Katy Bowman and Jill Miller (The Roll Model® and Yoga Tune Up®) talk about hips and how to keep them healthy. Katy and Jill share tons of tips and moves for those with hip pain, and for those who want to keep their hips—and all their joints—strong and mobile. Some advice for pre- and post-operative hip replacement patients as well. Plus, Katy talks with Tyler Benner at Venn Design about his company’s products and philosophy, and how changing his body led to changing his mind, as well.
00:02:08 – Meet Jill Miller – Jump to section
00:11:56 – Jill’s First Tip for Hips – Jump to section
00:20:23 – Katy’s First Tip – Jump to section
00:22:25 – Jill’s Second Tip – Jump to section
00:25:54 – Katy’s Second Tip – Jump to section
00:29:05 – Jill and Katy’s Third Tip – Jump to section
00:36:07 – Jill and Katy on the road together! – Jump to section
00:38:36 – Meet Tyler Benner of Venn Design – Jump to section
LINKS AND RESOURCES MENTIONED IN THE SHOW:
Find Katy’s kneecap release, pelvic list, and abdominal release tips here, along with twenty-seven other great tips (talk about a bonus!)
The Dynamic Collective
Sign up for Katy’s newsletter at NutritiousMovement.com
Hello! I am Katy Bowman, and this is the Move Your DNA podcast. I am a biomechanist and the author of Move Your DNA and seven other books on movement. On this show, we talk about how movement works on the cellular level, how to move more and to move more of you and how movement works in the world, also known as Movement Ecology. All bodies are welcome here. Are you ready to get moving?
KATY: Hips! As the great poet Shakira once said, they do not lie. So whether you are shaking on the dance floor, or if they are aching with each step, hips are the seat of so many of our human movements. They are, in fact, the very cradle of our continued success as a species right now. So, I spend a lot of time thinking about them, and we will spend a lot of time talking about them on the show today. And I’m very stoked to have my colleague and soul sister Jill Miller as my guest today. You may know her as the author of The The Roll Model®, and the creator of Yoga Tune Up®. And if you follow her on social media, you may also know that a few months ago she had a hip replacement. She will be here to talk about that, and to introduce her three action tips for maintaining healthy hips. And you know, as always, I’ve got a few tips of my own.
This season on Move Your DNA, we are getting to know the companies that make up our Dynamic Collective. And these are all small companies whose work I admire, whose values are aligned with my own. The collective that supports this podcast includes MyMayu, Soft Star Shoes, Unshoes, Earth Runners, and Venn Design. Later on today we gonna learn more about Venn Design, maker of dynamic hip-friendly alternative seating options.
My conversation with Jill is bound to be a big one so to keep this at a listener-friendly length, I’m gonna skip my listener question as essentially this entire podcast answers a few of them currently in the bag. So, without future ado, allow me to introduce
Jill, welcome to Move Your DNA!
JILL: It’s an honor to be here Katy. I just love your podcast!
KATY: Well I enjoy talking to you in person. And on the phone. So it’s only right that eventually we record some of our conversations and talk about what we do.
JILL: Yeah. Although I do think our text chains are probably really where it’s at. So maybe someday we’ll publish those.
KATY: In fact, we’re just gonna end this podcast now and we’ll just add to the podcast transcripts the long sleep-deprived mother of small children because I think we both became friends before we had children but while we had these babies of restorative exercise nutritious movement yoga tune up – these were our babies.
KATY: We used to get together and talk about our babies – these movement programs. And then we had human babies. And then it was more like: here’s a picture of my kid with underwear on their head.
JILL: (laughs) Look at how many sparkles she can get inside her eyeball. All sorts of things like that.
KATY: Exactly. So we are real friends which I think is great. I mean it’s great to talk about work, and what we do. There’s not a lot of people who can always relate fully to so much of your experience. Both of us being system builders, I would say, and working with movement of the masses and having teachers and certifications.
JILL: Being in business with your husband.
KATY: Right. Right.
JILL: All the things. Two kids. All the things.
KATY: You’re the only person I can have certain conversations with.
KATY: We’re gonna talk about hips though today. We will leave our text chains to some other great blog post in the future. But I want to hear, because these are questions that I don’t think I’ve ever asked you necessarily as a friend.
KATY: So this is new ground for me. How did you develop YogaTuneUp?
