You may know Mary Bond best for her book The New Rules of Posture. In today’s conversation we’re talking about her forthcoming book: Your Body Mandala: Posture, Perception, and Presence. And her mission, which, much to my delight, is to contribute to humanity’s deeper embodiment.
Today I’m talking with Peter Blackaby who is the author of the book Intelligent Yoga which he is currently writing the 2nd edition for. Pete started practicing yoga in 1978 and began teaching in 1986. He then went on to become an osteopath. In 2002 he became involved in the British Wheel of Yoga (which is the governing body in England), and ran a two-year teacher training program for them. Since then, Pete has been running courses for teachers and teaches functional anatomy and biomechanics in the UK and internationally. His interest in the last 15 years has been to put some scientific underpinning to the practice of yoga, both in the biomechanical sense and in the mind/body relationship.
In today’s conversation we’re talking about moving away from the Western reductionist view of anatomy, what a bottom up approach to yoga looks like vs. a top down approach, how the whole person’s lived experience is tied into how they move, and how yoga teachers can approach working with students who have chronic pain.
Today I’m talking with Amy Matthews. Amy has been teaching movement since 1994. She is a Certified Laban Movement Analyst, a Body-Mind Centering® Teacher, an Infant Developmental Movement Educator, and a movement therapist and yoga teacher. Amy is also the co-author of the best-selling book Yoga Anatomy, and together with Leslie Kaminoff Amy teaches The Breathing Project's Advanced Studies courses. In today’s conversation we’re talking about Laban Movement Analysis and Body-Mind Centering, developmental movement work, and what that means for infants- how they can get a solid foundation for personal agency and emotional regulation through movement, and how developmental movement work helps adults as well. We also talk about embodied teaching, how teaching is its own art form and how it can also call forth a student’s personal agency.
Beyond Anatomy: A Somatic Symposium (coming soon! April 1st and 2nd)
Katy Bowman is a biomechanist and the founder of Nutritious Movement. She is the author of several books including Move Your DNA, Whole Body Barefoot, and her most recent collection of essays, Movement Matters. In today’s conversation we’re talking about the ecology of movement. How does your movement affect not just your health but also humans everywhere, even ones you’ve never met, and how does it affect the health of the planet as a whole? We discuss the real impact of our sedentarism and our drive for convenience, and how movement can be a very profound and impactful form of activism.
Julie Angel received her doctorate researching Parkour, and she has a new book out, Breaking the Jump, which chronicles the birth of this movement. The book, and our conversation, wind up tackling the larger issues that have emerged out of Parkour- like how the origin and effects of this movement is about something so much bigger than athletics or physical training; Really how it was an is a way to evolve as a human. We also get into our cultural biases to, on the one hand, abuse ourselves with physical training, and on the other hand to be so obsessively careful and terrified of movement or of leaning into the edges of one's capabilities that we wind up without much middle ground. We also discuss Julie's personal journey from a sedentary academic to someone who also does Parkour and how that has changed her and how she sees the world.
- What it means to have a doctorate in Parkour and how Julie ended up studying it.
- How Julie came at Parkour as a filmmaker and academic- how she was always expecting to be on the other side of the lens.
- She had been sedentary for 20 years when she started filming and studying Parkour
- What people were getting from Parkour was more than being amazing athletes.
- People are usually introduced to it through the visual spectacle of it which is amazing. We’re drawn to that yet at the same time it’s so much more about the relationship of mind body than anything purely physical. It’s not about jumping.
- The reality of facing something hard- like concrete, or balancing on a rail. These are personal experiences, no one can move for you. You can’t hide or fake it, and every jump is a new jump. It’s very humbling to go out and train.
- Julie noticed a huge difference with stress in performance. There was no progress- she couldn’t engage on a deeper level.
- Some of the key things in the “soup” of these founding men’s young lives: They were looking to find their own identity, and these were the tools they were using. It was an extremely multicultural group, all first generation immigrants. The oldest of them is only 42 now- at the time the youngest was 9 years old and the oldest was 14.
