DANI: Hi there! Thank you for joining us. My name is Dani Hemmat, and I get to talk with Katy Bowman each and every show as she answers questions about alignment, health, biomechanics, and all the bits and pieces in between. Katy, what have you been up to today?
KATY: I just got back in from playing outside for a little bit, and getting ready to do some work.
DANI: Well, as you know, we start every show off with a question, so we can figure out different ways people live. I kind of have an “out there” question for you today.
DANI: If you could eat any food for the rest of your life, without any nutritional consequences, what would you choose?
KATY: Well, as a category? Greek food. I mean, I could live on Greek food for the rest of my life. I guess the nice thing about Greek food is that I don’t know if there’s any nutritional consequences. I mean, I guess nutritional consequences come with high volumes of a single thing.
DANI: Right, so pretend there’s none. There’s none. There are no normal rules for nutritional consequences.
KATY: Right. I don’t think I’d want to eat just a lot of one food. I’m not really – there’s no one food that I don’t eat that I wish I could. I don’t know. What is it for you?
DANI: I’m the same as you – I couldn’t think of a thing, I could only think of a category of food that pleases me greatly. If everything exploded and there was just that one country providing my food –?
KATY: What would it be?
DANI: India. Indian food. I love Indian food. There’s no way I can get sick of it.
KATY: Yeah, Indian food is great.
DANI: Well, so is Greek food. In both, there are just a lot of veggies, and so much variety.
KATY: I just like Mediterranean flavors but I also make a mean bindi masala, which is okra in a masala sauce. I will make that for you, but my husband is an Ayurvedic practitioner so we eat a lot of kitchari, a lot of Indian food.
DANI: Excellent. Does he cook, too?
KATY: No, not so much. He does, I would say now. I love to cook and so I just – I like to do it. It’s my relaxing thing, so I’m more like, “no, I want to cook!” I like to create. I’m not very artistic, but I like to make food. The one thing I would say within the Greek category, which may be more what you were after: if I could eat unlimited amounts of X, it wouldn’t be the food that I’d want to eat all the time but I love halvah. So as for sweets, I like Mediterranean sweets so halvah, which is a candy made out of sesame seeds.
DANI: Oh, yeah. My husband is Persian, so, yeah.
KATY: Oh! I didn’t know that.
DANI: Yeah, and Persian sweets are awesome.
KATY: They are.
DANI: In fact, they mix floral scents in with them. They’re just – yes.
KATY: My sister in law is also Persian, and so if your husband knows – I’ve been trying to get this recipe. It’s garbanzo bean flour – a garbanzo bean cookie. She made them for me one time and I’ve been trying to get the recipe but it was just, like, almonds and garbanzo bean flour, and now we’re talking about sweets. There’s also a Persian ice cream store in L.A. with cardamom rosewater and orange blossom ice creams – oh, my gosh.
DANI: I used to make Persian ice cream.
KATY: That category of Middle Eastern and Mediterranean sweets would be – I wish that I could just get a pass on those.
DANI: I’m thinking we should just truncate this podcast because now I’m kind of getting hungry. We’ll sally forth, okay? But no more sweets talk.
KATY: I want to talk about one more sweet that I just made yesterday. Chocolate hummus.
DANI: All right, you’re going to have to sell me on this one.
KATY: You take a blender, and you put in garbanzo beans and cocoa powder and dates. I boiled dates so they get soft and I just throw some of those in, and it’s amazing. Dipped with strawberries – it’s become my – I’m at a point where I’m breastfeeding two kids.
DANI: Oh, you need stuff.
KATY: I need a lot of high calorie, but I don’t like junk. I don’t like crappy food. All the foods we make ourselves, and that has become my junk food staple. My kids love it. I take it to barbecues and it’s like, it’s chocolate hummus! It’s amazing! It’s really, really good.
DANI: That sounds good. All right. Well, you’ve opened my mind. Let’s talk about other stuff: body stuff. Let’s talk about, since we’re talking about natural things, natural movement. There’s always so many short, digestible and not always accurate things that we are fed through magazines and TV and all that stuff. I think since we’re just – we’re going to stick with the definition here. We should talk about how you use natural movement and how you define it as it relates to your work.
KATY: Okay, well, natural movement – and I’m making the T hard on purpose because it’s without the letter, ‘s’. I delineate between natural movement and natural movements with an ‘s.’ So natural movements would be anything that the human body does that it would also be doing were it in nature. So squatting to go to the bathroom – a bathrooming squat would then fall under a single within the category of natural movements. Climbing, clambering, climbing over things, walking: those would all be examples of natural movements, where bicycling would not. Right? So there’s no way to put bicycling into the natural movements category because you need a bike, and bikes don’t grow on trees.
