Birth and the Shapeshifting Pelvis – Podcast Episode #96

Katy Bowman and Gail Tully on why a baby moving through a pelvis has almost nothing in common with a couch moving through a stairwell, a watermelon moving through a nostril, or a basketball moving through a hoop.

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01:34:00 – Reader Question #1 – Is walking “falling forward”? Does it have to be? (Jump to section)

09:07:00 – Meet Gail Tully. (Jump to section)

12:05:00 – What Gail loves about her work. (Jump to section)

18:29:00 – “What did I do wrong?” Natural birth, difficult births, and sedentarism. (Jump to section)

20:43:00 – It’s not a basketball or a hoop! (Jump to section)

30:25:00 – When do I start spinning my baby? (Jump to section)

35:43:00 – Manual rotations (Jump to section)

43:45:00 – It’s not size, it’s position. Gail’s takeaway. (Jump to section)

49:36:00 – Reader Question #2 – Should I train for a long hike using poles or not? (Jump to section)



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It’s the Move Your DNA podcast with Katy Bowman. I am Katy Bowman, biomechanist, author of Move Your DNA and a bunch of other books about movement. This show is about how movement works on the cellular level, how to change your position as you move, and why you might want to, and how movement works in the world, also known as movement ecology. All bodies are welcome.  Are you ready to get moving?




KATY: This is Move Your DNA podcast Episode 96. I cannot believe it.  My guest today is Gail Tully, creator of Spinning Babies. And here’s a little tidbit about me: The first paper I ever wrote in graduate school was this little beauty on Vaginal Expulsion Mechanics of the Second Stage Labor. That’s right. I share that with you only because I want you to know how much I really love the pelvis and the movement it facilitates as well as how the rest of the body moves the pelvis. I’m excited to talk with her about pregnancy and fetal movement and all kinds of juicy stuff like that. But before we do, I’m gonna answer one of your questions today courtesy of our Dynamic Collective made up of Soft Star Shoes, MyMayu outdoor boots, Unshoes footwear, Earthrunners minimal sandals, and Venn Design.  So today’s question is from Sarah.

“Because of your work my dream of hiking the Appalachian trail may become a reality. I have two years until my 50th birthday and my planned hike. I have a rare disorder that has made (she’s putting in quotes) “exercise” particularly challenging. So when I stumbled across your philosophy, I was hopeful.  In preparation for my hike, beyond increasing my distance, flexibility, and stamina, I’ve been reading books and blogs and listening to podcasts about the trail. I came across a podcast interview with a woman who used special braces to complete the Appalachian Trail. She was paralyzed from the hip down. And while talking about how the braces worked she described walking as quote “falling forward”. What?  I believe I remember you commenting on that before but I couldn’t remember where. Is this true? If not, why are professionals still using this explanation with patients? Please elaborate if you can.”  
Ok, so, I would say that yes, most people walk by falling forward. Which means if we were analyzing the gait of many what we would find is a falling phase; a phase where one foot was on the ground and the next foot was about to be on the ground but nothing was controlling it. The body was kind of in free fall. And one of the things that makes that problematic is as you’re pushing off one foot and you’re about to land on the next foot, because you’re falling essentially on that front foot, should there be anything underneath that front foot unexpected like ice or a toy with wheels on it or the ground actually not being the shape that you expected, that distance over which you are falling, the larger that is, the more of your weight that’s coming down in an uncontrolled manner, when you land in a way that’s not expected, that’s where something like a fall or a slip can happen. So, do most people walk like that? Absolutely.  Is that all walking? I would say no. So I just got back from teaching a Dynamic Aging retreat at Kripalu in Massachusetts and we covered just this topic. We practiced so much of just taking a step and really demonstrating that fall, that phase where you’re landing and it is a fall, but it’s dampened by the knee, the knee of that landing leg. So that’s why so many people when they land they kind of keep their knees bent all the time to absorb the weight. It’s almost like they catch the falling of their body with their quadriceps. Those of you out there with achy knees, you might want to be looking at how much of your gait cycle includes this phase of falling. And what we did in class was practice the pelvic list. So for those of you who don’t know that exercise, you can go look it up on my blog. You can find it in Alignment snacks. You can find it in the knees and hips DVD. And every one of my books I think, almost any of them, are gonna have the pelvic list.  And the pelvic list shows you how, even though you left one leg and are about to land on the other, that the work is still being done in that back leg where the outside of that hip is kind of belaying you down. So while you may have the same period of time where you’re only on one foot, there is no  fall phase. Or you can, over time, really work to close that fall phase so that you’re never landing in an out of control fashion. Because of course an out of control fashion of walking would only work in a place where almost everywhere you walk has been previously cleaned up. Right? So now we’re talking about being flat and level and groomed. It’s why so many of us are unprepared for a change in shape and size and why we need signs out there saying, “Caution texture is about to change and slipperiness is about to change” because we are not practiced in really being aware of our environment because it’s all be pre-tidied for us. We also sit a copious amount of time and we’ve worn these shoes with heels on it so it’s created a particular geometry where that group of people walks by falling, and can negotiate well. The environmental pressure has never been one that creates a gait without falling. So again, that is something that you can train. But I think that people, as they’re describing that use that one; because they’ve seen it used elsewhere. Right? So if someone says “Hey, walking is falling.” And if you read it on a physics lab paperwork, then it just kind of assumes that “oh, this is a thing.” And it is a thing but it isn’t the only thing. So anyway, hopefully that helps and good luck on the trail.  So thank you to Sarah and also thank you to the Dynamic Collective. These companies are making it easier for me to answer your questions as well as making it easier for you and I to live in our body. You can find their websites and more about Venn Designs, Soft Star Shoes, MyMayu, Unshoes, Earthrunners by heading to the show notes on Nutritious Click on listen. Click on Podcast transcripts.  

