SMOKINCHOICES (and other musings)

February 28, 2017

Posture should start @ birth

Respect Baby’s Rights and Freedom, too

Do you know how perfectly we are deigned?  Our body has a framework and functional ability that almost defies the imagination in it’s complexity,  Yet the same principles are at work with the human form as are found in the construction of the brick and mortar constructs.  Balance, support and utility.   S’ true.   Nor do we have to be educated for the purpose of learning how to “use” our body once we get one – – it’s built into us. . .it’s up to each of us to figure it out, on our own.  That is how it works. . .has always worked over our entire existence on the planet.  Until recent decades.. . see the bulleted sentences below.  

As a rather extreme version of ‘earth mother’  my interests frequently go out to the children of our world.  Precious all, they are our greatest treasures and deserve all the loving care, protection and consideration humanly possible.  Anything which harms our little ones turns me nuts.  GMO’s,  Mercury in certain dental fillings,  and of course — compulsory vaccinations against the good judgement of their parents (and a great many ‘honest’ physicians).  This is allowed because of GREED and CORRUPTION in Government which turns a blind eye because so many are sharing in the profit picture.  

Don’t worry, not going to rehash these same issues today.  Have a new one!   Well,  not so new. . . have written about the latest movement in Medicine today regarding babies, especially here in Ohio — we have a rotten mortality rate relative to so many deaths before reaching one year old.  So Baby on the Back in an empty crib is really being pushed.   No one has given the least thought to the welfare of the baby’s needs or this wouldn’t be such a high priority.  Attention to our huge poverty needs would be far more rational and welcome.  But what do I know?  Anyway, I’ve posted on this before a time or two.  I even showed a photo of my own son at 5 days old, sleeping soundly on his face, bum in air- – happy and very healthy.  Summer baby in California, so wasn’t wearing much;  hands and feet free to explore.   Sleeping on the face is not a bad thing — it is the correct thing!  

I had suggested people buy (or borrow from the library),  the book of Kathleen Porter called NATURAL POSTURE for Pain-Free Living. It is a remarkable, beautifully done, informative one-of-a-kind book which anyone would truly enjoy and be enriched by.   I happen to be one of the lucky ones who rather naturally just grew up in natural alignment.  Was never comfortable slumping or slouching.   Had unwelcome comments about my posture all my life from teachers, parents of friends, etc. .all of which made me uncomfortable — drew attention to something I didn’t even know I was doing.  Even in my 80’s, have had comments about posture – – go figure.  So maybe Mother put me to bed on my face too. In my 9th year of blogging, so I spend too much time at the computer, consequently, the round posture/slumping over. . . why I bought her book a year or so ago.  Crazy about it and have learned so much.  It is a staple in Sports-Medicine doctors practice,  very valuable help to one and all.  Please learn about this and help spread the word.  Her book goes into great detail with countless photos illustrating her valid points.  Much discussion  about babies and the confines they are being constricted to. Car seats, and all manner of holders which keep an infant restricted from moving around and learning how to use  his/her body and the devastating damage this does to the nervous systems and in fact – all it’s developing systems.  Graphs showing the rise of various illnesses with the increasing restrictions.  From the first moments of life, the baby is supposed to start its movements to acquaint with and learn how to use it’s brand new body.  But I fear that with America’s doctors pushing  Back-sleeping in bare crib, it’s gonna take a whole lot of discussion to accommodate our baby’s needs.  Kathleen can’t do it alone,  nor can I. . . just a simple blogger.  . . but with your help   who knows?              Jan



Kathleen Porter

When I teach these principles to people, I spend a lot of time laying the groundwork with a lot of information about how the skeleton actually is designed to hold us up. Because I feel that the more someone really understands the relationship of, say, the rib cage to the pelvis, the skull to the rib cage, and how they all relate to each other through the spine, and that the more someone understands their own internal skeleton, the more empowered they are to put these principles into practice and become their own best teacher.

