Biomechanics of Breast Movement (and general movement) with Katy Bowman

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Katie: Hello and welcome to the Wellness Mama Podcast. I’m Katie from wellnessmama.com. And this repeat guest is one of my favorite people to talk to. I’m back with author, speaker and leader of The Movement Movement, biomechanist Katy Bowman, who is changing the way people move and think about our need for movement. She teaches movement globally and she’s written 10 books already on the importance of a diverse movement diet, including books like Move Your DNA, Dynamic Aging and Grow Wild. Her latest book, Rethink Your Position, is a guide about how our bodies move, why we need to move more and the internal steps we can take to move better at all times. And we especially talk about actually the biomechanics of breast movement and many other aspects of general movement. But how do you breast health through the lens of movement? Understanding why breasts need to move and how to do it without injury. The way that you move moves your body in a particular way. Basically, if you want breasts that are well supported, how to do movements that build strength and support through them and how movements like pushups or hanging can be a test of chest movement and strength.

The way that carrying babies and breastfeeding can lead to upper body stiffness and some things we can do to help repattern that. She gives advice on how to work up to being able to hang by holding onto a bar for one whole minute each day. How to work better movement into the things we are already doing without taking extra time. Ways to counteract too much single position input like looking at our phone. A tip for getting better movement and benefit even from just walking and why we are so much more fluent in the importance of food than the importance of movement and so much more. It’s always a joy to talk to Katy and so let’s join her now. Katy Bowman, welcome back. Thanks for being here.

Katy: Thanks for having me again.

Katie: Well, if anyone hasn’t already listened to the past episode, that’s awesome. And I will link to it in the show notes so that people can listen and learn from you. You are such a wealth of knowledge. I think I first discovered you maybe 10 years ago and have enjoyed reading your stuff ever since then. But this is a new topic that we have not gotten to talk about. And I think that is especially relevant to our listeners, which most are women and moms. And so I think this is really relevant and one I have not ever discussed on this podcast at all.

So we’re going to talk broadly about the topic of breast health through the lens of movement. And let’s start broad there. Maybe explain to us any base biomechanics we need to understand and maybe debunk some of the reasons I feel like this is not something that’s A, talked about and B, understood and that most of the things in our society is sort of set us up for not great movement here.

Katy: And I think it’s challenging because you’re just dealing with, breast tissue is just a thing that we have to deal with, but people deal with it to a different extent depending on… The size of your breasts might be effective, like how you relate to your breasts with movement. And then also what types of movements that you do. Those are also going to be things that we’ll end up talking about, I imagine. But as far as based biomechanics, no, it’s just things that you need to be aware of are loads. Loads are the way that you’re going to be able to move. You move ends up, moving the cells of your body in a particular way. Squishes, pushes, pulls, contractions, anything that you do with the larger parts of your anatomy that you can see, something’s happening on a cellular level because those parts are just made up of smaller cells.

Katie: Got it. And it seems like, at least in the US, this is an area where typically a lot of at least what’s advertised, like garments for women are typically very supportive and probably don’t seem to support actual movement. In fact, they tend to, it seems like hinder movement, especially when we think of things like sports bras for exercise. And I’m guessing like you said, based on load, there’s probably a gradient here of safe level of movement, how to do that movement, and especially I would guess with the caveat without injury, which you talk about in relation to all the movements you explained. But maybe if you even know where did this come from, the idea of this like over support and is that actually beneficial or is there a better way?

Katy: Well, I mean, it just depends on the activity that you’re trying to do and the way that your breasts feel all of the time. So I don’t know if there is. If you wanted to figure out like what’s over or under supportive, it’s more about the way your breasts feel, right? Because there are ligaments within the breast tissue themselves. And then also, I don’t think a lot of people think about, if we’re trying to think about what supports, rests. Externally, we can go with bra, like we’re used to that. On the inside, you have the ligaments and also the muscles underneath, and that’s the chest muscles. So one thing I really like to talk about is if you want breasts that are well supported, you want to look at the strength of your upper body as a whole as well.

Katie: Okay, so that’s interesting. Let’s go deeper on that topic because I feel like maybe actually guys get this part, a little bit more understanding here at a younger age perhaps because they focus on a lot more chest-based exercise and upper body strength. It’s obviously a little different for guys, but maybe women don’t focus as much on movements that might be supportive here. So what would some of those movements be that are supportive?

Katy: I mean doing push-up like strong enough to push your body up off of the ground. I mean that’s a good test to see how strong your pectoralis majors are and also hanging. Like do your arms go overhead? Can you hold yourself on a bar? Not even like can you do a pull-up? Oh, that’s fine too, but just being strong enough through your upper body, through the arms and muscles as they come down and attach to their chest. Are they strong enough to carry the rest of you, that’s a natural way to train them at something our body is, evolved to do, you know, throughout time, it’s part of how we got the shape that we got.

And then also carrying, carrying is another thing. And when you do go through the process of having babies, carrying babies, breastfeeding babies, we tend to get very stiff in the upper body because we’re not taking care of that upper body. And, you know, right, at least so everyone can be exhausted. There’s a lot of things to do. But the idea of how do you stretch these parts back out? How do you strengthen them? And then how do you train? Keep yourself strong once you stop holding babies so that you still keep your arms strong. And also, if you haven’t had babies yet, like how do you carry? How do you carry things to prepare yourself for, you know, the sudden onset of a load that you have to take with you everywhere you go? And heavier breasts. You also tend to have heavier breasts at this period of time as well.

