In case you hadn’t noticed from my previous blogs about foot care and going barefoot… I am kind of obsessed with healthy feet. As a Chiropractor, I see the spinal changes and postural changes that occur in my patients from poor footwear choices or injured feet on a daily basis.
Katy Bowman’s book, Every Woman’s Guide to Foot Pain Relief, belongs on every household’s bookshelf! In her book, Bowman breaks down the details of how your feet move, how they are built, and the basics of both self foot maintenance and rehabilitation. The reality is that most women will experience severe foot pain at some point in their lives. With simple daily activities and stretches… and maybe some better footwear choices… these can be overcome, but most importantly prevented.
Here are some of my favorite take-home points from this book:
Wearing shoes all the time is like living your life with mittens on.
Your feet are unlike anyone else’s.
Your toes should be able to move independently (This sounds crazy, I KNOW! But I am currently working on this feat).
A shoe whose sole is taller at the back than the front is a heel… even if it’s a running shoe.
Shoes should be foot-shaped.
Ditch the Flip-Flop.
Barefoot time is essential!!
You have the power to change your own feet- and your HEALTH.
I also really appreciated the practical exercises in the back of the book and am implementing them into my own nightly routine. I highly recommend reading this book and starting to assess and correct your footwear and your feet. I am also excited to start reading more of Katy Bowman’s books 🙂
I’ll leave you with this quote from her book:
“Human tissue is phenomenal stuff. When you make small changes in your movement patterns, you nudge yourself down a new physiological path. The body works to tear down old or underused tissue every day, and builds up tissues that are in greatest demand. The body continuously adapts to whatever you are doing now. Changing your habits will change your life!”- Katy Bowman
Please welcome Lize Williams as a guest blogger for Seed of Life! Lize is a massage therapist specializing in pre and postnatal massage- in the home. She is passionate about helping parents navigate the perinatal period through massage. We are excited to have her blogging with us!
Benefits of Pregnancy Massage
Pretty much anyone who has been pregnant has had someone tell them “Ooh, you should get a pregnancy massage!” And sure, massage sounds great, but what does that have to do with pregnancy?
As it turns out, quite a lot. There are a number of reasons to get massage while you are pregnant, some of which are the same as the reasons for getting a massage in general, and some of which are specific to pregnancy. Here are some benefits specific to pregnancy massage:
Massage reduces strain on muscles. Perhaps the most obvious benefit of pregnancy massage is that it makes your sore muscles feel better. Pregnancy increases muscle soreness in several ways: you are carrying more weight, your joints aren’t carrying their full load due to loosened ligaments so the muscles have to pick up the slack, and your posture changes as your center of gravity shifts. All of this leads to increased strain on your muscles, which get fatigued faster, and can be more prone to injury.
Massage can lower anxiety and stress hormones, resulting in a decrease in premature delivery and birth complications. This may seem like a wild claim, but Dr. Tiffany Field did a study at the Touch Research Institute on the effects of massage on pregnant women, and women who received regular massage during their pregnancy had improved deliveries!
Massage can improve emotional well-being. Along with the reduction of stress hormones, massage can decrease depression and anxiety, and increase production of feel-good hormone serotonin. Pregnancy can be an exciting time, but it is also a time of change, and change is stressful. Even in the best of circumstances pregnancy can bring some challenging emotions, and massage can help balance those through hormonal effects and calming the sympathetic (fight or flight) nervous system.
Massage can improve blood and lymph flow. Improving lymphatic flow can decrease swelling, which is a common pregnancy complaint especially in the feet, ankles, and legs. Improvements in blood circulation can benefit blood pressure and relieve headaches.
Massage improves posture. By relieving tension in various muscles, it can be easier to realign into good posture. Massage therapists can also help your posture by teaching you what good posture looks and feels like for your changing body. Proper alignment can help reduce frequent pregnancy-related complaints, such as low back pain, shoulder pain, sciatica and headaches.
Massage can improve sleep. By decreasing stress and physical discomfort, massage can help mothers-to-be sleep better. Massage therapists can also give advice on how to properly position pillows to be adequately supportive and relieve stress on your body when you lie down.
Massage can help mothers prepare for labor. By learning how to relax, and practicing relaxing as a response to touch, pregnant women can have easier labor thanks to their experiences with massage during pregnancy. Associating touch and relaxation ahead of time can help a birth partner’s touch be more effective during labor.
