Katy Bowman answers every question she’s ever received on how to breathe. Plus, she issues an invitation to a PODCAST PARTY - one that’s focused on health and movement, and that celebrates THREE MILLION DOWNLOADS! Plus, Pack Matthews of Soul Seat drops by to talk about how he came to develop his transitional seating product, and what difference it’s making to kids in schools who are trying it out. And, an important update on how Move Your DNA will move into 2019 and beyond.
00:01:53 - What's coming up for the podcast in 2019 – Jump to section
00:4:27 - Question from the reader mailbag – Jump to section
00:16:32 - Breathing and Cardio – Jump to section
00:21:51 - Is there a "natural breath" model? – Jump to section
00:26:35 - Breathing and Natural Movement - Jump to section
00:30:23 - Meet Pack Matthews: inventor of the Soul Seat - Jump to section
00:50:15 - Where's Katy? - Jump to section
LINKS AND RESOURCES MENTIONED IN THE SHOW:
Robin Blanc Mascari's questions
The Dynamic Collective
Sign up for Katy’s newsletter at NutritiousMovement.com
Access all previous Move Your DNA podcasts via your podcast provider of choice(Apple, Stitcher, Spotify, or anywhere you get podcasts).
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 a cellular level, how to move more and how to move more of your parts and how movement works in the world, also known as Movement Ecology. All bodies are welcome here. Are you ready to get moving?
KATY: Friends, today we’re going to talk about breath: taking a breath, and taking a breather.
So I'm gonna start with that last one first. We are about to hit 3,000,000 downloads which I find to be, just, overwhelming, to say the least. I have done this show in many different formats, mostly because I like moving so much, I guess. Meaning, when something in my life isn’t working well as I think it could, I shift it a bit. And so I’ve shifted this podcast numerous times as you long-term listeners know, and that shift is what has allowed me to keep making it.
So, I’m about to shift it again. Since going to an interview format where I’m interviewing other people it’s been a bit more strain than when I was just showing up, and Dani would give me questions to answer. Also, that having to produce a set amount of podcasts by a set date has made this less of a creative/instructive process for me. It’s made me think of the show as entertainment, or edutainment, rather than an extension of the ideas that I’m working on while I’m working on them. Which is really my preferred place to be creating from.
But, you don’t want to miss our NEXT episode coming out in two weeks. This is the end of the year health recap. It’s a tradition. But this one is going to be so much better than it has ever been. Because, if you like, you can be ON it.
Why have you on, you ask? Because when you celebrate three million downloads, you throw a podcast party. But what would a podcast party sound like, we were wondering? And how would we get you all in one room at the same time? And then we realized - We would invite you to join in answering our year-end health and movement recap questions! We love these questions. You've heard them on multiple episodes. So I'm gonna link to last year’s roundup in our show notes so that you can see the questions there. I got these years ago from Robin Blanc Mascari. Had done an interview with her and she had sent them to me as just something standard practice for her, and it was such a great way to revisit my year. To sit and reflect. And that's one of the great things about working kind of in media when you're dealing with a large group of people. It makes you schedule things that you wouldn't normally do otherwise. So I'm just like you where I have a whole list of things that I want to do, but I make it through about one to ten percent of those things. And so this end of the year recap, because I have this show, it's held me accountable for doing that over and over again. So, I invite you to look over those questions on our podcast show notes and pick one or two that resonate with you. Like when you see the question and it just clangs with your head or your heart. Record yourself asking and answering the question using the voice memo feature on your smartphone if you have one of those. And then email the file to us at firstname.lastname@example.org
Get that into us by Friday, December 7, and we will include as many as we can in our final episode of 2018. Everyone is invited to the podcast party, yo!
As with most things in life, it takes a village to make this podcast. We are glad to have Unshoes, Venn Design, Soft Star, Earth Runners and MyMayu in our village. They are our Dynamic Collective, and have been supporting this podcast in 2018. This fall, we’ve been meeting the minds behind the mission that each of these companies represents. And this episode, we’re welcoming a new sponsor to the party. Pack Matthews from My Soul Seat will be here to talk about how he went from elementary school teacher to inventor of what he calls “the latest innovation in the world of active sitting.”
