30 March 2017

Feature: Beauty and Wellness

Top Tips on Mindfully Moving Your Muscles While Contorting Your Body to Control a Toddler.

You are also probably holding all of their shit.  And your shit.  And if you’re masochistic, maybe you have a dog too, in which case you could quite literally be holding its shit in a trifecta of evil that could not be more perfectly designed to throw your back out, or pull a hamstring, or make that diastasis recti worse.

Now, I have to state right here at the beginning that I am not professionally qualified in any way to give you these tips, so please do choose to ignore me.  HOWEVER.  I currently, and always have, taken a huge interest in understanding how the human body moves. To wit, a short CV: background in classical ballet, athlete, Pilates freak and all round nerd.  I have also sustained a pretty significant injury (broken hip at seventeen, reconstructed), which has given me more exposure to orthopaedic surgeons and physiotherapists than I ever wanted, as well as cause to truly understand the importance of correct alignment and how best to move my muscles in order to support joints and prevent injury.   Just to flog a dead horse so that you are more likely to read on: I will be starting a Pilates teacher training course this coming May.  See! I’m serious.  So take these tips in the spirit of having a really good, really nerdy, really well informed friend give you advice you haven’t asked for. 

Before I had my kid, I never appreciated just how physical being a parent is.  Even when they are tiny and not so heavy, you are carrying them all. the. time.  Maybe I had a particularly clingy baby; I know I am particularly soft so maybe I just carried her all the time, but I do think the surprising physicality is a fairly universal experience among parents.  Add on top of this my previous injury and a crazy case of diastasis recti and you can see why I’ve taken a keen interest in how best to align myself and move with a baby attached. 

So, what’s a bone-tired, slouchy woman to do? 

·  First thing to remember always is posture. Posture, posture, posture.  Posture.  Not your gran’s ‘balance-a-book-on-your-head-and-walk-across- a-room-in-kitten-heels’ posture; like an actual understanding of good posture.   How many more times do you think I can say ‘posture’ in this article?

It should feel comfortable, but not loose.  You are working here to keep yourself upright and aligned.  When I correct my posture if I notice that I’m too loose and slouchy, the first thing I engage is my core.  This isn’t a sucking in your gut kind of engagement, it’s more of a subtle tightening; you really want to get the inner lower abs working, the transverse abdominals, to help stabilise you and give your back a break. It helps to ensure you’re not flaring your ribs either – don’t puff up your chest.  The miracle of mindfully engaging your core in this way is that it makes it easier for everything else to fall into line. 

·  Secondly: get everything else to fall into line.  This means shoulders down away from your ears and relaxed, scapulae gently pulling together.  Your pelvis tucks ever so slightly under and your neck is long, but from the back of your head, not your chin.  If you think of having a ballerina bun pretty high on your head, and then imagine someone pulling on that bun while you keep your chin level but slightly pointing down (true story) – yeah, that.  

See!  Easy.  Only two steps. 

Because you’re probably all emailing Bad Mum to find out where I live so you can stick needles in my eyes after that helpful two step guide to perfect posture, here are some real life situations you might find yourself in where you’re not just standing straight up and when you’ll be like, how the fuck do I get that pulling on my bun effect now, Mallory?! Well, read on sister.

Emptying the bin under the sink because your partner never does while batting away a toddler to prevent her from grabbing all the things under the sink that can kill her

Start off in a good position here: think a traditional squat, feet flat on the floor and hip width apart, glutes engaged, core engaged, back as straight as you can manage with those scapulae gently pulling together.  Your shoulders should be loose enough to allow one arm to safely flail behind you, keeping that toddler at bay, while you shake the bag loose out of the bin with the other hand. 

Walking up four flights of stairs with your groceries, your kid’s shit, your shit and your kid in your arms (dog optional)

I do this on the regular.  Well, I walk up and down those sixty-four steps every damn day, but mercifully not always with groceries.  Important here as above is a good position.  Even with an uneven distribution of weight in your arms (e.g. toddler in one hand, groceries in the other or both), you can use your core and your excellent posture to help mitigate the effect.  Now that you’ve got your core engaged and your posture sorted, be sure to go up the stairs using your whole foot on the step – you don’t want to be loading all of that weight into your calves and knees.  Then push as if you’re doing a squat – core engaged, glutes engaged, hamstrings engaged, back straight.  Keep yourself in that squat position as you walk up.  I never fully straighten my supporting leg when walking up the stairs, especially if I am heavily laden.  You’ll look a little weird walking up the stairs so deliberately, but you’ll have a fantastic ass and you won’t pull your back out.

Leaning over the cot to unsuccessfully sooth your kid who refuses to sleep

I’ve now given up on this, as my hip couldn’t take it (E sleeps in a floor bed and then when I can’t be bothered any more in our bed) but for all of you who are persisting:  engage the core; engage the hamstrings.  It’s a little much to ask you to keep your back totally straight but it really does help – I used to go between relaxing and straightening in a neutral spine/curved spine sort of move.  Keep your knees relaxed and your feet hip width apart.  Then shush until you get light headed (also true story). 

Getting Help to Lift a Pram Up and Down Stairs at Woefully Under-Equipped Train Stations

I try to keep E as upright as possible when someone has the front of the pram going up stairs, otherwise it’s terrifying to see her dangling, only the straps holding her in.  To lift the pram I tuck my elbows tight to my sides, engage my core, slightly tuck my pelvis and then do the lift making sure to use not just my arms but also the muscles of the upper back over the scapulae.  To climb the stairs the same rules as above apply.  Then when lowering the pram I do the same movement, really concentrating on keeping my elbows tucked tightly to my sides – it makes it easier and you’re less likely to wobble about and pull something.  Or drop the kid – also bad. 

So there you have it.  You’re not always going to be able to move with deliberate mindfulness; sometimes you just have to snatch the kid/dog/groceries in mid-disaster, but if you begin to make a habit of good alignment, good posture and consistent core engagement, you’re more likely to rely on those muscles for support and strength when the going gets crazy. 

Written by Mallory from The Parlour Hackney (@the_parlour_hackney) 


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