Kegels – Should You, or Shouldn’t You?

Someone in the Restorative Exercise™ community brought this to my attention today:

My first thought was “I bet I could get that sucker up to 10!” I guess my competitive spirit is alive and well. As much as I want entrepreneurs who mean well to succeed, especially when it comes to the area of women’s health, is this product a must-have?

The idea behind this product is that you insert it into your vagina and “squeeze,” thereby performing a “Kegel” and strengthening the pelvic floor muscles. We women have been told for decades that this is the key to maintaining a strong healthy pelvic floor, and protecting us from the possibilities of incontinence or Pelvic Organ Prolapse (POP) which is where the internal organs such as your bladder, rectum and uterus collapse down and sometimes even out! I posted a great blog post on that subject on my Facebook Page, so if you missed it, click here. (Don’t worry, the pictures are drawings and very helpful.)

But what exactly is a Kegel, and what is it for? Let’s look at the history for a minute. Arnold Kegel, a gynaecologist, developed the Kegel (named after him obviously) in the 1940s as a non surgical intervention for genital relaxation (Wikipedia). It is also thought that these exercises were given for a short time postpartum to help injured and stretched muscles regain their strength before the mother went home. (Historically women did not give birth lying on their backs, nor did they spend 3 days after birth lying on a hospital bed – so maybe Kegels were necessary for that reason).

But as we all know so well – sex sells. Enter the penis (sorry). If you want to intensify your orgasms and please your man with your tighter vag (I’m already envisioning the spam I’m going to get) – suddenly Kegels are to be done not only after childbirth, but all the time. All day long. Every day. On the subway, in the office. Use your new App to record the strength and duration and track your progress. (I’m curious as to the “games and other interactions” part!)

So, do Kegels work? Do they keep your organs in and fix incontinence issues? The answer is: it depends. Firstly, it is important to note the “relaxation” part of Dr. Kegel’s intentions. Simply training a muscle to contract (any muscle) is going to have the result of a tight short muscle. And here’s the thing: a tight short muscle is not a strong muscle.

Measured by the electricity it generates, a tight short muscle cannot generate force (because its fibres are too close together to contract more) and will eventually fail. So if you have a hypertonic (too much tension) Pelvic Floor (PF), you might find Kegels work in the short term, as the muscle contracts more to its shortest position, and then it will simply be too contracted all the time to sustain the forces upon it (the weight of the organs above, the pressure from bearing down, perhaps a baby) and will ultimately fail.

The lesson to be learned here is – find out first if you have a hypertonic PF and then learn to relax it. A muscle can only generate force if it is at its correct resting length, and can yield back to this length after a contraction. (There are physiotherapists who specialize in PF work – just do a search for pelvic floor specialists in your town or city.)

Second, Kegels don’t address all the PF muscles (and most people are confused about what those are anyway, and how it feels to contract them). Inserting something into your vagina and squeezing it might get at some of those muscles but simply “stopping the flow of urine” does not address the weaknesses that might be present in the entire system.


 Men look a lot like this too, and they suffer from PF dysfunction and POP as well.

Third – and perhaps the most important. We are taking a small part of a large system and isolating it and treating it apart from that system and that is not a model that creates holistic health! If you have a PF dysfunction, a sneeze pee problem, more serious incontinence, POP, etc, you need to find out WHY this is happening. It is likely a more global issue that will require some retraining of multiple body parts that support the PF. For example, the position of the sacrum can effect the efficacy of the PF and the ligaments that connect to it determine the position of the internal organs to a large extent. *Kegel exercises can actually pull the sacrum into further counter nutation, shortening those muscle fibres even more!*


This is a cross section showing the sacrum on the left.

Also, the muscles that attach to the sacrum from behind (glutes) will create a counter pull on that bone, which in turn ensures the correct amount of tension on the PF. See, it’s all connected. So maybe you are a slumper when you sit and sit on your tailbone, changing its orientation over time, or maybe you don’t walk with any posterior muscles innervating and creating the environment for optimal PF operation. It can be a multiple factor kind of thing. Doing Kegels won’t innervate your glutes or get your hips to extend, get you off your chair and walking (unfortunately).