Lastly before I bring on Gail.  Friends, I’m heading to the Bay area California in April. I’m doing two public events.  Thursday, April 5, 1-4pm, Doniga Markegard and I are leading a two and a half hour hike on gorgeous land in Tuscadero California. Doniga is a wildlife tracker, regenerative rancher, and author of Dawn Again. I interviewed her a few podcast episodes ago if you want to listen. We are gonna learn how to track animals. Like, I am not going to help you track animals. She is going to help you track animals. But I will be focusing on breaking down how movement is a catalyst. So we can kind of in a very Move Your DNA way, show the relationship between movement and getting food. If you like nature, moving, moving in nature, join us. April 6-8 I’m leading a Dynamic Aging retreat at 1440 which is a new retreat center in Scotts Valley. There’s not very many spaces left. We had a full house in Kripalu. And again it was amazing. We had 150 bodies who, it was crazy that we — I had everyone stand on one leg at the beginning and it was like looking out at an ocean and after just a few hours on one day they all stood on one leg using some of that pelvic list and we had created a wider base of support with our feet, done some correctives and talked about positioning and boom, it was like stone. It was beautiful. It was so visually different before and after. So if you’re interested in something like that, Dynamic Aging, Simple Exercises for creating strength, confident movement through a texture-rich world, we’ll spend 8 hours of class time inside and out on a beautiful redwood covered property learning how to tend to our bodies in a sustainable way. I’d love to see you there and you can register at There’s a link to both events in the show notes and you can find more information on my Live Events link on my calendar on

Gail Tully is my guest today. Gail is the creator of  Spinning Babies: A Childbirth approach focusing on baby’s position and rotation in the birth process. Gail is a published author and a midwife who trains nurses, midwives, doulas, and childbirth educators in a new birth paradigm. Spinning Babies has been online since 2002. Now on Facebook. And giving free information for parents and providers at Gail, welcome to Move Your DNA.


GAIL: Thank you, Katy! It’s wonderful to be with you. We had a little experience a few years ago and I’m happy to be back.


KATY: I know. It’s such a nice time and you know I work, as you know, I did a lot of female pelvic health, that was my graduate work and female birthing mechanics. Here’s an interesting story: My first graduate school paper was titled: Vaginal Expulsion Mechanics: The Physics of Second Stage Delivery.


GAIL: Ooh!  I want to read that. That’s right up my alley so to speak.


KATY: The title was the best writing. That was the first time I started to consider biomechanics which is this thing I was studying now at the graduate level outside of sports, really. And outside – well and if there’s an optimal way to pitch a ball … if there’s a way to manage all the forces to get the ball to go where you want it, has anyone looked at the forces during pregnancy?  I have no idea how I ended up on the pelvis. But it became a love and so I came to your work because, it was just one of those social media connections where so much of what I was doing was talking about, “Hey you can be doing some things with your body before pregnancy, maybe even during pregnancy, maybe even during labor, that’s going to affect the mobility and the strength that you have going on.”  And someone was like, “Check out Spinning Babies.”  I fell in love with your work. I want to talk about your work today in the context – well you can talk about it however you want – the context that I want to talk about is things are more movable and malleable than we’re constantly told and we make so many decisions based on sedentary models, right?


GAIL: Oooh – this is a good topic!


KATY: This is your topic. So you really bring, you have so much more experience in the field, so to speak, meaning you’ve tended to and facilitated movement during this time. For me, it’s so much more theoretical. For you, it is a tangible thing. You’ve used your hands. You’ve used others’ legs. You’re in there. So I want to kind of allow others, virtually, to embody or hear your very important message. So we’re gonna talk.  We’re gonna talk about Spinning Babies.  So before I do that though, What do you love about the work that you do?


GAIL:  To be given a great cosmic mission as a very humble person that was unschooled in the immensity of this work. I am the opposite of you, Katy, in that you are a well-educated scientist and I am someone who walked into this from the grassroots, observed without training and learned from the mother and baby what they were doing. And then listened to people talking about it whether that was the midwife, the nurse, or the doctor. But really the mothers themselves.  Then went to the literature and the research. Then went to other professionals.  And in that way, I was able to see birth with a different lens. I didn’t have any categories put into my head on how to think about it or what was dangerous, what was safe. You know I learned from homebirth midwives that were really spontaneously emerging from a need that society had during the 70s and 80s, so I learned really from observation. I was a very Montessorian type of thing. When Maria Montessori wanted to have an assistant, she went through even Piaget and even all these highly educated people but she picked the janitor’s daughter because the janitor’s daughter didn’t already have sort of neuro ruts in her head on how to think and what to assume. And that’s how I learned about birth. And I had a question in my mind on, from being with women who wanted to have a natural birth, who were motivated and had great energy and great hope. And yet some of these women, not of the majority but some, had difficult births and felt like, “What did I do wrong?”  And I thought, wow, they’ve got a great attitude. They’ve done the same thing that the other women did for all practical purposes. Why would birth be much the same for them? So,  I asked the question, “How can we help birth be easier when someone’s got the intentions for natural birth?”  Then that led from one discovery to the next and really crossing outside of the birth field into other professions that were body related helped me connect some dots.