JILL: Ok. So Yoga Tune Up came out of, really it’s my own personal development of self care and self care movement strategies. So my original movement training was a combination of yoga and bodywork. So I started studying massage. Started studying Shiatsu massage when I was in college around – I think I was either 17 or 18 when I went into that first open house at the Shiatsu school. But I started doing work study out of curiosity. I had no business studying massage outside of a full load of classes at Northwestern University. But I walked in there and was the demo gal in the – you know they do a free sample and I volunteered. And it definitely was one of those things that changed the course of my life. And I ended up, while I was studying at Northwestern, studying dance and movement and performance, performing arts, and yoga was always kind of the thing I did in the morning to make me feel good and to prepare me for whatever classes were up ahead. But I ended up going to spend my summers during college at a place called the Omega Institute for Holistic Studies which is a beautiful retreat center in upstate New York. And it’s there where I met my mentor. His name is Glenn Black. He is a self described rogue yogi. He’s kind of off the beaten track. Not somebody who was ever interested in fame and fortune as a teacher. But he was a movement genius and a bodywork genius in the sincere definition of genius. I still have not found somebody who eclipses him in terms of creativity, in being able to induce state change within a classroom which,by the way, is one of the unique features of, I think, all yoga practice should be that you can really host conscious awareness within parasympathetic states and do really cool things there. So he is just a master of that as well as hands-on modality or hands-on orthopedic medical massage under the tutelage of a physical therapist out of New York named Smuel Tatz who has a system called Body Tuning. So it was many consecutive summers, me going to Omega, and working in their sun tree store, living in a tent, and doing yoga classes with Glenn and also learning body tuning from him, which is the hands-on, the massage modality. And I ended up assisting him in a lot of his – in his work. Then I move. I leave all that behind. I’m done with college and I want to come to LA and be an actor because that was really what I felt was my virtue was the performing arts. And the healing arts were just the thing I did on the side. Well not on the side. They sustained me and now that I’m a 46 year old looking back on my own developmental history I understand that these were how I regulated myself. Because I have a history of being an anorexic as a tween and then bulimic in my later teen and early 20 years. So the healing arts really helped me heal. When I got to Los Angeles, I got into the yoga scene out here which was heavy in the ashtanga vein and you know, flow yoga. And I dove into this stuff. Eventually I was in another system of yoga that had a very specific type of power yoga and I started teaching at that studio and took their teacher training. But when I started teaching what I found was that the power yoga stuff that I was currently learning or doing, wasn’t what was coming out. What started to come out was the eye that I had developed under the mentorship of Glenn. And this interest in joint mobility or joint movement. So it stopped people in the middle of a class and be really discouraged with how they were doing an asana and I would take them through these tune-ups that would help to improve their proprioception of their joints and get them to develop better motor control of that joint. And then we would dive back into the practice. And eventually I started using tools. There’s a much longer story but eventually I started bringing therapy balls into the classroom because I wasn’t a bodyworker even though I trained for years as a bodyworker, I never got licensed but I knew that people could do this themselves. They could use self touch to find these tissues that weren’t cooperating with the performance of a movement task. They could excite their proprioceptors. And in the meantime, they’d feel great because they were also exciting certain parts of their autonomic nervous system. And so yoga tune-up really became this hybrid of biomechanically delivered movement information coupled with self massage to help people better map themselves and have a better sense of themselves to what I like to say embody your body. And then the tune-up portion is me paying homage to Glenn and Shmuel for teaching me body tuning and that’s what it is.
KATY: So what’s that time span that you just did? 20 years?
KATY: I know sorry! Fast math!
JILL: Like 18. Wait 46 minus 18.
KATY: Hmm. Wow, so okay more than 20.
JILL: Yeah, 20 … 28. I started teaching right around when I was 18 or 19 even though I was doing yoga prior to that.
KATY: So this series that I’m doing on Move Your DNA is really about action. And we’re gonna talk about hips. I wanted to bring you on specifically to talk about hips because you just had a hip replacement. Is that right?
JILL: I had the total hip replacement on November 1 of 2017 so today we’re taping at the end of September so I’m almost at 11 months.
KATY: Yeah, so it’s been about a year. Right. So what is just … I guess if we talk about your career in movement and we talk about that timeline this is another phase of your movement journey.
JILL: Yeah. Definitely.
KATY: Right? So it’s pretty new in your way of … I saw you on Instagram and your writing curriculum which you’ve been doing for a long time and how you look back and reflect on previous curriculums and what you want to add in now that you’ve had a new movement experience. So as a system builder and someone who writes curriculum and books about movement, I too am often, as I have new experiences, you’re like, “Oh I want to go back to some of that old stuff and change some words and add moves and different things.” So you’ve had a hip replacement. You’ve had hips of many different types for a long time, so I wanted us to talk about action items for keeping our hips well and so I want you to give me, you can do three, I’ll do three. We can go back and forth. And this could be something that you’ve been teaching over the last 20 something years or something that you’ve now recently added. And if you want to explain a little bit.