If you are determined to have hypotonic (low tone) tissues, Kegels might indeed be prescribed, but in our chair sitting, heel wearing (heels contribute hugely to PF dysfunction) culture, that is getting rarer and rarer.

I’m going to wait and see what kind of games they come up with for this new device. In the meantime my PF wants to go for a walk.

I’m Back – with 3 tips to make a difference.


I’m surfacing from a deep dive into nutrition. It all started with Sean Croxton’s (of Underground Wellness) Thyroid Sessions. This was a two week online session with 22 taped interviews with various experts. It was free for the duration (you can purchase the course online now) so I signed up thinking I’d catch a few and see what they had to say. Well I was hooked! I ended up watching all of them, some of them more than once. Then there was the inevitable spin off books, websites, podcasts that I’ve been working my way through (just finished Nora Gedgauda’s “Primal Body-Primal Mind”). Then just as I thought I was seeing the surface, along came another online series, this time by Suzy Cohen (America’s Pharmacist!) and Dr. Brownstein, with 32 presenters. I was a bit choosier this time, but still managed to catch some very interesting interviews. (This is also available for purchase online.)

The upshot is, I’ve overhauled my diet and decided to go gluten-free! And as if that wasn’t enough, I decided to go sugar free as well. Because I had such a sweet tooth for my entire life (and baking is my middle name), I had to give up anything remotely sweet for a time, until the cravings stopped. Even my morning smoothies are more greens and vegetables than fruit now. I just hope eliminating these things from my diet at this late stage in my life will have a positive influence on my future health.

One podcast I listened to was with Chris Kresser (his book “Your Personal Paleo Code” is next up on my reading list). He said if doing a major overhaul on your diet sounds too daunting for you, the three things you can do that will make the most difference would be to eliminate:

1. gluten
2. sugar
3. highly processed vegetable oils (frequently found in processed foods) such as soy, canola etc.

Since this isn’t a food and nutrition website, you’ll have to do your own research into the whys, but since this is a movement website, I thought I’d give you three movement tips that will make the most difference in terms of your future joint health.

Here they are:

1. Calf stretch multiple times a day
2. Walk with your feet pointing straight ahead
3. Walk with your feet hip width apart

Let’s start with #1 – the Calf Stretch. This is the grandaddy of all Restorative Exercise™ prescriptions for the simple reason that tension at the back of the lower leg has such a profound effect on all the body parts above as well as below (into the foot).

Tension in the calf muscles alters the acceleration of the spine while walking, which creates tension in the muscles along the spine to help keep the spine upright, which creates pressure on the disks. So for every problem, from Plantar Fasciitis to sore backs, disk degeneration, osteoarthritis, shoulder and neck pain and more, you should start with a good calf stretch, done properly multiple times a day.

In Restorative Exercise™ we like to use functional positions, that translate into real world movements. Our calf stretch position actually measures a positive or negative gait stride. But you don’t need to know that – only know that other calf stretches commonly done are not the same in terms of load and accurate analysis.

We utilize a simple piece of equipment that is easy to find online or buy at your local fitness store (or from me at class) called a half dome. If you want to start your calf stretch now, simply roll up a towel or even a yoga mat, or use a book on the ground! Place the ball of your foot on the apex of the dome and drop the heel to the ground. The other foot can start a short step behind the stretching foot. This stretch can advance in time, but the goal is to be able to have this range of motion in your ankle without feeling a stretch. This is what “restorative” means in the name of the program. If you are feeling a stretch, you can be sure your calf muscles are shorter than they should be for optimal function and there is some biological tax (see the list above) certain to be paid. So get stretching.

#2 – Feet Straight Ahead: Feet that point off to the sides (even slightly) will create a rotational force that torque the knees and hips and create bunions. The foot is a lever and optimal leverage is produced when the foot is at its longest – hence heel to toes with feet straight. Otherwise, you are walking along a short lever that is outside edge to big toe metatarsal head – there’s your bunion producing gait pattern. Walking with a toe-out position over a lifetime actually causes the bones of the leg to alter their position from neutral to maintain a knee position that can still function. So it will take a while to correct. Start now.

