Category Archives: Pregnancy

Diastasis Recti FAQ’s

1. What is Diastasis Recti, and how do I know if I have it?  Diastasis Recti is when the two halves of your Rectus Abdominis (6-pack muscle) separate beyond the natural amount.  It is natural to have a  small space between the two halves.  (Most experts consider a gap of 1 finger width or less to be normal, and a gap of 2 fingers or more (about 25mm or 1in) to be Diastasis Recti.)  It’s also natural for this space to become wider during pregnancy as the muscles and connective tissue stretch.  It will be hard for you to tell if your  muscles have spread a “natural pregnancy amount” or a “wider-than-natural pregnancy amount”. For this reason, I don’t recommend that you check yourself for DR when you are pregnant.  There will be a gap, and it will freak you out unnecessarily.

DR is not a disease; it is a symptom of excessive intra-abdominal pressure, muscle tension and weakness, misalignment, and a core that is not functioning well. There are already so many good articles out there covering this question…why reinvent the wheel, right?  For a full explanation of what it is and how to check for it, read this article from Mutu System’s Wendy Powell.

2. How do I heal it?  Can I close the gap? Diastasis Recti is best healed by addressing your whole body alignment and changing the way you move in everyday life.  I know that sounds like a HUGE undertaking (and it is), but there are some simple things you can do right now to bring profound changes. Start with these 5 Steps to a Stronger Core.  It takes time to rehabilitate your core. Be very wary of people or programs that claim to have a “quick fix” or guarantee certain results….like this program that got a lot of press recently. You can read a GREAT response to this article here. (Seriously, it’s really good and it articulates my thoughts exactly.)  It’s important to know that the gap might not necessarily close all the way, and that is ok. You can still have a strong and functional core with a small gap.  In addition to changing the way you move and moving more, you can try exercises specifically designed to release tension in the trunk and help you reconnect with these muscles.

3. What core exercises are safe to do? I work with a lot of women who have DR and want to restore their core function, but they’re scared to do any type of core exercise because they’ve heard traditional core work, like crunches, can worsen their condition (and it can).  Imagine squeezing a balloon. The displaced air has to go somewhere, and the increased pressure would cause the balloon to bulge.  The same thing happens in your abdominal and pelvic cavities. Many abdominal exercises increase the intra-abdominal pressure, which pushes the contents of the belly forward and/or down.  It’s pushing forward against the connective tissue that is already compromised or down on your pelvic floor, which is especially problematic if you are already experiencing incontinence or pelvic organ prolapse. There are a lot of core exercises that are safe, but they might not look like the core exercises you are used to.   Here are a few you can try as a safe and gentle way to start reconnecting with your abdominal muscles.  These can also be done during pregnancy!

Spinal Twist: Sit on your sitz bones, relax the ribs down. Slowly twist without jutting the ribs forward/up. <–RIBS DOWN IS VERY IMPORTANT! Hold for 1 min, feel the rib cage expand as you take deep breaths. Repeat on the other side.

 

Belly Release: On hands and knees, let the belly and pelvis relax allowing the tailbone to tip up towards the ceiling. Let the belly relax all the way, dropping as close to the floor as possible. Notice any tendency to lift/suck it back up. TVA (Transverse Abdominal Muscle) Activation: From here, take a deep breath. Imagine your belly filling with air and dropping closer to the floor. Exhale through the mouth as if you are blowing out candles. As you exhale, feel the belly draw up away from the floor. Repeat several times. Don’t move the spine or tuck the pelvis! Use this to help release abdominal tension and retrain the muscles.

 

Supermom: Start from the belly release position. Let the pelvis untuck, and keep the ribs lifted up away from the floor. Practice lifting one arm at a time, one leg at a time, and opposite arm/leg together. The spine should remain still as you move.  Feel your abdominal muscles turn on automatically as you move your limbs. Repeat 10x/side to build strength and train the core to engage reflexively.

