Book Review: “Stretching Anatomy”


Reviewed by: Christopher Roberts
Title : Stretching Anatomy
Author: Arnold G. Nelson and Jouko Kokkonen
Publisher: Human Kinetics
Year: 2014
Format: Paperback
Pages: 215
Availability: Barnes and Nobles, Most Booksellers and Amazon

Description and Review: 
“Stretching Anatomy: Your illustrated guide to improving flexibility and muscular strength” by Arnold G. Nelson and Jouko Kokkonen is a great book with full color illustrations that show the muscles in action as well as how the muscle emphasis can change with different variations on the stretching exercises.

Each exercise details how to execute the stretch, the primary and secondary muscles activated to help you increase flexibility, reduce soreness and tension and increase your athletic performance.

The book first details the difference between static, dynamic and proprioceptive neuromuscular facilitation stretching. The exercises are then broken up in to chapters based on which area of the body is the focus for the stretching exercises. The first seven chapters focus on major joint areas of the body, starting with the neck and ending with the feet.

The sections are further broken down into Beginner/Intermediate/Advance levels as for who should do the stretches and when. Once you are more comfortable with the Beginner exercises you can graduate up to the next level of exercises. The last few chapters focus on dynamic stretching routines for athletic performance and some sport specific stretches (i.e. tennis, soccer, etc).

Chapters are as follows:

  1. Neck
  2. Shoulders, Back and Chest
  3. Arms, Wrists and Hands
  4. Lower Trunk
  5. Hips
  6. Knees and Thighs
  7. Feet and Calves
  8. Dynamic Stretches
  9. Customizing Your Stretching Program

Most of the stretches in the book are ones that we have seen in most gyms and studios before. I didn’t see any that were completely new to me, so I didn’t have any aha moments.

However, what I did like about the book was the detailed instructions on how to execute the exercises that were accompanied by very detailed anatomy pictures that clearly show the primary muscles that the exercise stretches as well as the secondary muscles that are used to support the stretch. Each exercise also includes a “Notes” section that gives some idea of who could benefit from the stretch which is handy in helping to put together a stretching program for your clients. It gives you more tools in your tool box to better serve you clients needs.

I also found the sport specific stretching programs at the end of the book to be very helpful. If you have a client who is say a gymnast, it gives you a few exercises in that would benefit them in helping to increase their flexibility better targeted to the sport that the perform and practice.

Overall, I think it’s a great book and a super easy read. It is definitely a book that Ill refer back to again and again when looking to target some tight areas for my clients.

Book Review: The Complete Book of Pilates for Men


Title: The Complete Book of Pilates for Men
Author: Daniel Lyon JR.
Published: 2005
Format: Paperback
Pages: 338
Availability: Bookstores, Amazon, etc.

There are not too many books on Pilates that are actually geared towards men, so when I spotted this book I had to purchase it. “The Complete Book of Pilates for Men” by Daniel Lyon JR. is a very thorough book on the traditional mat work, with a focus on making the practice accessible for men. Lyon JR is Romana trained and worked at both Drago’s Gymnasium and realPilates Tribeca Bodyworks.

The book is broken into four major parts and I will cover those separately.

Part 1:

This part gives a brief overview of what Pilates is and how men of all fitness levels can benefit from practicing Pilates. In this first section Lyon JR. mentions the Pilates principles, gives a brief description of the anatomy of the “Powerhouse” and discussed the benefits of practicing Pilates related to strength, flexibility and posture.

He also gives a short history of Joseph Pilates  and explains the difference between mat and apparatus Pilates. He gives a quick description of what the apparatus is and what each piece is. He closes this first part in going over some of the basics of mat Pilates such as Pilates stance, chin to chest, further details on the 6 principles and a “How to Use This Book” section.

Part 2:

This is the meat of the book featuring the 40 Traditional Pilates Mat Work exercises from The Hundred all the way to Push-ups. At the beginning of the section is a list of what exercises to do for Beginner, Intermediate and then Advanced. The exercises are then written out and in order. The idea is to pick and choose and follow the list depending on your level of practice.

The pictures accompanying the exercises are actual pencil like drawings of Lyon JR. in movement. They are great at showing body position and exercise set up, as well as how the body would move during the exercise. Detailed descriptions of the exercise set up and movement patterns are under each picture. Also included are the benefits of the exercise and what body parts they work.