#3 – Feet Hip Width Apart: Walking with the toe out position described above usually means the heels are too narrow and the toes are too wide. This is a recipe for knee pain. The distance from centre of ankle to centre of ankle should be the same as the width across the pelvis, from ASIS to ASIS. Walking with the feet this wide (and straight) will ensure less friction to the knee joint and a better hip position, enabling that lateral hip musculature to strengthen and increase your balance. Now that’s worth working towards, better balance is something that will increase your likelihood of living independently into advanced age.

Keep in mind the above tips are to be used with common sense – if you have a big discrepancy between what you are doing now and alignment, proceed slowly. Small increments of change are still change.

And if you made it this far you get a bonus - here are three health related tips that will make a difference: lose the high heels, drink more water (half your body weight in ounces daily in small increments through the day) and go for a walk every day, including a nice long walk a few times a week. Now, who has a gluten free recipe for birthday cake?



Loonies for les éléphants



One of my clients has signed up for a 100 mile walk to benefit elephant anti-poaching efforts in Kenya. This is something I feel very strongly about, as I’m sure you do! I would like to help Deborah raise some funds for this worthy cause.

To that end, I suggest a monthly (or perhaps bi-monthly if there is interest) walk of our own. You can bring your friends, your spouse, your children, your dogs, rats, cats, elephants and unicorns if you have them. But make sure to bring your loonies because I will be passing the can at the walk. If you don’t have a loonie (then God bless you!) feel free to join us anyway, and if you have more than one loonie, you can put them both in the can! If you can’t join us but want to contribute please contact me by email or comment on this post and I will get in touch.

Between now and September I would like to organize neighbourhood walks that are TTC accessible for those without cars, in all areas of the city, including parks, ravines, streets. Every walk will include a free lecture and tips on some aspect of gait.

Some tips might cover shoe selection, foot health, knee and hip alignment, arm swing, etc. These will not be speed walking outings, but natural gait and movement sessions. Anybody can take part regardless of age or physical shape. If there are stairs or hills we will discuss and practice the correct way to go up and down them, but we won’t be looking for large hills for purposes of fitness training. The idea is to just have a nice day out walking a nature trail with (hundreds of) our friends and learn something interesting and helpful while feeling good about keeping elephants alive.


Please let me know in the comments section, on Facebook, or by email what is the best day and time of the week for you. I will do my best to organize the walks around the most availability. As I said, I walk just about every day anyway, so there is always a partner for you if you want to come along!

Keep your eyes on this space for the first walk announcement coming soon!


(Image used with permission


May Classes

Classes are ongoing for the next two months! This is good news, but I’m still looking for a more permanent home for the Alignment REScue classes. Pass any information along if you know of one.

In the meantime, we continue with Saturday morning and Tuesday evening classes and we may even add a class to the schedule if there is enough interest, so let me know your day/time preferences by comment, email or on the FB page.

You can also let me know any areas of interest that you would like to cover in class. I will post class themes on the FB page before class. That should keep it fun! This Saturday, class will be:


Do you know what balance is? In Restorative Exercise™ we teach a functional balance that is part of the gait cycle. Come and find out how a common error in alignment is sabotaging your hips, knees, and foot arches.

Come ready to work!

April Classes

Classes for the next four weeks of April will commence this Saturday April 5 with a special class on the Pelvic Floor. There is no class April 1 (no joke!).

If you don’t have Pelvic Floor Dysfunction (PFD) come anyway – the information benefits much more than just pelvic floors (knees and hips love this stuff too!). But many people are surprised what falls under the category of PFD. Examples:

  • pelvic organ prolapse: this is a pretty serious issue and is more common than previously thought. Men can prolapse too – but their organs press downward on the prostate instead of falling out.
  • incontinence of varying degrees: sneeze-pee, cough-pee, laugh-pee (not technical medical terms but I bet you know what I’m talking about). Many women blame their births for this condition but pregnancy is not always the cause, although it can certainly take a weak pelvic floor and make it worse. Incontinence can be urinary or fecal.
  • coccydynia (tailbone pain)
  • sexual dysfunction
  • chronic pain
  • sacral iliac pain

Kegels are prescribed most often for PFD. While strengthening the pelvic floor may be necessary, creating the optimal tone in the tissues that make up the pelvic floor requires a few other simple changes that Kegels don’t address. The position of the pelvis and the position of the sacrum require some activation of muscles that stabilize those structures and create the correct environment for the pelvic floor to function more effectively.

