Teaching Kids to Sit Properly on Their Pelvises

4782496500_273a4c7d29_zI have a son in first grade in public school, and while he has a great teacher who lets them roam around and work on the floor for parts of their working day, there is always the inevitable chair time, and as he gets older, the amount of time with butt in chair will only increase in a public school setting*. And oh the chairs! I volunteer in his classroom once a month and so I get a chance to size up and glare at those chairs on a regular basis. They are plastic, and molded into a C-curve, exactly the shape that puts pressure on the discs and internal organs while also making it nearly impossible to feel supported in your spine. The result? Growing into a schlump and likely into back and neck pain.

Because of what I do for work, naturally my son knows the words "ischial tuberosities" and can locate them on his body. But there's just something not quite inviting about simply saying these two long words, pointing to them, and reminding him to sit on them that doesn't quite capture his attention.

So I came up with a simple way to teach him about sitting on a properly supported pelvis which involves low tech happy and sad face stickers strategically placed. We have done this at home together a couple of times and it's goofy and silly and therefore seems to have imprinted a sense memory on his mind of what it means to sit on his ischial tuberosities vs. his sacrum.

I still hate the chairs, and I hope to have a larger impact in his classroom's alignment and movement options, but hey, for now the simple interventions work.

Make a family "sit on your pelvis" date, or slap on some stickers before dinner one night and see if they start to locate their bodies better in space and get more supported in their spines.

* I, like many, currently only have public school available as an option (I can't afford a more movement friendly private school, and as a single mom with a career home schooling isn't workable). I'm not alone here, and while my son's particular public school is fortunately filled with passionate educators and administration, there is always the bureaucracy- especially when it comes to trying to convince them of the importance of movement on top of their already overfull plates (public school educators are taking a beating out there with these new standards- it's crazy!). All that said, if you're with me and have any ideas or interest in talking about how to get more nourishing movement into this setting, email me! I'd love to talk options. brooke [at] fasciafreedomfighters [dot] com

photo sourced from Yvonne Thompson

Born Again Mama Bodies

4556551742_4e30fb0355_z Hi all! Lately I've had a bundle of diastasis recti questions coming my way from new and veteran mama friends, and also from mama FFF readers. Many of those conversations have ended with this statement, "Well if you don't recommend splinting what do you recommend?" Which would lead into a conversation about alignment and breath, and well, a whole lot of other stuff. It's kind of a long conversation, so I was hoping to find someone whose postpartum conversation was right on the money. As the fates would have it, this coincided with discovering Wendy Powell and her Mutu System, and she was gracious enough to donate a guest post to the blog here. So here is what you've been craving straight from the expert's mouth! Thanks for all your great questions and keep them coming. You all know who you are- and this post is dedicated to you!

Enter Wendy: 

Many mums have had a light-bulb moment when they realize that postpartum recovery hasn’t got an awful lot to do with the race to fit into skinny jeans. It has a lot more to do with being whole again:

  • Walking without pain
  • Exercising without leaking
  • Lifting your child without hurting
  • Being able to keep your innards IN

MuTu System programs have been created to offer a body and mind re-boot. I’ve learned that this is desperately needed, from my own personal and professional experience, and from conversations with hundreds of mums.

What Matters to Mums?

That light-bulb moment I mentioned? It usually hits us around about the time we put our back out lifting our child, or we wet ourselves a bit when we sneeze, or we try to do abdominal crunches and notice our tummy doming (yes, that’ll be your vital organs poking through your weak abdominal wall).

Our bodies tell us in no uncertain terms that our jellified tummy is the least of our worries. Right about then, we stop Googling ‘baby bulge diets’ and start searching for ‘how to fix a pelvic floor’.

And that’s a really good change in priorities!

InfographicV4Back to Basics

So how can we get our body back to its best, inside and out?

On the surface, there are two problems to overcome: pelvic floor weakness and diastasis recti (abdominal separation).

Linked to this unstable core, mums may be suffering from back pain or pelvic floor dysfunction (which could mean urine leakage, faecal incontinence, pelvic pain, pelvic organ prolapse and hernia). And they may be stuck with ‘mummy tummy’, unable to firm up and strengthen their mid-section.