Katie: That makes sense. And I would love to hear any tips you have on that because I’ve noticed I don’t have babies right now, but I had six in nine years and I spent a lot of time nursing, like hunched forward, holding babies, cooking with a baby in one arm, carrying a car seat in one arm. And I’ve noticed even now my shoulders tend to be like more forward and I have trouble like reminding myself to keep them back and have good posture. Are there things that can help with that even in the post phase when I feel like this is just now like an ingrained movement pattern for me?

Katy: Well, I’m more stronger. Like I was never stronger than when I was carrying two younger babies around all of the time. But I was really strong in a single position. And that was sort of rounded forward through my upper back and through my shoulders. My arms are really strong, but in a bent or flexed position. And so to do things in a different arm position was more challenging. So there is not really even a strong side or a weak side. It’s just like the way that you use your body, you tend to get strong in the way that you use it. So yes, you would want to work on stretching your shoulders and stretching your chest and then doing exercises that had you carrying weight through a… larger range of motion than carrying something in front of you or on the hip would be. So like that would be if you were doing weights to make sure that you did some exercises that weren’t always just pulling like a like a fly actually you know pulling your hands in front of you but reaching your arms back laying on your stomach and reaching your arms back and then like I said still that push-up and that hanging those are great things that you can do that really give a good pull to muscle that sits directly beneath the breast tissue.

Katie: I’d love to talk more about hanging specifically for just a minute. I know we touched on this in the other episodes, but I feel like this is a movement that probably humans used to do a lot more in various ways than we do now. And I’ve heard other people say even just hanging for a couple minutes a day, even if it’s broken up into little short spurts, can be really good for the spine and the shoulders and for it seems like lots of things. Do you recommend that as well? And would you recommend people just like maybe put a bar in their house and hang every time they walk by it or what’s a good way to nurture that?

Katy: Yeah, absolutely. Like I don’t even just say anything because you just said the whole thing. I think shooting for a couple minutes a day, breaking it up is fine, but also working up to being able to hold yourself for a single minute over time would be a good strength goal. You know, if you’re an able-bodied person, to be able to do that, that’s a good… Challenge. It’s like muscle endurance. It’s going to train your muscle just a little bit more than short bouts would short bouts are also great But if you want to give yourself something to strive for over time It could be a branch in your yard. Certainly you can get an inexpensive hanging bar from your house. I also now just have… Rock climb molds, they’re like the small, smaller than a deck of cards that you can screw into a supportive beam. That’s another way of getting hanging in a lower profile way. Like maybe you don’t have a place to put a bar, you can put a few of these up, they’re smaller, they’re easier to just fly under the radar visually. So I use those where I live now.

And then even if you can’t hang yet, to work on getting your arms up overhead, even if they’re not bearing your weight. So that could be every time you walk through a door, just reaching up and touching the doorway, start stretching your shoulders in a slightly different way, especially when you’re doing a lot of carrying or nursing, or when you’re not even sleeping well through the night, I think that tends to really help, stiffen people’s upper backs and necks. So just, just thinking about this is something that, is not only for breast health, right? It’s just to really get you out of that tense upper body, feeling as well.

Katie: I love those tips. And I will say, I don’t care too much about the aesthetic of my house. I probably could care more. But I, like you, am very movement focused, especially with my kids. And I think kids are the best teachers of this because they naturally will move if given any chance. So we actually have one of those hanging, climbing hanging boards that you’re talking about in an archway in our kitchen. And very often I’ll be cooking dinner and the kids will be like hanging from various fingers and trying to like lift their legs up and do different things. And I feel like with kids, especially, but also for adults, it’s a great reminder. If you put the things in your way, you’ll remember to use them much more than if they’re like off in the backyard somewhere hidden away. If they’re like in your space, you tend to use them more.

Katy: And even for people who are like, there’s no way I could hang right now, you can keep your feet on the ground. If you find a bar that’s low enough, like if you’re out taking your kids to the playground, get on there with them. Don’t scroll, just get on your feet and go over, find a low bar, hang on it with your hands, leave your feet on the ground, and then just sink your body down so it straightens your arms and your upper body, but your legs can carry some of your weight on the ground. And that’s a really nice segue to being able to eventually hang without your feet on the ground, but it’s also quite beneficial for the chest and the spine right then, even with your feet on the ground.

Katie: Yeah, I keep getting reminded, even though my kids are getting older, I feel like so many of our movement patterns we could learn by watching babies because they do these things so beautifully and so perfectly. Their squat is gorgeous and they’re crawling around, they’re hanging from things, they’re squatting down and standing up constantly. And I always think of that, if I could just move like a baby, how much healthier all of our movement patterns would be.

Katy: But certainly with the grasping reflex, like a grasping reflex is another baby reflex and that ties into why we’re such good like holders honor and climbers like these are things that are part of naturally what uses our upper body, but we just don’t use them really in modern living.

