Katy Bowman reads three more essays from her book Alignment Matters: Your Position in Life, Varus and Valgus, and Hidden Doubts, and riffs on the connections among them. Essentially, change your mind, and your body will follow. Plus, get a free audiobook when you sign up for a 30-day free trial with Audible—and find out what’s next for the Move Your DNA podcast.
00:02:12 – Alignment Matters Essay #1 – Your Position In Life – Jump to section
00:07:47 – Katy’s thoughts on Essay #1 – Jump to section
00:10:49 – Alignment Matters Essay #2 – Verus and Valgus – Jump to section
00:22:19 – Alignment Matters Essay #3 – Hidden Doubts – Jump to section
00:34:20 – Summary thoughts from Katy – Jump to section
00:37:39 – Coming up on the podcast…- Jump to section
LINKS AND RESOURCES MENTIONED IN THE SHOW:
Alignment Matters Book (Use code: SUMMERBOOKLOVE)
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KATY: These just might be the dog days of summer friends. Welcome to them and welcome to the Move Your DNA podcast, with Katy Bowman. I am Katy Bowman. I’m a biomechanist, the author of Move Your DNA and a bunch of other books about movement including a very hefty book called Alignment Matters. It’s a collection of the first five years of my old blog, Katy Says, and it’s a book many of you, over the years, have requested that I make an audiobook of. Well, guess what? I’m not going to but, if you’ve been listening to the podcast this summer you know what I have been reading three essays from Alignment Matters on each episode and talking a little bit about the connections I see among them and also updating the essays with sidenotes when I feel like it. And while I’m rarely in favor of anyone outsourcing their own work to someone else, I’m totally willing to read this to you so that you can get your summer on in whatever way you like to while you listen. All bodies are welcome. Are you ready to get moving?
June 7, 2010. A good question in my Ask Katy today. Standing workstations are clearly a good idea and I have fashioned one for myself but what is too much standing? We all know that people whose jobs require constant standing like restaurant servers and factory workers are often plagued with varicose veins. Is there a balance to be struck here? This is a great question. So we’ve got a situation where sitting constantly is creating disease and standing constantly is creating disease. So do you see the theme? Although the research and media are going to probably miss the boat on this one, the problem isn’t the sitting or the standing for that matter but the constant and continuous use of a single position. Even this question smacks of someone from a North American and European perspective. As if sitting is bad and standing is bad and the only option left must be lying down. As if there are only 3 choices for how to position your body. As if there aren’t a thousand ways you can position your body. Believe it or not, the positions you are able to put your body in are learned by observation. Our culture’s use of chairs or toilets, our beliefs of what our posture means to others (think of women who cross their legs and adjust their heads to look demure or men who just their chests or flex their elbows to communicate authority. And even our clothing – rigid shoes, narrow skirts, etc., have all resulted in self-induced joint rigidity. All the movements you have never done are movements that would have toned muscle or kept connective tissue moist and supple and kept blood oxygen flowing evenly to all areas of the body. Instead, we have huge chunks of unused muscles. Bones scraping together at the joints and increasing friction. And we are constantly medicating to make living possible in our physical agony. This all sounds pretty depressing I know but the totally awesome, super cool, and exciting thing is, it can be different whenever you’re ready. Another awesome thing is while I may seem like the only person saying these strange things, there are other people out there who have researched this for the last 100 years. The big difference between then and now is 1) there wasn’t the internet back then which must have made it quite difficult to share insights collectively and 2) there is now a wide breadth of subjects a “good education” covers. Good educations is in quotes – just as a side note.
