Thursday, April 12, 2012

Alignment: what it means [to me]

what's found in the dictionary : 1. To arrange things in a straight line or 2. The process of adjusting parts so that they are in proper relative position.

If you're going to align dominoes so you can break the world's record of greatest number of dominoes progressively knocked down, you will of course have to pay a lot of attention to alignment (and not sneezing).  You'll make curves and be careful that the forward motion of each will impact the one that's in front of it at least enough to send it forward into its' neighbor.  Alignment is very important to this endeavor and probably making sure all your dominoes have a nice square bottom on which to stand (no wobbly dominoes thank you).  

If you're stacking blocks, the straighter you stack them vertically, the higher you're able to build.  Aligning them perfectly one atop the other makes them most stable.  Where you're slightly off center, that's going to be where the toppling occurs.  You align the blocks to successfully oppose the force of gravity.  This definition of alignment clearly presents the good reason one's knees ought to be straight as opposed to having a slight bend:  as soon as you bend even a little bit, you're going down, my friend.   The only way to stop going down is for there to be muscles gripping somewhere and that sets off a chain reaction of needless tension even when you're standing still and take it on the road the unnecessary gripping possibilities expand exponentially.

The second part of the definition is the one I find myself plummeting through these days:  the process of adjusting MY parts so that they are in proper relative position.  We didn't cover this in Physical Education school (but we could have).

I'm a singer and I have developed the ability to listen really well.  I've come to think of it as good relative pitch:  I know where to place my sound relative to what others are playing or singing.  Anyone can easily tell when it's working, as it sounds good.  Conversely, anyone can tell when it's not working so well, as it sounds SO bad.  Puhleeze make it stop!!

Properly relating one's body parts could be looked at this way, also.  When you're in optimal alignment you are feeling really good and your miracle body can do whatever you ask it to.  If you're reading this, you probably carry a bunch of tension places it's not required:  places that are tight.  When the muscles stabilizing a joint are not fit for duty (too loose or too tight) the joint they're meant to serve becomes compromised and over time its capacity to move in the manner it was designed becomes impaired. Oweee.  Hello tightness, heat, friction, swelling, arthritis. 

For me, and for many others this process of relinquishing joint wellness remained a mystery and I'd thought there was nothing I could do about my knees but sit down and shut up.  Decades of poor relative positioning of my upper and lower leg had put my knees in an awkward and finally painful position.  Enter Restorative Exercise, the Alignment Markers for Optimal Body Function and I'm re-writing the story of my knees.  The reversal of my fortunes has been astoundingly rapid and I started the process in my 60s!  If you're still breathing, you can do it, too.

I'm a Pilates instructor too, and a well-conditioned core really DOES make everything better, but concentration on correct relative positioning of one's parts has brought my picture of wellness into living color.  My body tells me through muscle tension what's right (feels good) and what's wrong (doesn't feel so good).  It's simple.  Perhaps simpler for me as I have a mobilized ribcage already and maybe you don't.   

Going barefoot makes my knees (and the rest of me too) happy and putting on the high heels for a glamorous appearance somewhere feels just so stupid, now.  Who'da thunk it?  Getting the alignment picture and how it's going to help you stay healthy for the rest of your days is the most important part and you can start right now:

Katy Bowman has set everything you need to know down in black and white.  Much of what I've been doing is presented in her book,

Every Woman's Guide to Foot Pain Relief: The New Science of Healthy Feet

(& it works the same for guys, too)  You can also spend some time on her website and enter into the conversation via her blog: KatySays which you'll find at   You can talk to me, but, hey, she wrote the book!  You may feel the need of a personal tour guide and that's where I (and other Alignment Specialists) come in.  We're here to lend a helping hand and our numbers are swelling.  There's probably one of us practicing near you.

You might be saying, "Well, it's my _____ that hurts, not my feet." But, think about the blocks.  If the block on the very bottom isn't solid, you're not going to stack very many blocks:  they're going down.  This is where "the rubber meets the road," and feet have the greatest affect on your ability to hold your body as the designer intended, along with the ability to move through life that way.

Object to the high cost of healthcare?  Have no need: understand these concepts.  Aside from avoiding toxic exposures in our environment and from the food we ingest, our miracle self-healing machine:  our bodies, if aligned in the manner intended, will heal magically and serve us faithfully until we're done with it.   :o)