While initially caused by making room for and supporting a growing baby in the uterus, these issues are exacerbated after childbirth by excessive intra-abdominal pressure. The healing process can’t start until the pressure lowers in the abdominal cavity – and to do that, we need to check our alignment.

Misalignment is a brick wall in the face of post-natal wellness – it’s what prevents intra-abdominal pressure from returning to normal after giving birth.

If your body was not aligned properly before having babies, it sure as hell isn’t afterwards. Any glitches in our alignment and musculature that have crept up on us over the years are aggravated by that monumentally physically demanding process.

To reduce pressure, many of us need to start from square one: learning how to walk and breathe right. That is the first step to full post-partum recovery.

New Foundations

Breathing right, standing right, walking right, learning how to connect our minds to the muscles of our core and pelvic floor, so that we use them with every move we make: none of this can be skipped.

Focused core exercises have their place – and intensive workouts too when your body is ready – but it’s the day to day stuff that is crucial.

Alignment, breathing, moving a lot and in the right way: That’s your pelvic floor pension plan right there.

Getting Bodies to ‘Just Do It’

There is a lot of gadgetry in this industry – pelvic floor toning devices and belly binding splints remain popular ‘solutions’ to diastasis recti and pelvic floor dysfunction.

I’m not here to pour water on other techniques, I can only tell you what I believe – which is that bodies are capable of being strong, mobile and fit for life. They can do it on their own, with a little bit of commitment on our part.

The mental connection is important. Lots of mums understandably ‘switch off’ from ‘down below’ after giving birth: It doesn’t feel right and (if they dare to look) it sure as hell doesn’t look right. It’s a lost cause.

The brain needs to talk to the muscles to activate them. It needs to open up the dialogue again. Simply sucking in your stomach, or using a splint, is not the same as activating your core. It does nothing to strengthen or tighten the muscles to help them work properly on their own.

In fact, sucking in, or binding, displaces mass upwards and downwards like a tube of toothpaste squeezed in the middle, placing more pressure on the diaphragm and pelvic floor – doing the opposite of what we want to achieve.

Fighting Fit

Weirdly, having babies is a chance to get fully fit: our post-natal‘ re-boot’ is often the thing that helps us re-focus our energies on wellness. Not just looking good, but feeling energetic and having a body that works.

So many mums tell me that their post-natal fight back was the start of a better lifestyle for them. They come to know and love and respect their bodies in a way they never did before. The skinny jeans are just a bonus.

                                                                                                                                                                 

About the Author

Wendy_Avatar_Sep13-02Mom of 2 Wendy Powell is founder of the internationally recognized and sought after MuTu® System program. She has over 12 years experience, proven record and study in the pre and postpartum fitness industry.

MuTu System includes online coaching, DVD’s, online support and community, fully endorsed by Specialist Women’s Health Physiotherapists and Industry Experts worldwide. It is fresh, personal, progressive and motivational, and it gives Moms the answers, guidance and support they need to restore body confidence inside and out. Wendy has an established international social media following and industry reputation.

MuTu System covers fitness, fat loss, nutrition, hormone balancing and motivational strategies for busy Mums.

Wendy’s specialist area of expertise is pelvic and abdominal reconnection and restoration after childbirth: functional core strength, diastasis recti, pelvic floor and related alignment issues.

Wendy writes for the Huffington Post and has appeared in numerous magazine features, including Red magazine, Health and Fitness and Zest. Health and Fitness magazine UK also commissioned Wendy to write their Get Your Body Back book, published September 2013.

mom and baby photo by Adam DeClercq

DIY Friday: Healthy Pregnancy and Beyond

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*Do it yourself! Every Friday we do a roundup of great posts, videos, or other resources around a theme that help people to turn their bodies from cranky to happy.*

3377899104_08cbdd7f7d_zThere's been a whole lot of talk about what pregnant women are actually capable of lately in the media, as well as renewed attention on postpartum issues that don't get much discussion. There seems to be a theme going, and so I figured we could look more closely at it for this DIY Friday.