Most of the people observing the very real phenomenon of cultural postural habits and habitual uses of the body which are physical anthropologists and the people in charge of health education and prescription (which can be medicine) are in two completely different sciences. They don’t even talk to each other – even at parties. But I am hopeful my education in the biomechanics of human movement and disease, coupled with my awesome typing skills and Al Gore’s internet is going to help. How is this information ever going to get to the people? One blog post at a time I guess. One extremely cool journal article from 1955, World Distribution of Certain Postural Habits, reported the findings of physical anthropology professor Gordon W. Hewes. It was an amazing read and if you’d like to have more than my take on it, you can get it here and I’ll just link that in the show notes. As many anthropologists know, the way we move is mostly a result of our cultural inheritances and have very little to do with genetics. Clothing, terrain, temperature, gender, class, fear are few of the many factors that adjust our joints when sitting and standing. Hughes reported on about 100 resting postures in the world and I have posted an image so that you can see, perhaps, while why our western joint health and metabolism, which is dependent on muscle length (and I’d modify it really to say muscle range and the use of it) is the poorest in the world. So we need to think bigger. There is more than just sitting and standing. Create 10 different options of each. If you have a standing workstation, stand a few different ways every hour. When you sit, sit a few different ways every hour. Open your mind and open your joints. When you get home, stay out of your chairs and try a lot of these worldly options (and note, if you don’t have a spear, a broom may work. Because one of the images in the picture has a spear.) Circle the ones you can’t maintain for more than five minutes and make a note to practice that posture at the beginning and the end of an exercise session. And parents, don’t insist that kids sit in the same fashion as us stiffer folks. Allow them to explore other options. And join them. They can teach you something about natural movement. Also if you do spend a yoga or a stretching class cycling through 10 or so of these postures, know that while this cycle is a great thing, getting back into your usual sitting position the other 6-10 hours of the day reduces your health just the same. Adjust the way you sit as often as possible for real deep cellular change. Hewes concludes his research: “Physiologists, anatomists, and orthopedists to say nothing of specialists in physical education have dealt exhaustively with a few ideal postures. Principally the fairly rigid attention stance beloved of the drill master, the students, and the stenographers habits of sitting at desks. The English postural vocabulary is mediocre. A fact which in itself inhibits our thinking about posture. Quite the opposite is true of the languages of India, where the yoga system has developed an elaborate postural terminology and rationale – perhaps the world’s richest. In conclusion, I should like to stress the deficiencies in our scientific concern with postural behavior many which arrive from the all too common neglect by non-anthropologists of cross-cultural data.” Gordon Hewes, I concur.
So I wrote a book Don’t Just Sit There because I think that our mindset, our sedentarism, keeps us chronically looking for an ideal posture. And a lot of the conflict that is kind of demonstrated within people who have kind of described a different ideal posture, comes about evaluating things over different time scales or maybe just looking at different things. And at the end, this is also kind of a Movement Matters take on it which is, if you set the question up to be what is the most ideal static posture you will just spend the rest of your life, or hundreds of years, eliminating one static posture after another. And so what I like about biological plausibility is just the understanding that movement has already been established as a very necessary thing so we’re kind of at a cultural impasse where sedentarism is required for the mechanics of this particular culture. And so if this particular culture’s question is how can I be still in the most healthy fashion, it kind of leads you to think that there’s no – that cultural shifts aren’t possible. Where I think I’d like to expand the questions more to be “how can we adjust the culture for the well being of everyone in it?” Is there a way that many elements of the culture can survive as well as the people within it? Because the people, ultimately, make up the culture. And so if the culture is interested in long-term duration … Just like a corporation, if a large company wants to be well the people who work there need to also be well. Either that or people are seen more as, I would say, a commodity, so they can always bring more people in to drive a culture. So it is nice to have many different cultural options and being counter culture, counter-culture is relative. So I would say that the theme of the pieces that I picked is really relativity. So I sit on the floor. That’s counter to some cultures. It is not counter to all cultures and it is actually not counter to most cultures or to most human behavior. I think it’s important to remember that what’s happening right now in this podcast listening, smartphone culture, that’s the outlier. The furniture is the outlier, not my activity of not using it. Relativity.