JILL: Yeah. Well I’m really encouraged by the process that I went through with hip replacement in terms of preparedness and rehab-ness. What I teach is prehab. What I teach is rehab. Rehab and prehab are my life. That is what Yoga Tune Up and The Roll Model do. They help you to prepare tissues for movement and they help you to get to know your tissues and to better embody your body. So the stuff that I’m gonna describe to you are things that I think uniquely kept me out of owie type of pain leading up the surgery. The first tip that I have involves therapy balls. Because I feel that the therapy balls and how we use them give you a sense of the textures of your own tension. I have two different ball techniques that I think is helpful either pre or post. And one is one that I would recommend to all humans which is to use the Coregeous ball in your trunk to improve your sensing of how you breathe. And the textures of tension in the myofascial interfaces of your respiratory diaphragm and the other respiratory muscles that really are the lining of your birthday suit. So I instruct people, if they don’t have a Coregeous ball which is a grippy air-filled ball to use some time of a firm-ish pillow but not a hard thing. You don’t want to use a soccer ball. You don’t want to use a basketball. You want something that has yield. So kids’ balls – if you have a girdyball laying around the house, or great nerf balls are great. You want something that has a little bit of girth and that you can deform with your own breathing. So when you lay down on the Coregeous ball whether it’s on your abdomen or your sternum or the side of your waist or the side of your rib cage, you’ll immediately start to inhibit, because that’s what the ball’s pressure does it inhibits, the area that is under touch or under load or under shift from the device. And you can do a technique that we call contract/relax to try to overcome the natural muscle bracing or the natural resistance to the tool. And you do that by breathing, holding your breath temporarily, and contracting the muscles that are interfacing with the ball. And then when you exhale what you’ll find is that your nervous system will have temporarily unkinked or unlocked some of that unconscious muscle bracing. And you do that progressively. You breathe in, you hold your breath and contract. Then exhale. And there can be more artful ways of doing that but that’s sort of the basic thing. And what we do with that is depending on whether you start on your side or you start on your front, you’d roam the ball, the Coregeous ball, into different areas of your trunk to try to mobilize the unknown tensions, unknown inappropriate tensions between diaphragm and ribs and diaphragm and transversus abdominis. So that would be the first thing so that you can get a sense of your full cycle of respiration. So respiration should occur all over your trunk. And although it only occurs in your lungs, but the soft tissues that are responsible for taking a range of motion breath should result in movements both below the diaphragm and above the diaphragm if they’re occurring well well above the diaphragm in the neck or collarbone area, which is our default. That our sort of emergency default respiratory area, then there’s other things to be done. But really what we’re looking for here is what we call an abdominal thoracic breath.
KATY: Because of the relaxed position.
JILL: Because of the relaxed position – no because neurologically we don’t want to be in a heightened sympathetic state but we want to be in an alert relaxed state which an abdominal thoracic breath will allow us to have that. And also a thoracic breath that’s done in the context of a relaxed environment can help to keep the thoracic spine mobile as well. When your ribs don’t move, upward rotation and inward rotation of the ribs – if they’re not moving well, chances are that your thoracic spine is probably not moving as well as it can either. So the thoracic breath gives us, is an indicator of unknown tensions in that area of the body. Coregeous ball is not going to come into play when you’ve got your rucksack and your trucking up a 15-degree incline. You’re not going to be pulling out the Coregous ball and breathing into it. You’re gonna have your backpack that you’re gonna be using in that case but what’s interesting about the diaphragm and its shape and you know it’s like a caster inside of your trunk. So you can breathe – you should be able to breathe in any type of position. I work with singers. And opera singers, they get in very contorted positions and they have to produce a tremendous amount of clear, resonant sound while they’re in – affecting different emotional states. Like there’s so many different ways that the diaphragm uniquely serves our structure. And this is like, what I’m doing is I’m putting it in a Petrie dish…
JILL: I need to start here. And what I didn’t say is what this about preserving my hips? If I can get my tissue to become compliant while applying the Coregeous ball, it’s going to relax me. The Coregous ball in and of itself, it’s gonna massage viscera, it’s going to apply pressure that will stimulate the vegas nerve both in my abdomen and in my rib cage area. Different arcuate sprigs of that nerve. So that will help to calm me down. So that’s helpful especially if I’m experiencing a lot of pain. On a myofascial interconnection level, the respiratory diaphragm has two soft tissue crossovers with a couple of very powerful spine muscles. One is the quadratus lumborum. And the other is the psoas. Now the quadrium lumborum has a lot to do with the relationship between the rib cage and the pelvis. As do the obliques which are on top which you are rolling all over anyway. And then the psoas is latching all the way down to the femur. So you have the psoas which I’m sure you talk about on this podcast before, but the psoas is stitched – it’s pasted on to the anterior longitudinal lumbar spine and its discs. And the diaphragm has to cross over it in order to get to the spine. So when we’re massaging into our abdomen as you are with the Coregeous ball, or even into the rib cage you’re going to affecting tensional pulls both into the quadratus lumborum and the psoas – which can help relieve some of the stress and strain that those muscles may be carrying because of your gait from a degenerating hip or knee if we go even more south.
KATY: All replacements. Right exactly. All parts. All parts.
