In my head-cold haze last week, I developed some sort of writer’s block. In an attempt to get the juices flowing, I asked on the Aligned and Well Facebook page for blog topics of burning interest. My goal, should I choose to accept, is to answer all of the requests (15!) in under four minutes each. Writing this part doesn’t count.
Ready, Set, …
1. How about ergonomics and living room furniture?? We buy pretty stuff that makes Nate Berkus proud … but what is it doing to our skeletons and alignment? I’m pretty convinced that my couches are to blame for my hip discomfort.
Ok, I don’t have enough time to Google Nate Berkus. Who is that? And, why would such a man (?) be proud that your couches are creating your hip discomfort?
Your hunch is correct, kind of. It is our excessive use of external structures to support our bodies that have allowed our muscles to atrophy beyond the point of holding us up correctly. I know you’re all strong enough to stand, kind of, but not without resting on a bunch of your hip ligaments or thrusting your pelvis forward using the connective tissues of your psoas, etc.
I say “kind of” because The Couch is not really to be blamed (being an inanimate object and all) for your weakness, but rather You are, for your habit of sitting in it. Stop looking for furniture that is “ergonomically best” and start looking to the internal set of furniture you carry with you all of the time — the fully collapsible and expandable YOU. Your bones, joints, and muscles make you a virtual IKEA catalog. Actually better, because with regular use of your full catalog (getting all of your muscles to the right length to allow all of your joints to move), you’ll be able to hold up more than the 27 pounds IKEAs finest plastic covered plywood can handle.
2. Best sleeping position, pillow, etc for head and neck?
Answered this last year, you can read it by clicking here…
I just saved one minute, woo hoo!
3. Rocker shoes…. Popular, but effective or damaging?
I’m assuming you are talking about the new unstable bottomed toning shoes for which Carl’s Jr. is competing with to have the most pornographic-inspired commercials of all time.
Yes, they are super popular. So popular, in fact, that I can spend a fraction of every day walking behind someone expecting to catch them when their collapsing ankles give out at a moments notice.
I personally don’t care for the toning shoes that have developed from shoe companies creating “wobble” or “rocker surfaces” to force the body to work more. While muscle tone and development is great, there is actually a correct amount strength you need to have in various muscles for the sake of the health of other tissues like joints, bones, and nerves.
For example, doing one thousand shoulder shrugs a day will tone your trapezius muscle (between your neck and shoulders) but over time, this muscle mass will move your shoulders closer to your ears, compressing your neck vertabrae. Tone shoulders are good, right up until they degenerate your spine.
Toning shoes can increase lower leg tone but not necessarily in a “healthy way.” The over squish of a shoe is not good as it alters the natural vibrations that come from walking. Bone-building vibrations. A rolled or contoured bottom interferes with the natural gait pattern needed to keep ankles, knees, and hips generating correctly. Blasting through ankle ligaments (start watching the feet and ankles of someone wearing these if you are lucky enough to be walking behind someone as their ankles wobble inward/outward) is also an issue.
Arbitrary strength and movements are not good for the structural integrity of the skeleton, muscles, and connective tissue in the long-term. – Katy Bowman.
I just quoted myself. Feel free to forward it to your friends.
So, Toning Shoes. May get you tone in some places, but life-long damage in others. I’m not paying for that, no matter how creepy your commercials are.
4. How to help get your kiddos into doing things to encourage proper alignment? My toddler is 2 and I really want to work with her, but I don’t really even know where to start! (I know you’ve covered some lifestyle things, like going barefoot a lot, but it would be nice to see some ideas all in one place.)
Before you can encourage your kid to proper alignment, it helps if you, the teacher, know what that is. So, step one: Find out what proper alignment is. You can check out my academic website, www.restorativeexercise.com and learn quite a bit.
Here’s the clincher. In order to help your toddler, you really have to help yourself. She will mimic everything you do with your body, because that’s how biology works. Your gait pattern will become hers. Your affinity for walking (or lack of) will become hers.