I'm a yoga teacher and I have been slowly learning natural breath mechanics and am especially interested in proper functioning as it relates to the pelvic floor. My current understanding is that on an inhalation the diaphragm and pelvic floor descend, and on exhalation, the pelvic floor gently contracts as the diaphragm returns back to its resting position. (So I'm gonna break in here: So that would be maybe an upward motion on both those anatomical parts.) Recently another yoga teacher informed me that she learned from a biomechanist who works with yoga teachers taught that the pelvic floor actually contracts with the inhale and relaxes on the exhale. Now I'm totally confused. Any chance that you could create some clarification for me? Thank you so much in advance.
So, I hope I can create some clarification for you. I'm going to give just a brief lesson on breath mechanics. Ok, so let's just quickly break down breathing. So by breathing I mean the oxygen that you're pulling from outside of your body in through your nose and mouth that's making its way to your lungs. But before we even get to that point, I'll just remind you that the reason you're breathing is to deliver oxygen on the cellular level. So that's the end goal if there are end goals. That's the end goal of the process of what you pull in your mouth - it's not just what's coming in and out of your mouth. It's the fact that it's being delivered down to the cells and is being distributed by the cardiovascular system. Right? That's what the cardiovascular system is doing. That's why there's this relationship between how your heart and lungs are working together. But, so let's step back to breathing. Taking a breath. So you've got your lungs inside of your thoracic cavity. So if you think of your torso as your thoracic cavity on top of your abdominal cavity on top of your pelvic cavity. Cavity meaning container or a hole. So you've got walls to your thoracic cavity. Right? You've got the top and you've got the sides and you've got the bottom. The bottom of your thoracic cavity is your diaphragm, the walls are, if you just move your hands up above your waist, you can kind of palpate around your ribcage. So you've got your ribs and you've got all of the musculature and connective tissue and skin. Right? So you have that whole space. And so in order to get oxygen to come from outside of your body in through your mouth and nose, your thoracic cavity has to increase in size. It has to get bigger. And when it gets bigger it reduces the pressure, right? It pulls oxygen in your body. And when you do that, the lungs change shape. So the lungs are inside of the thoracic cavity. And as you pull oxygen in, it's kind of going into the bag - if you imagine a balloon, your lungs are balloons. As oxygen comes in, the lungs themselves change shape. So you've got a lot of things changing shape. So it's kind of a challenging leap but, as a biomechanist, I really think in terms more of shape and geometry than physiology. So an exercise physiologist and a biomechanist can be talking about the same thing but maybe the way they perceive what's happening is a little bit different. So when I think of breathing, I'm thinking of the fact that your thoracic cavity is changing shape and that the lungs inside of it are changing shape. And there are different shapes that can occur. Because you can increase the volume of your thoracic cavity in different ways. And when we break down ways we tend to kind of make the models very simple. So I believe I taught this on a youtube video a long time ago. So you can think of your shoulders lifting up in front of your ears. And sometimes if I'm really tense or stressed I'll watch myself breathe and I can see my rib cage kind of moving up towards my face. I can see my shoulders elevating up towards my ears. But my individual ribs themselves, the ribs that make up the rib cage, they can also rotate. And when they rotate, my shoulders don't have to come up. I can also make my thoracic cavity larger by each one of those rotating; they rotate, it's kind of hard to explain it using audio versus visual. I usually use my body. But it's kind of similar to, I've heard blinds used as an analogy. If you're twisting the handle on blinds, they'll flap up and flap down. It's kind of like that except they're not all stacked in series. When they flap open, the one that flaps open is not sitting directly beneath it. It's kind of displaced outwards. And when that one flaps open, the circumference of your rib cage is greater. And when each one of those ribs are doing that you end up with a greater circumference to your ribcage. So you change the volume of your thoracic cavity. Because each one of those ribs has kind of flared outward. So your rib cage, if you had a measuring tape around it with each breath, you would see that the circumference is getting bigger and getting smaller. Bigger, smaller. And then also you have a diaphragm, right? That is the bottom of your thoracic cavity. So the diaphragm if you imagine kind of a hump. Kind of like a mountain of flesh, it can contract