JILL: Yeah. All parts all the time. So that would be a way of both directly and indirectly mobilizing in a very soft state of being – that area. Right? So we’re getting motion and lotion into the interfaces between the diaphragm and the psoas and the diaphragm and the quadratus lumborum, both of which are helping us to navigate our footfall and our pelvic list as we walking.
KATY: So if we’re talking hips I guess the big thing to remember is, it’s not all going to be in the hips that you want to move for healthy hips. It really ends up becoming a whole body situation.
JILL: It’s definitely a global situation.
JILL: Yes. Yeah.
KATY: From that, though, there’s two things within that: that one requires that you’re able to identify a vertical leg which is one that doesn’t have a slight knee bend or if you hyperextend one that doesn’t have that hyperextension. So some people need to straighten and some people need to bend. But to be able to find a straight leg and to be able to have that leg be vertical. Which means the pelvis is going to line up directly over the knee, over the ankle joint as you look at the body from the side. From there it would be the kneecap release. Can you relax the quadriceps so that the patella is not pulled up, which pushes back into the knee joint below and from there can you list the pelvis.
JILL: Love it.
KATY: But those two things, if you jump right to kneecap release or pelvic list, the intention of those are really so that you are able to stand on a single leg. And for many people use your the posterior and the lateral part of your hips more verses always being on the front.
KATY: And so that’s just it. That’s just it. And to me, that is something that can be put into your standing work desk time, your standing in the bank line. There’s also, to add more tips to this, it also requires that you have no heel on your shoe because you can’t distribute that weight back. So it’s basically all my books in a single move which is can you stand on a single leg, giving more work to the 360 degrees of the hips or is your way of standing on a single leg giving it completely to the knee or to the front of the hip.
JILL: The joint.
JILL: Oh my gosh. I love it so much because it actually echoes my second tip.
JILL: You put your hands up against a wall and your hands are a little bit wider than shoulder distance apart and this is so that you can recruit the serratus and also the erector chain. Lots of things. All muscles are involved here. This is a whole body isometric. You have your feet underneath your hips and you come into a partial relevé.
KATY: What’s a relevé?
JILL: Oh yeah. You lift your heels off the ground.
KATY: Ok. It’s a dance term.
JILL: A relevé is a dance term of coming up to en pointe. So it’s just about a one and half inch lift. So not much but it’s going to challenge lots of your proprioception when you do that. And so you push into the wall, try to lift the wall up. And try to get your legs straight. What you were saying: Standing on one leg. So you’ve got your hands up against the wall and then you dorsiflex or not pointe but the opposite of pointe, the left foot without shifting at all. So you have loaded your body weight through that right foot, its locked into the ground. And then you attempt to extend the left hip, meaning you bring your heel behind you but it’s not generated from the foot. It’s generated from the deep, what I would call the deep gunnies, like the deepest aspect of your tush. So you’re extending that hip. It’s not going to go very far. Without letting your pelvis lift or change. So it’s an isometric. I mean, you move it to the degree that you can and then lock it in place. And it gives you this moment in time for that transition within gait. And then you switch sides. This is hard to describe on a podcast. It really is something that has taken me about a month to learn just from my therapist alone. But I’ve been sharing it with my students and people are just pouring sweat with this isometric. It’s amazing.
KATY: I think that most people don’t have their legs fully extended – and that’s not even hyperextended. There’s been sort of a slight bend to the knee put into almost 100% of fitness and movement recommendations including any time I do anything for a magazine, they will always edit in when I add, “Find this vertical straight leg” they will always edit in but keep a slight bend to the knee. Like to the point that it doesn’t even make sense.
KATY: It’s like this basic protect, keep everything soft and slightly bent. And as we really improve or expand the movement narrative to beyond being at rest in the playing field or as we know so much more about it we’ve got this kind of old anchor to this old general guideline that is just too your point, now being something that requires an exercise and therapy to get out of because if not, you’re never really loading your glutes and that hip extension and ultimately even your lower calf, right?
KATY: As it’s belaying the rest of your body as it moves forward. You bend that knee and you just – it’s like walking without using very much tissue. It’s walking without very much movement of many parts is what that does. Which does not mean we all stand and walk and hyperextend our knees all the time. There’s something between those two continuums. And that’s what I’d like people to be able to find.
KATY: Not the walking exercises that are elements or these snapshots of elements to a stride or a gait cycle. That you are actually logging in more steps that is passing you through moving all these parts that all these exercises have just moved while you’re not walking.