One of my favorite college courses was Medical Latin. I loved it because speaking Latin made me think of gods and goddesses and togas and baklava and riding a moped after swimming in the Mediterranean. Which, now that I think of it, are all Greek things, actually. It turns out I love all greek things and I can’t wait until I move to my tiny Greek island/olive tree farm/alignment center. You’re all invited. Most anatomy or physiology students take medical Latin at some point in their college career and we take it because we have to memorize hundreds of names of bones and muscles and tissues and functions. And those names are in Latin. So knowing even a little bit of Latin helps because then you don’t have to memorize everything. You want to know an interesting story? A teaching doctor became perplexed during orthopedic rounds holding up an X-ray of a bowlegged patient and asking medical students for the diagnosis, he was disappointed to see a third of the students got the answer right. One third got the answer wrong and the remaining one third just shook their heads. They didn’t know. They were confused. So you might have heard of these terms: knock-kneed and bowlegged. But if you were way smarter and better edumacated you would use these terms: Varus and Valgus or Valgus and Varus which is my point today. The doctor scolded his students (and I just made that word up), told them the correct answer, and then told them to look up the latin to find out what the problem was. And here was the problem: somewhere down the line the orthopedic terms had become reversed from the Latin definitions. So valgus is Latin for having the knees angled outward. Varis is Latin for bent or grown inward. Shocked that the definitions were the opposite of his knowledge, he checked the 24 current orthopedic textbooks and found that 23 used the reverse terms and only one made note of the historical versus current text. “This particular pair of terms has caused more confusion than any other pair, partly because the original Latin terms have the opposite meaning to that which is now universally accepted.” That’s a quote from the doctor guy. And if you are worried that this guy did a lot of hard work for naught, don’t be. Because he wrote a paper on it and got it published in the New England Journal of Medicine. Nice! Now I’m gonna tell you how the terms probably got reversed. And I can do this because I am a huge nerd. And I have my very own copy of the lexicon of orthopedic etymology. I know you’re jealous. In the original definition, the terms valgus and varus referred to the position of the joint. So using the Latin definition of valgus, the bent outward knee would look like bowlegged. And the Latin definition of Varis would look like knocked kneed. So with Valgus, imagine the knees are wider so they’re wider than the pelvis, and Varis, the knees are closer to each other so the distance between them is more narrow than the pelvis is wide. Anyhow at some point, someone translated these terms for a modern orthopedic text. And instead of the definition referring to the joint, they applied it instead to what the lower segment of the leg, which is the shin bone, was doing. So replacing the word knee with lower leg, the new definition read: “having the lower leg angled outward” which is the opposite of the original configuration. By accidentally changing one word in the definition the meaning was reversed which is crazy right? Here’s a Katy factoid: I love the science of semantics and I feel that a huge breakdown in health and wellness is that students have not learned anatomy in the most correct way. (And I’m gonna just pop in here as Katy in 2018 and say I really mean to recognize that a knee joint in a translation is different than the shin and that those slight translation changes end up changing the meaning. And I run into this a lot because I write for popular publications and they’re often edited towards the more simple. Like when I try to say you want to put your arm or their shoulder here it’ll come back from the editor “well we think more people would understand it if you put it like this.” But the way that they’ve done it makes it technically wrong. And there’s a lot of pressure to leave it technically wrong for better understanding. But when you do that over time what happens is the technically wrong becomes understood by almost everybody and then that creates the pressure to come up with a new definition. So, again, I’m interested in cultural phenomenon and how our understanding of movement and our body has been shaped by knowledge – scientific knowledge in this case because it’s an aspect of our culture. So anyway… this is again falling under that kind of cultural phenomenon and relativity.) Anyway, the paper that he wrote calls for the elimination of the Varus and Valgus terms altogether as they are used incorrectly. So the doctor’s paper also suggested using the uber clear terms bow legged and knock-kneed to keep everyone on the same and correct page. This also makes me feel better as a patient. Say I had one varis and one valgus leg and would need the varis one amputated, which one would they take? Scary! I don’t like to think about stuff like that. I like to think about things like Antonio Banderas instead. Just kidding. Maybe. (And the paper that I was referencing, I’ll link to it in the show notes is called: Occasional Notes; Varus and Valgus. No wonder they are confused. By C.S. Houston and L.S. Swischuk 1980. The New England Journal of Medicine.)
VOICEOVER: If you’re into podcasts it’s likely you love the audio format. If you like listening to Katy read from her book Alignment Matters, well, you should know she has three audiobooks, and she is willing to read them to you anytime you want. All you need is an Audible account, a device with speakers, and a willing ear.