KATY: So I was reading your bio and Spinning Babies, kind of like the goal of it is to present this new birth paradigm. But how do you explain or describe that paradigm – this new paradigm?


GAIL: Three easy words have come to me in the last year, Katy. Physiology before birth.  If we turn to physiology, we are awakening the innate ability of the body. We have in our human perspective a very mechanical view.  And in the childbirth education, even in the obstetrical book, even in the delivery, there is a bit of an idea, if people think about it, of course they can’t really believe that, but really but how it’s presented it’s like getting a basketball through a basketball hoop…


KATY: Mm-hmm.


GAIL:  And if the ball is a little bit big, well let’s give it a little more push. And if we can’t get the ball through the basketball hoop let’s bypass it and maybe we’ll just cut open the hoop. And it’s like we’re adding force. There’s something called the three Ps. The passenger, that’s the baby, the passage, that’s the pelvis, and the pressures, that’s the uterine contractions. And the idea is make as much pressure as is safe, right up to the edge of safety, to try to force the baby or the passenger through the pelvis.  And I’m like, wait a minute. That’s not really how the body works. The body has got the ability to respond but our sedentary lifestyle has reduced that mobility within the tissue and within the joints and we can bring it back… You know, it’s a spectrum. It’s not an either or. We can help someone move from a stiffer less mobile, less ideal birth situation across a spectrum towards an easier side. For some people, that’s as simple as a single technique. And for other people, they have to work at it every day, day after day to overcome some event.  So what are they trying to overcome? We live in gravity and we have sudden stops or sometimes a twist during a sudden stop. So think about someone’s moving along, they bumped into the edge of something, the inside of their body continues to go. Like if you were in a little car accident. You drive along and you hit the curb. The seatbelt holds your shoulder back but your uterus continues (if you have a  uterus) continues to go in that trajectory. And that can pull on the ligaments and the support tissues that supports around the uterus. In that way, and then the jolt of it can sometimes then leave the uterus in that twist so it’s like taking a water balloon and twisting it a little bit in the middle. It makes a little neck shape and the fascia, the connective tissue, can sort of thicken or freeze – not freeze like exactly, like thicken to hold that shocked space.  


KATY: Stiffen maybe?


GAIL: Yeah, stiffen. The fibers thicken up. And now the baby says, “Wow, there’s a speed bump. I was gonna put the back of my head down by the cervix but you know there’s this ligament that’s twisted over there or…” It’s really interesting too, because as I came up with this idea of I think there’s something in there that’s twisted, then I learned from the body workers that yes indeed, the uterus is like a big air balloon with ropes in it. As Carol Phillips describes in her work…


KATY: One of the things that I would like to contribute too as far as those of us who are wanting to have a vaginal birth or a natural – or really any birth at all – is this idea that natural birth, like it just seems like it’s just natural you should be able to do it, which I think then, as you said, when things don’t go the way that someone had intended or hoped that they would then they kind of go “what did I do wrong/” I really want to modify that message to say, birth is natural, yes. In a very natural context. Meaning that context is really everything and so so much of this natural birthing process is supported or it came to be in this very natural context. Meaning everything surrounding a woman and her birth would also be a certain way, which in many cases it is not any longer. So it’s really pulling those out. And I think one of those things is sedentarism.


GAIL:  Mm-hmm.


KATY: Or a lack of movement. And so we’re kind of going, well this birth is, you know, birth can be this natural biological thing. But also is an abundant amount of movement or a way that you’re using your body. And then to go back to what you were saying, this idea about, I’ve never heard the basketball through a hoop. I’ve heard a couch going through an upstairs apartment doorway at the same time. Where you’re like bending and rotating and…


GAIL: You know that brings in, that image of trying to get a couch through a rounded door frame is about flexion or extension of the head. The head isn’t round, it’s a little bit longer so that’s a good picture.


KATY: It makes it a little bit more complex. If you’re just gonna shove a basketball, I just know that I push down, you know, hard hard push down.


GAIL:  Yeah. Right?


KATY: But the baby isn’t just pushing out. It’s rotating through and flexing and nodding its head. Meaning it’s not a fixed mass going through a fixed mass. So now we have our first, we have our first nod, if you will, if you like the pun.  Our first nod to sedentarism where the model is the baby is sedentary and so is the hoop.




KATY: When the hoop is made up of parts with joints, that the hoop can actually change its shape…


GAIL: Mm-hmm.


KATY: then we go one other step to what you’re talking about which I believe is saying that your uterus either beforehand or during, when it becomes an environment for something else … all that that body, your body, and thus your uterus and all of the other parts have been through, that kind of sets the shape to that environment. That hoop which is also no as permanently fixed as we said it to be in the simple model of birth. Right?  Like I think it comes down to there’s just a very simple model where whether the mother is receiving it or people that work in birth get this very static model. Three pieces all of them fixed and then the only thing that a mother can control then, so to speak, is how hard that she can bear down. Is that what you mean by force.


GAIL: Yeah. How hard she can bear down or someone pushes on her uterus or somebody gives her a drug to make the uterus work harder.


KATY: So that becomes the only thing that she has agency over.


GAIL: Yeah.