First, as someone who has been on bed rest during pregnancy (albeit for one of the very few issues for which it actually is useful- pre-eclampsia), this article has me seeing red. For those of you who have been there, you know it's no small thing. I was shocked at how quickly my body atrophied and it was a very grueling recovery to get myself back from that. And by "back" I don't mean looking cute in jeans again, I mean walking without pain and managing being upright for longer than 30 minutes. Sort of important stuff. So here is the offensive information that bed rest is almost never indicated in terms of improving outcomes, yet is regularly prescribed.  I also had the chance to chat about it with a friend of mine, an MD who specializes in Maternal Fetal Medicine, this weekend and she confirmed, to my astonishment, that this is all true. Yikes.

Next up, The Wall Street Journal put out a great piece this week on the true postpartum challenges women are facing (it's not about the damn skinny jeans!) and how they can be addressed. The only thing I wish this article had addressed is that we really aren't having more of these problems purely because of advanced maternal age or the increased incidence of twins. So much of this boils down to our poor movement patterning in all the years leading up to pregnancy. We live in a culture that makes it very challenging to have good movement patterning (hello chairs, laptops, cars, and smartphones), so few of us are immune.

Then came Lea Ann Ellison, the very pregnant Crossfit mom who got a whole lot of flack for posting some gorgeous pictures of herself power lifting while pregnant. People went nutso. It was all over the place. Over a woman (who had been an athlete for years) exercising while pregnant. Um... this was a bit of an overreaction. And I particularly liked this response to it.

Lastly, Tiffany Chambers-Goldberg had a great post this week in YOGANANYMOUS which addressed and dispelled many myths surrounding yoga and pregnancy.

So where's the DIY in this week's DIY? Well I'm catching you guys early because this event on November 4th is free on the two days that it will be happening live (though you can pay to watch it and have access to it long term after the event), so I wanted to give you some time to plan. Jill Miller of Yoga Tune Up is hosting  a 2 day workshop on CreativeLIVE on addressing all of these pregnancy and postpartum issues. So whether you are pregnant, plan to be one day (it's always best to be informed in advance!), or have already had a child, this workshop promises to be enlightenment of the jaw dropping variety. It is rumored that Jill has also assembled some of my all time favorite body nerds to have guest appearances throughout the 2 day workshop. People like Katy Bowman, Kelly and Juliet Starrett, and more! You can check it out here.

Happy baby making!

photo by Bethany Brown

 

 

The North American Pelvis Meets Bollywood

9239560569_df06fffc9a_bI’ve just returned from the World Domination Summit in Portland, Oregon! For those of you who are not familiar, it’s a weekend of talks, workshops, films, glow in the dark mini golf, and zoo animals (to name just a few things) with 3000 of the world’s loveliest people, all joined together under the common goals of community, service, and adventure (it’s purely benevolent world domination…) Yep, it’s pretty fantastic. While I had many wonderful experiences and a-ha moments there, the one that really spoke to me about the goals of The FFF happened at the after party. Enter DJ Prashant.

Imagine a large outdoor square (Pioneer Square in downtown Portland) totally taken over by 3000 benevolent world dominators, food carts, and a massive sound stage dedicated to Bollywood (obviously!) If you’ve never had the pleasure of watching DJ Prashant work a crowd, let me tell you, the man is a force of nature. Since I’m a movement junkie I was the on the dance floor immediately- well I was technically about the 4th person to get on the dance floor, but that’s only because I had to run back to my hotel room for something- anyway, as someone who’s happy to shake it on the dance floor at these types of things, I’m used to the usual scenario where somewhere around 15% of the crowd is shaking it with me, while everyone else abstains.

I mentioned the force of nature that is DJ Prashant, right? I think it was by, hmmm, maybe the third song that he was leading a large percentage of this massive crowd, in unison, in a Bollywood dance to amazing music. And that continued for two hours non-stop. I’m not totally sure how he pulled it off without collapsing, but he did. It looked a little something like this:

9239572797_d252ec9b00_b

When I took a water break (Bollywood is intense!) I had made my way to the back of the crowd and was able to look out over this sea of newly minted Bollywood dancers and one thought occurred to me, “What the hell!? This guy is getting people to move their pelvises in ways that I spend ages trying to convince them to explore! He’s like a magician!” People were unabashedly shimmying, grinding, and rolling like champs. It was beautiful.