KATY: But, that walking more is not only more steps, it’s going to be using more of your body while you’re walking. Which is why the correctives and the footwear changes are so important. Because if you have already walked yourself in a way that led to the knee for joint replacement, continuing to walk in that same way is not necessarily the best strategy. Which is why I appreciate the front load of more “learn how you’re moving” to kind of play with the nuances before you hit volume. Also, sometimes a way to move more of you is to move over varied terrain and to move at different speeds. Those are more natural ways of getting slightly different shapes in your torso and in all of the muscles of your legs and your feet. Every one of those things, the terrain and the rate that you’re walking actually creates a different – I use the term shape. Another way of explaining it is, if you imagine every one of your muscles, the discreet muscles being a light bulb that’s on a dimmer, movement is really, for every movement, there are lights that are brightening and dimming. So that’s what happening when we move. And so even though you have a particular gait when you, and we would see the same lights come on and come off with every step, when you stepped onto unique terrain, even if it’s something as simple as I played with textured foot pads inside of a shoe, it’s super teeny tiny little ridges, things that you could barely even see – little lines and bumps. You will get a different light configuration in your calves just by putting some slightly different textured insert within your shoe. So it doesn’t even have to be hills or lumps and bumps or walking over roots of a tree. Your body is just constantly changing its light configurations going slowly. Going at a greater speed over the same terrain while giving you different light shade. So that’s what I mean by shape is that your movement diversity is not only sometimes walking differently on the same terrain as you always take. Sometimes it’s as simple as taking different terrain.
JILL: All right, so tip 3 is to learn how to create the diaphragm vacuum. And on the flip side of that to also learn how to create what I call the tensional diaphragm. So in trying to understand this oblique relationship to your ilia, the rib to pelvis relationship, I like to go to deep levels of mobilizing the respiratory diaphragm both in its elongation phase and also in its most hemispheric curvy phase. So the diaphragm vacuum is a stretch of the respiratory diaphragm that happens after you exhale. And you stay in an apnea – so you’re without air – and then you try to stretch your ribs apart as if you’re taking a fake ribcage breath. When you take a fake ribcage breath when you don’t have any air in your body, what happens is the diaphragm -because it attaches to the lower 6 ribs which is a lot of ribs in your body – when you move your ribs outward the diaphragm has to go along for the ride. And so it gets profoundly tractioned in its spherical-ness. And that is a wonderful thing for maintaining the motions between your diaphragm and all the tubes that penetrate it which includes your esophagus, your aorta, your vena cava, and the different nerves that tunnel through the diaphragm. But it also, when you do that diaphragm vacuum, can induce a relaxation response which is a great thing but also it can tug tug at that psoas diaphragm connection. It is a movement that really exemplifies whether you can click into a parasympathetic state as well. I have very few people that ultimately can’t do this movement. And usually, it’s people who have overtrained their transversus abdominus. Sometimes pilates professionals have a very difficult time letting go of the tension in their abdominal wall if they were to do this. Or if people who have profound high anxiety states or anxiety disregulation. So it’s a really wonderful tool to use to not only calm down your nervous system but to move the lining of birthday suit without a ball. So this is something that I use every day to offload the pelvic floor temporarily. It will actually traction up your uterus and your bladder – give your organs a little hug. And it can be really helpful for identifying tensions in your spine as well. So it’s one of my go tos of – well, how’s this moving today? And give me an indicator of where I might want to go in my disciplined movement practice or it might inform me of how my day was prior.
KATY: Well, my tip would probably be – it’s along those same lines. It’s generally the idea that your torso is holding likely way more tension than you realize and that tension, because of the psoas major, because of the diaphragm, because of every breath, because of every step, is then creating loads on your hips and your knees and ultimately your ankles and your lumbar spine that are highly repetitive. And so we’re trying to diversify your ability when you do move that you’re able to move more of you. And Jill I think ultimately it’s yours as well. That you’re moving more parts. That you’re getting more parts of you that are sticky or not participating, you’re getting them moving.
KATY: So my tip is, it’s somewhat similar. And we call it the diaphragm or the abdominal release. You get onto your hands and knees. You let your head hang. And you do the unthinkable. You let your belly all the way out and down. So this is a very non-technical, very accessible, very quick way to not only create loads. I think that you’re also, when you do this, you quickly tune in to how much you actually hold in your stomach. Sometimes it’s because you’ve been trained to keep your belly button towards the spine or you do exercises regularly that’s about kind of drawing everything in and upward. Which then, when your diaphragm goes to move down is now met with all the stuff that was kind of on the outside of your body has had to move inward and then displaces everything that’s in your abdominal contents upward or sometimes downward. Which then pushes, that’s where diastasis recti – I’m talking about creating hiatal or inguinal hernias. We’re moving internal stuff around by where we’re pushing and pulling our body. And in this case the abdominal release is for you to turn all of that off. And when you turn all of it off, maybe you’ve been doing a ton of hip extension exercises and you’re trying to figure out how to get your hip to extend more without realizing that how you hold your torso is part of that scenario. So you’re constantly holding your tension in and also trying to stretch your leg in the opposite direction. So it’s like you’re fighting yourself all the time. So it’s just – it’s one of our releases. So you’ll notice there’s kneecap release and now there’s abdominal release. And then the goal isn’t to keep your abdomen soft and relaxed all of the time. Because once you start doing more complex movements, there is, again, there’s going to be a whole volume of shapes that your abdomen is going to create based on what you’re doing. So again, if you’re carrying something heavy on your right side, that’s going to be one abdominal shape. If you carry it on your left side, new abdominal shape. We don’t want one stiff shape to follow us around all the time. Rather, you want this kind of different lights coming in and coming off in your trunk musculature all the time. But if you pre-tense with everything that you do, you don’t really get that variety of shapes. So this is a way of learning how to turn off any purposefully or consciously or subconsciously held tension so that your abdomen can go about doing its job which is to respond reflexively to the environment that you put it in. Then of course, for your hips again, see all the other things above which is not just to get this nice soft supple core and then sit down in a chair with it all the time. Those two things don’t work together. It’s to get this super supple core and then move robustly with it so it can do its thing, which is to move all of your parts around; hips and knees and low back and neck and feet all included. Ok, so Jill and I are going to be taking … this is the first time I’ve said this on this podcast.