Katie: That makes sense. Circling back to breast health for a moment before we move on, I’ve seen some information recently circulating around even just things like bouncing on a rebounder or walking without a lymphatically restrictive bra can be really helpful for that gentle movement and for lymphatic flow. And it seems like there is an element of the lymphatic system being kind of working in the breast as well. Have you found this as well and is that something you’d recommend, just like gentle movements without a lot of effort to help sort of build that musculature or are there other things that are better to do than that?

Katy: Well, I think, I mean, bouncing on a rebounder can be actually quite a large load, but again, it depends on the size of your breasts. So I think that the person, that information depends on the person doing the work. People who are like, you can think of them as lighter breasts or heavier breasts. If you have lighter breasts, jumping on a rebounder isn’t that big of a load. If you have heavier breasts, it can be quite a big load. So that could be very akin to, you know, weight loss, going barefoot all of a sudden after, and walking on something that’s really rocky and pebbly, right, you need time to adapt. So I would, before I would bounce, I might stroll around and just walk around, especially, you know, if you are larger breasted, that was a, that’s a good way of training the ligaments in your breasts to feel the weight of your breasts. And if you’re someone who sleeps with your bra on, then you would want to just even take the step of taking a bra off at night and letting things move around and feel that’s a lower load situation. So like, it’s all about finding the scale and going stepwise from lighter load to heavier load.

And then noticing for things like soreness, and then, you know, if you get too sore, then you add some element of support back on, whether it’s external or just diminishing the activities that you’re doing that’s generating a lot of load. And then also in the same way for a lot of runners, A lot of runners don’t have enough support, know, when they’re running. And so if you’re feeling sore, sore in the breast from doing lots of, we’ll just call it bouncing, like when you’re, whether it’s on a rebound or running, that can be quite a bit of jostling. And so you would want to look to finding support that, that matches your activity because not all bra like there’s a science to bras. There are bras that are just holding you from underneath. There are bras that are just smashing you inward, but bras, um, need to be able to support you in all of the ways that you are moved during your activity.

And then of course, all of your parts need to also be able to support you in that particular way. So I’ll just give an example, like for me, and I have larger breasts, like doing inversions, like if I were doing a downward dog and yoga and I wasn’t wearing a bra, that would create a particular motion, you know, my breasts up towards my face. I will like to do some downward dogs without a bra, but I wouldn’t necessarily do them in class. I might do them at home where I’m allowing my breasts, to feel all the way gravity moves them. So I keep up their own strength. But when I do something that’s more, not necessarily that because it’s in public, but because I don’t wanna be fussing around with my breasts while I’m in a group trying to do other things, I’m working at a pace of someone else’s, then I would add more support. So just think creatively of all the ways your breasts would move and then look at your support and look at your life and see, are you getting the breast movement that you need and also the muscular support underneath it as well.

Katie: That makes sense. And I know we’ve talked about it before, but I also want to touch on you mentioned going from shoes to barefoot without kind of an adjustment period. I know that you’re also a proponent of good foot strength and good foot mobility and good foot movement. So give us maybe just some of the core principles related to that, because this is something I feel like I had to sort of rehab as an adult and my feet have gotten much healthier and that I’ve tried with my kids from an early age to keep their natural foot movement and health strong. But I know that you have a whole progression here as well and some things you recommend.

Katy: Yeah, so like being barefoot, there’s a lot of benefits to being barefoot. But again, the ground that you walk in is not the same. Like there’s a difference between walking across a rocky… parking lot or a bunch of gravel versus walking on grass or a field or in a park versus hiking where there are rocks and roots. So you want to look at the terrain in which you walk on and recognize like different terrain is going to require different levels of strength.

So you progress not from bare feet to the most rocky thing. You might go from bare feet to the most gentle of natural terrain. And then also that you look at the way your shoe has been moving. So if your shoe has been very tight around the toes, pushing the toes together, you’re going to need some exercises to help spread the toes apart. If you’ve been wearing shoes with a big heel underneath your heel bone, then just know that your feet have been slowly adapting to pointing downhill all the time. And you’re going to need some stretches for your Achilles tendon and for your calves and hamstrings to help stretch them back out so that when you actually put your heels on the ground, it doesn’t create too much of a stretch.

So I think of the new Barbie movie that just came out and went from Barbie feet straight all the way down. And when you try to transition that quickly, a lot of people will end up, injured for their plantar fascia or their Achilles tendon because they didn’t realize how their feet had adapted to having that heel. So you’re gonna need some corrective exercises. And then also you can get a lot of the physical benefits of being Barefoot or not in a conventional shoe by just going to something more like a minimal shoe that’s got a flat, flexible sole, that’s got space for your toes to spread out, it isn’t pushing all of your toes together more in a clump. So just also thinking of lifestyle, you’re not gonna be barefoot all of the time, depending on where you live, but the idea of trying to find, not having such contrast between barefoot and then like stiff, rigid shoe, that there’s a gray area in between that you can play with, being barefoot in your own house, as well as just being, not having such a rigid, stiff shoe.