Here’s a little from the best selling big idea book Move Your DNA
[Katy reads an excerpt from Move Your DNA]
And it’s not just Katy’s trademark humor, her compassion, and straightforward approach to movement science that you’ll get with each audiobook. You’ll also get…
[Katy’s bloopers from Move Your DNA]
That’s right. Each of Katy’s audiobooks includes several glorious minutes of her bloopers. And you can find the Movement Matters audiobook on Audible. And this audiobook comes with a downloadable exercise pdf as well as a mileage count. Every chapter, Katy will tell you how many miles each section is worth if you listen while you move. And why wouldn’t you listen on the move? Now hear this: Audible is offering a free audiobook download with a free 30-day trial to give you an opportunity to check out their service. And you can download any audiobook of your choosing by going to audibletrial.com/MoveYourDNAwithKatyBowman To download your free audiobook today go to: audibletrial.com/MoveYourDNAwithKatyBowman That’s audibletrial.com/MoveYourDNAwithKatyBowman for your free audiobook. Ok now back to your regularly scheduled programming with Katy Bowman.
This morning there was a great question on our Facebook page. “I’m active in a pregnancy group here on Facebook and it’s so sad to hear all these women having problems with pelvic pain, leaking urine, even prolapse. They think it’s normal or something they have to live with and I keep posting about your exercises but I can’t seem to get through to them. So the idea of healing yourself with exercise and alignment perhaps sound too good to be true. In 1975 two researchers, Becker and Maiman, developed something called the Health Belief Model, HBM. They suggested that the likelihood of someone adopting a behavior that would prevent or correct some disease or physical issue depended on two things (and don’t worry I’ll tell you what those two things are.) And in case you are wondering that I am some kind of information freak-a-zoid, let me introduce you to a little garage sale find called “Advances in Exercise Adherence” by Rod K. Dishman. This little textbook cost me a whopping 3 bucks and you never know what treasures are lying around other people’s houses. Which makes me sound like a klepto. No judgment on my klepto readers. I like shiny things too. So applying the HBM to your question: A woman would need two things to be motivated enough to follow your advice on alignment and the pelvic floor. She would need 1) to believe that she had a personal vulnerability to PFD (or pelvic floor disorder) or SI joint or hip pain and 2) believe that the consequences of her condition would be severe. The first isn’t typically an issue because chances are if they’re reading your posts and mine they already have an issue so there’s not a lot of wondering if they’re going to have a pelvic floor disorder some day. Someday is today. The severity of the issue is more challenging. And I don’t think that women understand that a little PFD now can mean a whole lot of PFD later. I will write until I’m blue in the, um, fingers, that if you have a little pelvic floor issue now – perhaps a little sneeze pee – then in the not so distant future your organs will be falling out (That’s terrible! This is me in 2018. I would never write that sentence now. That just goes on an on… ok, I’m gonna read it as I wrote it). If you have a little bit… (sometimes I don’t like myself very much) … if you have a little pelvic floor issue now, perhaps a little sneeze pee, then in the not so distant future your organs will be falling out, your hips will need replacing, your knees will need replacing, your SI joint will wobble around and push on your sciatic nerve, your toes will go numb, your lumbar spine will degenerate, your organs will need to be removed, your vaginal delivery will likely turn into a cesarean (oh look it. This is what I say right after that.) When I read the above paragraph I feel like a bad person because it sounds mean or something. And I don’t say it because I’m trying to make money. And I don’t say it because I’m trying to make you any more tense than you already are. I’m saying it because somebody has to. Somebody has to start saying that the way you are using your body is part of what is making you sick. And it will continue to make you sick in the future. And it is your job, not mine, to hear it and take action.