Pelvic Floor class repeats Tuesday April 8.

Other classes in the series include:

  • Shoulder Girdle Restoration: April 12, 15
  • Osteoporosis/Osteopenia: April 19, 22
  • The Psoas: April 26, 29

Tuesday classes take place at 7pm and Saturday classes at 9:30am.

For more information on the individual classes please visit The Alignment REScue’s Facebook page (click here) where information will be posted before the classes.

I prefer people to register before coming because some of the classes require equipment and it helps to have an idea of numbers. Please see my contact page for email.

I hope to see you soon.

Eat your Heart Out Imelda Marcos!

Okay, I might not be quite the symbol of excess that Imelda Marcos was, and I’m sure she wouldn’t be caught dead in any of these shoes. But the fact remains that I have bought more pairs of shoes since becoming a RES™ than I have in several years previous.

Being a super tall woman, I was never one for heels, and many of my clients say they never wear heels! but in fact, they always wear heels, they just don’t think of it the same way I do.

You see, the term “positive” heel is a mathematical term, much like the thermostat, where ’0′ is nothing, and anything above that is more than nothing (or something), and anything below that is less than nothing. So in shoes, ’0′ is flat ground, where the heel and the ball of the foot are on equal ground, and ‘positive’ is when the heel is higher than the ball. Even 1 degree higher is considered positive.

So this cute ballet flat (J.Crew) has a positive heel, even though just about anybody would call it a flat, and indeed it is described as a ballet flat.

j.crew ballet flat


Granted, it is about as low a heel as I could find. Until recently. Now shoe manufacturers are making shoes with zero heel height, due to demand. (Imagine, even kid’s shoes have positive heels!). Running shoes usually have a positive heel of 1/2″ or more, and many people use them for everyday casual wear.

Any kind of positive heel affects your geometry in a not-so-positive way, so it is a good idea to go barefoot or in socks when you can (if you can – if you’ve been a high heel wearer for a while, you might need to do some calf restoration before you can drop your heel back down to toe land without damage). Then, when it’s time to select a new shoe, try to get one with a smaller heel than you are used to, eventually going all the way to zero. Eventually, you might have a shoe selection to rival mine:

photo 1 (1)

photo 2 (1) Back row L-R: ballet flats from Town Shoes Toronto (not a flat shoe company, I just got lucky), Soft Stars, Vibrams Five Fingers, Zuuks, Altra Zero Drop, New Balance.

Front row L-R: Town shoes again, Sou Sou SF (Japanese split toe shoes), Keens, Kigo, Xero Shoes, Sou Sou SF split toe slip ons.

Here are some handy links to some of the companies listed above:,default,pg.html

If you are in Toronto, you can buy Xero Shoes and Tabi shoes (different company) at Cool East Market, on Danforth.


Why Align?

The first time I see a new client, I assess their standing position, and try to bring their attention to the habits they currently have standing, sitting and walking. In some cases, that is enough information for that client to make changes to those habits that result in relief of symptoms.

Although I am not a Doctor or a Physiotherapist, and cannot (and do not) claim to treat disease, the fact remains that a lot of people are seeking Restorative Exercise Specialists™ because there is generally a mechanical component to many forms of damage or disease. Oftentimes they have exhausted all other avenues, from orthotics to prescription drugs to a course of physiotherapy that may not have resolved the issue, and are facing interventions such as surgery. Not all medical practitioners are trained in biomechanics, and as such, we can be a helpful part of the alternative rehabilitative process.

But it takes a long time to create damage, and although changing your mechanics may result in instant relief (in some lucky cases), the damage is still there – you just aren’t exacerbating it by incorrect loading. The damage itself will take much longer to correct, and includes such other natural interventions such as rest, diet, the correct amount and type of movement, not to mention probable lifestyle changes (standing work station, shoe choices for example). Tissues can heal, but it takes time.

If tissues are so tight and unyielding that certain joint ranges are unavailable to you, it’s time to change that before it results in friction damage to that joint. (Actually, it’s likely the damage is there, but it might not be symptomatic – why wait until you are in pain to fix your joints?) In order to raise your arms above your head without compensation from the spine or improper and potentially damaging shoulder mechanics, or to bend over at the hips without sacrificing your vertebral discs, you will need to know how to increase that range safely. How long will it take before you can achieve this goal? It depends. It depends on how diligent you are in your muscle restorative program, and if you can limit or negate entirely the habits that are contributing to your issue.