and drop downward. Right? So then if you had a container where the bottom of it was filled by some of your diaphragm, then the diaphragm contracted and moved out of the way, then that would also give you more space in this room. It helps for me when I think of volumes to think about a room. Inside your thoracic cavity where your lungs live is a room. But the walls are all flexible. So you can get that to change shape to allow for more space for the lungs to deploy but something has to get out of the way. The diaphragm, the ribs, the shoulders up to your ears to kind of pull away from your diaphragm. Any one of those three things and really a combination of all three is how you would get your maximum volume change. So you've got that changing shape of your thoracic cavity. But keep in mind that the way that the lungs change shape is gonna depend on the amount of oxygen that you breathe in. So a shallow breath is gonna move your lungs a little bit. A really big breath is gonna make your lungs - they kind of deploy down in your body, right? So if you're not really breathing a tremendous amount, then you're not gonna be working through your lungs (I'm gonna put air quotes around this) "range of motion." So you have a range of motion of your lungs. In order to use the full range of motion of your lungs, you would want to be using your full range of motion of breath. And so that would, on one hand, be based on the volume that you're pulling in. You could look at it strictly as volume. So if you were carrying a ... if you were running up a mountain or walking and carrying sixty or seventy pounds, you're gonna need to pull in more oxygen. You're going to find that you are - the volume of oxygen that you're pulling in is greater. So that's one change in shape. But we also have this thoracic cavity need to change shape. And the way that your thoracic cavity changes shape depends on what it is that you're doing. So there's a lot of discussion going on right now about natural breath. What's natural breathing? That question from the yoga instructor. I'm trying to understand natural breath. What happens during a natural breath. And it really depends on the context. Because, like I said, if I have my arms full of something and I'm working very hard, or if I have one arm carrying a very heavy load but the other arm not, then the way my ribcage is going to change shape, the way my really my thoracic cavity really is changing shape, depends on what all my parts are doing. When the thoracic cavity changes shape, you know you're not just a floating thorax. You have an abdomen beneath you. So if the diaphragm moves down, right, that's one of the ways that you increase the volume of your thoracic cavity, when the diaphragm moves down, now you've increased the pressure in the abdominal cavity. Right? So there's kind of a domino effect. And of course, everyone can deal with the diaphragm moving down in different ways. If you also, simultaneously, let the abdomen move forward. So I've heard belly breathing is a term for this. So if you're diaphragm drops down and your abdomen moves forward, then you're not going to have necessarily that load then be continuously transferred down to your pelvic floor. But if you don't allow your abdomen to breath ... if you don't allow your abdomen to displace, the front of your abdominal musculature to relax and move forward, and that stays tense and then your diaphragm comes down, then there's a greater load placed on your pelvic floor which then would, all things being equal, create a response of your pelvic floor to tense.
Any time you increase the load to your pelvic floor it can respond back. So I can see very easily how the diaphragm moving down, in some individuals, would cause the pelvic floor to contract against that load. So there would just be an overall increase in abdominal or pelvic tension. But if you relax your abdomen, then you wouldn't necessarily see that pelvic floor tense. So I think we might be trying to oversimplify with what's happening during a natural breath because it depends on the state of all of the tissues.
What we need is our heart and our lungs to be taken through a particular range of motions. Taken through their ranges of motions in the same way that I want to make sure that all my joints, my ankles and my knees and my elbows and my shoulders, the way that I can keep all of those parts working well is by moving all of them fully. Which would mean through their full range of motion. That if you are looking at what a natural breath is, in the same way you would say what's natural shoulder use, that you would at this point, at least through the lens of some of the way that I describe movement, would kind of understand that the natural way of using your shoulders is not only volume related, not only "oh you need to be moving it multiple times a day and at a certain distribution" but that there would be certain angles or certain motions that would be called upon. So, one of the reasons we have so many ways to breathe is so that you can be breathing while you're doing lots of motions.