KATY: Essentially in that model. We’re trying to increase agency and say, “You actually, you facilitate many more movements before and during labor.”  And that’s what your work is, right?


GAIL: Yes, everything from the birth positions that match the angle of baby’s head to where the baby is waiting in the pelvis. For some babies, they’re still high when pushes begin. For some, the babies are well low in the pelvis already.


KATY: Is that birthing position of the baby or the mother in that case?


GAIL: Of the mother – the birth giver’s position and then so we’re looking at the baby’s position in pregnancy as a mirror of the space available in the uterus …


KATY: Yeah.


GAIL:  So I used to talk about… oh my goodness let’s back it up. So we used to think in the 90s, way back in the 90s, with the wonderful work of optimal fetal positioning by Gene Sutton, that the pregnant person’s posture could influence the baby’s position. And I believe at that time it was true. And it is somewhat true to this day. And then – and I’ll tell you why I think it’s changed.  So that sitting up and letting the abdomen be a hammock for the baby and let the uterus come forward would let the baby’s back swing forward because the back is heavier. Ok, that’s posture. You taught us alignment is more than posture. So that was intriguing because now we get in the function of the body. And what I found in around 2005, is maternal positioning or the positioning of the pregnant person during pregnancy wasn’t really enough. And maybe this was from low thyroid epidemic. Something metabolic. Something shifting. We have a more sedentary lifestyle. We have more time in the car. More time on couches than ever before. Quite a bit more than the 70s. That’s for sure.


KATY: For sure, yeah.


GAIL: So we’re seeing the changes. So what I brought in was let’s continue with good posture and I’d like to learn more about your alignment and then let’s add some activities. And there are two categories of activities that parents can do themselves. One is increase the range of motion of the joints. And we do that with daily activities. Walking. Stretching. Maybe a gentle yoga sequence.  Or a nice stretching thing like hands and knees and undulating the spine. Breathing deeply. Those are all very important. Surprisingly I’d like to bring back the importance of deep breathing to pregnancy preparation because it connects the mind and body together through the basel nerves.  And so we have increasing those joints around, not just in the pelvis, but all over in the shoulders and the neck – getting our body functional.  But because we live in gravity and we have sudden stops. Because we’ve been sedentary, or worn high heels, or sat in cars or whatever we … we naturally do – not naturally to the species but naturally to our civilization…


KATY: Yeah – culturally do.


GAIL: What we culturally do. It’s nobody’s fault. But combine that with gravity and some of us end up in situations where it’s hard to give birth. And you know other things with dietary and which providers we pick and on and on… But there’s more than three variables.


KATY: Right.


GAIL: What we can add is a static stretch or passive stretch activity and that’s where we get into techniques on the spinning babies website. I call them myofascial releases, but they’re little a bit unique to dynamic body balancing and some of the more gentle versions of static stretch where a person lays very specifically on the edge of her bed, held by a helper that keeps them safe from falling. And their shoulders and hips are stacked. You can see this in sideline lays. The leg – their top leg as they’re laying on their side, their top leg comes up and over and gently hangs off the edge of the bed while their helper holds that hip back. The hips are stacked. And the weight of the leg puts a passive stretch into the muscles for half of the pelvis. Now that stretch for about 2 minutes or longer tells the brain “make these muscles longer.” And the leg it seems like it melts. It just relaxes. It hangs a little lower and you’re done. And then you switch to the other side and do both legs.  So that there’s more symmetry. Now for a short period of time, you’ve made more room in the pelvis. People are more comfortable in pregnancy or in birth, the baby doesn’t have to push back his muscles. Suddenly the muscles soften and they’re supple. And the baby can rotate as it rotates, like a key unlocking a door, through the pelvis to come out of the bottom of the pelvis. The muscles, the pelvic floor muscles, and all around supporting the baby are all lengthened and softened and open easier.


KATY: Sideline release is my favorite of all your moves. And when I saw it, I was like, “Oh, that is our strap stretch, but done in a completely passive, more gravity assisted way.” It’s when – we would do it – if anyone’s taken yoga… imagine putting a strap around your leg, lifting it up towards the ceiling. Better yet than imagining, just go do it now listeners!  Just grab…


GAIL: Is this the one where you’re laying on the mat and you put the strap over your foot?


KATY: Yes, put the strap over your foot and then you bring it across the midline of the body.  And …


GAIL: It’s like that on even more so.


KATY: On your side.


GAIL: And even more so. And if you had to do self-care and didn’t have a helper you could do the strap stretch in three locations and then do it standing. And then get to tree pose. Right? That’s all on that spectrum. But for sideline release it really, Katy, gets deeper into the pelvic floor and everything.


KATY: It is deeper because now the leg, instead of being straight up and down where you can’t feel the leg, when you stack it on your side as you do, now the weight of the leg is more. The torque that’s created by the weight of the leg is greater.  So the pull, that leg, is pulling on the hips and the fascia that ends up connecting to the sacrum.


GAIL: Yeah.