(Ugh! Katy Katy Katy. So I write a lot softer now. And I’m thinking about what I just wrote. And I don’t feel that differently about the sentiment about which I’m writing which is: I believe that culturally we are very resistant to the idea that there is a way of using the body versus the body is just kind of naturally doing what it is inclined to do. And also that we have much more control over it. I guess I’m trying to edit myself in my mind. Like control meaning, we could be picking much different things but they would be sometimes totally radically different. And as we have these phenomena of these degenerations in our body that require major medical action and we see things like replacements increase in frequency and start going into younger generations, it’s perplexing that we’re not asking these questions more vigorously. And so again, I’m also interested in why that is. And I feel like it does have something to do with it feels icky. It feels icky to point it out. It feels mean to point it out even when it’s like the opposite of meanness. I find it helpful to identify something that I could choose. Like to become aware of the choices that I am making and I’ve gone through that process both physical and then also in the non-physical – the choice of thinking about something different and that how you choose to think about things, the words that you choose to say, changing outcomes. And that’s also why I would heavily edit this section because I think that the way that I’ve written it here would appeal to some people and would also completely turn off other people. It would not be the key for them to hear this message. So I would – the sentiment is the same but the writing – I don’t know how the writing might have made this kind of fall on dead ears. Anyway, )
I’ve just decided that the theme of 2012 is personal responsibility. (and I could say in 2018 I’m still on that kick.) Oh and also upper body strength. (And also same for 2018.) Which reminds me that I need to hang from my indoor monkey bars for three minutes before I spend any more time writing this post. Ok, I’m back. And I’m buff. And I’m definitely in that order. Now that I’ve explained the health belief model, I need to add some more info because you see the HBM is not really that complete. It turns out that many people know that they need to get exercise. They believe that they will die if they don’t do it. Yet they still don’t do it. And we haven’t had to go to the extreme of dying from something. Most of you, dear readers, have some ailment for which I’ve given you an exercise prescription or information to follow and you still don’t really comply with regularity that matches your desire to no longer have issue X. Well, not you who is shaking your head and saying “not me. I follow your advice to a T” I’m not talking about you. You used to sit in the front row of the class, didn’t you? So why is it that we can’t seem to manage to execute the behaviors that we desire to? Enter the Self Efficacy Theory. This 1977 theory, I was born just before this came out, states that “all behavioral changes are meditated by a cognitive mechanism of perceived efficacy.” Which is a lot of fancy words to say that you have to believe that you can perform the recommended behavior? And I like the word believe because as a science type, you know all boring and math and lists, and bad at art, and no passion, and left brain, and black and white, and don’t see in color, and can’t taste food and my life is very straight and adventureless, I don’t really know what it means. Yet I bet that you, like me, knows what it feels like to be 100% on board with what you believe. So here are some indicators that might help you identify a lower level of self-efficacy. 1) I’m afraid that I’m not doing it right. 2) If I can’t do it completely then I don’t feel good doing it at all. 3) I’ve tried the healthy thing before and I couldn’t do it. 4) My attempts at health have failed in the past. 5) I’m not that coordinated. 6) But I’ve always had this – fill in the blank. Sound familiar? Your belief system, especially in your ability to physically do something is learned from your personal experiences as well as the good and bad experiences of those you model – so parents, peer group, etc. The self-efficacy theory has been researched and is believed to be the most successful in explaining habitual exercise behavior. Which is a lot of fancy words to say that, even if your organs are falling out and your hips hurt so badly that you can no longer walk, even if you thought that them falling out will kill you – good news it won’t – you still wouldn’t spend a couple hours a day doing exercises and making a standing workstation and giving up heeled shoes and valuing your health enough to really invest in it because you don’t believe that you can change. And therein lies the problem. It doesn’t matter how many solutions you post, reader who posed the question that launched me on this post, or how many blog posts I write and emails I answer. The people with, in this case, pelvic pain, or leaking urine, or pelvic organ prolapse have to repair themselves. They have to value the repair more than you do. And that’s tough because you’re excited in following my blog and posting about whole body alignment because you’ve chosen to help others. And they’re reading your Facebook post as something to fill extra time and aren’t necessarily looking for answers, just interaction. Which are two fundamentally different things. Interaction is often mistaken for taking action. Then, original poster, there could be the other issue too. That they totally believe in themselves and just don’t believe what you’re posting. The prevailing notion that our body injuries a result of a single incident and not the slow accumulation of micro-damage makes it very difficult to even begin to understand our ailments. In other words, if you were asked by a health practitioner how your back went out, you are much more likely to say “I was moving a 40 pound bag of cement up 27 flights of stairs,” then you are to say, “I sat in a chair for 10 days for, I don’t know, 17 years, and I’ve been under a lot of emotional stress too. And then I used my body for a huge athletic feat with no training program whatsoever.” In other words, we have an inexcusable lack of knowledge regarding our own function and the inability to see that what we’ve been doing is what has led directly to the ailments we have now. So maybe these women think that you are spending your valuable and precious time posting nonsense. Although I believe with the other half of my brain, that it’s more interesting and has a personality, and passion, and loves poetry and sewing and rainbows and fairies and stuff, that if you have come here to read, or they have come to your site to read, that the material is resonating with them on a cellular level. The fact that they don’t trust the info has more to do with trusting their own ability to do something with it. Or their efficacy. And P.S., I can’t post the problem without posting a solution, can I? So if you feel that you might have an issue with self-efficacy then you can do a little mental investigation and I went through all of these myself, friends.