- For 10 years they went through some really unique experiences and the environments they were living in shaped that a lot. There was a lot of discrimination, violence, racism, and not a lot of opportunity.
- They were also in new towns, suburbs of Paris, that were these daring architectural experiments.
- Architecturally there was a bizarre landscape- the Dame du lac is the world’s only modernist climbing structure. On the other side was the forest so there was the natural environment as well.
- Williams Belle his insight at only age 9 that this was about improving oneself outside and inside. Williams started teaching and training the local kids at age 14, and they all described Williams with the word “wise”. He describes Parkour as a question and answer experience every time he moves; that what’s behind the jump is far more fascinating.
- The group of people who created it are really artists. There was no YouTube, no social media- there aren’t even photos of them training. It was an authentic experience that had to be lived. It was a very mindful practice.
- There is a real difference between those training for 1 or 2 years and those training for 7 years and beyond.
- I talk about today's cultural bias to self-abuse with over training. With them, it didn’t go this route because of their relationship to it. Everything was trial and error and high repetitions. People think it would be damaging or a destructive culture- but they had been training for years to get there. They spent a decade exploring what they could do and gradually increasing that. For anyone to imitate that they are going to break their body.
- They weren’t training for a competition or a TV show- it was only to see what they were capable of. There were competitive elements among them but nothing external. It was like a secret society.
- They would fall down onto concrete and people would think “what about their knees!?” they’ve been training for 25 years and their knees are fine. It defies the logic we’re told, but they were moving every day in very gradual progressions.
- A day off would be maybe just 3 or 4 hours of training and a 10 mile run.
- Their training was the thing that gave meaning to their lives.
- How has Parkour changed Julie? "It taught me to be brave again. When I was confronted with an obstacle or a challenge I realized I never thought I would be the person who couldn’t do that. This growth mindset in Parkour- that you’ll never be the best, so you’re just trying to improve."
- "I would envision these really tragic injuries. I realized how disconnected I had become from my environment. I can see now a beauty and an opportunity for places and for movement. You realize that things aren’t fixed- nothing is one thing.
- "I see a lot more beauty and opportunity in the world. By having all these fears revealed to me I can address them and overcome them. It’s a process.
- One end of the spectrum is this desire to overtrain and abuse ourselves and the other end is our super careful, bubble wrapped way of being in the world. Parkour is an opportunity to find the middle road.
- There’s been some great work introducing Parkour to school children as an alternative to PE. If we’re not teaching people who to deal with risk when they are young, how will they deal with it as adults? This idea of comfort and convenience is very unhealthy. The more you engage with challenge the better facilitated you are mentally and emotionally.
- A lot of people are quite lonely and isolated in their urban lives and this is a way to reconnect.
Julie Angel's primary website (which includes her gorgeous Parkour and MovNat films!)
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Dr. Steve Gangemi, aka The Sock Doc, has ruffled more than a few feathers with his proclamations that stretching is for Bozos... In today's conversation we reconnect to talk about why he's tempered his statement to "stop mindless stretching", what stretching even is, what flexibility is really a reflection of (hint: it's not your stretching regimen), why we might feel the need to stretch, and more.
Steve is a chiropractic physician who has trained in the fields of functional neurology, biochemistry, acupressure meridian therapies, applied kinesiology, and dietary and lifestyle-modification methods. He practices in Chapel Hill, North Carolina.
- What is stretching and why does its definition seem so different depending on who is delivering it
- What is the difference between flexibility and mobility? Steve likes Ido Portal's definition of mobility which is flexibility plus strength. Being mobile is being stable- able to resist force in certain positions.
- How do we determine what range of motion is useful range for any particular individual?
- The musculoskeletal system and fascia are a reflection of our nervous systems.
- When you get into Eastern medicine they talk about how your emotions affect your muscles and directly affect your ability to stretch and be more flexible. The emotional component is big and manual therapists can forget about it.
