just drop by.
3. Ask questions until you understand the answers.
Every morning and every evening during rounds a bunch of doctors will come into your child's room and will discuss the day, the plan, etc. Make sure that you ask the questions that you need to, or if you do not understand something being discussed that you ASK YOUR CHILD'S NURSE directly after. Or really, ANY time a question pops into your head. One of her jobs is to make sure that you understand and that all of your questions are answered. Sometimes the Drs talk in medical speak that you may not understand (though if you're a heart mom- in no time you'll understand it really really well)
4. You are your child's biggest advocate so do not be afraid to advocate for them!
I remember very vividly during my daughter's first hospital stay that it was a Sunday at 2am (of course, right?) and the order was that my daughter, who has already successfully been taken off a ventilator, was still not allowed to eat. She.was.mad. She was a newborn and had not had anything in almost a week, so of course she was mad. I was so upset that the nurse would not allow her to eat. Or at least try. I asked the nurse if it was better on her heart to let her scream bloody murder or if we might try a bottle (we couldn't do breast yet, because that would've been more effort... more on that later). She had her orders. I demanded that she call a Doctor in to explain to me WHY. So, the Dr came and and once I plead my case she said that yes, that was true and i was right. And they let her have a small bottle. And she was happy. They were going to say to introduce feeds Monday morning during rounds anyway. Stuff doesn't happy as quickly on the weekends and I am so glad that I stood up for her!! The answer may not be yes in all situations, but you need to ask questions and make sure you understand. I had just one other instance with a really terrible nurse who wanted to let her cry all night. Not okay. Know that you can also request a new nurse if you need to. This is your child, they deserve the best!
Please don't let this scare you- pretty much all of the nurses and staff were amazing to us. But hey- one overnight nurse having a bad night doesn't need to be with my kid. Ya know?
5. If you want to breastfeed- surround yourself with resources and keep on trying!
I was disappointed to find out that none of the nurses on the cardiac floor were very knowledgable about breastfeeding. They were supportive of pumping and giving breastmilk through a tube in my daughter's nose, but they were not knowledgable about latch, reintroducing the breast, etc. I requested a Lactation Consultant come assist me, but it took 2 days for her to call back!! That's a long time when you're trying to breastfeed. So I sought outside help. Call a LLL leader, an out of hospital IBCLC or CLC and reach out. If you have a doula ask her what resources she can find for you. I am happy to say that my daughter is still breast-feeding at 2, but it's not because we didn't have struggles. Especially after open heart surgery. She was not feeling well, was coming off some pretty intense medication, and it was a struggle for a little bit. She eventually learned how to latch again and we never looked back. Please don't be afraid of thing like a Supplemental Nursing Systme (SNS)... I actually asked my nurse to get me one and she had no idea what it was. So I had a L&D nurse I know bring me one from her hospital :-) Do what you gotta do and just keep plugging away!
Do make sure you pump a lot when your child is unable to nurse. Even if you end up not using all the pumped milk- you can donate it! That's what I did once we got home.
6. Take a break when you need one!
For me, it was SO hard to leave the room. I wanted to be with my daughter 24/7 and I rarely even slept because she didn't sleep (I guess that's abnormal, but they called her "light" because she didn't really settle well in the hospital). It's amazing what just a few hours of sleep will do. I had some nurses basically insist that they would stay up with her ALL night if needed so I could sleep. I think I worried that they'd leave her alone to cry and I wouldn't wake up (you don't cry very loud on a ventilator or right after being on one). So this nurse was a God sent to me! But I should've asked all the nurses to do that so I could sleep. It really made me feel emotionally and physically way more ready to handle the day. I still slept in the room WITH her, but I passed out on the little pull out couch I called home for her hospital stays. My husband would go home at night to be with the big kids, and I know that was really helpful to him (and the big kids!) as well. The other hard thing was just going to get food in the cafeteria or going outside for a walk. But eventually I learned that I *HAD* to. For my sanity. Make sure you take breaks.
7. Ignore well intentioned but horrible words of sympathy.
Don't get me wrong. Most people were wonderful. But some people are uncomfortable and so they say things to make THEMSELVES feel better. I heard some horrible words of "comfort." One person actually SAID TO ME "just remember- she was never yours to begin with." Um, are you freaking kidding me? This is the absolute last thing a mom with a baby on a ventilator wants to hear. I actually had a running list of horrible words of comfort that people said to me. It was easy to get SO ANGRY. I actually unfriended the person on Facebook who said the one I mentioned above I was so upset. But you know what is better? Just ignoring it. Know that when people are uncomfortable they say STUPID STUPID THINGS and I figure that now I hopefully know how NOT to do that when I am talking with someone else going through something really difficult. Best things that people said to me would be simple things like "wow, that sucks" or simply "I'm praying for her/you/your family." Even though I'm a Christian I did not want to hear about God's plan. Because seriously, the God I serve does not PLAN to have a child not make it. Yes, it sometimes happens because our world is an F-ed up place, but I absolutely do not believe that it would be part of some grand plan for my child to not make it. And heart moms do not want to dwell on that possibility. Truthfully, we're mostly on auto pilot. I didn't even really cry most of the time because I just WAS. So if you're reading this and you're NOT a heart mom... now you know that some words really do hurt. A lot. Even if you think you're helping.
There are a lot more things I could say, but this is my quick list. I suppose that this list would work for all parents of a child in the hospital. I'll be back with more alignment posts soon- but I wanted to write this on the almost anniversary of my daughter's surgery. Here's a youtube video (horribly edited- I was tired back then. Like, all the time.) It's of our 2nd hospital stay- Open heart surgery! I didn't take any video or many photos of the first stay- I was in too much of shock. This time, I at least got to pack a hospital bag and planned for weeks ahead of time.
Best of luck to you on your journey. Know that any and all heart moms can feel free to reach out to me if you need ANYthing at all. And if you're local- I can hook you up with some great resources as well.
Lots of love,
Mama Aligned is Lindsay McCoy.