 

4. What else can I do?

My (Postpartum) Baby Bump

I got my first postpartum “when is your baby due?” a couple weeks ago.  My first knee jerk reaction was embarrassment, then the thoughts of “I’m so fat, she thinks I’m still pregnant”, then the indignant “Doesn’t she know you NEVER ask that?”.  After a few seconds I just smiled and said, “She was born in December.” In her defense, I was sitting with my hand resting on my belly, which is the universal sign of “there’s a baby in here.”  Apparently, this happens to Jennifer Garner a lot because she said this on the Ellen DeGeneres Show: “I am not pregnant, but I have had three kids and there is a bump … I get congratulated all the time by people I know … From now on, ladies, I will have a bump, and it will be my baby bump. It’s not going anywhere. Its name is Violet, Sam, and Sera.”  I love that. My response wasn’t nearly as clever, but the experience got me thinking.

I’m going to get real here.  One of these photos was taken when I was 3 months pregnant. The other was taken at 3 months postpartum. Can you tell which is which?

       

It’s ok, my husband couldn’t tell either. I can literally say, “I still look 3 months pregnant”, and it’s not an exaggeration. The reason I’m sharing this is to help normalize the postpartum experience and to say IT’S OK. It’s ok if you look 3 months pregnant.  It’s ok if you look 6 months pregnant. It’s ok if you are bigger or smaller or a different shape than you used to be. It’s ok if you don’t look like you did before you were pregnant. And it’s ok that sometimes it doesn’t feel like it’s ok.  I’ve heard people say, “It took your body almost a whole year to get where it is. You can’t expect it to bounce back right away.” I think there is some truth to this, but I also want to say that maybe our bodies aren’t meant to be the same.

This post isn’t about 3 steps to banish belly fat or how to fit into your pre-pregnancy jeans. This post is about the fact that when your body creates, grows, births and sustains a tiny human being, it’s a miracle. Natural, medicated, vaginal, cesarean, home, hospital….however you did it, when you bring a new life into this world, it’s a miracle. Your body will never be the same, and that isn’t a bad thing.  We have this notion that we are supposed to go “back,” but maybe the truth is that when we become mothers, we go through a transformation. Every part of us is different, including our bodies, and that is something to be celebrated. On my best day, I’m totally on board with this statement. On my worst, I secretly want to look like my pre-pregnant self….or maybe even the super fit 20-year-old version of myself.

I’m about to do something you will never see me do again: reference celebrity advice in Cosmo Magazine.  I can’t believe it, but this little gem is really worth reading. Read what these women have to say about the notion of getting your pre-baby body back. I couldn’t say it any better.  As women, I think most of us struggle with body image to some extent. There have always been parts of my body that I didn’t like, but now that I’ve had my daughter, I have a whole new appreciation for my body.  It’s incredible that you go from having an enormous belly one day to a tiny baby the next.

         

We are inundated with pictures of airbrushed models and the message that we should look like them.  I encourage you to ignore those messages and replace it with this: Your body is amazing. Let’s focus on feeling good and being strong and healthy. Let’s value being able to run and jump and laugh without peeing our pants. Let’s aim to be strong enough to carry our babies without pain.  Let’s be mobile enough to sit on the floor and play with our kids.  Here are a few ways to get started:

  1. Take a daily walk.  If you push your baby in a stroller, start carrying or wearing him/her for part of the way. Slowly increase the out of stroller time as you get stronger.
  2. Watch this video on alignment tips for pain free baby holding.
  3. Try sitting on the floor in different positions at least once a day.
  4. If you are experiencing incontinence, back/hip/pelvic pain, or pelvic organ prolapse,  come to a pelvic floor workshop. Register here.
  5. Come to my series on Restorative Exercise for Diastasis Recti in May. Register here.
  6. Schedule a private session to set goals and work on your individual alignment needs.

My super fit 20-year-old self looked good, but she was also in chronic pain and not all that healthy. She wouldn’t have felt good carrying a baby for 41.5 weeks and certainly wasn’t mentally or physically prepared to birth that baby naturally.  When I think about what my body has done, I don’t really want to go back.

 

The One Where I am Pregnant

This is the one and only post written during my pregnancy. (I’m full term now, just waiting on baby to arrive.) Writing a blog or engaging in social media just hasn’t been a priority the last nine months. I’ve been spending less time online. I wanted to experience this pregnancy with less technology, fewer distractions and time wasters. For a variety of reasons, we made a conscious decision to keep our news off social media.  Now I’m heading into my maternity leave, and I wanted to write a quick post. Short and sweet, just a few things I’ve learned about alignment and natural movement during the last nine months. These are all things that I knew on an intellectual level, but being pregnant has caused me to understand and appreciate them in a new way.