Whether your goal is to alleviate painful symptoms, to increase your strength to weight ratio, or to learn how to move correctly, alignment can serve you to:

Preserve and Protect the Spine
Optimize Circulation
Minimize Joint Damage

Our body will prioritize protection of the Central Nervous System housed within the spine. A muscle spasm is nature’s way of telling you that you were about to endanger this structure, whether through a disc herniation, or a shearing of one vertebra relative to another for example. Building the strength in the posterior leg musculature and learning how to analyze your movement abilities at the hip are part of the process for restoring the stability to the spine. Inability to access the full range of motion at the hip will sacrifice your spine for the simplest of tasks, such as putting on your shoes.

Circulation of oxygen rich blood to the tissues is essential for tissue health and regeneration of tissue cells. The circulation is optimized when the muscle is innervated. A muscle that is not used (or not used often) does not waste valuable resources – the oxygen delivery to that muscle will be decreased (through lack of capillary development). As well, the acidic waste of the cell will build up as the lymphatic drainage of this waste also depends on regular muscle activity. This is a recipe for unhealthy tissues! This is why I stress the importance of getting those tight muscles in your hands and feet to open up. Finger and toe stretching can be done almost anywhere, anytime. All 600+ of your muscles require the correct amount of use in order to generate the circulation of oxygen, nerve stimulus and lymphatic drainage. If we lived in such a way that all of our muscles were optimized in their circulation, we would enjoy a level of health unknown to even the most elite of athletes, or ablest yogis.

Alignment is something that I will practice every day for the rest of my life. I would like to know that the alignment I practice will have benefits and not detriments. That is essentially why I do what I do. Please join me!


Footprints in the Snow

Today I went out to clear some of the fresh snow that fell yesterday and found this:

photo 1

 So let’s call this guy “The Mailman.” The Mailman has a decidedly turned out foot position. Let’s see what happens when he continues down the walk.

photo 2

(click on the image to get a better look) You can see that this is not just on the stairs but on level ground. The heels land almost directly in front of each other, as if he is walking with his heels on a narrow balance beam, with his toes sticking off the edge of the beam. The Mailman has weak lateral hips, and poor balance. (Call me Sherlock.)

The Mailman also has tight calves (and most likely tight hamstrings). I can tell this because he is wearing heels as evidenced by the print. If The Mailman were wearing flat (zero drop) shoes, the entire footprint would be flat, but as you can see, there is a gap between the heel print and the forefoot. I guarantee that The Mailman is walking with a quadricep driven gait pattern (hip flexion), and landing on a bent knee.

The Mailman is going to have to cut his career short if he intends on delivering mail well into his golden years. Oh wait, we just learned that our Canada Post home delivery service is going to end. Lucky for him he will have lots of time to study Alignment.

With a straight foot, and a wider stance (distance between feet) he can help save his knees from becoming osteoarthritic, and his hips will become stronger leading to a more balanced gait (and the potential to be independent longer). If he takes to wearing flat shoes and does some stretches to lengthen his calves and hamstrings he might never need Adult Depends, because it’s the pelvic floor that pays the price for the positioning of the pelvis that occurs in this scenario.

Compare The Mailman to the Delivery Girl, seen in this photo:

photo 3

The Delivery Girl is much straighter in her gait pattern, although there is still room for improvement. The feet are a bit narrow but wider than The Mailman’s.  She is wearing a flatter boot as well. I’d say the Delivery Girl is on the right “track.”

What do your footprints tell you?

Classes Start This Week!

I’m pretty excited that after an absence of six weeks, classes start up again this week. My last venue closed and it took me a while to find a space, but a space I found and what a space! I’m stoked!

Firstly, the location is awesome — it is in Leslieville, one of “Toronto’s hippest place to dine, drink, shop and live” (according to the New York Times). I already know that, because I once owned a house in Leslieville that actually housed my first independent studio. I ended up moving a bit further East, but I always missed living with the vibe of that neighbourhood.