DANI: So something we would do as an existing human without anything around us?
KATY: Yes, but even more than that would be the movements that you would do for the purpose of getting life done. So someone could say, “handstands are a natural movement,” because they don’t – if we categorize natural movements by not needing equipment – you could say that a handstand would be different than riding a bicycle. A handstand is something that a human can do with no equipment. However, doing handstands is not something that humans do when trying to live in nature. It’s not just anything that the human body can do without equipment – it’s those things that a human would do because the difference between an exercise and a natural movement is that it’s something you’re doing for the purpose of doing something else, of getting something else. So walking three miles to gather water or firewood or walking 3 miles to gather food is different from going for a 3 mile walk. When you go for a 3-mile walk as an exerciser, your goal is to reap the benefit of the walking.
KATY: In natural movement, the three miles that you walked in order to get these other things done was done for the purpose of getting things done. It wasn’t for the purpose of reaping the physical benefit. The physical benefit was a byproduct of you just doing what you needed to do to live.
DANI: So you got movement because you had to pick fruit 5 miles away for dinner.
KATY: Yes. Movement was secondary.
KATY: So there’s a motivation factor in what’s driving you to do it. I like to use orcas in captivity to illustrate my point, and I do this more in Move Your DNA, which is the big book that really explains all of this stuff. Orcas in the wild swim long distances at varying speeds. They’re foraging, right? Orcas have to get food in the wild, and foraging behavior is part of anything that has to get food in the wild. Gathering food requires that you use your body in all these unique and novel ways. When you put an orca in a tank, like at Sea World or at any other zoo or aquarium type environment, the way that the orca swims is entirely different because of the limitations of the environment in which it is swimming. There’s a difference between swimming in the ocean at different distances and different speeds –
DANI: - and resistance, too –
KATY: Well, all the physical – that goes back to alignment. Alignment is all of the forces that are created, if you listen to the first show, with all of the forces that are created with the way that your movement is happening. So the forces are different, and what happens when you have a really limited way of assessing movement: they’re both swimming, right? Doesn’t swimming use their fins, and their flipper? And you can say that – you can put what they do in both categories (the ocean or tank) into swimming, but you can see how those ways of swimming aren’t equal, right?
KATY: So what happens when an orca goes into captivity, they’re in a tank and they only swim in a circle. It’s the only way that they swim and I believe that it’s a counter-clockwise circle. The forces – if you walked in a circle, in fact, if everyone just gets up and goes and walks in a circle 10 times, you’re going to feel a different set of forces than if you just walked in a straight line covering the same distance as the circling, right? There is a different set of forces that lead to fins of what they believe are due to different heights flopping over. They’re not even able to create the set of forces that keep their fin in an upright position. Without the forces that come from swimming through a natural environment – moving naturally, if you will – you get these collapses. Tissue collapses. It’s not that their fins are weak, per se, because a fin is just fibrocartilage. There’s no muscle.
DANI: When you say collapse, like an actual, I could see it?
KATY: Yeah. If you go Google Free Willy or orcas in captivity – the males they are with the tall fins. They have much taller fins. They collapse over.
KATY: So what we have is we have this kind of basic understanding about what happens when a whale is not allowed to swim the way it needs to swim. Then there are all the other problems of captivity, where the whales don’t hold their pregnancies well, they lose lots of babies, they die early – there’s all these other biological things, kind of the same thing with horses. Horses that you keep are more colicky because animals – including us – aren’t meant to have these small, narrow movement parameters. There’s a baseline of movement nutrition that we’re not getting and our structures are failing without it. But we don’t see that because everyone – every human we know – moves in exactly the same way, which is hardly at all and in these repetitive, small box type things.
DANI: You know, now, speaking of movement nutrition, would be a good time to take a stretch break.
KATY: Oh, a stretch break. Okay.
DANI: What should we do today?
KATY: Today we are going to put your hands on your sternum, so that would be the part of your chest that’s above your breastplate, kind of where your necklace would hang, or your chain if you had one on. Just below that, there’s a flat area. If you put your hand on that, drop that down so that your hand is vertical to the ground; it’s just straight up and down so you’re not lifting your chest. Drop your chest so that it’s in neutral. From there, slide your head back to the wall that’s behind you. That’s one motion: we call that the ramping of the head. You want to make sure that you don’t ramp the head and lift the chest. That’s why you have your hand on the chest. Hand on the sternum, holding that down, and slide your head back like you’re trying to make a double chin. From there, maybe drop your right ear toward your right shoulder.