Each exercise also has a section called “The Beast Within” thats includes three sections: “Body Position” (further description of setup and imagery on how to move through the exercise), “The Mind in Motion” (more detail on movement and this section offers modifications if needed for each exercise) and finally “Cautions” (anything you need to know whether you should omit this exercise or not).

Part 3:

This part is more mat exercises, but this time covering “Reformer on the Mat”. This sections goes through all of the advanced exercises on the Universal Reformer but how to perform them on the mat. Again, this section starts of a list of 66 Advanced Reformer Exercises and then further lists on what to do for Beginner, Intermediate and Advanced students.

The detailed descriptions, pictures, etc for these exercises are similar to the first section of the Traditional Mat Work.

Part 4:

The book closes with different routines and modifications for injuries (weak neck, shoulder, injured or weak back, and injured or weak knees). Also included a great and detailed “Glossary” of Pilates terms.

I did enjoy this book, and found some great cueing and imagery that Daniel Lyon JR. used in this book. However, it is in my opinion that this book is more for someone who had taken a class or so with a real in live teacher, and who maybe wants to further develop their home practice.

I think the book contains way too advanced work for a beginner to attempt to do at home, especially in the “Reformer on the Mat” section, with exercises listed such as Control Balance/Arabesque.

Even though Lyon JR. does write about the challenge of these exercises and that they are more advanced, and gives the breakdown of what to do at each level (Beginner, Intermediate, Advanced) I can see some men would not pay attention to this or do the modifications listed and attempt to do all the exercises in the order given. The exercises in each section are described first in the ideal set-up, execution and more at the advanced version of the exercise. I think this can be challenging to most men, or I can see men muscling through the exercises.

Overall, this is a great book and I’m glad I grabbed when I saw it. It’s full of great cues and imagery and the pictures are a nice accompaniment to the exercise descriptions. I actually love the “Reformer on the Mat” part and see that as a great way to challenge some of my students in a mat class. This is a book I will definitely refer back to over and over again, and do recommend it for teachers to add to their collections.





Book Review “Diastasis Recti: The Whole Body Solution to Abdominal Weakness and Separation”


Title- “Diastasis Recti: The Whole Body Solution to Abdominal Weakness and Separation”

Author- Katy Bowman M.S.

First published- 2016 – Propriometrics Press

Edition- 1st Edition

Year- 2016

Format- Paperback or Digital

Pages- 184

Availability – Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Katy Bowman’s site, Propriometrics Press


I’m fortunate that in my years of teaching I’ve never come across a student or client who has Diastasis Recti (DR). So my intention in buying this book was to learn more about DR and how I, as a yoga and Pilates teacher, could work with clients who have DR. I have to say that while I did learn more about DR, there were no “aha moments” in this book for me. I think this is, in part, due to the fact that I have read Katy Bowman’s other books (see my other reviews). So a lot of the movement types and exercises she discusses in this book, were ones that I have seen in her other books.

Katy really intends for this book to be more about preventing DR from happening. At least that was my impression. Just like most of injuries today, we spend too much time and effort on the symptom and not working to fix the habits that caused the injury in the first place. I have many friends who are runners, with bad knees, ankles etc. Instead of fixing the habit, in this case running or running poorly, that caused the injury they just tape up and hit the road.

So what is Diastasis Recti anyways? For those who don’t know, it is a separation or distancing of muscle (the right and left halves of the rectus abdominus) from the linea alba. The linea alba is a fibrous structure, composed mostly of collagen connective tissue, running down the midline of the abdomen. The linea alba runs from the xiphoid process to the pubic symphysis. In this book Katy focuses mostly on the habits or forces (pushes and pulls) on the abdomen that are creating the DR.

Katy lists some of the forces that pull or stretch the linea alba, eventually changing it’s shape and causing DR. These include:

  • Movements of the ribcage
  • Movements of the pelvis
  • The oblique muscles
  • The transverse abdominal muscles
  • The rectus abdominal muscles
  • The intra-abdominal pressure like pregnancy and other “stuff” such as extra fat in the abdominal cavity

The MOVE section of the book really focuses on exercises that Kay recommends to assess and correct movement habits that are causing forces on the abdomen. These are all things that as Pilates teachers we watch in our clients: thrusting rib cage, pelvic position, tightness of shoulders and hips. All of these poor movements throughout the day put loads on the body. When the body can not handle the loads placed on it, we can cause DR. So Katy gives exercises that are designed to strengthen and balance the body throughout.