Because the truth of the matter is this is not a quick fix; this is a process. It’s an unfolding process that requires a commitment. It requires a commitment to learn the information and to put it into practice. For that, the word “practice” is key, because you just have to keep practicing it over and over until it becomes more natural and more automatic. Now, you don’t want it to be totally automatic because, you know. I’m still working at it. I’m still a work in progress, because it is an anchor to being present as long as I pay attention to myself.

When I first learned this, I was pretty upset, because this information was so opposite from what I had been trained to do and teach as a yoga teacher. I wanted to know like, “How long is it going to take me?” It was sort of like asking how long before I can go unconscious again. One of the real silver linings of learning this is the fact that it is a pathway. It’s a touch tone to mindfulness, because it requires a willingness to be mindful in order to put it into practice. Mindfulness and alignment are kind of a hand on a glove that goes together. You really need them both to bring it back.

 I start by teaching people that we start with the pelvis. The pelvis is like the crown jewel. It literally sets the stage for everything above it. There’s the pelvis with the sacrum between the two sides of the pelvis and the back. At the top of the sacrum, there’s a little platform, the sacral platform, that the spine sits upon. If you change the position of the pelvis, you change the angle of that platform, you change the angle of the spine, and then there are all these adjustments that have to go on with muscles that have to compensate for the fact that the spine is no longer being a “mostly self-supporting structure.”

It helps if you think of the skeleton as an architectural or engineering design much like a building. I mean, buildings aren’t animated. They’re not alive. They don’t bend and move exactly the way people do, but structurally, the same principles apply, just like the same principles apply to all species. There are certain natural laws of physics that apply to everything, whether it’s living or inanimate.

  • And you know, this is a big issue for children starting from the day they are born. We tend to think that infants and babies, in their early weeks of life, are just little blobs, that they’re pretty helpless, and all they do is lie there. Nothing could be further from the truth. They really require opportunities to do a lot of movement right away.
  • In the same way that, at birth, a baby would never be born and then placed immediately on the mother’s body on their backs. They’re always turned belly to earth; in this case, the mother’s body being the representative of the earth. It’s against this surface that they can move. They’re driven by this… Movement is like the engine that builds the brain and develops the nervous system. A baby lying on a mother’s body, on a blanket, or something like that has to push down against the earth. Whatever surface they’re on is a representative of the earth. They have to push down on that in order to fire off the sensory and motor neurons that connect up to the brain.

I am quite confident – and I sure hope it happens soon – that when we really start looking at movement in this way, we will start to see that one of the things that’s contributing… And I say one of the things because I’m not suggesting it’s all about alignment. I think there are a lot of things contributing to the epidemic of problems in young children.

  • I think we have hardly even began to understand how many problems children are showing in neurological development that are the result of children being confined on their backs in strollers, car seats, and these little bucket carriers. Of course, they have to be in a car seat if they’re going to be in a car, a moving vehicle. But children’s lives often are just this one device after another where they are rarely put into this “belly to earth” kind of contact.

To expand on this a little bit more, there is this quality, this natural phenomenon, ground reaction force. You can experience it right now if you’re sitting or if you’re standing. You can just take your right foot and just start pushing it down into the floor. As you push your foot a little harder and a little harder, you’ll notice that it generates this action and these sensations in your leg. If you push down hard enough, you’ll feel there are sensations coming all the way up into your hip and beyond.

This is ground reaction force. It relates to Newton’s Third Law of Motion, which says that for every action, there is an opposite and equal reaction. If you wanted to, say, jump, you wouldn’t just jump, you’d crouch down, you’d generate this connection, and then you’d push off in order to jump. And if you wanted to jump higher, you’d crouch lower and push off harder. This is how our bodies are designed to work.

Sad dog and happy dog came about, because I was working with children in elementary schools and wanting to introduce them to these ideas. They get really embarrassed if you say words like “pelvis” or “pubic bone.” They start laughing and they can’t stop.

And so they get the sad dog idea, because a sad dog tucks its tail between its legs. If a human tucks its tail… In fact, for anybody wanting to try this right now, if you tuck your tail, you’ll feel how your spine starts to collapse down into your pelvis. And if you rotate your pelvis the other way, so that your pubic bone is down and your sit bones are wide and behind you, it’s sort of like you’re wagging your tail. That is much more. I mean, we could get into refinements, which will be difficult to do right now, but basically that is the pelvis. The happy dog pelvis is the pelvis that establishes the correct foundation for what comes above it.