Katie: Got it. Yeah, I think that’s another area we can set our houses up for success. And I know we, like I said, I got to cover this in depth before, but I feel like just giving, having the home being a safe place to be barefoot and also having like a variety of things like pebble mats or whatever to stand on, or my kids even have a gymnastics mat in the hallway where they can bounce stuff. It’s just like giving all those different types of feedback. And you were one of the early pioneers in what I think they call the movement movement. And I would love to hear sort of a state of affairs from you of how things are. And I know you have a new book related to this as well. I would guess that we’re seeing shifts, or at least like from what I see on social media, people are more aware of this. We’re seeing people move in a lot of different ways now. But how are things in the movement movement and how does the new book tie into that?

Katy: I definitely think the movement movement has taken off. I mean, before it was so ingrained in us that the way to get movement was through this thing called exercise. But of course, as life gets more complicated, as we get more responsibilities, our time for exercise drifts, into smaller and smaller set of minutes. And so everyone was like, I have no time left to move. And so I was like, you can move all day long. It was this idea of thinking about how can you do the activities that you do each day in a more dynamic way? How do you get your kids moving and you moving at the same time? I’ve seen people with more dynamic workspaces, like stand up desks or sit down desks and on the floor desks, the idea of just varying your movement, flexible seating in schools, not coming up as quickly, but just the idea or the concepts is certainly spreading.

And I’m seeing more scientific journals really point to just, expending more calories through just the small movements that you do, putting value in active transportation, walking and riding your bike, not only for environmental reasons, but also because again, it’s this way to… fit more non-exercise movement in the day. So at least on social media, it seems to be spreading. It seems to be spreading in academic journals. So I’m very hopeful. I’m very hopeful that more people are just recognizing that they can get more of the movement they need and their families need by just making subtle changes to their life.

And then the book, because I’ve gone so, I’ve gone so far in the direction of talking about just movement in general, just moving your body more. The biggest barrier to just moving more is physical pain for most people. Like there’s something in their body that’s not working in the way that they would like. So rethink your position. I actually went in the opposite way, which is looking at your movement part by part, so that you could move more, by just moving a single part more, whether it’s focusing on your feet, or figuring out what’s going on in your knees or hips, or your pelvic floor, or your back, or your shoulders. And if you’re feeling overwhelmed, just focusing on making small lifestyle changes that move that particular region of your body, better so that you feel better and then you can start doing, more movements of daily activities, you can fit those in more without that barrier to pain.

Katie: I love that. And to your point, I think especially once we become moms, the time factor becomes our limiter often just with everything that’s required for daily life. So if there were maybe like an 80-20 template for moms, if we are pressed for time, what are some of the best little like bouts of movement that we can work into our day that are gonna have the best long-term benefits for us? What would you put on that list?

Katy: Oh, the 80-20. Well, for me, I’ll just say what it is for me. I still am a big fan of… walking with my kids to do some sort of task. So like that’s not an exercise per se, but it’s a way, I mean, it is, it’s going out for a walk. It’s whole body movement, it’s time with them. So definitely, walking to do something on our to-do list every single day, whether it’s to the grocery store or dropping off something to deliver or it’s working on homework. You know, like if you’ve got play lines or spelling words that you want to work on to do those on the move in some way, it’s so nourishing. Not only Not only because… I get that movement, but also because it allows me to get other things. I get time with my kids. I check off the other thing that I need to do on the list. So that’s very, um, efficient.

Carrying when you walk is also a big one. Like just carrying, whether it’s, you know, if you’re going to get groceries or doing some errand where you have a load to feel okay about loading up if you’re going to the library, like carry all the books in your arms, like go for that extra heavy thing for that shorter walking distance because you’re already walking, you’re already out there with your kids. It gives you the feeling of a big exercise that you’re doing. And I make it caring because it’s so good again for like the chest. Like I was saying, it’s just very simple.

And then also varying your carry, you know, if you’re finding yourself, I don’t know, like if when you leave the house, like I always have like, there’s like bags and like everyone’s got like all their gear. To feel good about carrying it on your body, mixing it up on your back or in your shoulders is a really good way to get more even out of your walk. It’s a higher calorie walk. You know, it’s a more effort walk. You get more glute contraction when you’re adding extra load to your body. So just… Walking and carrying and layering it with some sort of task is just my favorite way to get some to get to fit movement in every single day.

Katie: I love those because those don’t take any extra time. They already work within life as a mom. One that I would say is not an intro movement, but I would be curious to your take on. I’ve been coaching high school track with my daughter. One thing I’ve added in recently that was new for me entirely was hill sprints, which I find actually are less load on my joints, but to your point, super effective for getting my glutes to fire and to make use of that. I find it requires much less time and distance to do hill sprints, and it’s easier to work that in timelines. Again, that’s not an intro movement. I had to work up to that, but is that something you’d recommend as a more advanced movement if people are able to do it?

Katy: That’s my favorite is I would call it Hill or stairs. Hills or stairs are just my favorite because I do think we have like… It’s a good bang for your time buck because hills, they’re like the same, you get the same thing with carrying, but you’re carrying yourself up. Like that’s why it’s harder is because you are having to take your weight and move it up a hill. So you’re carrying yourself. If you walk up a hill too, you don’t necessarily even have to run to get that higher intensity boost. For a lot of people running doesn’t work. So if you’re like, man, I wish I could work harder, but I don’t wanna work faster and I don’t wanna go with more impact, hills or stairs are the easiest hands down to get that metabolic boost that you want and also strength. It’s a really good lower body strengthener.

