Thursday, 30 October 2014

Move Your DNA by Katy Bowman

Move Your DNA by Katy Bowman

On the fiction front I've been reading David Copperfield.  No-one can accuse me of choosing short, easy books for this challenge!  Still, it is one of the few Dickens' novels I've not read before and I am enjoying it although it feels slow going - I'm about three quarters of the way through, so expect a review next week (not that Dickens needs a review from me but there you go).

The non-fiction book I finished last week though, was this one: Move Your DNA by Katy Bowman.  It was recommended by Mark Sisson of Mark's Daily Apple which is enough of an endorsement for me to buy a book anyway but this one had particular resonance.  As many people know I have had all sorts of pelvic issues for quite some time (see my review of Teach Us To Sit Still) and am currently going through various medical tests to find out why I have such bad pain in my lower back and right hip bone (not joint).  I am waiting to go back to the consultant for the results of an MRI scan.  

Since September, when I made a few changes to my lifestyle through following The Miracle Morning by Hal Elrod (review of that to come soon), I have had a dramatic improvement in my ability to stand for long periods of time without pain - pretty essential stuff for a teacher!  I am convinced that the biggest reason for the improvement is strictly following the Primal Blueprint lifestyle protocol.  It is something I have done on and off for six years and every time I do it properly the results are amazing.  In fact with the extra time and energy I've found from this I've started to take the Primal Blueprint Expert Certification course with the intention of setting up a website and classes delivering primal wellbeing coaching.  

So, where does this book come in?  I am not an natural exerciser.  It's pretty obvious that my idea of fun is curling up on a sofa with a good book. But pain is a fairly effective motivator and I am fascinated by the whole concept of giving our bodies what evolution has programmed it to expect.  (I feel that about babies too, so I might do a review of The Continuum Concept on here soon.)  There are a few evolutionary inspired exercise books out there such as Paleo Fitness, and Mark Sissan has the  big four Primal Movements as part of the Primal Blueprint, but they all take the focus of introducing the movement that your body should expect into your everyday life - definitely necessary and worthwhile but not completely addressing the situation I was in. 

Katy Bowman is a biomechanist so every principle in the book is firmly underpinned by thorough scientifc knowledge and understanding.  The premise of this book is, like that of other evolutionary fitness books, that our bodies as hunter-gatherers expect certain amounts and kinds of movement everyday and that our modern sedentary lifestyles simply do not provide that movement.  Other primal, paleo, evolutionary fitness books provide ideas for the necessary exercises that we can undertake to replicate some of those movements in a regular way and these are all brilliant. For example, I would love to attend a MovNat workshop and get a real hunter-gatherer style workout  but, apart from the fact that they are ridiculously expensive, I also know that in my current state of fitness I could not do one.  I realise now that twenty-odd years ago when I used to spend every spare moment caving, climbing or hill-walking I got that workout without thinking about it or 'doing exercise' and I would love to get back to that physical state and level of natural activity. 

Where this book differs from those others is that Katy takes our bodies as they are now and explores how they deviate from that evolutionary expectation.  It is not just that we do not get any where near enough movement in our lives now - even people who participate in sports and exercise programmes spend a considerable amount of the day sitting or standing still - but that there are some movements that we over-do.  For instance, our bodies are not designed to walk up evenly spaced steps or along perfectly flat, even ground.  We encase our feet in rigid shoes which do not allow our feet to engage with the terrain, we spend long periods of time sitting on chairs which force our spines into particular shapes when we were 'designed' to squat and we prop our heads up on pillows causing our necks to spend the whole 7-8 hours in one position instead of lying on varying surfaces at different heights and angles.

So Katy has provided some exercises which are designed, not to give us a primal workout, but to re-align those parts of the body which we are mis-using, under-using, over-using and deforming by our repetitive actions and sedentary lifestyle. The exercises are deceptive, the movements involved look miniscule, the results are amazing.

Now, I enjoyed this book for all the theory and the science and the bio-mechanics, some people might not be interested in that side of things.  However, I struggled with following the exercises in the book and interpreting the printed pictures.  They are good, and Katy's descriptions are brilliant but it is always hard to read and exercise at the same time and also to judge a movement from a static picture.  But, as this was an e-book, so of course there were links to Katy's website: Katy Says where she, not only publishes a blog but also has various programmes available to download and buy the video tutorials.  I believe she also has a YouTube channel which is worth checking out.  The ideas explained in the book made such sense to me that I tried the trial 'Alignment Snack' as they are called, and I actually enjoyed it.  Since then I have downloaded 4 more 'snacks' at a cost of $5 each which works out at just over £3. I have been doing one of these snacks every morning for the past week and a half and they are unbelievable.  I now realise that I walk using my lower back, knees and thighs instead of my lateral hip muscles (the muscles running over the hips at the side of the legs) and my hamstrings.  I'm really focusing on strengthening and stretching these under-used muscles and taking the strain off my lower back which has been trying to do a job it was not designed for.  In only a week and a half I have seen a dramatic improvement and have even ventured as far as adding a 7 minute primal exercise workout to my morning routine.  If this continues, which I'm sure it will, then I will fly up Mount Ararat in August!

So, if you are interested in a primal lifestyle, in getting fit, or in dealing with chronic joint or muscle pain, then I wholeheartedly recommend this book. When I go back to the hospital for my results, I'll have to admit that I don't even have a problem any more. 

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