The next thing that happens for a lot of people is a pattern of once they get their pelvis rotating forward, it often triggers – it’s not a natural pattern, but it’s one that a lot of people have adopted because it’s so culturally ingrained in us – chest up, shoulders back. This is very somewhat militaristic, but it’s also the way I was practicing and teaching yoga. It’s what is taught in a lot of dance programs and in a lot of athletics. It’s sort of this American way of opening up the front of the body, without realizing that when we do that, we close the back. We narrow and shorten the back.

What we really want to work toward doing is having the front and the back equally wide, equally long. Part of the process of learning how to do this is establishing the foundation, which is what you would do if you were building a building. In our case, we establish the foundation by “parking” the pelvis and then we build the structure from the ground up.

Now, I’m talking about sitting right now, but the pelvis also comes into play in the same way in standing. In my book, I have illustrations of how to move the pelvis like a church bell, so that it brings the legs into a vertical line, because that’s where our legs need to be. Most people’s legs are diagonal. You want to move your pelvis to the point. It’s the same place. Sitting and standing, the pelvis is the same position. That doesn’t change.

From there, you want to start to learn how to isolate the movement of your rib cage, so that you discover that, “Oh, my ribcage can actually move independent of my pelvis, and I can learn how to rotate my ribcage forward rather than lifting it.” When I lift up my chest, I’m actually tipping my ribcage back. If I drop my chest, which is almost un-American… If I drop my chest and my back comes up…

 Back to what I was saying before, it’s either the collapse or it’s the overcorrection that’s kind of moving through the middle and beyond. You could say that collapsing in the front is slouching, but lifting up the chest and arching the back is slouching in the other direction, because it has the same effect on the spine. It’s just which side of the spine are the intervertebral disks compressed? And it really helps when people remember that the spine is in the back.

 What we wanted to start doing is to develop this mindful awareness in our back, so that it’s much more subtle. Here’s a little exercise, which is kind of fun, that brings home this point and that also engages the core, which we haven’t talked much about, but which is really key. You could pretend that you’re holding a shawl right behind you, and you’re about to wrap the shawl around your shoulders. But just before the shawl comes into contact with your back, you move your back into the shawl.

In other words, your breastbone or your sternum slides backwards towards your back. And as you do that, you will feel an action through your abdomen. These are your core muscles, primarily your transversus abdominis (TVA) muscle coming into action. If you do that and then you kind of wiggle the back of your armpits up towards the ceiling, you will also feel your spine lengthening. You’re elongating your spine, like creating this sort of self-traction. This is one of the most essential basic movements that helps retrain the body back to where it started. Toddlers who have just learned how to stand and walk probably have as much core strength as they’re ever going to need.

I think this fixation that we have in our culture today about core strength, crunches, sit-ups, the six-pack abs, and all of this is a very genuine and sincere attempt to counteract this structural collapse that we don’t know how to address. We try to make all these strong muscles to kind of hold us up and hold us together, and now we’ve created this whole new image of what is attractive, sexy, and all of that, which is totally unnatural to the body, the way the human body is actually designed to be.

There is nothing wrong with strength and muscles. It just needs to be integrated throughout the entire body, so that you don’t have certain muscles that are overdeveloped, because anytime you have that, you’re going to have other muscles that are underdeveloped.

 Let’s put this in perspective. I didn’t learn about skeletal alignment until when I was almost 50 myself. I had gone from a real slumpy, slouchy person for the first three and a half or so decades of my life to this overcorrected stance where I was teaching yoga and stretching all the time, doing some strength training, and working out. Then eventually, in my late 40s, first hearing about skeletal alignment and getting interested, it didn’t happen overnight. I actually had to work very hard at it because I had so many patterns to undo and unwind in my body.