And then you can also carry something while you do it. If you’re running, it’s a little bit more tricky, but be like, I’m gonna go, I will walk stairs. Like if I am, especially like right now, if you’re doing sports or you find yourself at a place with a stadium stairs, you do not have to sit there and watch other people exercise or practice. Just start walking the bleachers, walking up and down. You can do every other step too, if you wanna go extra hard without going extra fast, just taking bigger, longer steps. And you can get… a workout that you need like to seriously rest from just in 20 minutes of being a little bit earlier for pickup or dropping off and staying a little bit. You’ve already driven there.

So like looking at the environments you find yourself in when you’re doing other tasks that are non-negotiable and going, this is my gym. Like what can I do here that doesn’t interfere with anything else? I’ve already like where we lose our time is transitions, you know, I got to drive all the way over here. And then you lost a half an hour of getting back in the car and driving like you’re already there. So try to look at the spaces that you’re in, and see how they can move you.

Katie: That’s such a great tip. And like you said, lower impact. And often we’re sitting and watching our kids play sports anyway. So we’re already there. It’s an easier way to use time and then our kids get the benefit of seeing us moving to which we know, statistically, a parent’s fitness level or movement level has an impact on the kids movement level. So it’s kind of a win for everybody at that point.

Katy: And invite other parents, like all the parents, like, I think it’s just, it’s the same reason we don’t go into playground when our kids are, because that’s not what parents do. So we’re always in the playground and I’ve noticed other grownups will come talk to it. Now they’re hanging, now they’re asking. And so the more you move, it gives permission for other people to move or make a date, ask another parent, Hey, when our kids are here, do you want to do this or that with me? And I think you’ll find that more often than not, there are other willing participants.

Katie: I love that. Another thing I really like that you talk about is the shapes of our body with relation to movement. And one that seems to be talked about a lot in the news right now is things like tech neck and how we’re all hunched over more and more and how this is really even affecting kids at young ages now. So can you talk about that kind of like that shapes analogy with the body? And also what are some ways we can counteract for those of us who do work a job that requires a computer or being on social media on our phone? What are some of the ways we can counteract that?

Katy: Well there’s nothing wrong with any shape that your body gets into. The problem is when you are doing it, in a repetitive way where that shape, becomes harder for you to get out of until it gets to the point where it’s fairly impossible for you to get out of. So kids are quite malleable. So, you know, if you’re bed forward and you’re looking down at your phone, big deal. We’ve been looking down at sewing machines and knitting and woodwork and writing and reading.

But what’s happened is because most of our activities have moved into utilizing that particular shape, more people are spending more time in that particular shape and it’s becoming more difficult for us to get out of. So it’s just a spinal curve or a set of curves that we’re creating, but then the tissue adapts into those curves. And then when you stand up, it’s hard to stand all the way up because your body is so practiced and adjusted to that particular shape. With kids it’s more challenging because… Kids are, they’re softer and they’re still forming. They’re still forming their adult bodies.

We did not grow up really in a time where most of our growing up. We did not grow up in a time where most of our… literally formative years were spent in a single position. We had a variety of positions we are passing through, so this will be the first generation that has spent most of its formative years in a single position. And so it’ll be interesting to see how the spine deals with that. There’s already some issues that are coming up and that’s why they call it tech neck. Again, it’s not the position, it’s the rigidity of the position. It’s the inability to get out of it and then what happens on a tissue level in the bones or in the discs of the spine for that position.

Now, we’re in a technological time. The good news is you’re… computer or your smartphone actually does not require that shape to work. It’s just a mindless position. We haven’t been thinking about our body position necessarily when we’re on the computer or the phone. So just change your shape. You don’t necessarily have to change the activity. Reducing it would be nice, especially for kids. But if you work for a computer, then you still just apply all the other movement, movement things, which is, get into a better position to do something for a long period of time, shift your positions regularly, take movement breaks that break up your period of time, and that’s how you keep a position from being set inside your body.

Katie: Got it. And that’s a great reminder that even if you are going to be on a computer or your phone, you can change the position you are in instead of changing the having to be on it. That alone is, I think, a huge tip and we can just mix up the ways we’re doing that. I know you’re a big fan of like standing desk, for instance, or there’s like wobble stools. You can sit on an exercise ball. There’s so many ways to do that, even if you’re just choosing different ones every half hour. So that would make such a big difference to your overall positioning during that activity, even if you’re on it all day. Yeah. And like I said, I’ll link to the past episode on this. I know we’ve talked in depth about pelvic floor health and diastasis recti, which I might be mispronouncing. But if people are dealing with those, how might their position and movement be contributing? And are there things we can do that are helpful to sort of rebuilding if those are things that are going on?

Katy: Yeah, I think of everything that’s in the core. So that would be diastasis recti. You said it perfectly. And pelvic floor issues is the core is really heavily influenced because of the way the anatomy is by what’s happening in the hips and the shoulders. Stiffness in a immobility, in the hips and the shoulders, because we eventually do stand up, what tends to have to adjust or give is… the tissues in the abdomen and the tilt of the pelvis.