JILL: Oh yeah. Totally.
KATY: So we are going to be co-teaching a dynamic aging, moving well with or without joint replacements workshop at 1440 Multiversity. February 1 through 3. Which it’s in the Bay area California.
KATY: I’m excited because usually when you teach something you’re just like teach teach. But since we’re co-teaching I can teach and then I can sit down and then move my own body not having to teach. Which I’m thrilled about.
JILL: I am so looking forward to it. We’ve got a really great outline that we’re working out for all the people that are there. And the privilege of actually getting to move my body under your instruction after – before or after I share. It’s going to be really cool.
KATY: I’m looking forward to it. I feel this is a hybrid of work/self-care for me. Which, again, is awesome for everyone. Even the teachers need an abundant amount of self-care and to learn. And to learn.
JILL: Sure. Yeah.
KATY: And then you also have an event coming up this month (this will come out in October) so tell us about your hips immersion.
JILL: I’m teaching a 3-day hips immersion. It’s a Yoga TuneUp hips immersion. My company is Tune Up Fitness. You can find it online on TuneUpFitness.com. And it’s at the YogaWorks in Tarzana which is Los Angeles California. And it’s three days where we work from pelvis to feet. Although, of course, in my book, you can’t separate the pelvis from the abdomen so of course, we’ll be using diaphragm technology some of which I’ve talked about on my tips today in order to open up this point of view of paradigm shifting self-care fitness for anybody in attendance. And it’s for anybody. We will have a lot of teachers and movement educators and clinicians in there but it’s also for people who just want to gain more knowledge.
KATY: Well you can find out more about Jill Miller at, as she just said, at TuneUpFitness.com. You can find all of her therapy balls that she mentioned, including the Coregeous ball which I love, video products and books, upcoming workshops, all available there on that site. And you can find both of these tips, hers and mine, organized on the podcast transcripts page. Jill thank you so much for coming on today.
JILL: It’s an absolute pleasure, Katy. Thank you.
Today, we’re focusing on Venn Design. I love Venn Design. Venn Design are these really beautiful – they’re stability balls. But it’s not really that they’re stability balls, it’s really what’s wrapped around them. It’s dynamic furniture. It’s the thought that’s gone into taking something that so many of us have, cushions and balls around our home, and changing their aesthetic by making them look more like furniture so that we end up moving more just in the context of our own homes. So today I would like to welcome Tyler Benner to Move Your DNA. Tyler, welcome.
TYLER: Hi Katy! Thanks for having me on.
KATY: Ok, so I have many of your pieces of – I mean I don’t even know if I’d call it furniture. -Spherical upholstered seats and cushions. I have them in my home. I love them. I love anything that allows me to add more movement to my space. And the more beautiful it is, I think, the better it is. Not necessarily for me but for people who want their spaces to be both attractive and movement friendly. So at which point did making these items become a priority for you?
TYLER: Yeah. You know I originally had the idea back in 2012 and that just means that I drew some sketches on paper and was trying to think about covering a round object with fabric which I learned later on after many trial and errors that covering a curved surface everywhere was a challenging prospect to do. And then I just kind of dabbled with it and I wasn’t skilled with a sewing machine and I didn’t really know how to bring my ideas to life. So I started talking with furniture upholsterers and there are several years where it bounced around in my brain and my heart a little bit more than it was actually a tangible thing. And then 2015 was when the first Venn chairs were created and it went beyond just trying to cover a round object with fabric to where we really tried to turn it into a furniture item. And by furniture item I mean to make it belong next to your sofa, to have some padding to it so that the temperature of it is comfortable to sit on and have around you. It went through a whole design and kind of transformation in 2015.