1) Keep moving, so that you can keep moving. This is probably the most important thing I did during this pregnancy. JUST KEEP MOVING.  I’ve made this recommendation to my clients, but now I really understand how important it is.  You are gaining weight gradually and your body is going through major changes over the course of almost a year. If you keep walking, squatting, going up and down the stairs, getting up and down off the floor, you will gradually gain the strength as your weight gradually increases, and you will be able to continue doing those things.  Two of my goals for this pregnancy were to reach the end and still be able to get up and down off the floor and be able to hike at least 2 miles. I’m nearing the end, and let me tell you, I feel truly enormous, but it’s manageable. I can’t imagine how difficult it would be to get around if I hadn’t been moving all along. Last week we went for a hike– uphill, downhill, up and over boulders, through a partially dried up creek.  At this stage of the game, I’m tired, I’m slowing down, and I stop for lots of pee breaks (good thing I’ve been practicing my squatting!).  We went slow, about 3 miles in 2 hours, BUT I did it. Not only did I do it,  I enjoyed it. I share this not to brag (my endurance certainly isn’t what I had hoped it would be!), but to encourage you that it’s possible to never reach the point where you are too big to move. Just keep moving.

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2) Do what you can, then rest.  There were days that I could walk about 10 minutes before I needed to have a snack and take a nap.  You’re tired. I hear you, mamas.  Sometimes it is a victory just to get out of bed and walk to the mailbox. When you can only muster the energy for a little movement, DO IT, then rest. Other days I felt up for a long walk, going to prenatal yoga class, and teaching a class.  When you feel good, and you can challenge yourself, DO IT, then rest.  Give yourself grace. Growing a baby is hard work. Release yourself from expectations. Your body is doing an amazing thing.

3) Don’t underestimate the importance of pelvis back, ribs down & feet straight.  Seriously, this one small thing saved me from so much potential pain. I didn’t have any back pain during this pregnancy, and this is part of the reason why. I knew this was important before, but experiencing it while pregnant took it to a whole new level. In my classes, I demonstrate leaning your pelvis forward and thrusting your ribs (what NOT to do).  It’s really common to assume this position in pregnancy because the extra weight in front tends to pull you forward, unless you know to stand differently. As I got bigger, demonstrating this became more and more uncomfortable. Even just being in this position for a few seconds feels awful. I actually had a hard time demonstrating for the pictures below because it feels that bad.  You can learn more about this (and see better pictures of these various positions) in these posts about pelvis positionrib position, and how to stand when you are pregnant.

(Left to right: Ribs lifted, pelvis forward & feet turned out, pelvis back & ribs down.)

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4) This stuff really works, AND ALSO sometimes you need additional support. By “this stuff” I mean practicing good alignment, moving more (and moving better), sitting less, the corrective exercises, and moving towards more natural movement.  Don’t get me wrong– I’m tired, I wake up stiff and achey, and my fingers and toes are starting to get a little sausage-y.  This pregnancy hasn’t been without it’s discomforts, but I’m nine months pregnant and I’m not totally miserable. For starters, I haven’t peed myself once.  Yes, the baby head pressing on my bladder is causing unspeakable pressure. Yes, I pee more frequently than I did before.  But I’ve never felt like I couldn’t control my bladder. I haven’t had any back pain, sciatica, pubic symphysis pain or hemorrhoids.  One thing I did experience early on was SI joint instability and a tweaky feeling in my hip. Before I got pregnant, I knew that my right side was weaker and less stable, so it was no surprise when it started giving me trouble after gaining my first 10 lbs.  I knew the exercises I needed to do to improve my pelvic stability, but it wasn’t getting better. Getting additional support from a PT was really helpful.  She could manipulate the bones of my pelvis to help correct a rotation and tape my sacrum to give a little extra support until my muscles were strong enough to keep my pelvis stable and aligned on their own. Here’s the thing with the common pregnancy aches and pains: most of them come from issues that were there before you were pregnant (like mine did). Add the extra weight, the shift in hormones, and all the other changes that occur, and the “weakest link” presents itself. These issues aren’t “just part of pregnancy” that you have to live with; often there is something you can do to make it better.  Seek out help!  Try the things in this blog or find a Restorative Exercise Specialist near you.  If you need additional support, see a chiropractor, PT, massage therapist, or another professional who can help.