And so… that shape in the shoulders ends up creating a particular shape in the torso and that shape in the torso for many people makes it so you’re not able to capitalize on the strengths that your activities of daily living would normally afford. So in the book I try to explain it like this.

You know, if you do 10,000 steps a day or 5,000 steps a day, you go for a daily walk, a motion that naturally causes your glute muscles to contract, if your pelvic tilt is in a particular position. If you’ve got one particular pelvic tilt, then it makes every single step not necessarily come from the glutes. And so by learning how to deal with hip stiffness and letting your pelvis sit more in what we call a closer to a neutral position when you’re walking, then every stride can help build that glute for you. And that glute that you build ends up better supporting your pelvic floor.

So it’s just thinking about… that even though the issue we have might be manifesting in the core, to not only just focus on doing more core exercises and more pelvis exercises, but to learn the way the shoulder tension shows up in the rib cage and how the ribs end up moving the abdominals and play around with abdominal pressure. So it’s just, it’s bigger than where we think it is.

My biggest tip for those particular areas is if you are investing time and energy in trying to solve, what are essentially like core function and core strength issues, just to know that those mechanics are heavily influenced by the same things we were talking about earlier. Can you hang from something? Like in diastasis recti, I will put hanging in that book because one of the largest muscles that passes through the core and attaches to the pelvis, your latissimus dorsi, is a muscle that’s really greatly conditioned by you hanging. But I don’t think hanging would necessarily go into people’s… canon of core and pelvic floor, pelvic health exercises, but because of the connections, it should be.

Katie: That’s so fascinating. Are there any cues to help people be aware of or have better pelvic alignment, even in something just like walking?

Katy: If you put your hands on your hips, and you take and then when you’re walking, when you’re out walking next, put your hands on your pelvis and notice if when you’re walking, you feel your pelvis tilt forward to back with every step, or you notice that it twists, with every step, like twist right to the left, like a salsa dancing twist. Try to hold your pelvis still, and see if your leg muscles are… flexible enough to allow you to walk without also bringing the pelvis with it. Ideally that pelvis would stay more. This is not even to deal with the actually like the anterior or pelvic posterior tilt that I was talking about, but this is a simpler way to just become aware of, wow, is my pelvis going everywhere my legs are going, or is my pelvis able to be still while my legs do the work? Because that’s what it takes to get the glutes.

Katie: Got it. Okay, that’s super helpful.

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A follow up to that, I guess, would be is I’ve noticed, especially since having kids, I have more trouble getting into a full deep squat without compromising alignment in certain places or without my heels coming off the ground. Are there things that can help work up to that? Is it just more time in that position or are there things I can be doing that will help work up to that?

Katy: More time in that position, but and also maybe more supported time where you’ve got a counterbalance So that you can help hold the heels down and then also Not just more time in the exercise but using that or a variety of floor hip stretching positions Just when you’re watching television or doing other things on the floor. Targeted if you figured out like oh, it’s my calves that are really tight do more targeted calf stretching type things Look at your footwear. Make sure you’re not in shoes that are elevating your heels. All that is helpful in in general It’s often just volume that you need to deal with, not necessarily adding more complex things. But sometimes, It’s not volume, it could be a strength issue. So maybe just don’t only hold static squats, but try strengthening, like coming up and down out of a squat for like a set of 10 or 15 where you can really fatigue and use those muscles and that will end up helping you better than sometimes just a static stretch could.

Katie: Got it. And another position that we spend a lot of time in, at least statistically, is the position we’re sleeping in. And so I’m curious if you have any tips for sleep, better sleep posture or better ways to also encourage our body to be in a good position while we’re sleeping.

Katy: Yeah, I mean, your sleep position is certainly… Voluminous. So like any position, variety is key. So not just being in a single sleep position all night. And then what I talk about in the book is really about sleep surfaces. So sleeping, especially in the surfaces that we tend to, which is our really… I’ll just say fluffy. We tend to go for really like fluffy sleep surfaces. What that fluffiness does is absorb your shape in the way that you’re most comfortable. So if you spend a lot of time in a chair, as I was saying, like your shoulders and your hips have adapted to that. When you sleep, you go back into almost that chair position or has elements of that chair position. And the soft sleep surface accommodates that. Where a firmer sleep surface requires that you get out of a particular position. So that’s why people find it pretty challenging because it’s like, a whole body stretch that you’re doing for hours and it’s so uncomfortable and you can’t get comfortable.

So I don’t recommend, just like I talked about already with shoes and with bras to go right from a low load to a heavy load in an instant. But I would encourage you to get on the floor, which is a firm surface and roll around on it. Like lie straight on your back on the floor, lay on your side and… get into like a like a sort of curled up sleep position on your right side and your left side and notice what has to change. What has to stretch. Get on your stomach and then whatever is uncomfortable for you when you’re on the firm surface, those are good indicators of parts of your body that you could work on mobilizing more often. You can do that with targeted exercises or rolling it out with fascial balls, but you could also just get on the floor and go through that exercise a couple times each day. And that will give you a really good head to toe stretch that will allow you to sleep on things that aren’t so cushiony. So I just sleep on the floor with sheepskin and then sheets, because I find that that’s the best way to… apply what I tried to apply to during the day, not a single fixed position and using a lot of position so my body stays supple. That’s how I apply that to nighttime.

