Words Matter – Podcast Episode #109

Words Matter: In which Katy Bowman reads three more of the essays that appear in Alignment Matters— Science of Wellness, Immunity Boost, and Correcting Anatomy Misconceptions. Through these three essays, Katy examines why definitions matter—and how tough it is to communicate ideas with language instead of math, equations, and physical relativity. You’ll hear lots of updates in these essays of Katy’s current thinking about these matters, and you’ll find out that you have TMJ and carpal tunnel… and, spoiler alert, that the Adams’s Apple is… not an apple.


00:04:41 – Alignment Matters Essay #1 – – Jump to section

00:10:09 – Alignment Matters Essay #2 – – Jump to section

00:22:29 – Alignment Matters Essay #3 – Jump to section

00:27:00 – Upcoming Book Club – Jump to section



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Katy’s Article on Martha Stewart’s WholeLiving.com website

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KATY:  Friends, this is the Move Your DNA podcast with Katy Bowman. I am Katy Bowman. I’m a biomechanist and the author of Move Your DNA and a bunch of other books about movement. And one of my earliest books is Alignment Matters. It’s a collection of the first five years of my old blog, Katy Says.  It’s an excellent help for those attempting the pelvic list, both in terms of content and form – which is another way of saying, it’s about the size of a yoga block. If you’ve been listening to Move Your DNA for the last few episodes you know just a little bit more about Alignment Matters than you did back in June and that’s because I have been reading three essays from Alignment Matters on each episode and talking a bit about the connections I see among them.  And sometimes I update my thinking or the way I articulate it because it has been a long time since I wrote the blog posts that make up Alignment Matters. And because I care. But listen, this is the final week of me reading you some of this big book. And it’s been great. But all things must end. I’m getting ahead of myself though. This episode of Move Your DNA is just beginning. All bodies are welcome. Are you ready to get moving?




KATY: Phew!  It has been a total trip to go through Alignment Matters with an eye to pulling out three essays every two weeks to share with you. I was trying to figure out which ones I was gonna read today and I’m not just flipping it open and, you know, wherever I land is the one that I read. I’m trying to go through some of the essays and pick out what my intent was when I was writing them and I found three essays that were done quite a bit apart but they all have this idea of definitions among them. And I think it’s really interesting that a lot of my personal growth has been relating to the idea that words matter, obviously. Words hold lots of meaning and the way that you use them definitely changes what happens when you use them. And in my own personal work, I have always really been interested in definitions. So I don’t tend to think in words I tend to think more in … math would be the easiest thing to say but I really see physical relativity. That’s how I understand the world. When I look at something – when someone’s talking to me – I’m much less likely to perceive the words that they’re using. It’s just not the medium for me. But yet, I am, ironically, someone who uses a lot of words to process verbally. I write a lot and I think a lot of my writing and especially in Alignment Matters times was me processing what I was perceiving spatially. It’s like it’s coming into me in lines and points and orientation of parts relative to other parts, and then I’m having to convert it into language which are symbols and not everyone holds the same meaning for symbols. So it’s an unnatural state for me to really talk and write. And so the three essays that I’ve picked today are about the definitions and kind of how that changes how we feel about movement and the body and health and wellness and medicine and all those pieces.  That definitions ultimately do matter because in this case – and I just recognized it right now as I was talking – at the end of Move Your DNA I really call out the importance of definitions in a science that’s really trying to figure out the structure, the spatial orientation. You know all of science is trying to explain natural phenomenon. So they can’t ever do it sufficiently because we’re using words to do it. An equation can be a little bit tighter but even then the phenomenon is not the equation or the words that are placed on top of it. Anyway, it was fun to go back and watch this personal evolution in myself. So, here we go.



Ok, first essay.  The Science of Wellness

I’m going to explain a little what is missing from the field of human science, but first, a few definitions.

Biological Science. Definition: A natural science concerned with the study of life and living organisms, including their structure, function, growth, origin, evolution, distribution, and taxonomy.


Physical Science. Definition:  An encompassing term for the branches of natural science and science that study non-living systems, in contrast to the biological sciences. However, the term “physical” creates an unintended, somewhat arbitrary distinction, since many branches of physical science also study biological phenomena.


Physiology: The science of the function of living systems. It is, I guess technically, a subcategory of biology.


Physics: A natural science that involves the study of matter and its motion through spacetime, as well as all applicable concepts, including energy and force. More broadly, it is the general analysis of nature conducted in order to understand how the universe behaves.


Anatomy: A branch of biology and medicine that is the consideration of the structure of living things.


Geometry (this is my favorite): “Earth-measuring” is a branch of mathematics concerned with questions of shape, size, relative position of figures, and the properties of space.


