Move Your DNA Weekend Recap

I used a break in sessions to take a dip in the cold lake!

I used a break in sessions to take a dip in the cold lake!

Earlier this month, I had the privilege of traveling by plane (no train) and automobile to Kripalu, a yoga retreat center in the Berkshires of Western Massachusetts. I was pretty pumped to get away for the first time since becoming a mom! I was even more excited for the chance to learn in-person from Katy Bowman. I’ve read many of her books, binged on her blog and podcasts, and followed her eagerly on social media.

Here’s what I love about Katy:

We had a full house for this training—130 people!

We had a full house for this training—130 people!

As a biomechanist, she’s got the science movement down pat. At the same time, she has a knack for explaining complex ideas in ways that feel easy to understand and implement. What’s more, she sets up the context of these ideas in daily life and shows how they matter on an even larger scale.

A lot of her work focuses on mobilizing ‘blind spot’ areas in our bodies. Let’s take the calf stretch for example. Many shoes, even athletic shoes, have a heel on them—as in the shoe causes your heel to sit higher than the ball of your foot—even if they’re not classic high-heeled shoes. As a result, we spend much of our time with our feet, ankles, and lower legs in a downhill position. We’ve essentially ‘casted’ the range of motion of our ankles.

On the mat, Katy recommends doing a calf stretch. She even recommends calf stretching off the mat (sometimes I do it while washing the dishes). She gives more options for increasing movement that fit within the context of daily life: go barefoot at home. Scale up your movement by walking over varied terrain (aka get outside!). Don’t have time to go for a walk? See how you could stack your life by accomplishing tasks on your walk: use talk to text to reply to messages or emails; walk to the grocery store or to work if it’s possible; instead of meeting for coffee, try a walking meeting. So by increasing the movement in our ankles, we end up increasing movement throughout the body and even in the body of a friend!

Katy puts into words things I’ve long felt in my heart:

Our movement matters—not just to our own health, and the health of our communities, but even to the health of the planet.

Katy greets us as we head into the labyrinth.

Katy greets us as we head into the labyrinth.

I think my favorite part of the weekend was the time we spent in the labyrinth. On Saturday, we walked the labyrinth three times, each time drawing our attention to a different place (i.e. head, rib cage, gaze, sounds/smells) so we were moving and meditating and enjoying nature all at the same time. On Sunday, Katy and her team transformed the labyrinth into an obstacle course, stringing twine between the trees and littering the trail with blocks and towers. I had fun creatively moving through the course—I felt like I was in The Matrix! By the end, I was sweating and my heart rate was up but it didn’t feel like exercise.

After the obstacle course we went back inside and broke down one of the moves we used over and over again: the high step. We noticed that many of us had a preferred leg for balancing and that we would interrupt a smooth gait pattern to get our feet adjusted to take this big step. We explored all the different ways we could lift our legs—ways that use more of our peripheral parts like the ankles and knees, as well as more of our core parts like a pelvic list. We saw elements of these movements in a yoga practice like standing balances and even when stepping forward from down dog to a lunge. We found context for the movement in daily life like when putting on your socks or stepping over a puddle.

I’m still feeling the boost from my weekend away. I really needed the stimulation that comes with learning and exploring a new place. The fact that I didn’t have to change diapers or wash dishes certainly helped! And because one of my flights got cancelled, I now have enough in travel vouchers to fly away for another weekend.

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In the mean time, I’m hungry for more learning so I’ve started another one of Katy’s books, Movement Matters. Maybe I’ll write up a book report for you when I’m done. ;)

How are you moving this summer? Why does movement matter to you?