I have a soft spot for biomechanics. Actually, I consider myself a bit of a backyard biomechanist – I dabble in it because I really like it, kind of like my gardening. I always liked physics and math in highschool, but I was first introduced to the field of biomechanics when I was doing my kinesiology degree at the University of Calgary. I ended up doing an exercise & health physiology degree, yet I did take some biomechanics and I used to share lab space with the biomechanists doing all sorts of neat human movement analysis.
Nowadays, if you live in my house you would know I am nearly fanatical about a biomechanist named Katy Bowman. I have been admiring Katy Bowman from afar for quite awhile now – think Julie and Julia, except I can’t think of a cute way to play off our names… and instead of cookbooks, I have been pouring over her blog, her books/articles, and her video clips. It is my goal in the near future to save up enough to do her Whole Body Alignment course with the end goal of becoming a Restorative Exercise Specialist. One day I hope to finally meet her – unlike that poor Julie in the movie!
Now on to the subject of today’s post: our first lesson in biomechanics. Since the study of biomechanics examines the forces that act on and within a human body, it matters to you because you have a body! (And might I add you only get one!)
To begin, let’s talk posture vs. alignment. Posture refers to the way you position yourself – usually in standing or sitting, and usually in the pattern that is habitual for you. Alignment on the other hand refers to “proper” positioning, and it’s often in a line (think about the wheels on your car).
When we were taught to analyze posture in physio school, we were taught to imagine a plumb line running straight down the side of the body from the ear. Simplistically, perfect alignment in your human body means that your shoulder should be right under your ear, followed by the greater trochanter of your hip and the lateral maleolus of your ankle. This is a picture of that perfect posture in my 5 yr old (and yes, for the most part we do all start out this way!):
Why does your alignment matter? Because your muscles, tendons, ligaments, bone, etc. all play a role in the movement of your body – and they all have different shapes and sizes. When they are positioned ideally (in good alignment), they can work most efficiently. When they aren’t in alignment, the effects can be far reaching – from pain (somewhere, anywhere) to headaches to weakness to prolapse to indigestion. In fact, your muscles play a role in pretty much every body function: breathing, using your 5 senses, moving blood and lymph, keeping you warm, eliminating waste, etc. etc. etc.
Want to know more about why alignment matters? Check out Katy Bowman’s blog HERE. (You can also learn a bit more about her and lots of really cool and valuable information about your body. It’s AMAZING!!! Go there now!). Feeling a bit overwhelmed? I suggest you start with this blog entry.
I plan to touch on some of Katy’s wisdom fairly regularly on my blog. I will let you know why I find some of her tidbits so incredibly important, along with how I see them every day in the clinic and in the lives of everyday women. For now, I want you to take a look at your posture side on in the mirror (or if you can, have someone take a picture of you from the side so you can also see your head position). In my next blog post, I will go into common posture patterns I see and some simple things you can start doing to find your own optimal alignment! For a bit of a challenge, try to see if you can get all your joints to line up like the picture above. Is it easy to do? Difficult? Impossible? How long can you hold it for?
p.s. pregnant ladies, this applies to you too!