KATY: I read on your website: “Originally inspired by stability balls, designer Tyler Benner set out to create a spherical upholstered seat. As his posture improved and his body began to change, his mind opened up a whole new movement-centered design aesthetic.” And so I love that you link the change in your body with the change in your mind. What did you make of that relationship.
TYLER: Well, for me it also coincides with how I’ve changed my running. And at a similar time to when I was creating Venn chairs, I was also trying to improve the shape and structure of my body. And that started some with correct toes which are some prosthesis that you put between your toes to help your toes spread out when you’re running and moving. And then eventually through a man named Mark Cucuzaella and Lee Saxby, I learned to run in sandals, almost barefoot of sorts and they really started to open my brain up to different ways the human body can move. And I started to bridge all these ideas together in Venn chairs as well. And so I was improving my posture. I was improving how force moves through my body. And that was anything from standing, walking, sitting, and running. I started to see how they all met at some intersection point. And that to me was about dynamic stability.
KATY: Now you’re an archer. I know that you’re an archer. A good one who has written books about archery. And so I know my own way of seeing the world which is through force production, shapes, geometry, efficiency, movement. Like I would say that all of those things are always kind of – they’re over my eyes as I’ve looked through the world. They’re what jumps out to me in the same way maybe someone who is a particular type of artist or a photographer might see the way colors and light are in a particular set up. I’m interested in – it seems like you and I have similar ways. You like to create things. I know you’ve created shoes and systems. So you’re more a builder of tools and I would say I don’t have that tendency. But why do you think that you too are interested in force and alignment in physical performance? Is there something at the base of all those things?
TYLER: That’s a great question. One of the ways I would try to answer that question isn’t deep and expansive, I would say. But a simple way I would try to answer it is, when you watch someone really skillful do what is very challenging motion, they somehow manage to do it with economy of motion and an efficiency that is perplexing to see how simple it can look. And then when you go to try to do that yourself, you feel very disconnected. And so archery is a good example of connecting to yourself and to this kind of known position of center inside of you. And when you release the bowstring, there’s two forces through your legs that are connecting you to the ground and then the two forces through your arms – they all meet in the middle of you, in the center. And your job as an archer is to control this power and position of center so you have a stable base and platform. You can only do this at a skillful level when you practice this a lot. And growth from that first looking like a beginner when you feel disjointed and wobbly to eventually gaining confidence and strength and clarity in your mind, the people who are very skillful at sport, they have a better idea in their head of what to do. Their brain can only think to do a certain motion because that’s part of their routine. That’s part of their performance routine. And for archers, you might it call your shot routine. But if you’re on the starting blocks of running a 100-meter race or you’re about to serve in tennis, you all have a particular kind of game plan that you need to run through your brain. So if you’re not thinking the right things, you’re not going to be able to create that virtuoso performance.
KATY: Well you essentially started a dynamic furniture company. One of the first – kind of trendsetting. And you made it look fairly easy.
TYLER: (laughs) That’s kind of you.
KATY: Well that’s how it looks to me. I think that anyone who does anything well, it always just looks so easy and I don’t think that anyone observing necessarily knows all the things that go on behind it, right? Everyone’s an overnight success. Everyone does things with ease. But like you said, there is many trial and error, many hours of practice usually logged on the back end which are not cluttering the performance space. That is at least your website for your furniture. I feel like Venn Design was originally for yourself but I feel like you, too, because you are creating products and information it means that you are moved somehow to inform or move others. So who is Venn Design for? And why is that work important to you.
TYLER: Yeah, it’s a great question. You’re right that I set out to be my own first customer, I guess. I’m trying to make things that I want around me and that I use at home and they make me stronger and better. And as I’ve used that methodology in my life, I’ve found success. And then again I’ll talk about archery a bit here because I competed for many years. It wasn’t until I created this book and started sharing it with everyone that I also started to get this really positive feedback loop of trying to tell people about my experiences and then hear what they had to say about it or what they learned from it. And so, yeah, I just think there’s this symbiotic growth between doing something and then sharing it with others and trying to teach it to them, and then learning from their experience too. It’s only gonna increase your total depth. It’s only gonna increase your total ability to try to tackle a problem or solution. And I get so much inspiration from people writing back to me and sending in pictures or videos of the fun ways that they use Venn Chair or how it’s helped them with back problems, maybe, at work or that they have more creativity or more energy throughout the day. That gives me inspiration and creativity too. So I’m just trying to create as much as I can every day. I’m pushed to try and go share more because I just draw more inspiration from that.
KATY: What’s the most creative thing anyone’s ever done with their chair.
TYLER: Um, I have some hilarious comments. I can probably talk about animals and animals have fun with Venn Chair’s too and maybe they’re jumping on them or maybe they push them around with their heads or I love that Venn encourages play. So I get pictures of people doing backbends or bouncing. My little niece and nephews, they love watching a movie on one or just bounce around having fun. I think that’s the best.