So keep in mind that these questions and the way that we're forming our information about natural breathing mechanics and really all human mechanics is done currently in a completely sedentary culture. So the models of breathing that we're using is often in unmoving bodies with very low oxygen demand. Right? If you sit in a chair all day, in the same way that you use the ranges of motion of your knees and your hips in a repetitive way, you're using a repetitive breath shape. The volume that you're pulling in over and over and over again and the way that your thorax is changing shape and really your abdominal cavity and your pelvic cavity - it's all just very repetitive. You're just taking the same shallow breath. And why do you have a shallow breath? Because breath is coming in as fuel to the movement that you're doing. So it's not fuel in maybe the way that are used to thinking - caloric fuel. But it's part of the mechanism that allows moving to occur. So if you don't move very much, then you don't need that much breath. But obviously somewhere along the line we've recognized our need for breathing exercise in the same way that we've figured out we need to exercise our hips and exercise our shoulders, and exercise our spines, and exercise our feet. We're trying to take our breathing parts through their full range of motion in kind of a very unnatural context. Meaning in a natural model, your need for oxygen and these changes in shapes - what's happening to your pelvic floor and your abdominal musculature and the diaphragm and the muscles between the ribs - is dependent on the movement that you're doing. And so if we go back to me walking with something very heavy up a hill, my breathing shape, if I'm carrying a very heavy load on my back, is going to be a different breathing shape than if I have a very heavy load, that same load, only in my left arm. I'm gonna not be able to maybe have a full range of motion of my ribs on my left side if I'm holding in my left arm, so my right rib cage is gonna have to move more to still allow for that volume change. And then when I switch that load to my right arm, now because my right arm and the way that I'm holding it is influencing the leverage of all that right side, I'm gonna have to move the left side more. So again, breath, the shape of breath and the questions that you have about what's happening in my pelvic floor and my truck and my ribcage, again, depends on what the arms and the legs are doing - the extra load to the body. And now imagine that my demand for oxygen is going up because I'm moving a lot of my parts more. Let's say that I'm chopping wood. If any of you have ever chopped wood, you'll know, you've got a dominant side. There's a lot of twisting. Or if you've ever done a ton of twisting work where your heart rate is coming up because your demand for oxygen is great, but halfway through the bulk of those breaths, it's such a core intense exercise, that there's no phase for a relaxed breath, because you're using your abdomen quite intensely to stabilize your spine and a haul a heavy load up and over your shoulder to bring an ax down. So in this case, because my abdomen is so intensely participating in the movement that's increasing my demand for oxygen, then the shape potential for my rib cage is going to be much different. My diaphragm has a lot more resistance in this case because the diaphragm can move down a lot more easily if all the other stuff gets out of the way. If your abdomen can move out of the way, then your diaphragm doesn't have to contract against the tension of the abdomen being held in place by the abdominal wall contracting. And believe me, this would be so much easier if I could just videotape my body showing you all these different things.
So I try to start with you have this cavity. These cavities that have to change position but then you have to kind of learn what the parts are doing relative to the other parts. And then if I have my waist twisted, or even if you're in a spinal twist, just a seated exercise, and you go to try to breathe that same shallow, sitting at your desk breath, you're gonna find that your abdomen can't move. And so for many people when they start doing things like our adjusting their rib position. Bringing it into a neutral rib cage, dropping your ribs, or they're doing hanging, or they're doing twisting, they're like, "I can't breathe." And what's happening, I would say in most cases, is that you have one pathway for breath because you have only certain parts of your body that are mobile and able to move because you don't really challenge all of your breath shapes because we don't take lots of shapes with our intensity of movement or exercise. We tend to do the same shape. And so if your body is in the same shape of exercise all the time, then the breath to drive that exercise is also the same shape. So by cross-training your exercise, especially when they are very diverse. Like it's one thing to cross train: I'm cycling. Now I'm running. But your torso is in the same position for both of those exercises. So it's cross training on one level, but it's not cross training on another level. So it just depends on how many pieces you're observing when you label something. So that seated twist or these other instances where people can't breathe, if you're so dependent on your abdomen needing to relax in order to let your diaphragm down, because the muscles in between your ribs don't move then as soon as you disable that abdominal relaxation, as soon as you hold the ribs down in place and your rectus abdominis tenses, now you're breath has nowhere to go. And so of course, just if I've never said it before, breathing is the one thing you want to make sure that you can always do. So then you lose that form so you can continue to have that breath. So that's why we have a lot of exercises in Diastasis Recti and some of our new programs where it's like we are going to work on the muscles between the ribs. Because if the shoulder girdle and those inner costal muscles, which are the muscles between the ribs, aren't mobile, then you're missing kind of like a third of all the ways that you can breathe. And so I think a lot of times for many people, especially again, that chair baggage, includes the way we're breathing. And also where we're tending to take most of our breathing exercise and breathing and understanding some breathing is also during seated exercises where the oxygen demand is still very low and we're trying to just arbitrarily increase breath rates to get the exercise to move those parts but they're not a reflexive response to an actual increase in demand. I can sit here and hyperventilate. I can (breath, breath, breath) I can make than an exercise in the same way that I can get myself running without environmental stimulus. I can just choose to do it with my mind. But that's different than if I were to just pick up a load or walk up a hill quickly, I would still get that same breath rate, but it would be different than me sitting still and doing it. So I'm not sure if that's answering anyone's question specifically. But if we were in a room together, I would need to lay that down before we had any more discussions about what's happening during a natural breath. We want all of these breath pathways open for you. But opening the breath ways isn't really the point. The point is to be drawing in the breath. The point is to be taking yourself through lots of different loads. On the low and on the high end while doing or creating lots of diverse shapes with your body so that you are not only getting all of the variety and geometry of your skeletal muscles but that you're getting the range and shape through your smooth muscle as well. Especially cardiac muscle of your heart and the smooth muscle of your lungs. Okay. I'm gonna stop it there, and we'll keep working on it together over time.