- 1) Do you regularly interact with people who are in your household when you were growing up?
- 2) Do they, not you, do THEY, never you – this is about them, regularly make excuses to avoid learning or doing something new. And it doesn’t have to be body related either.
- 3) Even if you really want to change something do you have reasons that you’re not doing everything that it takes to make the change?
- 4) Even if they’re valid reasons, write down every reason you can’t do something or didn’t do something today.
- 5) Do you truly believe that you can make something better or are you skeptical? And give your skepticism a percentage. i.e., I think that it’s probably true that I can make something better but I’m 40% doubtful.
- 6) If you could only make yourself 25% better, does improving your health by 25% add value to you. Or if you could be 100% better, are you tempted to do nothing? Once you start doing this type of self-research, you might become aware of a more hidden efficacy issue. It’s really fun.
But I don’t really know how we separate physical exercises from mental ones. Because everything is both all physical and both also non-physical and many other realms. And I think that one of the things that I have found in my own personal evolution of being a biomechanist in addition to being a human, is to recognize that the big separation between looking at the physical without looking at the impact of the social and the cultural and the psychological effect on the physical is just that the body is just never fully integrated. And we can call ailments, you know, of the spine and the hips and the knees and the neck, we can think of them as these very discrete things but I have found it most helpful for, let’s just say, for feeling well in my parts to recognize that often times these parts are not integrated. Not just integrated into the physical. They’re not integrated into the social and the mental. And so for those of you who have been following my work since Alignment Matters which came out a long time ago to essentially to Movement Matters, you can see that evolution of a full integration. To go the idea of preaching the benefits of a whole body but still keeping the idea of a whole body with deep to your skin without recognizing that whole body has to do with, you know, the planet. Or the universe. Really that full integration. So obviously I feel like my brain has expanded more as well. Anyway.
Thank you very much for listening. I really appreciate your time and if your curiosity is peaked by these essays you can find Alignment Matters on sale at NutritiousMovement.com through September 3 using code SUMMERBOOKLOVE (all one word) because Alignment Matters you! And if you really dug being read to by me the good news is there is one more of these Alignment Matters type podcasts coming your way. And three of my other books are available in audiobook format on Audible.com. Movement Matters, Whole Body Barefoot, and Move Your DNA.
And I listen to podcasts too, and the ones that are my favorite are the ones that shape not only the way that I view things but the way that I behave. And so I guess that kind of resonates with that last essay that I just read which is when I’m given a bunch of action tips and I can contrast that with all of the reasons my mind automatically generates to why those action tips are impossible, that is a habit to recognize. Just as much as it is to always have your ankles crossed or to always have your ribs lifted, you know, or your pelvis tucked. Equally important to recognizing the habit of rib-thrust is to recognize your habits of thought patterns that are keeping you from moving. That’s it in a nutshell. And it’s what has shaped this upcoming podcast series. Because when reading or listening to something gives me instant feedback on how to self-adjust I’m smitten. I’m smitten for the contrast because it’s like an alignment point for me. It’s like “oh, look at that! I just came up with six reasons” I’m gonna put air-quotes around “valid”. Because I would say that all reasons are “valid”. But it just means that you haven’t figured out a solution yet. Like you haven’t figured out what has to be moved elsewhere to make it possible. So to be able to change a habit without changing anything else that’s like trying to solve a Rubix cube but you’re not willing to actually twist any of the squares. So all the squares have to constantly be moving, but that’s the problem, right? This is sedentarism or trying to solve problems in sedentarism. And the natural law of things is everything has to stay moving. So anyway, the upcoming episodes are shooting for just that. They’re a bunch of practical versus a ton of theory. And theory is fun and I love it but it can often get in the way of action. And I’ve put out a ton of theory. So join me, won’t you, in a little less talk and a lot more action?
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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.