Kinematics: In biomechanics and kinesiology, kinematics is a term for the branch of classical mechanics that describes the motion of bodies without considering the forces (which is how the motion was created).


Kinetics: In physics and engineering, kinetics is a term for the branch of classical mechanics that is concerned with the relationship between the motion of bodies and the motion’s cause, namely forces and torques.


Engineering: The discipline, art, and profession of acquiring and applying scientific, mathematical, economic, social, and practical knowledge to design and build structures, machines, devices, systems, materials, and processes that safely realize solutions to the needs of society.


Medicine: The science and art of healing humans. It includes a variety of health care practices evolved to maintain and restore health by the prevention and treatment of illness.


And don’t worry, there won’t be a quiz.


So here’s my point. The current academics in charge of researching disease, setting parameters for health, outlining function of human tissues, and engineering products for all these categories, are almost entirely students of the biological group of sciences. They are missing a fluency in mathematics, or physics, engineering, human movement science, kinetics, and kinematics. Because of the very unique way we have compartmentalized our education system -(and I would probably interject here too, it’s not really a compartmentalization, necessarily, of an education system. But probably greater of a knowledge system. And the education system is going to reflect how we’ve kind of put parameters around what is defined as what. And I’ll read that sentence again from the very beginning.)  Because of the very unique way we have compartmentalized our education system we have segmented “life science” from “things in the universe” science, meaning the average healthcare scientist (keep in mind this is a very, VERY educated person) has minimal comprehension of how flow, pressure, force, electricity, heat, and energy (just to name a few) might affect cellular processes. All forces in the universe impact cellular processes, just like pharmaceuticals do. Not knowing these other, non-biological sciences places a limitation on our ability to figure out possible causes and solutions to ailments. We dynamic creatures are entire universes of physical matter, subject to physical laws, suffering the biological consequences when, frankly, we don’t know how to operate.


Enter biomechanics (do you hear angels singing? I know I do!), an academic option that requires all of the sciences above. That explores how the human body works under the physical laws. And when you know all of the information, (and keep in mind this is Katy from 2018 going – and there is no knowing all the information) the optimal level of health and beyond (what most of us like to call WELLNESS) is attainable. And I’m happy to see that at least one major university is beginning to offer a Medical Biomechanics option, where graduates are required to know ALL of the sciences that govern the human body, instead of half of them. I want the person in charge of my body to know a hundred percent of the science.


Oh wait. I’m the person in charge of my body. And you are the person in charge of your body. And the time has come to no longer hand off your health to someone you see five times a year. It is time to become an expert in human science, or at least your own personal body, because, well, you’re all you really have.


And, P.S., you already know a lot more physics than your high school experience led you to believe. You are a Master of the Universe. You’ve got your physics down, really, it just needs to be brought to the front of your mind.



Immunity Boost


It’s getting to be that time on Mother Nature’s watch. Indian summer winds down and the winds kick up. And I just realized right now that wind (like a clock) and wind (like blowing in a storm) are spelled the same way. Which is tripping me up and making me lose my train of thought.


I flew home through a thunder and lightning storm last week. Thunder and lightning in California. In L.A., if you can imagine. And it was awesome, once I was no longer flying through it. I haven’t noticed a large population of sick people yet, but as winter weather starts to develop, colds tend to develop too. Which is why I thought it would be fun to talk about your immune system today.


What is this “immune system,” anyway? If I had about thirty hours and the ability to type ten thousand words I could tell you, but frankly, I have to do laundry. So, to simplify, your immune system is all of the organs and actions that go into protecting you from the super-tiny, almost invisible things in your environment. There are a lot of things that can weaken this system, including: poor sleeping habits, and alcohol consumption, and stress, high-intensity exercise sometimes, and poor nutrition.


There’s also one major mechanical component to a well-functioning immune system. And no, it’s not wearing that necklace from Survivor. The superhero of health this season is your lymphatic system. The fluid in this system, lymph, is the worker bee of your immune response. And when this fluid fails to circulate, the body has a decreased ability to fight off various ailments.


And “Circulate” is the key word here. The word implies movement, and a lot of it.


And here’s the deal with lymph. It doesn’t move very well on its own. It doesn’t have a great pump like your heart, so the less you move your muscles, the more your lymph resembles scuzzy pond water.