The thing is, if you think about breathing in the same way that you think about all other needs for more movement and more diverse movement it really rings true still for the heart and lungs as well. We tend to measure them, again, as percentages of heart rate, but what happens is that when you think that you need a certain VO2 max or when we take a behavior of a group of people and look only at their heart rate or their VO2 max, and then try to duplicate their heart rate or their VO2 max and instead of the behaviors that got them to those heartrates or VO2 max. And I'm thinking of the Hadza specifically which are the hunter-gathering tribes where a lot of this data about just really fit moving populations who have very few diseases. They've got great low-risk factors for many diseases. Certainly cardiovascular disease. Is that what I think we're missing and what I wrote in a paper that came out last year was that if we don't think of movement in terms of geometry, then it makes it very challenging to compare all movements. We've kind of muddled the water a little bit where we've broken assessing movement to sometimes geometry and sometimes measuring simple measures - which I understand why we use things like heart rate and VO2 max because they're easy data to collect. But because movement is a geometrical phenomenon when you don't normalize and compare all movements with the same - when you don't compare apples to apples across the board it makes it challenging. So if I were to make a recommendation for you and kind of at the end of that section do we need cardio. We don't really need cardio so much. We definitely need to be deploying our lungs fully. They don't need to be deployed fully all the time. That's why distribution matters. But if you never really get into that full ... think of your lungs as a tissue that needs to stretch. And there are stretch receptors in there, and there are stretch receptors that work harmoniously and communicate with your heart rate. Right? Because the amount of stretch in your lungs is gonna dictate how much work your heart has to do. Because if you have low volume of oxygen, then you have to circulate it faster. So there's definitely the relationship between those two pieces. So just, I mean, move more, move more of you. Move in more challenging ways. We can get an increase in our cardiovascular performance having our heart, our stroke volumes change, which is maybe a technical term. Just think of the shape of the heart. It doesn't need to push the same all of time. There should be some fluctuation throughout the day. Same thing goes for your lungs. But I think that our lack of arm use while we're breathing has really informed the breathing model that we have going on right now. So if you are following the advent, you're gonna notice that we're going a little heavier this year. We're going heavier with our arms. Because the range of motion of your shoulders, what you're doing with your arms when you are doing something hard is where you're gonna start to see more variety in breath shapes. And to that listener question earlier on, what your pelvic floor and your abdomen and your diaphragm, and the muscles between your ribs and your shoulders are doing is depending on which activity you're partaking in when you are increasing that demand for oxygen.
(heavy breath) need some water!
PACK: Thank you, Katy.
KATY: I was trying to think back, and I believe we first connected online. And I was thinking it's either Twitter or maybe you emailed me about this piece of dynamic furniture that you had created called the Soul Seat years ago. And I've been sharing links to your chair and chairs I mean gosh for years now. If you've been following my Facebook page for the last ten years, which I can't even believe it's been that long, but you have seen the Soul Seat being discussed and just as you are coming up with new products I share it. Because anything that helps people get more movement is something that people need to be aware of. But can you describe the Soul Seat for those listening?
PACK: Sure. Well, first I just want to say how grateful we are to your network and that you got it so early on. It was Twitter that I found you - came across your work. The Soul Seat, the best description is that it's a bilevel chair that gives you an option of sitting in many different postures while focused at a workstation or desk or a dining table. And it works because it's like taking a bolster on a floor but bringing it up to a desktop height with adjustments of both the floor and the bolster.
KATY: It's interesting because as this whole discussion of - you know, I would say sitting is the new smoking. Because most people can remember when those headlines came out years ago and all the discussion that was around it. And it would be nice if everyone could just drop kick their chairs. Schools out for the summer! And just throw them out the window. But the reality is that we have completely structured our society's infrastructure around a chair. So that radical shift I don't think is possible. Just looking at the way societies change over time - and they do - when we make large changes in the way that we behave - and I believe we are in the middle of one regarding movement...