Sneeze Pee

Sneeze pee.  If we are honest, most of us will admit that this has happened once or twice….you laugh, sneeze, cough,  jump, or some other high pressure activity….and you pee yourself.  Just a little.  (Or a lot.) It’s VERY common, which has led many of us to believe that it’s NORMAL. We accept it as an inevitable part of aging or something that happens once we’ve had children.  Incontinence is prevalent among women who have never given birth and in men as well.   I experienced sneeze pee in my early twenties before I found Restorative Exercise™.  (I’m happy to report that it’s now resolved.)  I’ve been talking about urinary incontinence, but you can have fecal incontinence too.  I came across this ad in a magazine last week.

butteryfly

NOT OK!!

The message I have for you today is this: incontinence is not a natural part of human function, and you have the power to change it.

Here are 3 things you can do right now to start improving it:

1) Stop doing kegels.  A too tight pelvic floor is at the root of incontinence (and other pelvic floor disorders), and kegels will make this worse.  Kegels may help in a short term way, but they are a band aid and don’t address the root cause.  You can read why here.

2) Instead of kegels, start squatting.  Squatting uses the gluts.  Strong gluts pull posterior (back) on the sacrum, which in turn pulls on the pelvic floor, stretching it out to its proper length.   It’s good to note that we are often too tight and weak to squat without some preparation.  Try these prep exercises to start increasing mobility as you practice squatting.  You don’t have to go into a deep, full squat to reap the benefits.  Keep your shins vertical (see below) to help you use the gluts and hamstrings (on the back of the thigh) instead of the quads (on the front).  Hold onto a door knob or pole  if you feel like you are going to fall over backwards.

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3) Exercises are great, but you will see changes MUCH faster if you change your habits too. Read Fast Fixes for Pelvic Floor Disorder to learn some simple  lifestyle changes you can make.

If you are dealing with incontinence or any other pelvic floor disorder (and live in Middle Tennessee), you may want to attend the Pelvic Floor Workshop at Blooma Nashville this Saturday, September 19.  This class will use a combination of lecture and exercise to help women understand the mechanical causes of pain and disease and give them practical tools for change.  Participants will learn corrective exercises and lifestyle modifications to heal and prevent common ailments.

This class is for any woman who has experienced (or would like to prevent):

Pelvic organ prolapse

Incontinence

Menstrual cramps

Sexual dysfunction

Hip, knee, back and pelvic pain

High blood pressure

SI joint pain

Edema, swelling

A cesarean section (a pelvis that was “too small” or a baby that was stuck/breach/posterior)

Pelvic floor trauma

 

If you can’t make the workshop, consider a private session. We can work together to get rid these painful and embarrassing issues!

How to Stand when you are Pregnant

Pregnancy is another place we see the difference between posture and alignment.  You all know the common pregnancy posture: pelvis and belly pushed forward with hands resting on the low back.  It’s normal to see this all around us, but it’s not good alignment.  Ideally, you would stand the same whether you are pregnant or not.  If you haven’t read the last few posts, start by reading “Alignment, is that like posture?” and “Stand up Straight!” to bring you up to speed.

When you are pregnant, you still want all your pieces stacked perpendicular to the ground. In fact, this may be even more important when you are pregnant.  If you add 30 extra pounds to a frame that is unstable, you are going to notice pain or dysfunction at the “weakest link”.  For example, maybe you stand with your pelvis thrusting forward and have occasional back pain.  Then you get pregnant and have excruciating back pain.  Is the pain cause by the pregnancy? No, it’s the result of putting extra weight on a skeleton that was already misaligned.  Pregnancy magnifies whatever misalignment you had going into the pregnancy.

This is my dear friend Leanne about 38 weeks pregnant.  She is such a good sport.  (Fun fact- she actually went into labor an hour after I took these photos.  On the left we have the typical pregnant posture. Imagine her hands on her lower back, belly pushing forward as she waddles along.  (I say “imagine”, because Leanne worked so hard on her alignment during pregnancy that she never actually waddled.) Her pelvis is leaning forward and her torso is leaning back.  Her pelvis is posteriorly tilted (aka, tailbone tucked under), and her feet turned out.  On the right we have a beautifully stacked skeleton.  Her ear, shoulder, hip, knee, ankle are all in a vertical line.  She has a neutral pelvis with her rib cage stacked right on top and her feet straight.

