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Sad Dog Happy Dog: How Poor Posture Affects Your Child's Health and What You Can Do About It Perfect Paperback – October 28, 2010
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About the Author
Kathleen Porter has traveled the world researching natural skeletal alignment in people who have never lost what we all once knew as healthy toddlers. She is the author of "Ageless Spine, Lasting Health: The Open Secret to Pain-free Living and Comfortable Aging" and has taught principles of natural alignment through the University of Hawaii at Hilo, the National College of Natural Medicine in Portland, Oregon, and is currently on the faculty of the Omega Institute in Rhinebeck, New York. A longtime student of meditation, she previously taught yoga for many years and is the director of the Center for Natural Alignment in Portland, Oregon.
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At the end of the book, Kathleen has very generously shared the names of people around the country who are currently teaching natural body alignment. I had previously searched for this information but only found a few names. This information is very helpful since Kathleen's Center for Natural Alignment is in Portland, OR, which is not accessible to everyone. I believe Kathleen does go to Omega Institute once a year for a 5 day workshop, which I cannot recommend highly enough. I look around at my peers and see them slowly sliding into decrepitude, while my body is becoming more lithe and limber than it ever was. How many elderly people are now in assisted living only because of a lack of balance and mobility? What a shame, because I now know this is totally preventable for most people. A friend told me, "Either you are getting taller or I am getting shorter." Actually, it is both, since he does not practice natural body alignment.
But in order to analyze her "natural posture" theory I compared the Alexander Technique, Feldenkrais and Mensendieck therapy. I also read Pete Egoscue, Janice Novak, Suzanne Martin and others. It is possible that elements of Porter's positions are wrong. For one example, Porter says to stand with the body weight supported on the outside edges of the feet, keeping feet in a "kidney bean" curve. But other experts teach that good weight distribution on feet means that most body weight is put forward on the ball of the foot and on the foot's inner edge, and feet should align straight ahead and side by side directly under the hip joints. (See Mensendieck Your Posture and Your Pains, by Lagerwerff and Perlroth.) I know --this all sounds very technical-- but if Porter is wrong, and I think she is wrong, both ankles can curve outward, leading to instability and damage.
Her explanation of how to move and to pick up an object from the floor is based on observing the movements of babies--but babies' proportions differ from adults'. Her example of an awkward bend-and-squat appears to turn out the hip joints, put the rear end unapologetically up in the air, and shift the center of gravity forward. But if we keep the pelvis "neutral" (upright) and both legs are directly under the center of gravity, this movement develops core stability and strengthens the hips. (See Mensendieck Your Posture and Your Pains, p. 62.) Porter's other movements appear incorrect as well.
Porter says that "chronic structural collapse" occurs when the pelvis tucks the wrong way: under and forward. She says a correct side view of the pelvic angle compares to a dog waging its tail. But other therapists say the pelvis can tilt too far out of neutral in either direction, forward or backward. Janice Novak defines "neutral pelvis" in Posture, Get It Straight! And Novak prescribes helpful posture exercises as well. In The Miracle Ball Method, Elaine Petrone prescribes exercise on a ball that helps people whose lower back has become stiff and out of place in Porter's "wag the tail" angle. Lagerwerff and Perlroth advise learning stretches to correct a pelvic angle that can go wrong either way, too.
Porter indicates that exercises and stretches are not very important (p. 14-19.) A number of therapists and trainers disagree. Suzanne Martin, in her amazing book, Stretching, gives a program based only on stretching to create good posture. In Pain Free by Pete Egoscue, strength training and stretching are essential to the program. In Over 40 and Gettin' Stronger, Phyllis Rogers says strength training is the only way to counteract the muscle losses of aging. My untrained opinion: it is essential to combine exercises for core stability and flexibility with a life habit of posture. I also think that Mensendieck has the only completely correct explanation of posture, but there are no modern books available on Mensendieck therapy.
I give Porter a lot of credit for recognizing the posture problems of our culture. If her method helps people, that is wonderful. But I think it is important to get another opinion. And the best book on posture has yet to be written.