Review: “Alignment Matters: The First Five Years of Katy Says”

51VnSkZFkYL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_Alignment Matters: The First Five Years of Katy Says is a collection of essays and blog posts from Katy Bowman’s online blog Katy Says. Bowman is a biomechanist which is someone who studies the body the way an engineer would study a machine. Through her blog posts and her Restorative Exercise Institute she has been educating thousands on how to find proper alignment, to move in healthier ways and all about the human machine. This is one book that is a must read for everybody, especially for those teaching any form of movement.

The book is a collection of blog posts from the first five years of Bowman’s blog and are sorted and grouped by topic making for an intriguing read. The Chapters include:

  • Feet and Shoes (and what gets stacked onto them)
  • Knees, Hips and Back
  • Pelvic Floor (and what gets stacked onto it)
  • Getting to the CORE of it
  • FOR THE LADIES
  • Arms, Elbows, Wrists, and Hands
  • Shoulders (and what gets stacked on them)
  • Pregnancy, Childbirth, Babies and Children
  • Walking and Gait
  • Cardiovascular System
  • Returning to Natural Movement
  • Your Body – The Big Picture
  • Mind Mechanics
  • Motivation/When you need a kick in the pants
  • Miscellany
  • Resources
  • Credits

Not only does Katy give tons of useful information on this awesome thing we live in, our bodies, but she does it in a fun way. Writing with a wicked sense of humor she keeps the book interesting in a way that even non-anatomy nerds will enjoy. My copy of this book is heavily highlighted and dog-eared. This book has influenced me greatly in how I think about my own body as well as how I teach Yoga and Pilates to the bodies in front of me. Thinking about how everything we do is can either bring out body back into alignment, or make it worse by throwing our body out of alignment and causing damage sometimes that is unseen for years. In fact, because of reading this book, and learning more about how running affects the body, I have since gave up running after years of running half marathons. Bowman states information from a study on how activity effects knee health “The conclusion: Excessive mileage and impact forces are contributing to the increasing levels of osteoarthritis, knee surgeries and knee replacements in the United States”

Bowman is big on speaking on foot health (and in fact has another book all about the health of feet called Every Woman’s Guide to Foot Pain Relief). She is not a fan of heels and recommends that we go barefoot as often as possible, and wear more neutral or negative soled, minimalist style shoes. Bowman describes how wearing heels can throw the pelvis out of alignment causing pelvic floor issues as well as foot muscles complications such as plantar fasciatis. As most of us movement teachers know, what we do to one area of our body often effects another area of the body.

Bowman gives many tips on this incredible machine we move about in and how to find proper alignment and vitality, such as using standing desks, proper squatting form, strengthening the pelvic floor, and fixing posture through proper stretching. One of the most fascinating topics she covered for me personally is the idea of proprioception, which is the idea that one part of your body should know where it is in relation to the other parts. I teach this a lot in my classes, and its something that I’m constantly trying to ingrain in my students. This idea of awareness in and of the body, letting your body learn and find the proper alignment, instead of looking at your body and bringing it into alignment.

I highly recommend every teacher of movement grab a copy of this book. Especially as Pilates teachers where we are trying to help our students find proper alignment in the body, this book offers insightful tips that we can utilize to help our students achieve this.

Day 14 of March Matness – Double Leg Kick

double leg kickBenefits of Double Leg Kick:

  • Strengthens Spinal Extensors
  • Challenges trunk stability
  • Strengthens abdominal muscles

How to do Double Leg Kick:

  • Lie on your belly with your chin or forehead on the mat
  • Bring your hands to your lower back and interlace your thumbs
  • Inhale and as you exhale bend both knees and kick the feet towards your glutes
  • Inhale and reach the arms and legs behind you as you life the heart off of the mat

Day 13 of March Matness: Single Leg Kick

Single Leg Kick

Benefits of Single Leg Kick:

  • Challenges core stability
  • Strengthens abdominals and spinal extensors
  • Stretches and strengthens hamstrings and quads

How to do Single Leg Kick:

  • Lie on your belly, propping up on your forearms
  • Lift the legs about two inches off of the floor
  • Bend one knee and briskly kick towards your glutes
  • Reach the leg back long as you kick the other one in

Day 12 of March Matness: Swan Dive

Swan DiveBenefits of Swan Dive:

  • Strengthens and lengthens spine in extension
  • Strengthens spinal extensors
  • Stretches and strengthens core muscles

How to do Swan Dive:

  • Lie on your stomach and engage your abdominals
  • Lift the chest as you reach the arms forward and long
  • Raise the legs up behind you
  • Inhale and exhale rock the body forward
  • Return to start position

Day 11 of March Matness: Saw

saw

The Saw is a unique exercise because it combines so many elements of Pilates, such as rotation, spinal articulation, opposition, breathing and flexion.

Benefits of the Saw:

  • Targets spinal rotators such as external and internal obliques
  • Stretches spine in rotation
  • Strengthens abdominals

How to do the Saw:

  • Sit tall with the legs about shoulder width
  • Sit tall, lifting out of the hips with the arms out into a T
  • Inhale and twist the spine to the right and curl forward
  • Exhale and reach your pinky finger past your pinky toe
  • Pull the waist back as you reach
  • Inhale and roll up stacking the spine

Day 10 of March Matness – Corkscrew

The Pilates exercise known as the Corkscrew is another abdominal exercise that challenges stability. The goal is to engage and work the abdominals while maintaing trunk stability.

Benefits of Corkscrew:

  • Challenges stability
  • Strengthens the Powerhouse including all abdominals
  • Stretches and lengthens the legs including the hamstrings

How to do the Corkscrew:

  • Lie supine and extend the legs to the ceiling
  • Anchor your hands by your side, with the palms down for support
  • Reach your legs across your body to the right, keeping the low back and opposite hip down
  • Circle the legs away from you and to the other side
  • Return the legs to center and reverse.

Day 9 of March Matness – Open Leg Rocker

Open Leg RockerOpen Leg Rocker or Rocker with Open Legs is a challenging exercise that utilizes the deep core muscles to balance and maintain control. Plus it’s just pretty to look at!

Benefits of Open Leg Rocker:

  • Improves balance and control
  • Engages and strengthens abdominals
  • Challenges hip flexors
  • Massages spine
  • Stretches Hamstrings

How to do the Open Leg Rocker:

  • Balance just behind the sit bones and extend the legs into the air, grabbing the ankles
  • Maintain a C Curve in the lower back and the legs about shoulder width
  • Inhale and roll onto the upper back, being mindful to NOT roll onto the head/neck
  • Exhale and really engage the abs to roll back up to balance at the starting position

AND here is Open Leg Rocker in action. I think seeing this in video better explains the exercise then a picture.