Picture A: Typical Pregnancy Posture (Just say no.)

Picture B: Aligned and Pregnant (Gold star!)

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Picture A

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Picture B

A pregnant woman who stands like Picture A will likely have more back pain, but alignment affects more than whether or not she is in pain. I’d like you to notice two very important things: the shape of her belly and the shape of her rear end.  It’s ok, I asked her permission to have a bunch of strangers (although, let’s be honest, not that many) analyzing her very pregnant figure. Can you see that both her belly and her backside are completely different shapes in the two different pictures? In the typical pregnancy posture (Picture A) her rear end is flattened out and looks smaller.  Her belly is sort of pointing upwards.  In the aligned picture, you can see her gluts look bigger (in a good way) and her belly is pointing straight ahead.

Looking at the shape of Leanne’s body is a subjective assessment, but it illustrates an important underlying concept:  How you stand affects your pregnancy, labor and delivery in very real ways. 

1) Better baby positioning in utero.  You are the container in which your baby lives.  When you change your shape, you change the shape of your baby’s container, and the baby will adjust accordingly.  How you stand during pregnancy can help (Picture B!) the baby to be in an optimal position for delivery.  More on this here.

2) Appropriate pelvic floor tension. Standing with the pelvis in a post tilt (tucked under, like Picture A) causes excessive tension in the pelvic floor and inactive gluts.  You want your pelvic floor to be relaxed enough to let a baby pass through more easily.  You also want your pelvic floor to be strong enough to hold up your organs and hold in your pee.  You need strong gluteal muscles to achieve this not too tight/not too loose pelvic floor muscle length.  When you stand like Picture B, your gluts are being used all day long to hold you up and move you around.  They will become as strong as they need to be to support your pregnant body and balance out the pelvic floor.

3) Increased birth space.  The strong gluts mentioned above will pull the sacrum posterior (back), increasing the birth space (who doesn’t want that?).  In addition to changing how you stand, you can also START squatting and STOP doing kegels.  For more on squatting and pelvic floor health, read what the Alignment Monkey has to say.

For an extra challenge, try this online class that has a lot of one leg squatting: A Balanced Approach to Hip Strength.

If you are pregnant, and live in Middle Tennessee, contact me to start your complete prenatal alignment program!

“Stand Up Straight!”

Have you ever been told to “stand up straight!”?  This phrase has children everywhere grumbling as a well meaning adult lectures on the importance of good posture.  In my opinion, it’s one of the most  relevant examples of the difference between posture and alignment.   The phrase has permeated the culture with its vague (subjective) recommendation for our spinal health and caused a lot of confusion.  I have many clients who have spent years trying to get their back “straight” because of this misunderstanding and suffered greatly because of it.  For all of you out there in the same boat, I hope this post helps you find some relief.

First of all, the spine isn’t supposed to be straight.  It has curves like an “S”.  I’m going to say it again: a healthy spine has curves.  Specifically, notice the thoracic  (mid back) curve.  This is called kyphosis.  The word kyphosis is often misused to mean “too much curve.” (Too much curve is called hyperkyphosis.) You want that kyphotic curve. It’s supposed to be there.

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This is a side view. The person would be facing the left side of your screen.

Most people translate “stand up straight” to equal “chest up, shoulders back.”  This lifting of the chest/rib cage creates forces that distort the curve of the thoracic spine.  If I asked you to stand up straight or show me your best posture, chances are it would look something like this:

(Again, ignore the “I Dream of Jeannie” arms.  I’m just doing that so you can see the line that is coming up.)

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Looks pretty good, right?  In my last post, you learned how to align your pelvis.  When you did this, you may have felt like you were going to fall over backwards  or felt some discomfort in your back.  If so, learning where your ribs belong will help.  Let’s revisit the super awesome grid app.

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The vertical line is lined up with the bottom of my rib cage.  See how that line falls out in front of my pelvis?  My “good posture” is lifting my rib cage and pushing it forward. Look at any skeleton in an anatomy text book, and you will see that the rib cage is supposed to be right over the pelvis.  Put your finger tips on the most inferior, anterior part (the part that is lowest and towards the front) of your rib cage.  Can you feel the pointy edges of your ribs sticking out?  Now exaggerate your best posture.  Are your ribs sticking out even more? Now relax and let the ribs drop down ALL THE WAY.  (If you feel like you are slouching, you’re on the right track.) At this point you shouldn’t be able to feel any boney edges sticking out.  They will be directly over your Anterior Superior Illiac Spine (ASIS: boney protrusions on the front of each side of your pelvis).  If this description is confusing, or you have a hard time finding these boney markers, see how to test for rib thrusting against a wall.