Katie: Got it. And if people are able to make that transition, are there any benefits to like back sleeping versus side sleeping? Or is it more of just like the surface, your body will get strength in whatever position you’re sleeping? Or is like, for instance, back sleeping more beneficial?

Katy: No, I don’t think that there’s a benefit to one sleeping position over the other. I think that probably, I think of Mike, again, my dog, that when animals sleep. They just sort of get up and change position and then fall. Like it’s not waking up and not able to sleep in that way, but it’s, sort of just gently shifting through positions through the night. Like there’s probably some sort of alert system in the body. Like that’s enough of that, go into a different position. So just cycling through positions, just like you cycle through positions in the day, although at a less frequency.

Katie: Got it. Okay. You also talk about how parents know how to pay attention to hunger cues in their kids. But I think you define it as there are signs of movement hunger. So I would love for you to explain what those are in both kids and adults and how to look for those.

Katy: Right, so like what are signs of….general hunger in our kids. Like we have words like hangry, right? We’ve identified meltdowns, outbursts of anger, maybe getting… uh, lethargic or even weepy when you’re just underfed. So, um, highly energetic when you’ve had too much sugar. Like we have been able to look at the relationship, the patterns of what we eat and how we behave physically, so that we’re able to not see everything just in terms of, either the physical sign, like the growling of the stomach, or… emotion or the attitude like anger and we’re like this is just a side effect of not getting the proper nutrition. We’ve transitioned away from seeing it as something that is just happening. We see it as more relating to a cause or a set of circumstances. We do not have that same language for, movement.

And so what I’m calling for in Rethink Your Position is outlining, like, here’s how you would start to, connect the dots between how you feel, not just the physical signs of things hurting or being achy, but also how you feel emotionally, right? Like low energy that everyone around you is sort of a jerk or like whatever it is for you, also the way you feel about yourself. Like I am a terrible person. Like we get in these loops, but a lot of times they are the mislabeled or mistakenly labeled feelings that are a side effect of us not getting the baseline movement nutrition that we need.

And so like, if you notice that every time I take a walk, this works out, this goes away, this feels better for me, I feel better about people, I feel better in this relationship, then you can start to relabel some of those things as, oh, this is how my body alerts me to needing movement. It’s just a signal of movement hunger. That framework, once you have that framework, you can see that your body’s calling for movement, not just like your mind, your emotions, your physical body is calling for movement a lot more often. We’re just not fluent in the signals that we’re sending ourselves.

Katie: Yeah, as you’re saying that, I can imagine seeing this in my kids especially. It seems like kids probably respond faster to needing that than we do as adults. Maybe we’ve like conditioned it out of ourselves a little bit or we don’t pay attention to it. Whereas I would guess most parents listening can identify times where they’ve seen that in their kids and then movement helps.

And I know we’ve also talked a little bit about this, but there’s going to be a varying degree of people listening ranging from homeschooling our kids to having kids in various different school systems. And a lot of those are not the most conducive to movement and kids aren’t getting as much movement as they used to. Obviously they have to work within the constraints of whatever school they’re attending, but are there any other things we can do that help set them up for better positions and posture and movement even within the times of day that they do have to be kind of sort of confined?

Katy: Yeah, so my big thing is use the times around, like whatever’s least malleable, you’re not gonna do much about that. So don’t let that discourage you. Take that morning walk, figure out how to start the day with movement. If your school does not start your kids off with movement first thing, then that really should be a priority. Like I think we’ve got a good messaging around like, eat a good breakfast, but we do not have that equivalent for the movement. Like, right, we’re so much more fluent in food than we are in movement. It’s like same reason that you need to start off with a good breakfast, is why you need to start off with a good, dose of movement first thing in the morning before you go to sit down and ask your mind to do all these other things, you have to feed it the basic movement.

So that role falls on you, the parent, if there’s no morning recess or anything like that happening at the school. So that does mean creating some sort of tradition in the household. Maybe you do it all the time, but try to do it most mornings of like, we are going to like walk to the school bus or walk part way to the school, or instead of a sit down breakfast, like figuring out like what are easily, and these are all things that we do at, for our home, like easily transportable breakfasts. So we don’t spend, time sitting down more in the morning. Um, we can, walk in and carry our breakfast, we go along and then also try to do something similar after school. If your kids can pick electives, having pick more active electives as possible um, for that lunch, look at the recesses they do have and talk with your kids about maximizing that period of time. Because I think that. We don’t have the conversations enough where it’s like, how do you feel like asking them, how do you feel at the end of the day? Like, what are some ways that you could get more active and like their, on tech during the recesses, or they’re struggling between being able to eat or play. Like that’s a big thing that comes up is like, you have such a truncated lunch recess combo, figuring out what foods are portable for them or fast eating so that they can get as much movement time.

So like have those conversations, ask how it works, go to the school, see how it works, and then try to maximize your weekends, maximize your vacations with movement, and then just create some afterschool evening movement practices for your family too, where you don’t have to fret as much because you knew that you did that walk every night, whether it’s a homework walk, and then the more you build that into your family culture, the less stressed you will be about this entity called school.