First let's back up and say a word about the “North American Pelvis”. We seem to grow up in North America convinced that we have to lock that shit down. Here we have this beautiful structure that moves happily in many planes and yet we put a strangle hold on its beautiful potential. We all get the messages; Ladies, don’t let your butts stick out or you’ll seem slutty. Men (particularly straight men), don’t ever let your pelvis deviate from sagittal plane walking-forward-only movement or you’ll seem gay , God forbid, or just downright too feminine (ahem, your Latin brothers to the South seem to pull off a more mobile pelvis just fine. They don’t seem to be getting many complaints…).

Suffice it to say, we’re all walking around wearing the equivalent of tighty whities that are thirty sizes too small slapped on over our once supple fascia. And because this leads to a wide array of problems, some of which are low back and sacroiliac pain, osteoarthritis of the hips (leading to hip replacements in some cases), incontinence in older and younger years, and even sexual dysfunction, well, I kind of tell people to move their pelvises more on a pretty regular basis. And they resist like I was asking them to go on a fluffy kitten killing spree!

Through all these years of telling people that they can embrace more multi-dimensional pelvic movement I have decided that it takes patience to get people to give it a shot. Which isn’t untrue of course, but now it appears there’s another option: Bollywood! Or, more precisely, fun.

Generally when we’re trying to “fix” our bodies, or to just plain old better inhabit them, we forget about the importance of fun and of novelty. DJ Prashant certainly reminded me of how powerful a tool that can be in opening up movement potential. So whether you’re a pretty embodied athlete or yogini or bodyworker, or someone who is desirous of being more embodied and rejecting the mold your cubicle is shaping your body into, see if you can maybe break out of your norm, and try something radically different. Ideally something that includes new planes of movement. Bollywood dancing was my latest epiphany (I’m checking out classes near me, natch), but think of all the possibilities! Aerial silks, hip hop, Capoeira, ballroom dancing, Parkour… See what calls to you and move in a new and delicious way!

P.S. It helps to do this in a low shame, high love and support community (as we were all blessed to have at the World Domination Summit), or with a very supportive buddy. For better or worse most of us have a lot of shyness and shame around trying out new stuff, especially related to our bodies, so set yourself up for actual fun by paying attention to who’s along for the ride.

DIY Friday: Good Times with the Pelvic Floor, for the Ladies AND the Dudes

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*Do it yourself! Every Friday we do a roundup of great posts, videos, or other resources around a theme that help people to turn their bodies from cranky to happy.*

Let me tell you what happens when you put up a post on diastasis recti, you then spend the next week chatting about and getting asked about all kinds of other "ladies makin' babies" related structural questions. In my email inbox, chilling on the beach with friends, on Facebook... questions are popping up all over the place, and they're all centered around the pelvic floor. What I didn't expect is that they seem to also be popping up related to the dudes, which I found fascinating.  Well, as always I am delighted to put on my super sleuth hat and see what information and resources I can find.

Both men and women who have children know that there is much postpartum talk about pelvic floor issues, or what is otherwise known as "peeing when sneezing, laughing, or jumping rope". (At best. At worst we're talking prolapsed uterus, yikes). Men who have had a child with a woman know all about this because they have to hear about it, and women know about it, duh, because they've lived it. Not all of them mind you (I have been mercifully spared this particular postpartum problem), but many. As with Diastasis Recti, it is becoming something people assume is the norm. (It's not.)

8541439551_b07fa687f8_bSo I think both because there is this vocal conversation going on around women and pelvic floor issues because of what is an obvious cause (birthin' babies), and also because men don't typically talk about their stuff, especially when it's tied to their, ahem, masculinity, that they get left out of the pelvic floor party. Well welcome to the party boys! I've turned up all kinds of fascinating info that pertains to you too, so if you're having pelvic pain (it often feels like pressure in the pelvic floor, or hips, or, um, burning pain when urinating after sex anyone?) read on:

Again, huge gratitude to the genius of Katy Bowman for this week's round up. I seem to be on a Bowman binge. Perhaps because I will be embarking on her training soon, but more likely just because she's a freaky alignment goddess.