Start taking walks with your daughter, either opting for socks or some of the new shoeless-shoes they are making for kids (which will be another post here soon!) While the barefoot part is important, it’s really the WALKING part that is so crucial to her development. Walk — no carrying or strollering. Just let her strengthen her own body to transport her long distances (like a half of a mile.) Here’s why: http://www.katysays.com/2010/08/02/caution-kids-not-walking/
And, try sitting on the floor for picnic-style dining and create a standing play station instead of teaching her that chairs and “sitting quietly” is the optimal choice. Cuz it isn’t.
5. Exercises, stretching, and alignment for better marital relations.
Ooooooooooooh. I get it.
Well, the good news is, about one third of this blog seems to be about pelvic floor health. Even though you may not have a PF “medical” issue, to optimize other (ahem) functions of the pelvic girdle you need to do the same things. The mechanics of having an orgasm require all of the same blood and neurological flow as every day functions. In the end, it often comes down to how much tension you carry in this area. Which is also a result of how much tension you carry in your mind, which is how much tension you carry in your life. There are some good resources:
1. Headache in the Pelvis, a kind of “clinical” book that talks about some of the psychosomatic properties of PF function
2. Mayan Abdominal Massage (read about it here)
3. Aligned and Well DVDs, “Down There for Women” and “Below the Belt for Men” (These are mine — the exercises are the same on both the women and men’s disks BUT we don’t recommend you buy your man an exercise DVD where he has to listen to the word Vagina a lot. It’s better to get him the “for men” copy.
Good on the covert marital relations? Unless you were talking about something else, in which case 1) I’m kind of embarrassed and 2) what ARE you talking about?
6. I’d like to hear about proper sleep positions for pregnancy. I know you’ve said before that ideal sleeping position is flat on your back, but that is not recommended in pregnancy, and besides that, every time I wake up on my back (I’m 34 weeks) I also have horrible leg/foot cramps, presumably due to the lack of circulation.
No, you do NOT have to sleep on your back while you’re pregnant. I’m currently sleeping on my side. And then the other side. And then the other side, and then the…
For achy hips, try putting a pillow between your knees that keeps them the same width as your pelvis. Also, you may need a slightly higher pillow under your head and maybe even one to hug while your shoulder girdle has a bit more tension than normal (it gets hard to breathe once the little intruder gets 34 weeks big…)
And, keep up your calf stretches, doing them throughout the day to avoid lower leg discomfort throughout your pregnancy.
7. I don’t remember any purse/backpack/briefcase blogs.
Is this a request, or just a statement of your current mental recollection?
As you can all imagine, loading one side of your body on a regular basis has detrimental side effects. To reduce the impact of asymmetrical loading, you can either continue to switch, from one side to the other throughout the day, try to lighten the weight of your bag significantly, or find a bag that spreads its load more evenly over the body.
I like to use backpacks or a bag that crosses over one shoulder and rests on the opposite hip. I think it’s called a messenger bag, but I can’t remember. I have long since given up the bulky purse, especially when I travel with my computer, and opt for a backpack that allows me to swing both arms while walking and interferes with my gait pattern as little as possible.
You also have to develop a lack of caring about how your bag matches your outfit. And that’s really what keeps us from making a healthy choice so often, I have found.
8. Transverse stomach muscles. You have taked alot about PFD, but my disfunction is related more to just the transverse.
Pelvic floor disorder is never about one thing. There is a dynamic relationship of every muscle in the moving body, and each is affected by the other. Because most people have no gluteal function during locomotion (even if you’re busting out a bunch of gym exercises) the pelvic floor is missing 1/2 of it’s regular stimulation, i.e. the pull the glutes would be doing were you walking in the correct way. Or at all.
The transverse abdominals can be involved due to their lack of stabilizing the pelvis, as well as the adductors (inner thighs), tension in the hamstrings and calves that tuck the pelvis, excessive downward forces created during in correct pushing during birth, chronic constipation, high-impact running habits, or just the habit of sucking in your stomach.
It’s unclear if you feel your transverse IS or IS NOT your problem, but to do a test, check out this blog from last year here.
9. Have you written about long-lasting plantar fasciaitis?
Why yes, yes I have.