Katie: Got it. And as we get close to the end, I’d also love to just hear any other cool tips you have based on the home environment. Because I know you do a lot of things in a unique way in your home that your kids probably love. But what are some of the things we might find in your home that we might not find in the average home?

Katy: Well, we all sleep on the floor. So that’s like a, that’s a thing. We just have low, beds, but that’s not only for those sleeping movements that I was talking about. It’s so it’s for space because beds and sleep environments take up a very large portion for many people of the actual room. And then the kids don’t have room to do cartwheels or to set up other things in their room that would move them a little bit more. So the nice thing about a foldable bed, whether it’s futon or you know, a low mat or tatami mat or whatever it is that you can just push it to the side. And then that allows you to jump rope in your room or it just frees up a lot more movement space and you haven’t dedicated so much home space to the period of time when you’re not moving at all. So that was a, that was a big reason that we did that.

The hanging bars, the hanging things that you’re talking about, we’ve had a different variation of those as we went from younger kids to older kids. We had monkey bars in our house when our kids were little. Now they’re big and they’re interested in physical fitness. So they like things that are like calisthenic key or, you know, that are part of that physical training, um, low tables, you know, we’ll sit on the floor for a lot of our meals and have sort of a, what’s it like a Japanese style table. So things are just a little bit lower because it just keeps our bodies a little bit more flexible, built into our day, right? We don’t need to go do extra stretches all the time because they’re just facilitated in that way. So that’s just a sample of how some of the changes we’ve made to make our homes facilitate our movement.

Katie: I love that I have not made the shift to a lower table yet just because I got to figure out the pet variable with having dogs in the house. But that’s probably a fun experience when people come visit you as well to get to have a whole new experience of even just a meal.

Katy: Well, and you do, we have people who are disabled in our family and so we’ve got just different setups. Like we can pop up something high when we need to. And I’ve thrown parties in my minimal house where I just put a bunch of low tables together and then put cushions all the way around and maybe set up one high table. So it just, again, it’s the idea of flexibility. Like how flexible can you be? We try to keep our home as flexible in all of the ways. Because we’re also, I would say, minimalists, you know, so we’re trying to do a lot with fewer things. So things have to be more malleable when you do it that way.

Katie: I like it. I’m not at your level yet, but I’m inspired by it. And I’ve at least adopted some of the like putting movement in our way kind of practices and that’s been really fun for the kids, but also for me. So I encourage people, I’ve written about that actually. I’ll link to those in the show notes. And I know you have a ton of resources on your website and in your books. I’ll link to those as well. And all of that will be in the show notes at wellnessmama.fm. But a couple last wrap up questions I love to ask. The first being if there is a book or a number of books other than your own that have had a profound impact on your life and if so, what they are and why.

Katy: I would say right now, just because I have a… I have pre-teens and I’ve answered this question on your show before, but I’m not going to say those books, even though those books still count. So if you want to hear those, you can go back and listen to another episode. I’m really rereading a lot of the books that I read when I was a teen. So like, Are you there, God? It’s me, Margaret. We just went and saw that movie. And then like just rereading things that I read, this is not really titles, but just a general approach. I am now reading, the books that I read when I was my children’s age. I’m not reading what they are reading right now, but I am reading the books that I chose to read when I was at that stage. And I find it helps me really tap into where I was when I was their age and I can approach them with a lot more empathy and just reminder of what it was like. So that’s… That’s how I’m choosing my reading.

Katie: That is a new answer and I love it. That’s a great approach and I’ve got preteens as well, so I may follow your advice in that. And lastly, any parting advice for the listeners that could be related to the topics we touched on or something we didn’t cover or entirely unrelated life advice.

Katy: Find a personal mission statement. I think it’s really hard. Like there’s so much information about what you should be doing and what you should not be doing. Most of it is context dependent and you’re almost never given the context in the way that we deliver information, which is like on social media, very rapid, few words, short articles. So… Everything is conflicting when you look at, shallow bits of information and you need to go deeper. You can’t go more deeply into everything, but if you at least have a personal mission statement, and that could be as simple as like three orienting words. When you have your three orienting words that are like, what you are about, what you are striving for, that might give you all the context to know what you don’t need to spend any time reading, what you do wanna figure out is working, as long as it gets you to your three action words or whatever your mission statement is. And that helps you orient and then that will help, I think remove a lot of the stress of like, not figuring out if you’re doing it. There isn’t like no right or wrong as much as there’s just, Where are you headed? Where would you like to head? And then you can figure out if it serves you or not.

Katie: I think that’s a perfect place to wrap up. It’s always so fun to have a conversation with you. Like I said, I love your work and I followed it for a long time. Thank you so much for being here and for sharing today.

Katy: Thanks, Katie.

Katie: And thanks as always to all of you for listening and sharing your most valuable resources, your time, your energy, and your attention with us today. We’re both so grateful that you did, and I hope that you will join me again on the next episode of the Wellness Mama Podcast.

If you’re enjoying these interviews, would you please take two minutes to leave a rating or review on iTunes for me? Doing this helps more people to find the podcast, which means even more moms and families could benefit from the information. I really appreciate your time, and thanks as always for listening.

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