KATY: You've got a, I don't know the word, a segway of technology. Imagine if schools or if offices were to give up the chair. It would require a new desk... it would require so much new - all brand new stuff. New building design. So it's just nice when you have someone that's thinking about a transitional step that makes more movement accessible to people who are really participating regularly in these - I'm gonna call them stiff parts of the infrastructure. For me, I work full time, and I produce work in the modern world. But the way that I do it, I have a lot of latitude in the way that I can set up my office. I work full time from a home office. So if I want to come work in my pajamas and sit on the floor, that's something that I can do. But recognizing that is not something that many people can do. You have bridged this sedentary gap. So what was happening in our life, in your body, that led you to develop the Soul Seat?
PACK: Ah. Well, it's great that you used the word transitional because the very first prototype I called it the transitional chair. Way too clunky, right. We like to describe what we offer as the least disruptive option for the knowledge worker.
KATY: What's a knowledge worker?
PACK: Yeah, that's a jargon isn't it? It's anybody who has to think and spend time thinking as part of their work. They may be making things, but they're spending more time at a computer. And so much of work that say a photographer who used to stand up and move around as they processed their negatives and developed their photographs. Now they're all sitting in front of computers. So even photographers and videographers, instead of cutting tape, there's not videotape laying around the floor that they have to sweep up. They're all looking at screens now.
KATY: Everything is becoming less physical.
KATY: Where we are spending most of the time manipulating data to get the end product that we used to get via some sort of... I mean even me writing books. It used to be grab a pen, and a pencil, light a candle. Now it's that same end point of creation - a photograph, a book, is now done with fewer movements and the manipulation of fewer physical things. We're just manipulating their digital counterpart. And that's what you mean by knowledge worker basically?
KATY: Ok. Got it.
PACK: My first mini-crisis was when I realized, if I was gonna keep up with my emails, I was gonna have to spend a lot more time sitting than I wanted to. So I had to make a choice. Was I gonna counteract that with 6 hours of yoga every day?
PACK: I was a yoga teacher.
PACK: But I didn't want to teach that many classes a day.
KATY: Right. Right.
PACK: And I had other things that I wanted to do as a musician. So the first thing I did was just move my computer to the floor. I just gave up. I went cold turkey away from chairs once I figured out what was shortening my psoas. And then I realized I couldn't put everything on the floor. So some things really require a flat surface on a desk. So that's when I made the first Soul Seat out of a discarded task chair that I found on the side of the road in the rain. And I took the old seat panel off. And I cut a piece of wood. Bolted that on. Piece of carpet on it. And then I bolted a yoga block, the basic yoga block, I just bolted it onto a piece of pipe and screwed that onto the platform. That was the first Soul Seat.
KATY: So you're bringing basically a yoga environment or a movement environment to a non-movement space.
KATY: Did you have any experience being a builder or an inventor? Is that your personality type or is this a one-off?
PACK: No, it's my personality type. And I thought I was going to work on a patent for many different ideas in the past and this was the one I decided well I just gotta see if this will make it on the market. When our daughters were little I strapped their car seat to a cart, a wheel cart, so we didn't have to wake them up when we rolled them down ... we just rolled them out of the airplane when they were babies. And then when I saw that in the market I got really annoyed. Right? Because I had already invented that. And then Zoe, when she was in college, she called me from San Francisco and said, "Dad, they created your invention." And I'd written out an idea several years before about a zip car. And she said, "Dad! The zip cars. You already invented this." You know. So I've been an inventor and a maker for quite a while.
KATY: Pack, I'm laughing because there are so many movies about - it's usually the dad who is busy inventing things, and all the kids are like, "Oh look. Dad figured out how to make a long chain of things to put the bread in the toaster and have it all pop out." You know what I mean? I'm thinking Chitty Chitty Bang Bang right now is what's coming to mind. And the kids are thinking that's who you are and that's awesome. Ok, so you are that inventor personality. Were there any blips along the way or stumbling blocks that are interesting?
PACK: Oh many. And thank goodness my daughters appreciated my inventive side because I was ready to give up several times once we launched the business. And they've both kept me, encouraged me and kept me going. And saying, "No you've got to keep doing this." And in fact, Zoe was part of that getting connected with you. I remember you texted me, "Can you overnight a chair to us?" You were gonna do a photo shoot.
PACK: I think we had 24 hours you were gonna do a photo shoot and ...
KATY: And she brought it to me.