  • First up: this one is for both men and women, and while it may rob you of your beloved Kegels (which Bowman classifies as a pelvic floor weakening exercise- the jury's still out for me on that one, I need to examine it a bit more) it will give you alternatives: read 1, 2, 3, 4, We Like Our Pelvic Floor here. 
  • Next, this article is targeted to the women-folk, but much of the information pertains to men too. While men might not need to fret about throwing out their high heels, they do need yet another lecture about sitting on their tuberosities instead of their sacrum. Because boy howdy I lecture my clients on that endlessly: Read 4 Fast Fixes for Pelvic Floor Dysfunction here. 
  • DUDES! Don't worry, I have one just for you. I found this fascinating and I bet giving this a read will save a lot of men from a long winded medical run around trying to figure out what the pain their pelvis is stemming from: Read Mojo and the Painful Pelvis here.

Go liberate those pelvic floors and have some fun people!

 

 

 

DIY Friday: Diastasis Recti

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*Do it yourself! Every Friday we do a roundup of great posts, videos, or other resources around a theme that help people to turn their bodies from cranky to happy.*

Warning: This DIY Friday catches me mid-epiphany, so I'm not trying to play the expert here, I'm fully the student with you guys and am sorting some stuff out, but thought sorting it out in public would be helpful to many who are wondering about Diastasis Recti.

First, "Diasta-wuh-wuh?" Is probably what you're asking if you're a dude or a woman who's never had a baby. Though both men and women who haven't been pregnant do get this condition, it's rare, while in those of us who have been pregnant it is becoming alarmingly common.

DRBut wait, I didn't answer your question. Diastasis Recti is when your abdominal muscle, the rectus abdominus (the six pack muscle), splits lengthwise along the linea alba. Leaving you with a poochy belly and the look of someone is is now forever a little bit pregnant. I myself have a DR from my little bundle of joy, who is (gasp!) now 6 years old. In 6 years I've gotten the gap down from 3 fingers wide, to one finger wide just at my belly button. Good times.

**Note: Dudes, please stick around as the information I point to actually has a huge impact on preventing hiatal hernias, umbilical hernias, and inguinal hernias, many of which I see a lot in the athletic community. Also give this to your lady if there's a chance a bun will be or is in that oven.**

Since I've (mostly) rehabbed my DR a friend of mine recently asked what information she should give to a yoga student who is trying to close hers, and I handily sent her to The Tupler Technique, which is more or less what I have used. But, me being me, that got me thinking. Why do we all get DR's these days after having babies? I mean, it can't be normal to have your rectus abdominus split just from carrying one measly baby, right? In a day and age when women typically had far more children it just wouldn't have made sense. I can't see the evolutionary advantage, so it must be something wacky we're doing with our bodies in contemporary culture that's causing all of this.

And that question led me where these kinds of questions typically lead me, which is to Katy Bowman, Biomechanist Extraordinaire. Turns out she has some pretty mind blowing information on DR which has totally changed my point of view. I'll leave it to her in these posts since she says it far better than I can, but the short summary is that we're all blowing open our rectus abdominus in pregnancy because we're dealing with an abdomen under pressure which is a result of poor alignment and wacky breathing. Just what the poor alignment is (spoiler: stop thrusting your ribs forward, but there's plenty more), and just what that means about how you breathe is all in these posts. This information is really key to dealing with many of our modern issues (low back pain, high blood pressure, So. Much. More.), so give it a read.

Katy Bowman's Under Pressure Part 1

Katy Bowman's Under Pressure Part 2

So where does that leave me in my DR-having, Tupler Technique referring ways? And what about those of us who already have a DR? Well I think it's more complex than a "5 Quick Tips" type summary, as I think we need to address our alignment and breathing issues as Bowman illustrates in her posts, at the same time that we draw that musculature back together. Which means we're dealing with some high level tinkering that keeps us from using the standard, "pull it all in, pack it all in." mentality about our abdominals. While we work for integrity in abdominal musculature (i.e. actively engage those muscles to pull them back together) we need to also be really mindful to keeping things supple and mobile, rather than living in an imaginary corset. But I for one am up for the challenge. You?