Massage during pregnancy may increase how much loving touch mothers provide their infants. Touch is hugely important for human development. Even with all our other physical needs met, without touch, babies fail to thrive. Women who receive compassionate touch (such as through massage) during their pregnancy and labor go on to touch their infants more, in a more nurturing way. This creates more security and attachment for the baby, versus babies who are touched less and can be more aggressive and withdrawn.
Massage can support lactation. Positive touch stimulates production of the hormone prolactin, which has multiple effects on the body, including increasing milk supply and nesting and nurturing instincts.
Massage can help you enjoy your changing body. In a culture obsessed with women’s bodies, the weight gain and changes in shape associated with pregnancy can be hard on our self-esteem. We may avoid being touched or looked at by even our intimate partners. In addition to reducing pregnancy pains, massage can also help you reconnect to your body in a positive, non-threatening way, experiencing touch without the worry of attractiveness. Your body is doing a wonderful thing, but more than that, it IS a wonderful thing, and sometimes we just need a little extra reminder of that through an enjoyable physical experience.
 Nurturing Massage for Pregnancy by Leslie Stager
Lize Williams is a Licensed Massage Therapist whose work focuses on the strains of bearing and raising children. After having her own daughter she realized just how hard engaging in self-care can be for new mothers, so she founded Motherhood Massage, a house-call based massage practice designed to reduce the barriers to self-care for mothers, mothers-to-be, and other caregivers. She recognizes that amongst all the joy, motherhood can also be challenging and isolating, and works to help her clients feel more connected to themselves, their families, and their world through the healing power of touch. Her work combines treatment and relaxation, to help soothe and strengthen her clients’ bodies and minds. The perinatal period is rife with changes and challenges, and Lize views her work as a wholistic support for her clients, helping them with face whatever the journey into parenthood is throwing their way. She is a certified MotherTouch Bodywork Professional and has studied under Leslie Stager.
Staying healthy can be tough! It is hard to stay on top of the latest in healthy eating, shopping, and fitness. Luckily, there’s an app for that!
Dr. Samelak has put together a list of her Top Apps for Healthy Living.
Fooducate is a free app that makes shopping a breeze! Simply scan the barcode on your food to learn more about it. The experts at Fooducate have created a database that grades your food based upon its ingredients. It even provides suggestions for healthier alternatives! Did you scan something not in their database? Simply submit it for evaluation by the Fooducate team and they will research the ingredients and add it to their list!
Environmental Working Group
The Environmental Working Group, EWG, is a US based environmental group that, “specializes in research and advocacy in the areas of toxic chemicals, agriculture subsidies, public lands, and corporate accountability”. [Wikipedia] EWG has released a Healthy Living App that works like Fooducate for your personal care products. This helps take the guesswork out of buying shampoo or toothpaste. Suddenly, you don’t have to be a chemist to shop smarter and healthier. EWG touts that you can, “scan a product, review its rating, and pick the better choice” in your purchases.
We’ve all heard about the benefits of meditation in a myriad of areas in our lives… but where to start? Many times, we set out to meditate only to end up writing our grocery list in our heads or worrying about whether you were the one in charge of carpool pickup from soccer tonight. Enter: Headspace. The Headspace app specializes in providing guided meditations that are themed for different needs and work to help busy people take a break and create some headspace.
There are a lot of fitness apps and they all have their benefits and drawbacks. My personal favorite is Runkeeper. I use this app to help myself stay accountable to my fitness, track workouts of various kinds, and ensure that I don’t put too many miles on my running shoes. The app even includes a goal setting area and even training workouts. If you need the push, you can even allow notifications from the app to your phone’s lock screen to encourage you to get out and move.
Do you have an app that you can’t live without? Let us know about it in the comments!
Watch a young child at PLAY and you’ll be struck by how totally and completely they are consumed by it. The yoga teacher in me would say they’ve entered a state of Samadhi—about realizing and becoming one, an I-am-ness, with what they’re doing; in terms of psychology they’re in a state of flow…being fully immersed and present, in a feeling of energized focus, full involvement, and total enjoyment in the process of the activity.
A succinct definition of PLAY is impossible because PLAYdoes so much! A general, but far from complete description: PLAY is an activity that is
Process-oriented, in other words it’s the doing, not the end-result that’s important
Framework of rules governing how PLAY proceeds determined by player(s)
Why should you, as a parent, care about PLAY?