PACK: She did. She had one in her home, and she was ... and that photo of it made it into the New York Post I think
KATY: Yeah. It's great. I really want to support. It's so easy to criticize. It's much more challenging to solve. And so when someone has basically given up many comforts of their life to solve, I just want to make sure that I'm supporting solvers as much as possible. And so if I'm gonna shoot something, instead of just talking about it, it's just so much nicer to show people that other people have made these solutions and brought them to market. I mean people are buying couches and chairs. It's not like they are extra purchases per se. It's not like buying things you don't need. If you are going to have a seat, why not pick a seat that is designed to facilitate more movement. Not only to allow it but to kind of facilitate it.
PACK: Yeah. And so many of your network have decided that this is the seat for them. I'm curious: What have you heard from your network? Because of you, we maybe even a dozen Soul Seats are being used by ... and I think somebody in Australia has ordered three total now.
KATY: I don't know. That's the one thing. I feel like I have a certain amount of time in my life. And I've parsed out quite a bit of it to this larger mission of understanding movement scientifically. Which is what I would consider my work. Because if everyone has work, that would be my work. The layperson, because the scientific community isn't necessarily doing anything practically with it. It's so it's this other part of just informing and sharing and cultivating a community and making sure that the practical understandings - that it's usable and practical. But if I not only do the work of doing that but then sit and monitor and be in relationship, it would mean that I would not be able to do my other work which I believe is part of my work as a human which is to be the thing. And so I have really let go of monitoring the stuff that I do in the world because if I was to make that my work too then I myself would not be a moving cell in this fabric. So I see really my first work is to do the thing. The second one is to understand and explain the thing, and the third one is help distribute the thing to the other cell, which are other humans in this fabric of the larger ecosystem. So I don't know what the community is saying because I've let knowing what they're saying go.
PACK: That sounds like a wise choice.
KATY: That's my salvation. Like that's the only way I can stay - keep going. But I have for example when your daughter, I think it was Zoe right, who brought it to the set, everyone on the set was on it like a jungle gym. Meaning, the idea of sitting differently was the equivalent of play. So I got to see 30 different people - so not just like the bodies that were in some of the work but the videographers and the producers, people who are just still sitting in chairs. So in that moment, you can see 30 different people trip out. Like "What is happening right now?" And it's such a simple thing. "You are making a new shape with your body." It's not that revolutionary. But to have a chair that did it was. So the feedback then was that it's amazing.
PACK: Great story to tell speaking of creatives and photographers. Our other daughter, Hannah, is now our director of operations. And she's been doing a lot of our social media work and actually produced our latest website. And so many of the photographs were done by a woman named Kim Wade. And we approached her initially - we walked in with a Soul Seat and said we need some new product shots of this. So we were talking about it, and she was pitching us her different packages. She wasn't ... we didn't consider her a customer. She didn't consider herself a customer. Then she sat on it, and the lights went on. So I suggested we just move it over to her workstation and she already has a stand-up desk, so we moved it over there, and it hasn't left. And you can see her appreciation of the Soul Seat in all the photographs... how beautifully they're done and so we ended up trading out that photo work for the Soul Seat she has. She said it just changed her life.
KATY: There's two things I want to talk about. The funny thing is one: is I was actually going to talk about your new website. Obviously, I'm on your mailing list, and I noticed that really just in the last 30 days maybe 60 days that the images that you are using, your marketing images, for Soul Seat, are unlike anything I've seen before. Your imagery is now really showing the way the Soul Seat is utilized. And you've selected a bunch of different bodies. You've selected a bunch of different scenarios which is genius. And so now I'm thinking, well I wonder if the person embodying the Soul Seat was then able to see all the ways that it could be photographed. So then there's something else that's popping up in my head. There's a big understanding that creativity and movement go hand in hand.
KATY: So I'm wondering now, because these photos are so great, do you think that she got moving and then the creativity welled up? When I talk about movement in teaching, I'll talk about every muscle as being essentially like that - a light. So when you're moving lights are coming on and off. So you're lifting and lowering your arms, and that lights up certain muscles and disables others. And then when you move in the other direction that lights up the other ones.
KATY: So when you said "the lights went on" when she ... she didn't sit; she moved differently. So that's the tough thing to understand that sitting, there's the idea of not changing place as a whole body, but then there is the idea of changing place of the parts of your body while your whole body still stays doing this what you call knowledge work. Did you create a list of images? Was there an impetus behind "we want to cast the Soul Seat in a new light. We want to model all the different people and the ways it can be used." Or was that her creativity?