P.S. Last week's post on DIY Psoas Love handily will address some of this stuff (tacked down breathing muscles, short and tight psoai, etc.)

P.P.S This post from Tom Myers may also prove illuminating.

Illustration from Healthy Moms Sheila S. Watkins

The One Alignment Cue That Changes Everything

posture_like_gorillaFor the last twelve years in my Rolfing® practice I've given people this alignment cue over and over again, so it seemed ripe for a post! And when I saw it appear in Katy Bowman's great book, I knew it was ripe for a post (because, well, I have a major body nerd crush on her and think she's an uber genius). So here's the deal, this is a very common structural misalignment in our culture; that being the pelvis is forward of the ankles. What's the big freaking deal you ask? Well it causes a whole host of problems from knee, hip, low back, and neck pain and strain (including wear and tear on, and mis-loading of, those joints leading to osteoarthritis over time), as well as giving us lousy posture and an unenviable belly pooch. And it's oh so easily remedied. So check it out (Bonus! Learn about my aspiring Goth girl past!):

 

 

Illustration by Ari Moore

DIY Friday: Piriformis Syndome, The Literal Pain in the Ass

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*Do it yourself! Every Friday we do a roundup of great posts, videos, or other resources around a theme that help people to turn their bodies from cranky to happy.*

498391534_e8873818ac_zSometimes when it rains it pours, and right now it is raining pains in the ass in my life. Fortunately not of the icky people variety, but rather in the actual ass department. For whatever reason not only am I seeing a lot of clients in my Rolfing® practice with piriformis syndrome at the moment, but one of my closest friends is also currently in agony from the same thing. So for all of you who are dealing with this rather unpleasant pain syndrome, this DIY Friday is dedicated to you.

Before we dive into the resource round up for the week, just a little bit about piriformis syndrome. Your piriformis is a small muscle in the back of your pelvis which connects to your sacrum and hip and is deep to your glutes. This muscle and the sciatic nerve have a special relationship: depending on your anatomy it either passes right next to the piriformis and they are close neighbors, or some people have a split piriformis muscle and the sciatic nerve passes right through it. It causes pain, you guessed it, in your ass, and because of the nerve agitation can also travel down your leg and into your foot. The pain can be severe and is frequently caused by the thing we do most commonly in our culture: sitting (especially sitting on your coccyx/tailbone with a rounded low back!). Now on to the good stuff:

  1. First, check out what the divine Katy Bowman, founder of The Restorative Exercise™ Institute has to say about stretching the piriformis, and also preventing and resolving piriformis syndrome through sitting appropriately. Sitting on your tuberosities instead of your coccyx is one of my big important causes that people have to listen to me yammer on about all the time. So now you can listen Katy for a change. Here's her post where she declares Stretch Your Piriformis Day a holiday. I'm all for it! This also includes one of my favorite alignment nerd videos of all time.
  2. Next, Brett Blankner of Zen and the Art of Triathalon has a very handy video that covers how to do nerve flossing to relieve the pain on your own. That sounds like fun, right? But it's thoroughly useful. We'll forgive Brett for sitting on his tuberosities in the video since it's just so dang helpful. Also I choose to believe that it's because he filmed it in a cramped hotel room. You sit on your tuberosities, right Brett!? I digress, you can watch that video here.
  3. Next up, Dawn Adams tackles it on the Yoga Tune Up® blog. This talks about how you can use the therapy balls to work it, and includes a video of another great stretch. Here's all that goodness.
  4. And, oops, since the magical Alpha Ball is new, there isn't any video of how to use that (which Dawn mentions in her post and which I am a huge fan of), so I made up up right quick for you which you can watch right here:
  5. Lastly, hey now, there's a book! And it's written by all around great body nerd Jonathan Fitzgordon who created the Core Walking Method! Right on! Sciatica/Piriformis Syndrome to the rescue.

Photo by Erik Mallinson