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.
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 position, rib position, and how to stand when you are pregnant.
(Left to right: Ribs lifted, pelvis forward & feet turned out, pelvis back & ribs down.)
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.
Today I’m going to review Katy Bowman’s three books to help you sort out which one you might like to read or give as a gift. They all deal with the same basic principles (alignment) but in different ways. This should help point you to the one you want based on what type of read you are looking for. (If you want the super brief summary, skip to the end.)
Every Woman’s Guide to Foot Pain Relief, The New Science of Healthy Feet
This one has the longest title (by far), but is the shortest. Despite it’s name, it’s just as much for men as it is for women. Think of it as a “manual” for foot health, based on science yet easy to understand. Katy describes the root causes of foot pain and gives simple exercises and lifestyle changes to fix your feet. The exercises are laid out with pictures to give you an easy-to-follow plan. You’ll find exercises for the legs and hips too, as the tension in the feet, legs and hips is all connected. Although this is a book on healthy feet, you will find that your whole body benefits from the recommendations in this book. Katy also includes information on what factors to consider when choosing footwear. (You have to wear shoes anyway, so you might as well wear ones that work for you health, not against it!)
This book is an edited and organized version of the first five years of the Katy Says blog. If you’ve read her blog, you know that Katy combines humor, science, and real life events to teach about alignment. You can read her blog online for free, but if you are like me, you will find that it’s totally worth the $20. I get tired of reading off a computer screen and much prefer holding a book that I can highlight, underline and book mark. This is one of those books that you DON’T have to read cover to cover (although you will want to). Chapters are organized by topic or body part, so you can easily flip to a section and read all about Shoulders, for example, or Pregnancy & Childbirth. This is the book for you if you want one you can pick up for 1o minutes at a time and read quick tidbits. (Or if you have a short attention span.) This is a great book for anyone wanting to understand the science behind their aches, pains, and diseases and how to start healing them.
Move Your DNA
Move Your DNA is Katy’s newest book and most comprehensive book. It provides a look at the “big picture”, the fact that most of our diseases come from living outside of nature. At the same time, Katy explains more of the complex scientific principles, such as what happens at the cellular level when we move. I know this sounds contradictory, but this book looks natural movement through both a very broad lens and a microscope. This book reads like a novel; it tells the story of humans moving away from nature, becoming modernized, and suffering diseases of “captivity” as a result. This book also reads like a textbook; it breaks down complex biomechanical principles, teaches lessons in anatomy and physiology, and includes definitions in the side bars. The second half of the book is full of exercises to get you aligned and moving more naturally from head to toe.
To sum it up:
Foot Book: Quick read. Straight forward program. Science. For the feet, but will improve the health of the legs, hips and spine as well.
Alignment Matters: Blog in book form. For the whole body. Heavier on the science. Chapters organized by topic/body part for quick reference.
Move Your DNA: A text book for restoring your health. Big picture and tiny details. Heaviest on the science. Will change the way you look at movement and exercise.