The studio is in the back of Barkside Bistro, an organic raw pet food store, run by one of my clients. The building is actually an old historic building that once was the home of Delta Motors. There are still the old hooks in the ceiling of the studio where they would hang the motors!

The floors are original hardwood, and I spent the afternoon soaking up the atmosphere of the space, and I have to say – I love it! I hope you do too.

Classes resume Tuesday Feb. 4 at 7-8:15p and Saturday Feb. 8 at 9:30-10:45a. If you are interested in taking part, please email me, as registration is required.

There’s also the possibility that more classes can be added to the schedule so don’t hesitate to ask!

Here’s a pic of the back half:


Just imagine that space with mirrors! Pretty cool huh?



The gift of healthy bowel movements

Okay, that was probably not on your Christmas list. Or your kid’s list. But have you ever enjoyed a moment in the bush, “au naturel?” If you’ve ever traveled to a foreign country and found yourself facing a hole in the ground and you don’t have your squat mechanics ready to go, well, you can’t go. I was in Italy a few years ago, hiking the Cinque Terre, and after several hours hiking some pretty steep hills, we made our way into one of the five little towns for lunch and everyone took turns using the convenience, only a few members of our group were horrified to find it wasn’t actually convenient. Meaning, there was nowhere to sit; just two footprints on the floor and a hole. When in Rome…

There have been studies showing that the mechanics of voiding your bowels are optimized in the squat position, and products are available to assist you in this endeavour using the Western toilet. Companies such as Squatty Potty (U.S. – motto: healthy colon: happy life) and Lillipad (N.Z.) manufacture stools to allow the user to raise their feet to the level of the top of the bowl and squat to defecate.

Align-nerds in the Restorative Exercise™ program talk a lot about natural functions like this. We are an odd bunch. But facilitating things that need to come out of your body are all part of a natural existence. Birthing, pooping, vomiting, are all things that can be improved using better alignment. Seriously. Things work better if they are not fighting gravity or maneuvering kinks and bends in the road. Lots of problems associated with a less than optimal experience on the toilet are improved in the squat position (constipation, hemorrhoids are some examples).

So I’ve coveted a Squatty Potty (actually a brand name but fast becoming a generic term for the thing) for a while now, but shipping to Canada has proved prohibitive. If you live in the US you are in luck, shipping is only $10 or so.

Another reason my travel companions were less than thrilled to find the toilet part of the toilet missing is that a good many people don’t practice squatting. They simply don’t have the hip and knee mechanics to facilitate a deep drop like this. So even if they wanted to improve their bathroom experience, they don’t have the ability to do so. Enter Restorative Exercise™ he he.

Squatting is an important part of our protocol. There may be several things limiting your ability to squat without causing injury to your knees and back. You need a good range of motion in your ankle, strength in your posterior thigh and hip to support you and get you back up again, and full range of motion in your hips will allow the movement to spare your spine from flexing. We spend a lot of our time sitting, but we sit in a position where our hips never have to bend beyond 90 degrees. Even our toilets get higher the older we get. This is a case of enabling our disability, rather than addressing it head on. In Restorative Exercise™ we work toward improving our squat mechanics and give you modifications so you can squat correctly to whatever degree you can manage.

Your joints are actually designed to be used this way, to their full range of motion. Using this range of motion will ensure your joints remain healthy for a lifetime. Using a partial range of motion over a long time can result in tight muscles and arthritic joints. Going to the bathroom isn’t the only reason you should squat, but it is an elegant, natural built-in way to ensure that you use your joints to the full range.

So this morning a family friend dropped by with a Christmas present for me. It was wrapped in a garbage bag and I didn’t have a clue what it could be. I’d shown him the Lillipad website several months ago, when he was helping my husband build our porch. I was sure he thought I was off my rocker. He’s an inventor, a craftsman, not to mention a highly regarded architect. So imagine my surprise when I unwrapped the bag and found this:

photo (2)

Hand made! He had fun quizzing house guests over the holidays as to the purpose of his new project. No one guessed right (one person thought it was a shoe shine stand). It is happily installed in my bathroom right now and I’ll spare you the reviews other than to say it is beautifully made and definitely my favourite Christmas present of 2013.

Thanks Jamie :)