I have one finger on my ASIS and one on my bottom rib, so you can see where they are.  Now the rib cage is right over the pelvis, where it belongs.

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Take a look at these side by side.  On the left: Ribs are aligned, restoring thoracic kyphosis. (What you want.)  On the right: Ribs are lifted and thrusted forward, distorting the thoracic curve. (A recipe for pain and degeneration.)  Can you see the difference?

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I know these two positions look similar, but the physiological effects of these two positions are very different.  Remember, “good posture” looks good but is not necessarily healthy.  The rib thrusting/chest lifted position distorts your spinal curves and puts excessive compression on the one or two vertebra that you are displacing.  The vertebra that make up the spine stack on top of one another forming a protective housing for the spinal cord. When we lose or distort our spinal curves, the integrity of this protective structure is compromised, and the spinal cord and nerves that branch off are at risk for damage. Displacing the ribs also compromises the abdominals’ ability to do their jobs. One of these jobs is to properly support the spine and decompress the discs.  Many people find huge relief from back pain when they stop thrusting their ribs.  Another job of the abdominal muscles is to support the weight of a growing baby when you are pregnant.  When these muscles are compromised, it can lead to diastasis recti (excessive spreading/separating of the abdominal wall).

When you get your ribs down (ALL THE WAY DOWN)  you might (read: almost certainly will) find that you have hyperkyphosis and your head and shoulders are too far forward. Like this:

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Don’t panic! I know, it’s alarming when you see how far forward your head is.  The good news is you can make changes with some hard work.  Resist the urge to lift your chest/ribs to “fix” this problem!  It will look better in the short term but will not solve the problem. When the ribs are down in their aligned position, it reveals all the tension in the upper body that we typically hide by lifting the chest/ribs. Instead of hiding the problem, use the two exercises below to start correcting it.

DO THIS:

First, elevate your head and shoulders and relax here until your ribs start to relax down towards the floor.  You can let your arms rest on the ground by your sides.  This helps relax a muscle called the psoas.

Next: After several minutes, add SLOW arm motions like you are making a snow angel without letting the ribs pop back up towards the ceiling. Rotate the arms so that your thumbs are closer to the floor than the pinkies.  This will stretch the chest and shoulders.

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The ribs might start out lifted towards the ceiling like this.

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Let them relax down towards the floor, like this.

If you find that your upper body is REALLY tight, I would suggest taking Katy Bowman’s online class called Super Supple Shoulders or any of the “Alignment Snacks” dealing with the shoulders.

“Alignment, Is That Like Posture?”

Happy New Year!

I thought I’d start off 2014 by addressing one of the questions I was most commonly asked last year: “Alignment, is that like posture?”.  

When I tell people that I teach alignment, what usually comes next is something like  “Alignment, is that like posture?” or “Oh, I need that, I have terrible posture.”  While they may sound like the same thing, alignment and posture are actually two different things.  Posture is how something looks. Alignment is how something works. Posture is subjective and cultural. Alignment is objective and scientific.

“Good posture” means different things to different people.  We decide that a particular posture is good if it creates a look that is seen as desirable.  Certain postures might look good, but that doesn’t mean they are healthy.  Different sports or activities require a particular posture  to maximize performance or to create a certain aesthetic.  (This usually occurs at the expense of tissue longevity.  Look at all the best athletes and dancers.  They are REALLY good at their sport, but their career is usually over by age 40.)

balletWhether it’s intentional or not, we often use our body position to say something about ourselves— a macho guy who puffs up chest to look tough, a tall kid who stands slouched over to appear shorter, a woman who sucks her stomach in to look thinner—you get the idea.  Sometimes we adopt a particular posture for a good reason, such as coping with an injury or surgery, but continue the habit once the need is no longer there without even realizing it.  

Bad posture370

I’m writing this on an airplane, and one of my seatmates asked me what I’m writing about. We got to talking about posture and where the notion of good posture comes from. Seatmate #1 said  her parents told her good posture meant standing up straight and holding your stomach in. Seatmate #2 said she spent time living in another country (I wish I could remember which one…. somewhere in Asia) and that the desired posture for women in that culture was a stooped over position because it showed humility. A woman who walked around with her head held high and “stood up straight” would not be respected.  Subjective & cultural.