(And I’m gonna jump in here to say just to explain a little bit more, the vessels of your lymphatic system are put within your muscular tissue and between, like around your muscular tissue. Everything’s packed so tightly. It has a little bit of force production on its own but very very little. It is primarily dependent on the muscular action. The musculoskeletal action to move it. It’s motility, if you’re not considering the musculoskeletal system, the motility of the lymphatic system, which is the movement of the fluid, is very low. So this is why I bring this essay to this series of three, because the way we have defined our systems, it is not a natural take away that the performance of your immune system relates to any other system. So your musculoskeletal system, if its operation is really essentially part of the anatomy of an immune system then talking about them separately, having separate experts in each that have little cross over into each other’s system makes it very challenging to formulate hypothesis and tests and questions and models that aren’t missing a huge piece. And so I love movement and I’m always questioning the lack of movement or physical sciences in a lot of what we’ve put under the heading of biological sciences because I do think it is directly involved in why we are where we are with our understanding of how to take care of our own bodies.  Ok, we’ll go back to the book.)


Another deal with circulation is you have to move all of your muscles in their ranges of motion to get the lymph to move. When your muscles are tight, limiting the motion of a joint, the lymph tends to back up in that area. And here’s some not-so-great news: Your largest lymph node clusters are at located at the areas we tend to be tightest—the neck, the armpits and chest, the groin, and in between the ribs.


(And I’m going to jump back in here, KB 2018, and say I frame it as not so great news.  One thing that I think is important to point out here is the cluster of lymphatic nodes are fortunately located in these areas because these are the areas that have the potential for the greatest amount of motion. And so this is kind of what mismatched theory is all about. What we have in an anatomy that is heavily dependent on movement to get a full operation out of its tissues, out of its systems. In the modern world, these areas that have the greatest capacity for motion, therefore where your immune system is fortunately situated so that you get basically immune support by moving, it’s relatively much more strenuous on the immune system to not be moving because they’re located where they are. If they were located in areas of lower motion it wouldn’t be such a strain. So that’s what mismatchedh theory is – your immune system is dependent on motion at these large joints and we don’t have it. And we actually have not just no motion we’ve got restricted motion. So if you decide that you want to go move, that motion is not really even available to us without doing some serious restoration. And so I just like to edit the idea that “oh what a terrible design we have here” where we’ve got our nodes here when really it’s the other way around. So anyway, back to the article.)


The good news is this month’s Martha Stewart’s Whole Living magazine has a feature with eight of my exercises, designed to improve the mechanics of your lymphatic system. (and I hate to tell you but this was from 2010 so that magazine is probably no longer sitting on your coffee table.)


My favorite creation for this piece was my Active Breathing exercise: So using an old pair of nylons or elastic exercise tubing, you’re gonna tie firmly (but not so tightly you cause your torso to fall off) around your rib cage approximately where a bra strap or a heart rate monitor would go. (So that’s about halfway between the top and the bottom. So you’re not under your armpits and you’re not all the way down around the lower part of the ribcage. You’re right around the middle.) Standing, breathe deeply, and feel your rib cage expand into the resistance.


This exercise increases the strength of your intercostal muscles (and these are muscles that live between the ribs), which actually help you take in more oxygen and expel out more waste, increasing the effectiveness of, let’s say, a cough. So this is perfect for those with any sort of respiratory issues.


And P.S., since you’re out buying magazines already (aren’t you?), check out the November issue of Fitness Magazine. It has a great chart I developed for dealing with common irritations while walking or running, like swelling fingers, achy knees, tingly feet, and low back pain. (So I hate to tell you guys now, that magazine is probably also no longer on the stands.)


VOICEOVER: If you’re into podcasts it’s likely you love the audio format. If you like listening to Katy read from her book Alignment Matters, you should know she has three audiobooks, and she is willing to read them to you anytime you want. All you need is an Audible account, a device with speakers, and a willing ear.


Here’s a little from Katy’s foot health focused book, Whole Body Barefoot.


[Katy reads an excerpt from Whole Body Barefoot]


And it’s not just Katy’s trademark humor, her compassion, and straightforward approach to movement science that you’ll get with each audiobook. You’ll also get…


[Katy’s bloopers from Whole Body Barefoot]


That’s right. Each of Katy’s audiobooks includes several glorious minutes of her bloopers. And you can find the Whole Body Barefoot audiobook on Audible. And this audiobook comes with a downloadable exercise PDF so you will get the whole experience. Hear this:  Audible is offering a free audiobook download with a free 30-day trial to give you the opportunity to check out their service. You can download any audiobook of your choosing by going to audibletrial.com/MoveYourDNAwithKatyBowman. To download your free audiobook today remember go to audibletrial.com/MoveYourDNAwithKatyBowman. Again, that’s audibletrial.com/MoveYourDNAwithKatyBowman for your free audiobook. And now, back to your regularly scheduled programming with Katy Bowman.



