Body Alignment

Initial 2 week Progress Report

I am so excited to share this with you!

In only two weeks of practicing the calf stretch from biomechanist Katy Bowman, SC’s back feels about 75% better! That’s what Daily Body Maintenance does, Folks!

I love chance meetings. Although it is quite telling that my chance meetings tend to coincide with daily errands. About two weeks ago I crossed paths with a friend whom I met eight years ago, when our kids were in kindergarten together. We run into each other a couple times a year…usually at the grocery store! Busy mom’s need to cut to the chase and so our 5 minute conversation covered a lot. My friend, SC (who also subscribes to my blog) so when she sees me will tell me that she is up to date on my writing. She quickly filled me in on her ‘bad back’ which referenced my latest blog post and within seconds I did a quick body analysis a la Katy Bowman and was able to get her to transfer he weight back on to her heels. From there I promised to send an email with some instructions on how she could start the process of releasing the tight muscles going up the back of her legs which would be the primary cause of her aching back. True to my word the following is the email that I sent. Feel free to follow the instructions and share it with others. All the information in the email is directly taken from the work of biomechanist Katy Bowman. But first to inspire you on your way, I thought I would share SC’s progress report which arrived to my inbox yesterday!

Hi Kathryn! Okay it’s amazing the impact of these small changes on my back.

I didn’t realize I was leaning forward when I walked! I find that alarming b/c I walk every day and I’ve been leaning forward!!! – when I see elderly people doing that and ironically I always think to myself, geez, I wish I could tell them they’re leaning forward and if they straighten they would feel better, and here I was, leaning forward!  NOW I am constantly telling myself not to lean.  It’s a tough habit to break. I find doing chores (i.e. washing dishes, cooking, computer work and even brushing my teeth) the most challenging as I’m used to doing all these activities at a severe forward angle! Now trying to break the habit is an hourly challenge!!  I can’t believe how ignorant I have been about my posture!

I have been stretching my calves 3-4 X daily – and I’ve been doing it over the yoga mat. It’s kinda nice b/c one of the girls usually will join me and we talk while we stretch. By the way, we have not been stretching efficiently or correctly.  C [10 year old daughter] has been in orthotics for over a year now and her calves are SUPER tight! I’m hoping all the stretching will help her feet as well!

My back feels about 75% better.

At work downtown, I have adopted WORK SOCKS that I slip over my regular shoe socks but I can only wear these WORK SOCKS within 8 metres of my desk. If I venture any further I may be confronted by a VP or worse, an external customer… so yes, I am finding the NO Positive Shoes a challenge.  But making the best of it.  Also, I know my left shoulder is injured and will need physio.. there’s weakness and compromised range of motion so I will need to seek professional help on that. [I think that the next series of restorative exercises will correct her shoulder but that remains to be seen].

By the way, I have forwarded your email to a couple of my girlfriends who are feeling pain in their back as well. I hope that is okay. If you have any other recommendations, I will gladly receive and practice them 🙂

Again THANK U!  I’m so glad I saw u at Choices that day! -SC

Here is my email: Hi SC, nice seeing you the other day! Change is difficult for people who really like change (like I do!), so I am very sensitive to how challenging it is for people who want to feel better but don’t really want to make any big or small changes. But it needs to be done and the best way is to start with one change at a time. So this is what I propose for you:

For one week only  (The following are some images I pulled from google just to help clarify what you are trying to do).

1) No positive heeled shoes Ideally, try to not wear any positive heeled shoes (any shoe that brings your heel above level with the rest of your foot). Which of course is difficult to do because even running shoes are often heavily padded under the heel. Avoid those rocking shoes. In any case, when you are home try to be bare footed.

The reason? Positive heeled shoes cause muscles to shorten and joints to become misaligned which are at the root cause of foot, knee, pelvis and back problems. The calf stretch (below: 3 & 3A) is just one of many exercises that is designed to help you lengthen all the tissue most commonly shortened by certain footwear. “The amount of time you spend in shoes with geometry-altering components is the time you spend shortening up all those muscles that you have been stretching out.” – Katy Bowman

In other words: for all the time you spend in footwear with heels you will need to spend that amount of time undoing those forces with these stretches. i.e. to restore your alignment. Can you still wear positive heeled shoes? Sure, but if you want to fix your back then you really need to stop wearing them for a while and reserve them for very important (occasional) occasions 🙂 The image below shows the distortions/ compensations that our body makes when we wear positive heeled shoes. 1A) Evaluation  Notice when you are standing (flat footed) if you are transferring your weight forward onto the front of your feet. Don’t do that. Ensure that you are weight bearing over your heels – all the time. When you stand, walk, stretch etc. Why? The bones of the forefoot are not designed to be loaded with our body weight. The heel bones (calcaneus and talus) are meant to hold our body weight. Which is another example why positive heeled shoes are so bad for us.