I totally transformed myself from somebody who was stiff and tight. I had to stretch all the time because my hamstrings were always returning to their tight configuration because I was a butt tucker. I was just setting this up. As I learned how to realign my bones, my muscles… I didn’t have to stretch. I didn’t have to do anything other than live a normally active life, and all the movements that I do are movements that reinforce natural movements.

As far as some exercises people can do, they’re not exercises in the sense of sitting down and doing specific kind of contrived exercises. They’re all exercises that focus on natural ways of moving. So, I would say bending is probably the absolute rock star of any kind of exercise that anybody can do, but you have to do it correctly. If you know how to bend like a baby… And there are instructions for this and images of this in my book.

Babies always bend with their butt out behind them. For instance, if you were to imagine that there were strings attached to each of your sit bones and there was a puppeteer standing behind you, all bending. I mean, even if I were to bend forward right now to get a pencil in front of me, bending is initiated by those sit bones being drawn back behind me. That’s what actually causes my pelvis to tip and my spine to just go along with the pelvis. Bending is not in the spine, either rounding the spine or arching the spine. The spine stays stable as the pelvis rotates over the heads of the femur bones in the thighs.

This is why it’s really important to understand how the structure actually works. Because then, you can just apply that information to helping you learn how to do this, and it becomes more, you know…automatically performed.

 So, bending. What bending does and accomplishes is that it… If you bend this way – and the knees have to bend at the same time – and the knees bend out, they aim toward the pinky toes. As you bend and your knees bend outward, the spine, as I say, goes along to the right, the leg muscles all get toned in a way that they’re supposed to be. So, it’s this integration of all the muscles between the hips and the feet. The arches get strengthened. This is so key. The feet are such a problem in so many people because so many people have pronated ankles and flattened arches. So, bending this way really helps to strengthen the muscles that lift and hold the arches up and engages the toes.

For a lot of us, toes are just these appendages that we don’t do anything with because they’re in shoes all the time or whatever. But our toes… If you look at the toes of young children, their toes are grabbing at the ground. They’re there for a reason. They’re there to help you balance. They’re there to help you propel yourself forward and to help distribute the weight that doesn’t come down through the heels. So, bending is huge because it reinforces how to initiate… Most movements involve some kind of bending whether it’s dance or sports. You’re bending all the time, and getting in and out of the chair

 I would say that the great majority of chronic pain in this country and in the developed, sort of technologically, advanced places in the world is posture-related. We just don’t know that yet. Posture is just one of the checks in the list of things that contribute to back pain. It should be at the very top of the list. It’s also the primary cause of the sort of legal drug addiction that is being driven by the medical community trying to support people with back pain and not knowing how to effectively do that.

What they all often say is, “Stand up straight and improve your posture.” But there is this cultural map that’s wrong. Unfortunately, it’s just straight up wrong as far as what we think is good posture in our modern world. It goes back again to the tuck the tailbone, suck in the belly, lift up the chest, and pull your shoulders back. This is almost like a mantra that everybody is taught. This is one of the reasons why posture is such a dirty word in people’s mind because not only does it remind you of your mother nagging at you.  But when you follow the instructions for what you think is good posture…It’s stressful.   It’s difficult.  It’s effortful. Posture, just the word, makes a lot of people nervous.

 You’ve got a musculoskeletal system, which is not just muscles but also bones. They’re both an integral and equal part of this system, yet we live in a muscle centric society. We rarely put any emphasis on the alignment of the bones. I mean, it’s just pretty much off the radar. Yet, the skeleton is the underlying framework for all of the body’s systems. That means, all the parts, all the organs, and all the blood vessels, which you can think of as little hoses and tubes, all the valves, you know… Everything.   All the nerve networks and glands, and everything. Everything that makes up a body has to fit within this skin.

One of the jobs of the skeleton is to provide the structural framework of support for all of these things. So, if you think of your body as a three-dimensional puzzle with a place for everything and everything in its place, and all of the systems are working sort of like the mechanics of the engine of a car. You know, there are all these little different spark plugs, carburetors, various hoses, and things like that that have to be in a particular arrangement for the car to function well or to even get out of the driveway.