- There is a huge campaign right now to get people to stop sitting so much in chairs. However, you are still going to have the same locked up psoas if you aren’t breathing even if you’re moving. It can happen with sitting, but can also happen because you are in a state of fear- that’s how Chinese medicine would look at it.
- Gel fascia:that was the big talk at the FRC this past fall. Most people about fascia as Saran Wrap or a thick angora sweater. That's true, but a different type of fascia is hyaluronic acid. This specifically is a gooey jelly-like fascia that’s everywhere in our body. It hasn’t been talked about because you don’t see this stuff when a person is dead and most students are studying cadavers.
- The extracellular matrix as a body wide communication system- how that works and how it works in the context of people having changes in mobility or ranges of motion.
- Gerald Pollack has some YouTube videos about the 4th state of water as gel. We think of ourselves as 2/3 water, but our molecules are 99% water and it has a high gel-like form. This gel form of water is what makes up the ECM. That is pretty much all of our cells within this fascial matrix. It can change within seconds and some people talking about tit as a separate nervous system.
- How critical touch is in a very under-touched society.
- Why say to move instead of stretch?
- You should not feel the need to be stretching. One of the most important questions to ask yourself is, “why do you feel the need to stretch?” If you are moving well throughout the day you shouldn’t need to stretch out after you’re done, because you should have generated more flexibility during that workout. If you have to stretch out you just did something detrimental to your system.
- Many people feel stretching will decrease injury rates or improve performance but this is inaccurate.
- Is yoga stretching? Contrary to popular belief "yoga" is not sanskrit for "stretching". It is a mindful practice.
- Yoga is like the gluten issue, or yoga is becoming popular like the gluten free diet. A lot of people are doing it but they don’t know why they’re doing it.
Juliet Starrett, the other half of MobilityWOD, is talking with me today about StandUp Kids. She and her husband Kelly have created this non-profit to get chairs out of classrooms in order to create movement-rich environments instead. No conversation on re-thinking classroom design and movement for children is complete with talking about the big undertaking Juliet and Kelly Starrett have kicked off. This is the most ambitious program to get rid of chairs happening in the United States. And as Juliet plainly puts it in our conversation, this is crucial because the amount of time spent sitting- of which classroom time accounts for a huge percentage- is a massive public health crisis. Now that we understand the implications of sitting it’s just nuts that we are forcing children into chairs. And Juliet is here to tell you all about that.
- StandUp Kids is in the process of converting a public school in California to the first completely chair-free public school in the US. They currently have 100 students at standing desks, with the goal of having all students in the school at standing desks when it reopens for the school year this August.
- Juliet and Kelly spend much of their time working with top athletes all over the world and they always tell them to spend as little time sitting in a chair as possible.
- Their a-ha moment came when they attended their child's school field day and they saw that many of the kids did not have the hip range of motion to get in and out of the sack or to jump effectively for sack races. They realized that in their professional lives they were telling people not to sit and then were sending their kids to school to sit all day.
- Their concern was primarily orthopedic- for kids to move and perform optimally they were at a massively increased risk of injury from sitting all day and shortening their tissues.
- There is a high intimidation factor about taking on the bureaucracy of public schools, but they were pleasantly surprised to meet with their school principal for coffee and have their first standing desk classroom set up 6 weeks later.
- Imagine if all the parents pulling their kids out of public school instead invested the money they spend on a private school within that public school.
- StandUp Kids has partnered with Donors Choose to fundraise for standing desks in classrooms.
- Often the education piece for the public needs to happen about why this is a crucial and not a frivolous expense, especially when you consider how needy classrooms are these days for basic supplies.
- Each class is 20 to 25 kids and in the elementary grades there are vast height ranges within any given classroom, yet they are all crammed into one-size-fits-all furniture.
- You do not need an ergonomics expert to fit the desks to each child. Anyone can do it and it takes 2 minutes per child.
