The Importance of Alignment

Why You Should Be Reading Katy Says

Katy Bowman is a biomechanical genius who blew my mind several months ago.  You know you’ve learned something good when you keep thinking of it every day for months at a time (Paleo is another example of mine!) and Katy Bowman has definitely landed permanently on my thought-altering-reads list.

Katy has an amazing blog where she posts narratives and videos on proper body alignment and the reasoning behind the ideas. Additionally, she has published two great books.  Her first book focuses on the importance of feet (and the effects of good foot care on whole body functioning) while the second book troubleshoots the entire body.  I read the first book, Every Woman’s Guide to Foot Pain Relief, fairly quickly and immediately implemented the techniques detailed within (though I’m still working on changing my gait patterns after years of walking, standing, and running incorrectly).  The second book, Alignment Matters: The First Five Years of Katy Says, has taken me longer to get through because I’m trying to learn and incorporate the exercises and philosophies into my daily routine before going on to read more of the book…any book someone takes that seriously is worth ordering.

How Katy’s Work Has Changed My Body

In general, I’ve changed how I move entirely.  I had been dealing with adrenal fatigue (thanks med school) for several months before finding Katy’s blog and so had drastically diminished my daily weight-lifting sessions (read: I stopped them entirely) during that time.   Though I wasn’t working out, I have always been fairly active day to day but it wasn’t until I read Katy’s information that I realized how much I could incorporate daily movement into my life that involved multiple planes, taking advantage of random exercise opportunities to practice good form(such as how to carry heavy groceries/objects with proper technique), as well as multiple variations and tweaks on the long, slow walks I was already doing (minimalistic footwear, getting off the beaten–ahem, concrete–path, and using my whole foot instead of smacking it down).

I’ve been working out (in the traditional-sense) less than ever yet feel that I have better range of motion and less random aches and pains than I have in a long time.  I can’t say how much of a relief it has been to feel better after years of beating my body through ballet, marathon running, and improper stance which lead to an almost 10 year history of pelvic pain and dysfunction.

Katy’s work has been so influential for me that when I started a blog, I knew that I wanted to slowly share her work through my site.  Though I obviously have no intention of copying information her blog already has, I thought I would start by linking to my favorite exercises that I incorporate into my life everyday.

Exercises

1.  Since I started with her first book on feet, toe stretching to free up the intrinsic (inside the foot) foot muscles was the first exercise I incorporated into my life daily.  I had been cramming my feet into cute but uncomfortable shoes since I was a kid.  I danced ballet for almost 12 years so I think i just forgot what comfortable shoewear was supposed to feel like, honestly.   You’ll notice in the link below that she also talks about toe box size in shoes so besides doing these exercises, I started to wear my most roomy toe box shoes without heels.

This is how Katy presents this information on her blog: toe stretching exercise (and how to assess the toe box in footwear)

Notice in her pictures those cool, toe stretching socks? I hope to order them one day but my lack of funds has lead me to use these ($1 from Ulta for a pair) instead:

20140407-140700

2.  I’ve done literally (and I mean literally literally) thousands of squats in my life and I used to be proud of how many I could do!  Unfortunately, Katy came and totally burst my bubble because I’ve been doing them wrong: all quads and no posterior chain work (and here I was blaming my deflating buns on sitting in med school!).

She has two detailed posts on how to squat properly: You Don’t Know Squat and You (Still) Don’t Know Squat (inside this second one is an amazing video showing how you can progress from being totally glute-deficient to doing a real squat)

I still prefer the variation when you squat out of a chair and back down because I’m so very quad dominant in my squat and have a tight posterior chain.  I’m imagining it’ll be months before I can do a free-standing one without a constant reminder to keep my shins vertical.

3.  According to Katy, you can’t do much of anything properly if you have tight calves, hamstrings, and hips.  Since most of us sit for hours at a time and wear positive heeled shoes, that idea pretty much applies to everyone.

My favorite exercise to open up the hips and stretch the hamstrings is this one (video): Easy Hip Exercise (I like to do this one leaning over my bed because it’s fairly close to a wall and I can use it to make sure I’m not twisting at the hips but really opening them up)

Another one of my favorites is the double calf stretch because I really feel it open up the entire back of my legs: Knee Bone Connected to the PF Bone

4.  One thing Katy talks a lot about is the importance of switching up your body positions throughout the day and how different positions help send proper signals and feedback to the cells of your body.  Thanks to her, I (and Mr. Dig) sit on the floor a lot more now which forces you to change your body positioning without you really having to think about it (try it for yourself!).

In Conclusion…

If you own a body and want to use it for the years to come, I strongly urge you to get on over to Katy Says and read the multitude of great articles she has on alignment.  I can promise you that you’ll be happy that you won’t be disappointed!

 

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