2) Parallel Feet  When you walk, stand or STRETCH, ensure that your feet are parallel. The outside of your feet should line up as in the image below (left). Notice that the toes are all pointing forward. parallel feet 2A) No Turn out This is how most people walk, with the foot (image 2A showing right foot incorrect) turning out. The left foot shows correct alignment so that all the joints work efficiently parallel foot + turnout foot

3) Calf stretch with 1/2 foam dome. If you don’t have a foam dome you can roll up a yoga mat or towel. (image to follow 3A) 

Do the following stretch 3x per day minimum. Work your way up to holding the stretch for 60 seconds each time.

How to do it:

  • you can hold onto a chair back, table top or wall for balance. Eventually you won’t need to.
  • place forefoot on top of foam. Press heel into floor.
  • ensure your body weight is back over your heel. i.e. your pelvis over your heel, ribcage over your pelvis, shoulders over ribs, head over torso…you get the idea.
  • your supporting leg also will have your weight back over that heel. (as in 1A)
  • Aim to get your hip over the heel as shown in the photo below (3).
  • Be mindful of how your upper body responds to the stretch.
  • Careful not to let upper body hunch forward.
  • Remember to keep your feet parallel when you walk and when you do this stretch

calf stretch alignmentcalf stretch with towel

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

1:2 foam dome1/2 foam dome (they sell them at local Fitness stores or on Amazon.ca )    If you can incorporate this into your life for the next one to two weeks then I would like to give you the next restorative stretch. Following these instructions alone will be very beneficial.

Good luck with it. Kathryn

Would You Like To Volunteer?

Would You Like To Volunteer?

Send me your footage.

 Do you like to exercise but wonder if what you are doing is aggravating your body?

Do you have?

  • Severe foot pronation? Bunions?
  • Bowed or knocked knees?
  • Clicking joints?
  • Are you chronically injured?
  • One shoulder higher than the other? Hips unleveled?
  • Scoliosis? Kyphosis? Lordosis?

Do you feel as though you exercise like everyone else but wonder why your body doesn’t respond in the same way? How we eat plays an equally important role in our results but for this experiment I am focusing primarily on body alignment.

Part 1 of 2

I am looking for volunteers with incorrect body alignment. And by the way, none of us is aligned. We live in a world where we carry and haul things and are chronically imbalanced; one side of our body dominates. People who carry heavy handbags on one shoulder while walking; whether heavy or not, most often as a result only swing one arm as they walk, which causes an imbalance for the skeletal structure. Static sitting at workstations, slumped in postures, in intentionally characteristic and stylistic ways, while when driving the car, sitting on a bus or just posturing to look cool. All of these unwittingly or self-imposed postures can have and can leave painful and deforming side effects.

I am making a short educational video about the importance and relationship of correct anatomical alignment with exercise and everyday movement patterning.

I am looking for volunteers to submit video footage that they are willing to have critiqued and viewed publicly in the video I am producing.

As a result, your name or face need not appear in the video. I just need footage of incorrect body alignment in motion.

In exchange I will educate you on how you can help yourself correct any faulty patterns, either by email or you will learn this through watching the video once it has been complete.

Send me good quality, non-shaky, video footage (from your phone is OK) that is 15-30 seconds long (one video or multiple), showing clear foot patterning in walking or running from the front and back as well as arm swing. I would like footage of cyclists from behind showing leg placement. Also, swimmers, tennis players…of any sport, yoga, martial arts, etc. Sitting at workstations showing head and neck position. How about getting someone to take footage of how you look when you are looking at your hand held device? How do you sit in your car; as a passenger or at the wheel?

If you would like your name included in the final credits for your video contribution please indicate at the time of submitting your footage. However, I cannot guarantee that your video footage will make the final cut.

Only send footage that you are comfortable being included in my video for public viewing. By submitting your footage to me, it will be understood and agreed upon that the content will be considered my property and will or won’t be included in the final cut. Please only submit video of yourself, not of unsuspecting strangers. That’s just not nice.

Part 2 of 2

In addition, I have already selected a local volunteer from Vancouver who is willing to be filmed from head to toe on an on-going basis. This person is an avid exerciser who has some or all of the elements listed above. She is willing to experiment with following my advise for six to twelve months. The fun part will be to show footage of how simple it is to correct these imbalances, though it takes a lot of focus and being consistent. It definitely won’t happen over night and so I need a long-term commitment.

Deadline for the first video submission is June 25, 2014. How to submit your video(s)? Upload video(s) to YouTube. Keep them private and allow me to log in to view them. I would like to be able to offer suggestions that you would be willing to work on and then have you re-submit a second set of videos showing (if any) changes/ improvements.