KATY: So you’re not only stretching the leg you’re actually pulling the sacrum backwards away from the front of the pelvis so you have more birthing space. You know what I mean. You’re actually creating a tension that ends up — the back of the pelvis, the size of it, if you imagine a bowl, is dictated by where the sacrum is. So as the sacrum is pulled posteriorly, the size of your basketball changes a little bit. So it’s a beautiful exercise.  But also something else you said.  Again we go back to this sedentary simple model. We think that we’re only… all the cliches like, “put a watermelon in your nose” you know what I mean? It’s all this giant thing – small space.  That’s what we keep focusing on. And less so is that the baby and the mother, the birther, you’re not only dealing with an object space issue. You’re dealing with a tension issue. There’s some things you can do about space, but they have, I mean there’s a fixed limited to the amount of space. You’re not gonna go from putting a watermelon in your nose versus putting a watermelon through a basketball hoop.  The amount of space that you have to play with is pretty small. The amount of tension you have to play with is much much greater. Meaning, you have a lot more agency over releasing those tensions… the capacity for tension reduction is much greater than your capacity to wildly increase your space.


GAIL: Mm!  That’s beautiful.


KATY: So here’s my question…When do I start spinning my baby?


GAIL: Ok!  So now the answer to that question is always now.


KATY: Right.


GAIL: And the range is that some people don’t need to spin their baby. But everybody can have increased comfort, suppleness, and body function. I don’t think I’ve met too many people that don’t benefit from those things.


KATY: Right. Right.


GAIL: So before pregnancy, if we’re functioning better we’re gonna have an easier first trimester. We’re gonna have easier digestion and elimination, right? So then it’s the second trimester that physically determines the baby’s position. The baby may not be head down yet, but it is the pregnant person’s positions and behaviors and gravity during the second trimester that is found to have more results of how the baby is lined up in the third trimester. Which is when, finally, at the end of the third trimester is when the doctors and midwives are noticing baby’s position and wondering if it’s going to affect birth. And they give the advice of well, babies can turn at any time. Whoops. Some babies can turn at any time. So how do we know who needs help?  And we have invitations to act, invitations to add more, what I call, well not just me but body balancing. So the sideline, I did want to mention that the sideline release comes from the work of Dr. Carol Phillips the chiropractor who was told about it through an obstetrician who had observed it by chance – saw a posterior baby rotate. The baby was facing forward and not coming out. And the mother rolled over and her leg went over the edge of the bed and the baby rotated and came out right away… And fortunately, the doctor was standing right there. It doesn’t always work that fast but it certainly can and that’s why spinning babies is getting so popular with the nurses and the midwives around the world.


KATY: So, spinning babies exercises, they’re something that really … they’re just using your body differently – relaxing your body. So that can be done – I could be spinning my babies before I even intend to have one.


GAIL: Yeah. Right. You’re making a functioning balanced body.


KATY: Right. And unwinding maybe some of those quirks within my uterus that you were talking about ahead of time, so


GAIL: Yes.


KATY: like I always say, ad nauseam, that movement is facilitating so many of your biological functions that it might behoove many out there to pay attention to some of those kinks before they want to call on them. You know what I mean?


GAIL: It gives you more options. It’s like, yes it’s true. You could wait and see. And maybe the baby will be head down and maybe the baby will be anterior and curled up in the smallest diameter to fit. And if not, maybe one or two techniques will fix it. You know. So to speak. But if not, wouldn’t it be nice to have started earlier so you have more options. People have different opinions.


KATY: That’s true. That’s true of everything through.  I’ll teach someone who is 60 and it’s like, “I wish I knew this when I was 20.”  I feel like movement is a hard thing to change because we just are so, our tendencies to sedentarism run strong and certainly in the moment we’re always like, “I wish I had done this earlier.”  So maybe go check out Spinning Babies. Where can people go find more – see some of your moves? What’s the best way?  Movement is so video dependent. Do you have videos that people can go check out?


GAIL:  So much yes. Well, we do have the spinning babies parent class video. It’s a download from but you can also find it on the website. And that one shows how to do sideline release with your partner or helper. It shows forward-leaning inversion which helps some of the cervical ligaments so that there’s lots of room for the baby’s head and also makes dilation easier.  And a gentle shifting of the uterus, the mateado of the tradition, the Mexican tradition with the rebozo, and the standing sacral release which helps release the sacrum so it can back out of the way of the baby. And all of these things can be started, you know, I would say, when you do daily exercises and do some of these techniques from 30 weeks on, people are having dramatically noticeable easier births in higher numbers. Not everybody will but I’m pretty happy if 80% of people can address 80% of their situations to have an easier more comfortable birth and we do hear dramatic results. And some people will only hear about this in labor or only a few days before labor.  And many of them are having improvements too.  Maybe 80% – that’s a pretty … I’m pretty confident to say 80%. It might be 90% if you start early. Might be higher. I don’t know. We do have people who are interested in research so we’ll have to do this again in a couple more years and have the results.


KATY: I have a question for you. I don’t know if you have the answer. When people get manual rotations, meaning when their baby is not positioned in the way that it’s decided upon, when, what stage, what week are manual rotations usually happening?


GAIL: Ok, so there’s two kinds of manual rotations. And typically when the baby is breech, head up, and sometimes sideways they’ll do it too.  Now sideways I have a technique that works 19 out of 20 times in 24 hours. Parents can do it themselves. Go to Spinning Babies. Look up baby positions, sideways, transverse lie. If your baby is sideways after 30 weeks. If your baby is sideways at 24 weeks, just do the balancing. That’s pretty normal. But after 37-40 weeks, people are doing the forward-leaning inversion 7-14 times a day and the next day or 36 hours later or the next time they go to the doctor, their baby is head down. And the doctor is like, “Wow. Don’t even tell me how this happened.”  That’s the usual response. The doctor says, “Don’t even tell me how this happened.”  