The answer to that is more than a few sentences! But I’ll highlight the extra important reasons!
The need for PLAY is hard-wired into us; it is the way our brains like to learn best.
The BRAIN develops sequentially from the least complex functioning to the most. However, PLAY in the early months and years of life is very important as it wires the brain, preparing it for higher level skills later.
PLAY is integral to a child’s development emotionally, socially, physically and cognitively.
Children fail to thrive when deprived of PLAY.
In fact, PLAY is so critical to a child’s overall health and wellness that the United Nations listed it as one a child’s rights.
So, what can parents do?
Luckily, that’s pretty easy!
Pay attention to your child—listen and talk to her/him. Relationship-building and language development takes face-to-face time.
◦ For example, immerse your child in language by reading together. Reading to your child is a wonderful activity; building a closeness between parent and child that is never too soon start! You’ll also find out more about your kiddo’s interests and likes and can use that when creating PLAY spaces.
Provide time, space and materials for your kiddo to PLAY!
◦ Provide hands-on activities with a variety of materials. Young children need concrete experiences to build a foundation of knowledge; hands-on as opposed to virtual experiences offers the greatest learning potential. This enhanced learning via hands-on persists even into adulthood.
◦ Do parents need to entertain their children 24/7? Of course not! And if you hear their cry “I’m bored!” then read this article for added reassurance.
Give your child the freedom to PLAY!
Support their budding independence and decision-making with child-led activities. Another way is to resist the urge to over-schedule your kiddo with a lot of organized activities supervised by adults. One caveat to that: Downtime should not equate to screen time. The risks vs benefits of screen time for young children come down strongly in favor of waiting.
When children engage in PLAY they are gaining knowledge; developing the tools and skills they’ll need not only in the present time but also to be used as they continue to grow and learn throughout their lifetimes.
PLAY matters in childhood…and beyond!
About the Author:
Karen Whittier, aka Teacher Karen, is Early Childhood Engineer and Play Specialist for Play & Grow. She has an extensive background in early childhood education, co-founding and teaching at her own preschool for many years. Combining her backgrounds in engineering and early childhood education she’s serving children and families with Play & Grow advocating for children by supporting parents in promoting and facilitating PLAY!
As the gray days of winter start to pass and the temperatures warm, I find myself itching to ditch my shoes and head outdoors. I love being barefoot and how my feet (and my legs) feel when I get to spend more time sans-shoes.
Walking barefoot is great for adults, but utterly essential for our little ones.
The human foot has 33 joints as well as tons of tiny muscles and nerves that provide information to the brain about where your body is in space- proprioception- and balance- dictated by the vestibular system. When we walk barefoot, our feet are alive with information. Think of walking on a pebbly beach. Our feet interact with the ground and there is a massive amount of data sent to the brain.
When barefoot we are truly interfacing with our environment.
Let’s take a moment and think about what happens when we place our feet in shoes- particularly stiff and restrictive ones. You are basically placing a blindfold on your feet!
Your nervous system is not getting as much information from the ground.
The joints in your feet don’t get stimulated. (Joints get nutrition through motion, so they starve when they are restricted)
The muscles of the foot don’t get exercised.
Your balance and your proprioception suffer.
These same principles apply to the feet of our children. When they learn to walk, stand, and even when they play with their toes, children are building and programming their nervous system. They are patterning the way their muscles will fire for proper gait and spinal stabilization. Kids earn every milestone that they make. All of this happens from the ground up. Some neurologists even prescribe thinly soled shoes or barefoot time for children with developmental delays.
Do you feel like your feet have been blindfolded your whole life?
Do your feet need to wake up?
Dr. Samelak is passionate about helping people wake up their feet and improve the way that they interact with the ground- improving balance, preventing injury, and starting to correct long standing structural imbalances.
Check out our Events Page to learn about when Dr. Samelak will be teaching her next Love Your Feet workshop with Jodi Boone!
This week we are honored to have a guest blogger, Maura Shirey, from Bodies for Birth.
Bodies for Birth is first and foremost a fitness company, but it’s so much more than that. It’s your village and your source for connection and resources in the community. It’s Maura’s firm belief that women deserve to be supported holistically throughout pregnancy and postpartum.
I have enjoyed working with Maura, professionally for the past year. She is passionate and knowledgeable in her work and takes amazing care of our shared clients. Maura is sharing with us this week about the benefits of interval training for labor.