  1. Create a YouTube account
  2. Once you have uploaded your video, click “Edit” under the video which is to be private. The “info settings” page will appear.
  3. Scroll down to “Broadcasting and Sharing Options” and click on “Private”.
  4. Click on “Limited Access URL”.
  5. A website address will appear in the box below.
  6. Copy and paste it into an email message.
  7. Or if you need to input an email address for me to access your private video use: youasamachine@gmail.com
  8. In writing indicate: “You have permission to publish my name for final credits; print your name here” or ” Please do not publish my name.”
  9. Please use landscape (horizontal) orientation for your videos. Not portrait (vertical).

Maybe you aren’t interested, but you know of someone who is? Please share this with your Facebook friends or share on Twitter!

 

THANKS!

-From Kathryn

 

Keep Learning. Be Consistent. Be Healthy. Be Happy. Smile.

Body Alignment

Posture types (vertebral column) classificatio...

Image via Wikipedia

Body Alignment and Exercise

It’s important to have good body alignment, not just when we exercise, but whenever we move our body.  When our muscles contract they pull on the tendons, which move our skeleton.

Good body alignment supports efficient muscle contraction, which in turn supports our balanced skeletal structure.  We cannot have one without the other.

Aside from the proven physiological health benefits associated with exercise, the entire point of exercise is to strengthen and stabilize the skeleton enabling it to function effectively.  Not paying enough attention to this basic principle loads too much pressure or stress onto unsuspecting joints, pulling us out of functional alignment, which can lead to pain or injury, and sometimes an unflattering physique.

The primary reason most people exercise is to look better and improved health takes a close second.  If our goal is to look better then why do we punishingly force ourselves to execute movements without paying attention to how they are performed?  It’s because we are thinking too much on completion as opposed to the precision of movement.

Most people I know are hard workers and are willing to try just about anything for the end result.  But what if all that hard work turns out to be for nothing?  What if mindless or forced repetition with poor body alignment is causing more damage than good?

What is the solution? Like any type of movement, if you do not know what correct body alignment is, how can you monitor yourself?  Enter the domain of the expert: Personal Trainer, Physiotherapist, Registered Massage Therapist etc. These professionals reinforce, remind, and educate the client on proper technique and body alignment, be it for daily function or athletics.

Clearly I am biased, but in general, I believe in learning from an expert.  And it is quite clear how I feel about putting health first.  We all know that without our health we have nothing.  Unfortunately, it is often the case that before we come to this realization and do something about improving our health, we suffer serious illness or injury.

The following is from personal experience as an example.  Having taken the mandatory swimming lessons in public school, I have always been able to swim at a recreational level.  Two years ago I joined a masters swim group, which met once per week for an hour of drills and stroke improvement.  Being a ‘land athlete’ all my life I was nervous about joining this group, but getting over this fear and really learning how to swim was another goal to strike off my to-do list.

When refining or learning something for the first time, there are many layers and many A-HA! moments along the way.  So, what does any of this have to do with body alignment?  In a group class there is only a certain amount of individualized attention a coach or trainer can give each student.  As a beginner swimmer, the amount of feedback I got from my coach was more than adequate.  However, as I put these corrections into practice, I developed some elbow and shoulder joint irritation.  I started swimming a second day a week (for half an hour) at a moderate intensity, just to practice these corrections.  I later found out, that I misunderstood some of the corrections and was doing something else entirely wrong.  But this is what I am talking about when I give the ‘layers’ analogy.  We learn more and make progress, only to discover there is an entire other layer of lessons waiting, and more lessons beyond those.  Learning is an endless process, which for me is what makes learning so exciting.  I cannot imagine it would be very fun if we did everything perfectly the first time.

When checking in and complaining about these new pains with my registered Massage Therapist, it was he who identified the problem and was able to give me direction as how to correct my technique.  What is fascinating to understand is that my technique was faulty because of a very small, over-tight, muscle (teres major), which affected the mechanics of my shoulder from rotating properly.

About five months ago I stopped going to the masters swim group and instead started meeting a swim coach once every three weeks for a half hour of technique drills.  The rest of the time I have to be strict about going to the pool to practice on my own.  The point is that without these individual lessons that focus on my particular needs, and the support from a registered Massage Therapist, I would continue to irritate my elbow and shoulder joints because of the high frequency of incorrect repetitive movement.

This brings me to my second point about short-duration training.  None of us can expect to push our bodies for long periods of time without losing form as a result of fatigue.  Generally, a person who is more fit can train longer, but it is still possible to be fit with poor technique.  It all comes back to balance.  Are you stretching enough to counter all the strengthening and tightening?  Are you stretching properly?  Are you forgetting to stretch some parts of your body just because you don’t know how or because you don’t even know they exist?

In a nutshell: focus on precision of movement.  Exercise consistently and for short periods of time.  Stretch your body daily.  Get professional advice and support from certified and registered practitioners.  And most importantly give your body ample time to rest and recover between intense workouts.