KATY: I was doing aerial silks. Aerial silk inversion.


GAIL: But breech is not… you can do the same thing for breech baby. Which is babies hips are lower than the head. The baby’s hips are gonna come out before the baby’s head comes out. And that can be a safe birth but it can also be a complicated birth so that doctors and midwives in America today are trying to avoid vaginal, breech, births, which is sad.  Because you know one or two in a hundred are very complicated and they’d rather do cesareans for all of them. You know, you could get 10% breech births, needing somebody extremely skilled to help, and of those extremely skilled people, you can still run into one in a hundred that’s pretty sketchy. But most of those babies, you can’t tell the difference between them at 2 years old. A researcher who is observing the child development would have no idea that that child had a difficult birth. So they’ll all recover – for most of them. So then the doctor turns that baby, some midwives do it too, at say 36 weeks to make that baby be head down.  Now that’s called an External Cephalic Version. And we have a doctor/midwife team down in Rio de Janeiro Brazil who are telling people with breech babies at that time in their pregnancy – the last month – to do the spinning babies activities.  I call the three sisters of balance. The rebozo sifting manteado, the forward-leaning inversion, and the sideline release – to do them every day for that week. And then come back and if the baby is still breech they’ll turn the baby manually through the abdomen with their hand. And they’re finding that there’s many more babies that are head down. Or if the baby isn’t head down that turning the baby manually is much easier than if they didn’t do those techniques. Because they’re taking, as you say, they’re taking those roadblocks, those speed bumps, out of the path of the baby…


KATY: Do you know Dr. Eden Fromberg?


GAIL: Yes.


KATY: She’s an OB/GYN. And she was telling me in some instances where she was doing manual rotations that, you know, with her, anatomy and also just that hands-on ability of assessing, she said she was almost always working around a very tense psoas major.  Right? Which is going to significantly just reduce the pliabilities of the case that the baby is in, which is the uterus. And so just by freeing up some tension and creating more mobility in them, you create more space for the baby, then, to move.


GAIL: Yes.


KATY: You really are the environment. Don’t forget the tensions. Don’t forget the tensions that you bring to the table.


GAIL:  Yeah. Making space is what it’s all about. Because it’s not about a baby with a personality problem. Why won’t this baby turn?


KATY: Stubborn. Stubborn kids.


GAIL: There’s another way of talking about manual rotation. Is that the baby is facing forward and you’re late into the birth and the cervix is dilating and the head is just not fitting through the bottom of the pelvis. And there’s an expert named Katherine Oz. Her last name is Oz, isn’t that great?


KATY: Mm-hmm. She’s a wizard.


GAIL: And she teaches about reaching in and turning the baby’s head. Like you’re rotating the head with your fingertips. And it’s done very late in labor when the cervix is pretty much open and she, the great researcher that she is on this topic, is saying she does spinning babies techniques that she learned from the website before – she has the mother do that before she is willing to turn the baby’s head because it’s so much easier if you’ve made that space first. And she teaches other doctors to do this technique. She didn’t come up with the technique. It’s been around. But she’s teaching the value of it to reduce cesarean. But now what we’re doing is we’re just crossing the borders between bodywork and birth. Between midwifery and obstetricians. And that’s one of the gifts of spinning babies. Is that we’re getting everybody together on behalf of parents and babies to make this becoming human easier.


KATY: Well, movement is multi-disciplinarian. You know what I mean?


GAIL: Mm.  Mm-hmm.


KATY: At the end of the day we are in such a sedentary culture that, again, those signs of movement malnutrition… the fact that movement is the big piece. I think that so many disciplines can embrace that to go, “Ok. I can consider movement being an issue.”  And just once again, if I were to make a t-shirt for this episode for everyone listening, this idea that less tension equals more space.




KATY: So I think that we’re used to thinking of a space as the side of the room. But imagine your room had pliable walls and when I pushed on it, I got more space. That’s what the body is. It is not a rigid body.


GAIL: Yes.


KATY: Make more space. The greater your capacity is to deform when forces are applied to you. Like that’s what we’re doing.


GAIL: And we can prove that as any parent who has had more than one child vaginally.  The first baby has got this molded head. And the second baby comes out with basically either very little molding, you know, compared to their first sibling. Because the pelvis is more mobile.  Now we have seen large babies heads come out without molding – it’s the third or fourth baby.  Why? Because the pelvic outlet is supposed to be like 13 centimeters across and you can have a baby whose head is like 14 inches around come out of the pelvis – the first one’s molded a little bit. The second one a little bit less. Then you see babies with large heads coming out with no molding. What’s going on? That sacrum is moving. It’s what you did your first paper on, Katy. That sacrum is just moving out of the way in a reflective, response that can be felt by anybody who is standing and supporting a birthing person can put their hand in the back of the sacrum and feel the big bulge of the sacrum. And the doula and the midwives even think that’s the baby’s head pushing the bones out.  No, that’s the sacrum doing its reflective action to back up. And so we are moving. We’re mobile. Breath is the first, you know, the first mobilization of the body. And our daily movement is, takes that further. Throughout the whole body.


KATY:  What’s your most important takeaway?


GAIL:  I would say that the pelvic size is not as important as the baby’s position. Because flexion aims the crown of the head through the pelvis and now baby has more movement and more ability to control their own movement to assist the birth.  They fit the pelvis better. They move together. It’s a peristaltic experience.