DANI: That feels so good.
KATY: Oh, my gosh.
DANI: Happy, happy.
KATY: I got a cranky side. All right, then other ear – to the other shoulder. You can do this a few times a day, or a thousand. What I like to do is, after you’ve done this stretch you’ve taken the time to line up certain parts before you stretch. Now release all that and go back to the way you hold your head when you’re on the computer and you find that you usually just lift and drop your chin forward. If you can cultivate that holding your sternum down and pulling your head back as you’re working, doing that a few times, wiggling your neck to the right and to the left, that can be pretty helpful through the day.
DANI: Very good, good for computer work. Thank you. All right.
KATY: You’re welcome.
DANI: Let’s go back to talking about the biological problems associated with those narrow movement parameters that were not humans and orcas and that all sorts of things in captivity have to deal with.
KATY: So natural movement, without an S, would be the sum total of everything that we would do to exist, or everything that the whale does to exist. When you start stripping those away, our bodies have come over many, many hundreds of thousands of years, really, to depend on that movement input. Our systems – when you evolve the things that you keep or don’t keep – if the righting, meaning the uprightedness of an orca’s fin is so important – why isn’t there a muscle that keeps it erect? Why would it be maintained passively by the way that you swim? And it’s like, well, that’s the whole purpose of evolution, really. I mean, not purpose, but that’s how it goes, where when a structure is maintained; when the environment or forces created through environment maintain something for you, that’s energy that your body doesn’t have to expend. It would be a waste for a whale to have a muscle that holds up his fin when the way that it swims creates a series of forces that maintains it for the whale. It’s a way of getting a benefit without having to spend any money. It’s a great benefit-cost relationship, but now when you take it away from the forces that are created from the way that it moves, there is no structure. There is no muscle that does that work, so the whale is just left with altered biology just because of its habitat, because of the way its limited to move. It’s the same for us: we have all these structures that are failing because the forces created through movement or your alignment aren’t there. The only way they’re created is by returning back to moving through nature - Not just doing exercises to isolate. So that’s the difference between natural movement and natural movements. I think that there’s an understanding that humans need to use a whole bunch of different ranges of movement and strength patterns and that we haven’t been doing it, but because of our relationship with this term, ‘exercise,’ we keep trying to pluck out four or five things. Like squats – squats are a natural movement for a human. Getting down, getting back up again. But 200 in a row of barbell-weighted squats – that’s not a natural movement.
KATY: And also, the notion that context and relationships of – when you’re moving through nature there is a natural progression of things. You’re constantly – you’re not doing 200 squats in a row. There’s a frequency over which those motions are happening over a day. Your body adapts not to just the three variables; we think, “oh, is it intensity? Is it frequency?” What’s more important is that the things are all essential. You can’t – I mean, haven’t we learned by now that you can’t pluck out what’s essential about a biological system and then do that a lot? To get a really good biological system, you gotta start realizing that that’s what we’re doing with exercise. We’re trying to control nature without participating in it.
DANI: Right. Like when you see those workouts advertised as, “you can get this workout done in 20 minutes – everything you need!”
KATY: Awesome! Then you can be sedentary the other 23 hours and 40 minutes of the day and be healthy. Come on! Who thinks that? I don’t think that a lot of reasonable people, when you break it down, are like, “oh! Yeah, I guess that’s right – I am sedentary.” So natural movement vs. natural movements would be the frequency and the distribution and the load profiles which are all those movement nutrients that come from doing things in a particular way are distributed throughout a day, throughout a week, throughout a lifetime in the way that they would have occurred in nature. I don’t think there’s a way, really, to get back to that – however, I think that there’s a way to get a lot closer than we have been.
DANI: This is a good time for our eye break. Will you remind us what an eye break is?
KATY: An eye break is a chance for you to use the muscles in your eye that are held in a cast by the distance, the farthest thing from you. If you look around your house or you look around outside you’re probably looking at a fixed distance between 5 and 25 feet in front of you. That is like having a cast on your arm in the same way that your muscles atrophy in your arm, they atrophy in your eyes by always looking at things that are close and inside. An eye break is a chance to look – go to a window, go outside, and look at the farthest thing away from you and just let everything in your face and your eyes relax because in order to focus on that far away thing, the muscles in your eyes have to release. It’s like putting your arm down after flexing, like doing a bicep curl, it’s doing the opposite: letting it down. You’re letting your eyeballs down. Rapunzel, Rapunzel, let down your eyes!