KATY: The thing I appreciate most about what you create is, I feel like I have a particular understanding of what we call minimal to kind of be more maximal. I have one of your spherical chairs but if it was just this big office chair it would just be where I would sit down and work and that’s really all it would be. But I have this chair and like you said, I can also throw down a backbend, I can pick my feet up. I can kneel on it and really do balance stuff. But my kids will grab it and it becomes moved out into the living room or these other spaces and it becomes, I mean I could probably send you videos of maybe not how they’re supposed to be … I mean, maybe there is no way how they’re supposed to be…
TYLER: There is no way how they’re not supposed to be used.
KATY: Right, that’s great. Yeah. So they are definitely inspiring play in me during work time. But it also is one piece of furniture that takes up less space that allows more people to access and move themselves more and also to move more of their parts. So, again, is that minimalism or is that maximalism? You decide.
TYLER: That’s a great question. Yeah. I want to add to that of, I was inspired by stability balls at first. Except that what would happen is that either myself or friends who were using stability balls as a chair when you’d have guests over you’d hide it in the closet.
KATY: It has to be pretty.
TYLER: Exactly. Right? They just don’t belong in your environment or something unless you’re trying to exercise. And that was one of the things that I wanted to fix or solve. So I wanted to create a beautiful piece of functional furniture. I don’t think when I was first creating them that I truly saw how much fun people were gonna have with them or that they would be as versatile as they are. Frankly, I’m still in the process of creating the total vision for a space of, what if your home is filled with furniture that is fun? That you enjoy. That makes you want to play. Is good for your body. I think we’re just at the beginning of creating furniture and objects around us that actually make us better not just take up space.
KATY: Yeah. I agree. And I think that that is … I wrote an article not too long ago called: Do We Need Exercise Equipment To Move. And it was really just the idea that exercise equipment signals your brain to move but classic things in your house whether it be a seat or even a belt for your outfit, these things signal rest time or sitting time or getting dressed time. Even though you could use that belt as a yoga strap. So I think that what’s important now is that we start to critically look at our environment. And that includes everything that you put yourself in, right? That’s your clothing. The walls of your home. And start doing something very similar to what you did which is by making a small subtle change, a ball, instead of a chair, but you haven’t just added another – kind of an ugly exercise plastic ball that stands out as it doesn’t fit in your mind for the context of a living room – simply by making it beautiful and aesthetically pleasing and looking like it fits in an office and looking like it fits in a home, you end up circumventing the part of your brain that tells you it doesn’t belong there. Or, in this case, that movement doesn’t belong in your home. So I think that you’ve done this literally and figuratively in a beautiful way. And so I’m looking forward to what you’re creating next. So that’s my last question: What are you creating next?
TYLER: Yeah. First of all, I want to say thank you for what you just said there because it was really beautiful as I heard you say it and it was like: Yeah, that is my vision in what I’m trying to create. Exactly what you described there. What I’m creating next – it’s at an intersection of a lot of these ideas and I’m making some floor pads so that it makes it a little bit easier to kneel in addition to our sitting cushions or depending upon the surface that you have at home, if you have hardwood floors, it’s pretty hard to kneel on a hardwood floor especially if you’re a little bit new to this. And then in addition to that, I’ve really been inspired by textured flooring. And this isn’t a product that really exists out there yet that I see, but I think there’s a way for our flooring to have a lot more texture to it and this makes our bodies stronger over time but the various textured options for this today, again, are kind of industrial or hideous looking. And by the same token, making something more beautiful, you’ll be less afraid to show it to other people or just have it in your daily life. So that way 5 minutes of standing on some better flooring and your body is more awake and alive. I just believe that the objects around us all the time can actually be designed to make us feel better, be stronger, and be happier.
KATY: I agree 100% and I’m glad you are out there doing what you do. And I will continue to support you because you are filling a desperate need that we have. So Tyler Benner is the founder of Venn Design and you can find out more about him and the products that he designs at VennDesign.co. That’s Venn V E N N Design dot co. Tyler, thank you so much for coming on today.
TYLER: Thanks for having me, Katy.
KATY: That’s it for Move Your DNA this time. If you love the ideas that you hear on this podcast and you’re an Instagram user, come find me over there. I’m @nutritiousmovement. I post regularly, I give a glimpse into a movement rich life and I try to, it’s not really eye candy, I would say my Instagram account, I really try to make each post instructional. Every once in a while I go crazy and go crazy and post a whatever. But in general, I’m really trying to maximize both of our time, as a poster and a user. I am a proponent of practicing what I publish, so if you want to see photographic examples of my ideas in action and you are not an Instagram user, that’s okay too. You can drop by just by going to instagram.com/nutritiousmovement and you just browse. No need to join another social media platform. On behalf of everyone at Move Your DNA and Nutritious Movement, thank you for listening! And until next time: Shake a leg!
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.