Katy calls her exercise or movement plan “Nutritious Movement” and breaks down the exercises into “macronutrients” (larger movements) and “micronutrients” (smaller , isolated or corrective movements). The macronutrients include things we do (or should be doing more of) throughout our day, such as:

  • Walking
  • Squatting and Floor Sitting
  • Lifting or Carrying
  • Hanging, Swinging or Climbing

The bulk of the book is the MOVE section, where Katy gives us the exercises with detailed descriptions and great photos of each one.  I am not going to go into detail on the exercises provided because then this review will be too long to read! The MOVE section begins with exercises we have seen in Katy’s books before. She begins by talking of the feet as the foundation to the core, and details how to stand properly as well as finding neutral femurs, neutral pelvis and how to better align the ribcage.

She then moves onto working on freeing the arms. Often we move through the day in such a way that our arm movements are pulling the ribcage out of alignment, thus displacing the abdominal muscles and pulling on the linea alba. She gives some great stretches and movement exercises that focus on moving the arms while keeping the ribs down and the abdominals working to stabilize, no matter what the arms are doing. These exercises are meant to separate the arms from the ribcage and the ribcage from the pelvis.

The MOVE section then goes into “Medium Moves” which are more challenging or use larger body parts such as the legs. These include exercises to release the Psoas, working on executing a proper lunge, and a few abdominal exercises (which is probably not what we are used to seeing. There are no crunches! Hallelujah!).

The “Big Moves” section is mostly focused on abdominal strength but not with exercises like crunches. Rather, this section works on why your core muscles are weak – because they have been used very little. This section is not about taking 10 minutes or an hour to do some ab work, but rather how you use your abs throughout your day. One of the simplest ways we can strengthen our abdominals throughout the day is how we sit. Sit properly, sit less and sit differently.

The “Big Moves” section focuses on all the ways we should be moving throughout the day but have lost due to our society today where we spend so much time sitting. Sitting in traffic, sitting at desks, sitting on the couch watching TV, etc. I think we have all heard how sitting is the new smoking, in regards to the dangers it puts on our health. Katy goes into detail about how we should be moving constantly throughout our day including: walking, standing, hanging, swinging, and carrying.

As I mentioned, I did learn a little more about Diastasis Recti and the forces and habits that can cause it. The movements and exercises in this book were nothing new to me, as I have read all of Katy’s other books. I would highly recommend this book if you are unfamiliar with DR, or have a client with DR, as it can give you some great ideas on how to help the client, as well as correcting the faulty movement patterns that have brought them to this point. In general, I thought this was a great book, it is a short and easy read, but having read all of her other books, there just wasn’t any “aha moments” for me.

If you have read Katy Bowman’s other books, but are curious about DR, I would recommend finding another book first. If you are interested in DR, but have not read her other books, then I would highly recommend starting with this book. Katy is so smart in how she helps us to move and she writes in a humorous way that keeps you interested in what she has to say.


Review of “Core Awareness: Enhancing Yoga, Pilates, Exercise and Dance” by Liz Koch


Title- “Core Awareness: Enhancing Yoga, Pilates, Exercise, and Dance.”
Author- Liz Koch
First published- 2012
Edition- Revised
Year- 2012
Format- Hard copy and digital
Pages- 214
Availability description- Amazon and from Liz Koch’s site

Review –

I was originally interested in this book after reading the title and description. Being both a Yoga and Pilates teacher, I’m always looking for new ways to enhance my client’s and student’s practice. The description of this book by somatic educator Liz Koch had my curiosity about her approach to increasing strength and flexibility and gaining a deeper core awareness.

A majority of the book comes from Koch’s somatic teaching experience and focuses a great deal on the psoas muscles. Both personally and professionally I find the psoas muscles fascinating and I’ve read several books on the topic. This was another reason I was drawn to purchase this book. Let’s dive in to the book.

Chapter 1 – This first chapter is really an introduction and had me hooked right away. Koch covers several ideas of movement today, that I myself agree with. For instance how some people look at the body in parts instead of as a whole. To fix a knee problem, knee surgery is offered instead of looking at what could be causing the imbalance and injury. This chapter covers topics like neutral body, positioning, anchoring, initiation of movement, breath, etc.