DANI: Excellent. So everybody can just stop and go take your eye break. We will be here waiting for you.
KATY: I’m going to go look outside real fast.
KATY: Okay! Wow! That tree – and look for things! Look for a bird way up in the tree. It’s a natural – this is a good example. A natural movement would be doing it just because it’s an exercise to release your eye. More of the way that it would occur naturally would be that you’re looking for things that are far away, right? You’re trying to become aware of your environment for safety’s sake, which would be looking for food that’s far away. Maybe you’re going to snare something that’s on top of that tree and you need to be able to see it and identify it. Context always helps. I don’t want you to be relaxing your eyes because Katy Says so. Katy says so is the worst reason to do anything – just ask my husband, or my little sister. You’re doing it because you understand that your biological systems require and you’re just trying to change your relationship with these terms, ‘exercise’ and ‘movement’ and ‘natural movement,’ and you’re trying to change your relationship, ultimately, with your environment. You’re trying to change your habitat, if you will.
DANI: And change is good. It’s always good to think about the hows and whys of what we’re doing. Well, our time is almost up – do you have any final thoughts on natural movement? Did I make my T hard enough? Natural movement. Tuh.
KATY: I would say that – natural movement – this is the first time I’ve ever said this. I’ve never written this anywhere: this is it. This is the first time I’ve ever put this down on media. Natural movement solves a myriad of problems. Right now, I would say that the person listening to this podcast is trying to solve so many issues in their life – more time with their family, less time at work, more time to spend on their health and feeling good and eating well and more time on their spirituality, maybe, whatever that means to them. Less time trashing the environment, less time consuming things that break down the planet, spending less money. All of those problems stem from the way we structure arguments in our mind. You think – not you – it’s common to think that exercise. I mean, everyone thinks, “oh, I need to exercise more,” or “I need to eat better, but I need to spend time with my kids, so if I only have an hour and a half after work, I gotta drop my kids off, I have to find someone to watch them, which costs money, and I need to go exercise because it has to be this high intensity thing because I’m not moving the rest of the day, so I have to make up for it with this high intensity time.” All of these things that you’re trying to solve – all these paradigms which you subscribe to – you can’t even support the very paradigm that you support. You can’t even support with behavior the paradigms you support with your mind, because we don’t understand that simply just going outside and walking with our family at a slower pace, for a longer period of time, over logs, through water, gets us everything. It doesn’t cost any money, you had time with your family, you got your health, you got to commune with nature, you got to transfer some electrons between the earth’s ground, you didn’t have to buy any packaging which means you didn’t have to go to a place that’s got electricity running, you’re not using electricity to get some exercise. You’re not getting onto a machine that costs the planet just so you can get your movement, because moving over the planet yourself powered by you is too foreign of a concept. Do you see what I mean? The solution to everything is just getting back to our fundamental basics, and then you can add this component of, “there’s all this food to be eating!” Once you start walking through nature, there’s all this food that can be gathered, which is a whole other show – on food foraging – it’s like, it solves so many problems and it solves the most problems for the least amount of time, which is the ultimate solution –
DANI: - and the least amount of money. I love it!
KATY: It’s the most for the least. I mean, the end!
DANI: It’s so simple
KATY: Boom! Drops mic and walks off stage.
DANI: You can’t drop mic yet!
DANI: That was a good, sound thought to leave us with, though. So, you’re doing to drop mic, walk outside, and what are you going to do today?
KATY: I am going to take my kids down for a river hike, and we’ll probably just be there. It’s a sunny day. We’ll hang out.
DANI: That sounds good. Do they like rocks?
KATY: They do like rocks. One likes throwing rocks, and the other likes standing on them, wobbly. She loves wobbly. “Wobbly!” And she loves to balance. They make long chains to walk on. They’re outdoor kids.
DANI: That sounds like a nice afternoon.
KATY: It is.
DANI: That sounds good.
KATY: It will be.
DANI: I’m sure it will be. Thank you so much for your time today. That was a lot of fun, and I look forward to our next conversation!
KATY: Thanks, Dani. I appreciate you.
DANI: All right. Thanks. Have a good day!
KATY: All right, bye.