- The classrooms are now set up with standing desks that each have a fidget bar at the foot which allows children to fidget out of distracting view from the teacher.
- The classrooms also have 5 stools each- with the number of stools smaller than the number of desks intentionally. The goal is not to change sitting at a chair for sitting at a stool as they make the same c-curve shape in their spines.
- People always ask "won't the kids get tired?" but the only people who stand like statues at standing desks are adults.
- Kids are also encouraged to work on the floor as they wish.
- Standing is not the answer to sitting- movement is the answer to sitting, but you cannot have a movement-rich environment with chairs. With standing desks it opens up so many opportunities to have a movement rich classroom environment.
- The 4th graders had a harder time transitioning and wanted to use the stools more at the beginning. The first graders didn't use the stools much at all- presumably because of how their bodies have been trained for years to either move or not move.
- Getting rid of chairs can be an equality issue- boys are failing in the current educational environment, and studies show that children with ADHD have to move to learn. Both boys and children with ADHD do so much better in a standing desk, movement rich classroom.
- If standing desks reduce the number of kids medicated for ADHD that is a huge deal.
- The current design of our schools comes from the industrial era when the goal of classrooms was to make compliant workers for factories- but that is not the world that awaits our children now.
- The StandUp Kids website also has a curriculum section where teachers can either learn brief movement breaks to teach in their classroom, or they can simply push play and have the kids go through the video.
- The data also shows that kids burn more calories at a standing desk- for obese children it amounts to 25-30% more calories per day.
Let's train for more standing, shall we? Juliet talked about the need to train to stand more when you transition- even if you are athletic. So see what will bump the needle for you to get more standing in in your day. Can you set a timer for a certain amount of time and stand? Also remember to fidget and move! The goal is not to be a static robot. "The best position at your standing desk is your next position."
StandUp Kids- donate and/or learn how to get your own standing classroom project going.
Texas A&M standing desk research: The impact of stand-biased desks in classrooms on calorie expenditure in children
Kids with ADHD Must Squirm to Learn in Science Daily
Raising Cain: Protecting the Emotional Life of Boysby Michael Thompson
Today's episode is a double header! First I talk with Richard Brennan, an Alexander Technique teacher in Ireland who is also the originator of the School Chairs Campaign which aims to make backward sloping chairs illegal. Next I up speak with Patricia Pyrka of Beyond Training about her weeklong furniture-free experiment in her son's classroom.
What is approximately 15,000 hours spent sitting throughout the course of a child's education costing them (and us, as the adults who grew up that way)? We talk about the effects to physical and emotional health, as well as brainstorming the options for more movement-friendly classrooms and the upsides that has had.
- Richard explains what the backward slope of a chair is, and why it's so detrimental, and how backward sloping chairs came to be in the first place.
- In the UK teachers are not allowed to sit on the chairs as it is considered a health risk, but that health risk consideration has not been extended to the children.
- The effect a wedge for his child's chair has had.
- The attempts children make to keep their spines upright in the chairs and how it is admonished by educators.
- Everyone is blaming a child's posture deteriorating on heavy school bags, but they sit for 15,000 hours throughout their educational years.
- 1/5th of children in school are already suffering from back pain.
- The lungs and oxygen to the brain are also affected.
- Posture goes much farther than shape- how we dampen children's spirits and personalities through forced sitting.
- Patricia describes how she got inspired to talk with her son's teacher about a furniture-free experiment.
- How she approached the teacher and made it happen.
- How specifically the room was redesigned.
- How she communicated with the students and parents about the upcoming changes.
- The barriers in adult workplaces to sitting on the floor.
- What kind of movement education she used to help the kids adapt.
- How this week affected the children with attention issues.
- Cost comparison of traditional school furniture vs. the equipment they used.
- Does sitting autonomy have an effect on more self-directed learning?
- The teacher's input on how it went from her end.
Say goodbye to the chair for a bit! The floor is your friend... see what happens.