Another idea she covers is what is true strength. Take a look at body builders who can have a six pack stomach but still lack the core strength and control needed for even simple movements and posture. They can look powerful but lack the ability to have good posture, resiliency and proprioception (awareness of where their body is and how it moves through space). She sums it up pretty simply in one sentence…”True strength emerges when the inner connections between all the various expressions move in harmony”.

One of the few times she actually mentions Pilates is in this first chapter where she talks about how the Pilates method is a great way to both strengthen and lengthen muscles. She also mentions ways to increase proprioception and how to modify a position if its too demanding. Ways that we all know as movement teachers such as: narrowing the range of motion, providing an assisted support or choosing a different position.

Chapter Two – This chapter begins to focus on the psoas muscle and ways to engage the psoas. Koch does a great job of describing the location and function of the psoas. Also, in this chapter she begins to talk about energy and how it is held in the body. She touches on how the body can hold emotions such as fear, especially the psoas and where it is the location of fight or flight response.

This chapter reminded me of another great book I read on the psoas “The Vital Psoas Muscle” by Jo Ann Staugaard-Jones. Staugaard-Jones talks more of the energetics of the psoas muscles and links it to our Solar Plexus Chakra. As a yoga teacher, I’ve always been interested in the chakras so I found “The Vital Psoas” fascinating. Koch only briefly touches on this link however. I was hoping for more on this topic. If you are interested in the energy lines or chakras and how they can affect health and vitality in the body I would recommend reading one of my favorite books “Anatomy of the Sprit” by Caroline Myss.

Koch closes this chapter by mentioning that the psoas does not respond well to manual manipulation such as myofascial release or deep massage. She says it is better to understand the muscle and how to release it. She suggests and introduces Constructive Rest Position (CRP). Interestingly enough, Staugaart-Jones also mentions CRP in “The Vital Psoas Muscle” and even mentions that it was something that Joseph Pilates was interested in and practiced himself.

Chapter Three – This chapter is all about centering the pelvis. Koch writes about different ways the pelvis can brought out of alignment such as poor positioning, muscle dominance and limited range of activity causing symptoms such as mid/low back pain, knee and ankle problems, pelvic and groin pain, shoulder pain and even headaches. As teachers we know that the body is interconnected; what happens in one spot affects both above and below as well.

Chapter Four – I can sum this chapter up in two words: “flowery” and “woo-woo”. I started to get a little lost and losing interest in the book at this point. Koch writes about the Earth, gravity, bones, rooting and grounding with the Earth. Now as a yoga teacher I love the “woo-woo” stuff but even I got lost in this chapter and the point Koch was trying to make.

Chapter Five – This is just another flowery chapter continuing on the themes mentioned in Chapter Four. Koch talks about the “spirals of life” and how “Core awareness is a powerful means for healing emotional, spiritual, and physical wounds”. Again I was a little lost and about to give up on the book at this point.

Chapter Six – This chapter is the first in the second section of the book where we get to the movement part of the book, or as Koch calls them, the “explorations”. We are again introduced to Constructive Rest Position or CRP. Every exercise that is covered in the rest of the book will be based off of CRP. CRP is an active resting position that helps to “decrease excessive nerve excitation” and help to unravel “all forms of tension throughout your body”.

Chapter Seven – The first exploration focuses on awakening core awareness. CRP is further discussed and a detail account of how to perform CRP is given. As I mentioned above it’s a very interesting exercise that I’ve previously explored after reading about it in “The Vital Psoas Muscles”.

Chapter Eight – This exploration is all bout engaging, lengthening and toning the psoas. Koch talks about how and why we initiate movement and goes deeper into CRP. This chapter gives a great breakdown of CRP and some great tips on how to release the psoas in CRP. This chapter regained my attention and was giving me what I hoped to receive from this book; great tips and ideas on how to release tension in the body and find core awareness. Explorations include different ways to release the upper psoas and the lower psoas. These are techniques that I’ve started adding in to my yoga classes, but haven’t found them useful for a Pilates session yet. Also covered is ways to use CRP to find pelvic and shoulder girdle stability.