KATY: I guess, you know, if I were holding up a couch to the doorway of my upstairs apartment at the end of a stairwell, it looks like it just won’t fit through.


GAIL: Yeah.


KATY: If my understanding is that I’m just going to push it through it’s not gonna fit. But if I can see it from another perspective which is; no, the couch is going to be rotating and there’s two other people here lifting and moving things around, then I can see the possibilities. So I feel like what spinning babies is really doing is saying, “the model of movement during birth is not nuanced enough and we’re making decisions based on an oversimplified model.”


GAIL: Hallelujah. We’re making it a mechanical event of adding pressure when the physiology is waiting for us to notice that the size of the doorframe can expand.


KATY: Right.  And also that it’s not a couch. It’s a couch that’s got bendy parts and muscles.  And so I think that also, my simplified model right now is, there’s nothing really that’s saying what the baby is doing. It’s all uterus just pushing it out. Right? Where I’ve got video of my kid moving to start coming out. You know what I mean?  Like that when everything else was still, you could see the squirming action.


GAIL: Yeah!


KATY: We don’t even have models to say that


GAIL:  The baby’s an active partner.


KATY: Right right. We’re saying the head is flexing and nodding like it’s being pushed and that is to a certain point. But there is no perspective to say is there anything that we’re doing that’s influencing what the baby is doing to get itself through. Even more agency than we are really even working with yet. A whole other show. We’ll talk about this probably in sixty years from now when it’s more evident. But until then, we will age dynamically and move and do what we can with making the models more complex but making the perspective larger.  Open your mind, open your pelvis!  That’s the takeaway.


GAIL: I’m waiting for your book: Dynamic Pregnancy.


KATY: I know.  Gail!  I just said I wanted to move more. Not sit down and write another book!


GAIL: Hey I hear ya!


KATY: Well, I write books and do videos but at the end of the day people love working with live teachers which is why we have live teachers out there. You have live teachers as well. Is that correct?  Like can I go to someone to get help with the exercises?


GAIL: Oh thank you. We are expanding that. We have six beautiful trainers right now and we need more than six. So we have this progressive and various different ways of expanding that’s going on right now. Last year we started the spinning babies aware practitioner. So the massage therapist, chiropractor, bodyworker who does hands-on care for pregnancy who is looking for a physiology before force approach. No force. They’re ethically deciding unless they’re specifically trained for it they’re not trying to rotate the baby or manipulate the baby but rather help parents create space. That’s the spinning babies aware practitioner. We have a listing on our website that’s just getting started. We have another workshop in May in St. Paul and in May in San Diego. Both in May for spinning babies aware practitioners. And midwives and doulas are taking that also so they have better hands-on care. They have to have taken a spinning babies workshop to get on the listing – twice so they’re integrating the paradigm. So then the childbirth educators want to do that too for one to one parent education or small group parent education. So this April we have the Spinning Babies Certified Parent Educator program beginning in St. Paul. We have it again in St. Paul in July. In Brazil, in Sao Paulo Brazil. And Boston Massachusetts in October. And in Europe – we’re still looking for the venue in Europe – for November. So the parent educators will learn how to do a 3-hour preparation for parents in these techniques that we talked about today. And it will be a supplement to a longer childbirth education program that – so any childbirth educator of any method can use the spinning babies as a supplement. And we’ll give them the license to teach it in our way use the name in their promotion. Then in a couple of years, I’ll expand for providers to be spinning babies trainers again. But I have some homework to do before I open it up.


KATY: Little bit at a time. We’ll put links to everything, your website, your Vimeo, these events, in our show notes. And Gail, I just wanted to say thank you for coming on. I really appreciate your perspective.


GAIL: Katy, thank you for all that you’ve done. You’ve expanded me so much. You’ve taught me so much. And in fact, your recent, but both of your recent books about getting older and moving is just so exciting. I love it. BEcause now I’m in your audience there.


KATY: Well you’re dynamic!  Like, we’re all – you’re definitely on the move. So keep it going.


GAIL: Thank you, Katy. And you know, continue your work. It’s so important. It’s so great. And it’s so supportive. Thank you for being this bridge.


KATY: Oh, thank you so much. Ok, before I go, I’m gonna answer one more question. These questions are brought to you by our Dynamic Collective.  Today I am highlighting Soft Star Shoes. These are minimal shoes handmade in Oregon, possibly by elves.  When I’m done recording this, I’m about to head out in the snow cozy in my Soft Star Phoenix boots. You will find Soft Star on all of my shoe lists on my blog. I like them that much. Our whole family wears them. They’re great. Ok. Here’s our second question.  This is a second question from Sarah. Sarah, well done. I appreciate your perseverance. You’d never get any answers if you didn’t ask questions. So again, just remind you, this is a question from a potential through hiker.  