Optimal skeletal alignment is objective.  It’s based on science—anatomy, physiology, biology and physics—rather than culture.  It’s the orientation of all the parts that allows everything to work the way it is supposed to work with the least amount of damage.  Think about the alignment of your car.  You go to the mechanic, and they adjust the alignment.  (No one ever took their car in to get the posture checked.)  They make sure all the parts are in the proper position—not just to allow your car to run, but to help all the parts wear evenly, and ensure that the vehicle doesn’t sustain unnecessary wear and tear.  The same is true for your body.  When your musculoskeletal system is aligned, all your body systems can function properly, for as long as possible, with the least amount of unnecessary wear and tear.

This image is taken from the Restorative Exercise™ Specialist training manual. It shows the 25 points to consider when assessing skeletal alignment.

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The 25 Points of Alignment described by Katy Bowman.

Here’s your first step to good alignment: Back up your pelvis.

First, let your pelvis shift forward.  (Notice the picture on the left.)  You will feel more pressure in the front of your feet than the heels.  Now back your pelvis up until you feel more pressure in your heels. (Notice the picture on the right.)  That’s where you want it.  Your legs should be straight (no bent or locked knees) when you do this. Can you feel the difference?


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 Left: My pelvis is out over the front of my feet, and my upper body is actually behind my pelvis.

Right: My pelvis is stacked right over my ankles. There is a vertical line from ear, shoulder, hip, knee, ankle.

(Don’t let the “I Dream of Jeannie” arms confuse you…they aren’t part of it.  I’m holding them up so they don’t block the view of my pelvis.)

NOW, check out the lines I can make with my super awesome (not at all nerdy) grid app.  It’s much easier to see the differences when there are actual lines.

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SO COOL, right?  I’m not a very “techy” person, but I LOVE this app.  Go by the objective alignment marker (a vertical line) rather than how it feels.  If you go by what feels right (subjective), you will always go back to your old postural habits.  To see the lines on yourself, you can hold a belt or strap at the center of your hip joint and watch where it falls.  It’s helpful to do this in front of a mirror.  You would want the weight bearing, structural beams of your house to be completely vertical (perpendicular to gravity), and it’s the same for your legs.

IMG_1236Just backing your pelvis up will reduce unnecessary damage to your feet, knees, hips, and spine.  This position gives you stronger bones and better pelvic floor function. You will use more leg muscle which means a higher metabolism and better circulation– all this just by shifting your pelvis.

Whatever your health goals are for 2014– less pain, stronger muscles, better balance, fewer headaches– working on your alignment is the first step!  In the next few weeks, I’ll be sharing more about the differences between posture and alignment and giving you simple, practical steps to make big improvements. 

PS- Read part 2: “Stand up Straight” here. 

Preparing to Push

Most of my close friends have had babies recently, and it always amazes me to watch the pregnancy process. It’s fascinating the way a baby grows from a tiny cluster of cells into a fully functional, miniature human being with organs and hair and finger nails…. all while living in a fluid filled sack inside its mother. (It sounds a little science fiction, doesn’t it?) Our bodies are so cool!

Pregnancy and childbirth are natural functions that our bodies are designed to do when everything is working properly. You may have noticed, however, that many women have a very difficult pregnancy full of aches and pains, high blood pressure, and swelling and a labor/delivery where interventions (induction, cesarean section, etc) were necessary. In our modern society, we don’t use our bodies naturally on a daily basis. We tend to spend large chunks of time sitting and wearing high heels. We suck in our stomach to look thinner or tuck our pelvis under to make our butt look smaller. These things all cause muscle tension, which interferes with our bodies’ ability to perform natural functions. There are many factors that affect the health of mom and baby during pregnancy and child birth. Some of these we have no control over, but mechanical factors are completely within our control and easy to change once we understand how!

So who wants to learn how?

 

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Preparing to Push (. . . and what comes next) starts in two weeks!

What: A class for healthy pregnancy, delivery, and breastfeeding. Exercises and education based on the alignment principles of Restorative Exercise™

When: Mondays, April 8th- May 13th, 10:30-12:00

Click here to read all the details.