Yet, our organs are often smashed together, distorted, pulled to, and just distorted in various ways because our skeleton is misplaced. If I am strengthening some muscles too much, the tightness, contraction, and the shortening of the fibers of those muscles will pull and hold my bones out of alignment. By the same token, if I have muscles that are too weak and stretched out, they won’t support the bones in that alignment.

It helps to know that because the muscles attached to the bones when the bones are where they belong, and this is one of these things that are pretty non-negotiable for human beings…. You may be taller than me. I may have larger bones than you in terms of… You know, they are larger bones (shorter but wider)… You know, there are a lot of variations, but the actual muscles and bones and the way they work as a system of pulleys and levers is the same for everybody.

If I change the position of my bones, then certain muscles are going to be too tight and certain muscles are going to be too long and stretched out. The beauty of what you were saying about taking your foot off the gas and everything just sort of working as it should and not constantly in this working mode is that when our bones are aligned, muscles become elastic. All the muscles in my body pretty much take on their intended configuration. When it’s time to move my arm, the muscles that move those levers, the bones in my arm come into my action, and then they don’t when they’re not… I take my foot off the gas when I don’t need those muscles anymore.

The main muscles that we have to pay attention to, that are working a lot of the time, are the deep postural muscles – the core muscles that stabilize our upright posture and make sitting, standing, walking, and everything we do okay because we’re tethered together with this wonderful, elastic core that’s not too tight and not too loose.


February 16, 2016

Baby-sleep, controversy

Baby 3 days

Baby 3 days


New parents want to get it ‘right’, by golly.  So much is different now than it was when I birthed my son who has remained the ‘Light of my Life.’    This is a shot of him at three days old, sleeping on his belly, butt in the air, face and arms out to the side – palms up  and seemingly, quite content.   He wore only a little shirt and diaper.  (It was a warm May in California).  Had pacifiers, but rarely used them as he happily nursed all he wanted.  In the photo he was surrounded with the bumpers inside the crib to avoid having him bonk himself on the head. Possibly I was emulating my friends who had mostly had children a decade or so earlier than me and that’s how stuff was done then  – – seemed to work.  There was never a concern that how he slept could be a problem.  Don’t even remember any talk of  infant death syndrome, tho of course it did happen.  

I was a gloriously happy mother with a perfect, healthy baby.  Some decades later when his first daughter was born, they stressed over everything;   special sleeping protocol  after she graduated out of the special little cubicle and monitor they had used for something I never understood.  Nor did I understand how and why they put her down on her side with wedges to keep her rigidly in place – to be safe.  My daughter-in-law was not at ease as I had been,  seemed  stressed and uncomfortable with much, even nursing saying it hurt. . . . but  did her best to nurse for three months to give baby a fair shot.    Guess its different for  all of us.  

I’m pointing out two different generations  to show how stuff changes.  Did all the new medical theories add to the stress level of my daughter-in-law?  Make her  feel insecure in trusting herself and natural instinct?  (its built into the species)  My thinking is that young mothers need encouragement to trust the innate design – plan. . . even the nursing thing,  I bet there aren’t too many pg women who are actually told about getting those nipples toughened up for the task ahead.  See,when I got pregnant, I was 30 and frankly had all but given up on my dream of having a kid-filled house.  No experience.  Never baby sat.  Learned of the Red Cross training for mothers-to-be and leapt at it.   So I WAS prepared.  Scrubbed away at my nipples like a staff sergeant over their complaints, massaged oil onto the growing belly.   Was told, while its the easiest thing in the world to do. . .it takes getting used to and can be uncomfortable until you do.  Even with the pleasure of of it all, one can still get cracked nipples from excessive suckling and must drop the flaps of the nursing bra in order to dry them out. . . ah well, I do get carried away.  Never had  problems with our son,   but carried an episiotomy infection 18 months. while carrying on my  usual relationship with my ob/gyn.  Dr was crestfallen when he finally believed me and put me in hospital to remedy the bugger which had travelled thru to annal area.  Wasn’t fun.  Maybe I wasn’t convincing when I complained.  How I have changed!