Chapters Nine through Eleven – The final chapters include more exercises or explorations using CRP to center and balance the pelvis, articulate the pelvis, to explore the arms-pelvis relationship, spinal curling and arching, and core unraveling.

Overall, the book was not what I was expecting. The anatomy nerd in me was hoping for so much more from this book. I wanted this to be a great resource on anatomy, physiology and movement but I was disappointed. While I am interested in CRP and can see it’s usefulness for easing tension in the body (especially the psoas and spine) and helping to work on stability in the body, it’s not as useful to my teaching as I had hoped.

I also find the title misleading as Yoga and Pilates are mentioned only once or twice, and there is no mention of how these explorations can be related to either types of movement. As an experienced teacher I can take what I can from the book and the exercises/explorations covered and include them in my teaching. I didn’t find any information in here that can do differently for the body what just following the Pilates method already does. Pilates alone can teach the body stability, proprioception and help us with posture, strengthening, lengthening, and engaging of muscles. As we as Pilates teachers well know.

I do find the exercises/explorations interesting and they really were the meat of the book. If you are interested in the book I suggest borrowing it to skim the explorations that are discussed, as they include photos and detailed descriptions of the exercises etc. This would also be a great book for anyone interested in somatic awareness/practice.

To buy or to borrow? – If interested in reading it I would see if you can borrow a copy.
Reviewed by – Christopher Roberts

Book Review: “Move Your DNA: Restore Your Health Through Natural Movement” by Katy Bowman M.S.


Title– Move Your DNA: Restore Your Health Through Natural Movement
Author– Katy Bowman, M.S.
First published– 2014
Edition– First Edition
Format- Paperback and Digital
Pages– 243


Bowman takes the most followed and interesting topics she touched on in her book “Alignment Matters” and dives deeper into them in this book. She asks the very important question “Are we how we move?” Are some health issues brought on by how we move or don’t move?

Bowman asks and covers the following questions and helps to create a movement plan for great health.

  • “Is sitting the new smoking?”
  • “Are standing workstations helpful or harmful?”
  • “What’s the safest way to move toward minimal shoes?”
  • “Are kegels and core exercises solving problems or creating them?”
  • “Do we really need cardio exercise”
  • “Does DNA predetermine our health as much as we are led to believe?”

In “Move Your DNA” there is less of the humor that was sprinkled through “Alignment Matters” as this book dives deeper into how we move. I did miss the humor of her other book, but this book had way more useful information that is laid out in an easy to follow format.

The book starts off explaining load and how it affects our bodies. Bowman clearly sums up loads by quoting Lena Horne, “It’s not the load that breaks you down, it’s how you carry it.” You are how you move. The weight you carry, how and where you place it, and how you carry it effects your body down to the cellular level.

Our ancestors carried load differently than we do today: squatting to wash in the river, hunting and gathering, preparing food by a fire etc. Now most of the loads we carry today are passive: sitting at desks, slumped over steering wheels etc. Can we improve our health by making tiny adjustments in how we carry load through out our days?

One of the concepts that Bowman covers in this book that I loved is the difference between movement and exercise. The average person who does workout tends to do so in a short burst. The average person’s movement through the day looks like this: wake up, have breakfast, drive an hour or so in traffic, sit at a desk all day long, drive home for an hour, maybe they hit the gym for an hour and do some intense workout like running, then go home and sit on the couch all night.

Bowman suggests that maybe we don’t need cardio, but need to just move more throughout the day. Move more; get your blood flowing more throughout the day. Instead of running 5 miles a day on a treadmill at the gym, spread that 5 miles out over the day by walking around more.

Bowman covers not only when to move but also goes into more detail with some great exercises in how we should move. Such as walking over different terrains, foot and leg stretches, stretches to release the psoas and how to stand, squat and sit as you move through your day.

The first half of the book is really about explaining load, how we move currently, and how it is affecting our health. The second half of the book goes more into detail of various exercises and smarter ways we can move throughout our lives in order to be healthier, find more vitality, and relieve ailments like low back pain.

There is so much useful information in this book that I can’t go into great detail on it all in this review. I do recommend this book for everyone. It’s not about moving your body; it’s about moving your body in smart ways. Following Bowman’s lifestyle plan that is laid out in this book can help us all to move smarter, feel better and help to relieve aches and pains in the body. Definitely a buy for all movement professionals

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
  • 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.