PACK: Well, there's two things. She actually suggested that we do a whole lifestyle shoot.
PACK: It was her suggestion. We pulled the models together. The woman with the little baby, Daisy, is a yoga teacher, local yoga teacher. And the Korean/American woman is a local occupational therapist who has - I've consulted with her about the soul seat and the biomechanics involved. So it was just really, it was a great ... we just had a lot of fun. And she had a lot of fun because she appreciated the soul seat and knew what it could do. But the light went on for her when she first sat on it. We see it all the time when people first encounter. They project discomfort. They project some anxiety about falling off because it doesn't have a back and arms. But then once they sit, this light comes. It's basically recognition. They haven't felt this way sitting since they were on the kindergarten reading rug. And so that's part of what's going on - just the body discovers it can be that way again. It can feel that way again.
KATY: You were an elementary school teacher, which we didn't get into too much. But now Soul Seat is making its way into classrooms to be tested by kids. So what does that mean to you? What does that mean to you?
PACK: Yes! I'm just so excited about this. I try to not get too loud.
KATY: Get loud! It's ok!
PACK: Hannah and I just came back from Ashland, Missouri. It's a small, rural community and we met one of their teachers who saw our new heart-shaped kid-sized Soul Seat. And so we took two demos to them two months ago. Yesterday we went to see the results. And I gotta tell you, Katy, it just warmed my heart to see, she kept telling me about this one kid who had a lot of focus issues at the beginning of the year. And she said, do you want us to share? She had some videos of him not being able to focus and be frustrated because he wants to participate. He's a really smart kid. And so to see this, you wouldn't know that he had any focus issues. The Soul Seat was his chair. He used it for writing, sat in it for reading, and for the group, a lot of group ... We got to see a lot of the way the classroom is organized for the group activities. And the kids were cooperating and do doing their own facilitating of the morning routines. And it was just really exciting. And the other thing you'll like is that only 1/3 of this classroom was devoted to tables. All the rest was carpet. And the smartboard was on the wall low enough so that the kids were all sitting on the floor in front of their smart board doing these different activities. It's really something.
KATY: Well that's great. I didn't even know you had a kid chair. I think people are gonna be excited to know that that's an option. I'm doing a little bit of consulting on some other research about schools trying out different seats and using video to monitor motion and changing of position during that period of time. And then I'm also working now on designing a school both, not just the outside but the inside, where they're really starting to think about when they're able to build something from the ground up, and they do have that ability to consider new designs - we're starting to see movement rich design in building, architecture, schools, cities. Right? The idea of mobility rich spaces is just a new concept. Like I said, we are in a time where - that society - there's this wave of understanding mobility is a thing. We didn't realize that we had built it out. And so now we're having to rebuild it in. So thank you for being part of that. Is there anything else you want to mention that you've got coming up?
PACK: The kid-size is still in the pilot stage. We've posted some photos on Instagram and on our Facebook. So we're not quite yet in production but we're very - after yesterday - we're very excited about it.
KATY: Well, I wish you the best and I know many readers and listeners who have been following your work through our community they also wish you well. Just keep making things that help make movement more possible. So Pack Matthews, thank you for speaking with me. You can find out more about Soul Seat at mysoulseat.com and on Instagram. So you can see all this imagery that we're talking about on their website. But also they have a fun Instagram that's showing some of their ... lifestyles is the perfect word. So that's @mysoulseat on Instagram, facebook.com/soulseat, and on Pinterest look for my soul seat. Pack, thank you for coming on.
I am leading two courses for movement professionals at 1440 Multiversity in April. And then in June same course, I'll be at Kripalu which is in Stockbridge Massachusetts. It's a course on alignment and natural movement. You can find all the details on these live events at NutritiousMovement.com. Just click on Live Events. And we will link them in the show notes as well. On behalf of everyone at Move Your DNA and Nutritious Movement, thank you for listening. Thanks all you listeners. All three million of you. Just kidding. I know it's not that many but still! 3,000,000 downloads. That's 6 million ears potentially. That's just staggering numbers as you know from just me sitting here in my house looking. I can't even get my cat to listen to me or my kids to listen to me. And yet three million times I've been listened to. Which is just great. I'd like to also just take a moment to thank Carrie Day for being our sound and editing master. And Stephanie Domet for producing the show. And all of the sponsors in our Dynamic Collective. Peace out and about friends.
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.