Now to the point of this post, which at this moment for me is “Baby-sleeping.”  It is hard to miss the ongoing message from all sources Medical these days regarding the scientifically (so-called) correct way to handle baby’s sleeping arrangements.  Specifically, put those babies on their backs in their own beds with nothing else in the same space such as pillows, loose blankets, toys, bumpers, etc.,.  A lot of that is of course, just common sense, logical –  sounds right.  What I take issue with is putting the baby on their backs as the only  proper way to do it.    When a baby is born (down thru the ages), it is plopped face/belly down on mother’s body as soon as is possible for sake of both mother and baby. That’s natural.    Anyway, this is what I did as well as most of my friends.  There are solid, physiological reasons for  this based on reality, not theory, and the outcome is a healthier, neurologically correct development.  This is sorely lacking in our children over the last several decades, I think most would agree.  Our populace grows up having too many physiological problem – etiology unknown.

I have recently become aware of a number of  people whose work is specializing in the science of  movement.  Natural Movement.  I am a tad accustomed to this line of thinking for it is essentially what my son has always done from individuals to elite athletes and sports teams and having a deep interest in young athletes especially.  This is vital for it can set the tone for proper body alignment for the rest of one’s life.  But one lady in particular has taken my interest, big time.  

Kathleen Porter,    “NATURAL POSTURE for Pain-Free Living”

Kathleen Porter is all over Youtube, has been teaching her  NATURAL POSTURE for Pain-Free Living  (The Practice of Mindful Alignment).  I saw her being interviewed by Dr Mercola last year and I was hooked.  For having watched, I accepted her gift of “5 Easy Steps to PAIN-FREE Sitting”  and just that simple 2 pager has helped me enormously.  Kinda surprising in a way, as I have always been one of those people who had and maintained almost perfect posture throughout life.  Embarrassing as a kid as teachers would speak of  it in class and compare others to me.  Same with the mothers of some of my friends.  

Never understood the fuss;   didn’t like the comparisons, and caused me to  feel ‘separated’ or different.  I didn’t slump.  Sat straight in chairs.  Barefoot by choice even tho authorities enforced being shod.  Was very active and free-spirited, checking out my world.   Never broke a bone, but had lots of stitches from my uncle (doctor) because of my many mishaps and wanderings. Was a child in the 30’s, so no TV or video games to curtail natural movement.  But as an aging blogger slumped over work at computer all these years — had started to slump.   Computer screen too low and eyes no longer as sharp.. . scrunching down to see.   Not good.  Throws everything out of balance.  So that lesson in how to sit properly was highly useful to me, and believe me — I’m doing it!    

Kathleen has a great deal to say and demonstrate (prove) what she has learned and teaches over the years.  The area that I want to reference is that of the naturalness of infants and babies when they move and are given the chance to move naturally.  She discusses at length in her lectures, videos and of course – her books, the way babies move and how important it is that they be free to BE ABLE TO MOVE in order for natural and normal development to take place.   Babies on their tummy use their muscles (all of them) more  and quicker and develop the awareness needed to keep finding and learning what their body is for and how to use it.  Their little toes are digging into the bed and in so doing – their feet (the foundation of their future balance/strength) are developing, gaining greater awareness. They move and lift their heads.  All this early development/learning are stifled when the baby is not free to experiment and move and learn.   So how ‘natural’ do we imagine the tightly swaddled baby all trussed up and laying on his back – unable to do anything or move actually feels?  Are we possibly thwarting or limiting the speed/level of growth?  Something to think about.  

First, want to show a sample of what our Medical Community is telling us.  There is obviously much more, but am limiting it to just a small blurb so you understand — I’m not making this stuff up:

AAP Expands Guidelines for Infant Sleep Safety and SIDS Risk Reduction


BOSTON – Since the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommended all babies should be placed on their backs to sleep in 1992, deaths from Sudden Infant Death Syndrome have declined dramatically. But sleep-related deaths from other causes, including suffocation, entrapment and asphyxia, have increased.



Up next



Natural Posture with Kathleen Porter – YouTube

Nov 7, 2013 – Uploaded by Miriam Knight

Kathleen Porter is a longtime movement educator and author … The Practice of Mindful Alignment, published …


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