KATY:  Final essay: Correcting Anatomy Misconceptions.  (And I picked this essay because I thought it’s… just words matter. Definitions matter. If you want to pay more attention to your language, this was kind of fun for me. These are always in the back of my mind when I’m teaching any sort of movement stuff because I find that half of the stuff that I say just through the words that I choose to express it is automatically wrong. Which my kids are really great at pointing out all the time.)


Number 1. There is no hip bone. The hip is a joint, or the place where two bones interface. In the case of the hip joints, the bones in question are the pelvis and the femur (the thigh bone). And when people fall and break their “hip,” they typically break the femur. The neck of the femur (the space just below the “ball” or “head” of this leg bone), or just below, is where fractures or breaks happen most frequently.


(and P.S. We say hip bone all the time just because it’s easier.)


2. There is no shoulder bone. The term “shoulders” refers to a general area about the top of the arm. And the actual anatomical term for this point is the glenohumeral joint. This joint is made up of the arm bone and the shoulder blade (or the scapula). Also part of the shoulder girdle are the clavicles, which connect the sternum to the scapulae. Because there are so many bones in the upper body this area is way more complicated than the lower, I think. And when alignment here is off, it affects breathing, neck and shoulder-girdle pain, upper-body strength…But when it’s working, it feels awesome!

3. You don’t have “carpal tunnel,” you have carpal tunnel syndrome. You’ve got carpal tunnel? So do I! Everyone has a carpal tunnel. It’s the space or tunnel among the wrist bones (carpals), muscle, fascia and other tissues through which the hands and brain communicate, via the medial nerve. If you have carpal tunnel syndrome, then your space has narrowed, placing excessive pressure on the median nerve running through it. The tunnel space is reduced by wrist position, swelling of the tunnel contents, or by tension in the forearm and hand muscles.
4. You don’t have TMJ, you have a TMJ Disorder. You’ve got TMJ? So do I! TMJ stands for temporal (which is the bony plate on the side of the face that runs under the temple to about the level of your cheeks) mandibular (the mandible is the jaw bone—mandere in Latin, or “to chew”) and the joint is where these two bones interact. Almost everyone has a temporomandibular joint. And it comes in handy if you talk and eat a lot like I do. As with carpal tunnel syndrome, space in the joint narrows, causing excessive friction, or inflammation, and pain. Tight scalp, face, neck, and shoulder muscles all make temporomandibular joint disorder worse, as does stress, which can lead to jaw clenching.

5. There aren’t any arches in your feet. You should have the shape of an arch in your feet, yes, but if you cut your feet open, there’s no fixed anatomical part that’s shaped like an arch. The shape of the arch is created by healthy tone in the many muscles and tissues of the feet, that pull bones here and there until the arch is intact. So, no arches? Just work on strengthening the smaller intrinsic muscles of the feet (and I’ll add now that you really do want to work on the strength of the lateral hip and your ability to rotate at the hip, rotate your femur at the hip) until you start seeing the glimmer of a shape.
6. Men have pelvic floor muscles too. Really, they do. And when the pelvis, hip, and sacrum are not in alignment, they can get pelvic floor disorders just like the ladies.


7. The Adam’s apple isn’t really an apple. Just in case you thought it was. It isn’t.

Ok friends! That’s it. That’s all she wrote.  Which is not even true. I’ve written more than this. But this is all I’m reading of all I wrote.  But if you’re keen for more Alignment Matters, you should know that you have until September 3 to get it on sale at NutritiousMovement.com using the code:  SUMMERBOOKLOVE – all caps all one word. We’re giving you 50% off this book until September 3. That’s just the kind of people we are. You can read it. You can pelvic list on it. I mean you can take it in the bathroom and it might even serve as some sort of DIY squat toilet. We’re open to however you want to use it. And if you are into the audiobook format, you might like to know that three of my other books are available in Audiobook format at Audible.com. Movement Matters: another book of essays, Whole Body Barefoot, and Move Your DNA.  Where you might have heard, you can get a free audiobook with your free 30-day trial. Which audiobook will you choose? It’s hard to say.





And I am also, I don’t know if I’m excited to say this or sad to say this but my social media break is almost at an end and I will be coming back on to Instagram ready to start our book club discussion.


So for those of you who are getting our newsletters, you know which book. You have two books, actually to read through this summer. And we’re going to do the first one – so go check out the Instagram for that. It’s going to come that first week of September. You know what I’m talking about. And if you’re not signed up and you’re interested in what I’m talking about, go to NutritiousMovement.com and put your name in the box and you’ll start getting our newsletter. Our first book club discussion happens September 5 on Instagram/nutritiousmovement. You know how to find me there. So, on behalf of everyone at Move Your DNA and Nutritious Movement, thank you for listening.  We appreciate your support very much.


Music fade.


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


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