Here’s her question. I have noticed that most of the hikers use two poles.  I also know that you have spoken about how your body learns to walk with those poles instead of supporting itself (I believe you were describing working with a woman who used a cane at the time). If I get out there and walk regularly in my minimal shoes (I wear Vibrams Five Fingers), will I need these poles for the Appalachian Trail? Is it to balance the pack or provide support to bodies used to sedentarism? Should I be practicing with these poles? My gut instinct is to avoid the poles because I am able to walk this terrain (we already live in the Blue Ridge Mountains near the trail in Virginia). But I haven’t done any serious climbs yet, so maybe some science can provide guidance. Ok, I like this question. So first of all, the bit I think that you’re remembering is from an earlier podcast episode where it was recorded from a live event where my co-authors of Dynamic Aging were speaking at a live event. And one of them was recalling this time when she was doing the pelvic list exercise -she was not someone who used a cane – she was doing a pelvic list exercise and was struggling to do it and had asked if she could hold onto the wall to do it. Or she said I’m gonna go hold on to the wall. And I had pointed out that there was another way of breaking it down so that she wasn’t training to now use her arms with her leg. Because I knew it was her intention to not go towards a cane. So that is a separate phenomenon. What you do in an exercise class in a very controlled environment to what might be necessary for negotiating I’ll say vigorous terrain meaning lots of texture but also lots of weight. I assume you’ll be carrying a pack and also over a long period of time. So, you’re used to the terrain now, which is fantastic. But one of the things I like to point out, as you go longer and longer distances, it’s not really a repetition or more repetitions of you using the same parts. As you fatigue your body, as you go longer, you begin to recruit new body parts that only are called upon when you actually move, you know, all day long. Which is a phenomenon that most have not experienced and why you will see me teaching many more, you know, 20 mile walks, 16 mile hikes, in our retreats. Because I can talk about it and talk about it but it’s all very theoretical until you yourself push yourself to do something like all day movement like you’re about to do. So, that being said, let me answer some of your questions. What is the purpose of the poles? The poles are there – so if you look down at your feet, if everyone can, if you drew a circle that kind of traced the outside of your feet but also connected them. So kind of a rectangle/oval shape. That’s your base of support. If you put one hand in a cane or a walking stick, then you would trace the circle that picked up the tip of the cane as well as both of your feet.  You see how now you have a larger base of support.  When you put two poles down, then your base of support is the size of the circle that goes around and picks up your feet and the tips of both poles. So it does increase your base of support. And also, you know, we talked earlier in that first question about falling. When you go onto one leg, the tendency to fall is also to the right and to the left due to weakness. Kind of falling out. If everyone tried to step on one foot and hold it there for a long time. You’re not going to see your ankle wobble front to back. You’re gonna see it wobble right to left. So you have kind of a lot of instability to the right and to the left. And when you load that with a heavy backpack, now the weight of the unstable thing is more.  You’re weight’s higher, closer to your head. Because our backpacks aren’t down by our legs.  So that little wobble to the right loaded with 20 or 30 pounds can now go faster and farther. So having a pole on that side is what helps center your backpack.  Now that being said, can you train your body to do that?  Absolutely. And so I would recommend for everyone out there, if you want a training tip. Put on your backpack, your hiking backpack, and do your pelvic list exercises there. Because then that slight wobble to the right or to the left, you’ll now feel the magnitude of what it will be when you are fully loaded. That’s my little training tip from me to you. So try that so you are actually doing your pelvic list to the weight that you’ll need to carry and it’s still in a nice controlled environment. You’re unshod. You’re on a block or a stack of books and you’re home so you don’t have to worry about falling off a log or in a river or anything like that. Then the next piece though becomes you are moving all day long. So another thing that poles do is they allow some of that push off as you’re moving forward, right? You’re climbing up. Which means you’re pushing down with your legs when you’re going up. You’re going forward which means you’re pushing back with your legs as you go forward. So your legs are solely responsible for that. You’re going to be adding a lot more miles, a lot more days, than you’ve ever done before which is what makes a through hike such a challenge. The capacity of movement that we’ve never ever experienced. And so it allows you to share some of that work with your arms. And so, in the end, poles could absolutely create a more positive experience as well as make finishing more feasible. Now that all being said, I don’t think that you need to take out the poles and do everything with the poles.  The poles could be – that you pull them out maybe randomly so maybe start training a little bit with your poles.  You can, when you’re fatigued, you can be, “This is when I’m gonna pull out my poles and really watch my form.” And then add this pole as kind of like a pseudo leg. Right? It’s starting to operate kind of like a leg. And as well as gets that little bit of extra balance. So maybe if your balancing muscles are like, “We’re done.”  It’s like, great, I’ve got these poles so we can go on. So yes, I think that they’re an absolutely wonderful tool when you are doing something so outside of the box. And even if you don’t use them, that’s fine. But you have them. And if you trained a little bit with them you now are more likely to finish this amazing event. So that would be my feedback. Thank you for asking that question. I hope many people go “Oh, I see. I can see a little clarity.” And maybe figure out the rest of any separate questions for themselves. Ok, if you have a question, please write to me at and perhaps you will hear your question on an upcoming episode of Move Your DNA or perhaps you’ll hear two.  Ok again, thank you to our sponsors. For more information on them or me head over to and check it out, find a book, or a five dollar movement video that would serve you best and start changing how you move today. You can learn something new about movement most days by checking in on my Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram pages. Just search Nutritious Movement. Again, if you want to leave a question for a future episode email And if you like what you hear, please leave a review for us wherever you listen to podcasts.  Your review helps other listeners find their way to Move Your DNA. On behalf of everyone at Move Your DNA and Nutritious Movement, thank you for listening. We appreciate your support.


VOICEOVER: This has been Move Your DNA with Katy Bowman, a podcast about movement. Hopefully you find the general information in this podcast informative and helpful, but it is not intended to replace medical advice and should not be used as such.


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