Have you given up positive heeled shoes, done the Fix Your Feet DVD, stopped thrusting your pelvis forward, learned how to align your feet while walking, created a standing work station, and learned how to rotate your thighs correctly?
10. Results from the Christmas giveaway?
I am so busted. This week…I promise!
11. Stretching for prevention.
Yes. Do it. Do it every day. Need to know which stretches to do? Go to www.alignedandwell.com.
12. What can be neurologically/psychologically/emotionally preventing a person from objectively looking at their alignment while doing movements?
To shatter the image that we are doing something physically different than what we imagines we were doing mentally is probably a huge disconnect for the mind. When asked to look at something objectively, say, at ourselves in a mirror, the resistance to calibrating “what is” to “what we thought was” must create a certain amount of internal conflict. Maintaining status quo is convenient. But, so are cars and fast food and technology. No one ever said you couldn’t convenience yourself to death.
13. More for pregnant ladies! sleep positions & exercises for sore hips and/or sciatica and/or SI joint pain, perhaps? fetal positioning? believe it or not I am NOT preggers are you???
I’ve got some more on the way on these topics. And yes, I am very, very prego at 37 weeks yesterday, see?
The good news is, you can be this pregnant and still hike over 4 miles (which I had just finished in this pic) and not hurt in the feet and back, pelvis or hips. But you do have to train for correct alignment. New program coming soon for mommies to be: Check it out!
14. Body alignment in relation to brain health, mental health. Body alignment and effect on endorphins?
In the end, what alignment affects the most is circulation. Circulation is about oxygen saturation. The more correct your alignment, the better oxygenated your tissues are. People currently need cardio-vascular exercise to help circulate oxygen-rich blood because their total movement is very low, which gives them very low oxygenation when compared to human potential. The endorphins that kick in from a intense bout of exercise is there for you all the time when you have your correctly-lengthened muscles literally pulling the blood throughout your body instead of using your heart to do all of the work. Higher levels of oxygen keep your brain happy, as this chronic low-O2 is a very stressful state. Can you imagine, your brain watching you sit there basically choking to death, slowly?
15. How to furnish your house to be beneficial to your alignment? I have some ideas on what we will do when we get into our own place.. like no chairs or sofas, just some throw pillows on the floor and mabye a blow up chair for family that comes over and wants to sit..
Do YOU know who Nate Berkus is? Maybe you should call him.
You don’t have to get rid of all of your furniture, just the notion of how you should position yourself in it. Use the floor as well. Pillows, bean bag chairs, etc. are all great too. I like a bare, open family room floor as it beckons me to stretch, do various exercises when I’m “relaxing”. Also, a bare wall for stretching against (like legs on the wall) or doing various balance challenges are good ideas too. You’d be surprised how many people tell me they have no floor or wall space to exercise with.
BONUS! I am a massage therapist, and I often send my clients articles from your blogs that would help them. I have read your bio, and I would be interested in more details about your path to your profession and how you would suggest a person become a biomechanist.
Becoming a biomechanist is similar to becoming a chemist — you should have a degree in the science. Most universities will have a degree (I have a BS and and MS) in biomechanics – or find an engineering or kinesiology program with the option to specialize in biomechanics.
I was originally going to be a mathematician, then switched to physics, then ultimately biomechanics, because I also loved my anatomy and physiology…I just love looking at the biological sciences from a mechanical perspective.
To become a biomechanist, would then, require a bunch more schooling. I do teach an extensive course (6-7 months) on biomechanics for the purpose of teaching people how to apply mechanics to their own allied and medical health professions, which makes people feel like they’ve received an entire education beyond the original scope of their practice!
Not to toot my own horn or anything, but I DID manage to finish the new Restorative Exercise Institute ONLINE webpage before the baby got here, which was my dream. If you wouldn’t mind checking it out, www.restorativeexercise.com, there is a lot of free lectures and downloads available as well as the FIRST TWO HOURS OF OUR WHOLE BODY ALIGNMENT PROGRAM all for free. I hope you enjoy it as much as I enjoy seeing anyone make a simple change with significant results.
I’m not even going to proof this…