Interval Training for Labor Preparation
While there is so much we can’t control in labor and delivery, we can control how we prepare our minds and bodies.
With that said, this specific preparation looks so different for each one of us. For some of us, that’s attending classes, for others, it’s reading books, having conversations or asking questions. Despite the variable means of preparation, there’s tremendous comfort from knowing deep down that you have done whatever you consider to be your necessary work.
At Bodies for Birth we use a combination of modalities, but rely heavily upon interval training: bursts of higher intensity work followed by efficient, intentional recovery before beginning to work again.
This is in an effort to mimic the work of contractions–a time of sustained effort followed by efficient recovery…repeat, repeat, repeat and in labor…repeat again and again.
The mental and physical preparation allows for the opportunity to recognize the body’s innate ability to work exactly as it was designed and to recover with ease, noticing heart rate and respirations slow with the use of diaphragmatic breathing.
These repeated experiences can provide comfort, peace and resolve as you welcome labor and the uncertainty of it all.
While we don’t pretend that we have any control over a labor or delivery experience or outcome, our goal is to constantly be adding tools to your toolbox. Each squat, each interval and guided visualization, each time you practice your breathing you are adding these tools.
And you won’t know which tools you will call upon during labor until the time comes, but the more tools you have, the better your coping will be. The greater confidence you will have that you are and have all that you need to meet the challenge.
Interval training is a vital component of this training and an essential in the labor preparation toolbox.
While the effortful work is important to train the cardiorespiratory system, to gain stamina and confidence in your body’s ability to perform the work, the magic happens during the recovery between the effortful work.
This is the interlude where the true preparation occurs, an opportunity to practice becoming efficient at recovery so that you can approach the next round of effortful work; ie: a contraction with renewed focus, energy and calm.
In class, we can often be heard saying, “and then, you turn it off. Just like a light switch. The work ends and you recover. Not ruminating on what’s passed or anticipating what’s coming next. Use your diaphragmatic breath to simply settle into this present moment of recovery. Right here. Right now.”
And what do we hear from clients and providers?
That Bodies for Birth clients really know how to recover in labor, that they have mental and physical resilience, a certain confidence in their abilities that translates into enhanced coping in labor.
Ideally, this endures right on into postpartum and motherhood.
So, what does interval training look like?
It can take the form of strength training or a low-impact aerobic style intervals.
A strength training interval might include: body weight squats, stationary lunges or chest presses with a resistance band.
Aerobic-style intervals might include: marching in place with arms moving up and down overhead, repeated stepping up and down from a low step or moving side to side with swinging arms.
If this all feels like too much coordination or aerobics just isn’t your thing, intervals can be incorporated into a walk, into lap swimming or work on the elliptical or other piece of cardio equipment. Swimming works particularly well as each lap can feel like an interval, followed by rest at the end. Hills also lends themselves easily to this sort of natural interval work.
Generally we advise beginning with an equal work to rest ratio; for example, begin with 30 seconds of effortful work followed by 30 seconds of recovery. Repeat up to three times.
The effortful work initially should be around a level “5” on a scale of 1-10 (10 being your max…which we never approach in pregnancy).
If this level of effort begins to feel easy, you may increase the ratio of work i.e.: 45 seconds of work to 30 seconds of recovery, perhaps approaching a level 6-7 on the exertion scale.
As you progress, notice the time it takes you to recover, notice your level of exertion throughout, not exceeding a level 6-7. In other words, you should be able to talk throughout the work.
Add short bouts of interval training into your routine and focus on the recovery between the work, always returning to your diaphragmatic breath.
With practice, notice how efficiently your body begins to recover and take great comfort in all of the preparation and your body’s ability to work exactly as designed.
Remember, intervals are completely versatile and modifiable, so listen to your body with the goal of exercise leaving you feeling energized and never exhausted in pregnancy! Your body is already working quite hard to support the work of pregnancy, so let exercise further fuel that effort, rather than deplete your reserves.
It’s a privilege to do the work we do at Bodies for Birth and such an absolute honor to know that it is making an impact.
No matter where you are in your journey, we will meet you exactly where you are, support you to the best of our abilities and help you to develop strength in mind and body while honoring your unique goals.
Bodies for Birth is much more than physical fitness; it is holistic wellness, and motherhood preparation at its finest, helping you to build strength, confidence and community.
Group classes are now open for all from preconception through postpartum! Visit MindBody to register and please reach out with questions!
Let’s build your village together!
About the Author:
Maura Shirey, RN, CPFE specializes in prenatal and postpartum fitness as the creator and owner of Bodies for Birth. Using current research and evidence-based practices, Maura helps individuals strengthen both mind and body as they prepare for and recover from one of life’s greatest feats! Maura’s wellness background includes work as a Registered Nurse, a Certified Personal Trainer & Chef, as well as a Health Coach & Screener for corporate wellness companies. Maura’s personal experiences, foundational nursing knowledge and passion for fitness and wellness provide the building blocks for Bodies for Birth.
As a woman and mother, Maura seeks to share her personal experiences with the Bodies for Birth community, to break down competitive barriers and to celebrate as clients surprise themselves with the inner strength they already possess. She is dedicated to ongoing education, pursuing best practices and individualizing fitness for each and every person. She is committed to providing a healthy and bold example to her son, Will (who had his own set of dumbbells and began practicing diaphragmatic breathing at 2 years old) and to creating a vibrant and sustainable future for her family doing work that brings her immense joy.
Flying can be a pain. Literally. You haul yourself through lines at security, toting your carry on luggage. You wait for your flight in uncomfortable seating or on the floor. The planes are cramped with uncomfortable seats and not enough leg room. The air is dry and blows into your face. You finally reach your destination and are so thankful to be done flying that you haul your carry on luggage down the aisle of the plane and breathe a sigh of relief.
It can be better with some planning.
Carry On Luggage
Your carry on suitcase is a strategic decision.
It is important to choose a lightweight suitcase, preferably with multi-directional wheels. This allows you to push it down the narrow aisle of the airplane and more easily lift it into the overhead bin.
Lifting your case into the overhead compartments can be a challenge. By keeping the case light, and talking with your chiropractor about proper lifting technique, you can spare yourself some discomfort in maneuvering your luggage.
Your personal item can make or break your trip.
A tote bag or large purse seems like a good idea for a personal item. They hold a lot and can be quite fashionable.
I prefer and recommend a backpack for your personal item. You can pack your empty purse inside or in your main luggage. Remember to place your belongings in the backpack with the heaviest closest to your body (ie: laptop). Lighter items can be placed farther from the body.
Most backpacks have many compartments which allow you to stay organized and evenly distribute weight. I prefer packs made by backpacking companies like Osprey or Deuter because they are lightweight with many compartments.
Dress the Part
Between security checkpoints and the prolonged sitting involved in plane travel, clothing can be an important part of trip planning.
Ladies, your hairstyle matters!
I have longer hair and have to be sure that my hair is either down or in a top knot. If my hair is in a ponytail or on the back of my head, it forces anterior head positioning.
Anterior head positioning causes increased tension in the muscles of the neck and shoulders as well as promoting further poor posture
Wear comfortable shoes
Shoes should be easily removable for security, but should also be comfortable and practical.
Heels should be avoided because of the extreme angulation that they place the ankles in- not to mention the positioning of the pelvis while walking. ***Stay tuned for a future blog that discusses the problems with high heels and their health impact***
Choose pants that allow for full hip range of motion. Tight pants, especially jeans can cause nerve and blood vessel impingement with prolonged sitting.
Consider compression socks for longer flights. These socks help improve circulation and can help with leg aching with prolonged inactivity.
We mentioned posture when choosing your hairstyle on a travel day… But it goes so much further. Good posture will help prevent low back pain and upper back pain from traveling.
Sit fully back in your seat and make sure that you are sitting on your “sit bones” not your tailbone.
Place both feet flat on the floor.
Adjust your headrest for optimum support.
Focus on alignment.
Think of your rib cage and your pelvis like 2 bowls.
Start by making sure that the bowl of your pelvis is balanced and upright.
Now, line up your rib cage over it.
Make sure that your low back is not rounded or crunched forward.
The dry environment in an airplane can dry out your mucous membranes- hydrating can keep them healthy and protect you from getting a cold while on an airplane.
When your nose dries out, it doesn’t protect you as well from viruses and bacteria.
Following your flight, it is time to move. I love how gentle yoga is to help me work the kinks out of my body after a day of travel. Sun salutations will help you to lengthen your spine and loosen tight muscles.
I hope that some of these tools will help you to feel better and be better prepared when you next travel. Please remember that this blog is intended for educational purposes. It is good to speak to your Chiropractor or Primary Care Physician to ensure that these tips are right for you.