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REPORT: Gait Assessment and Optimization Workshop with Tom Myers Nov.’16

I attended a workshop with Tom Myers, well known author/anatomist/Rolfer last week with two of my colleagues and about 47 others in downtown Toronto. I’ve done workshops with him before, in NYC in 2010. Since that time, as most of you know, I’ve changed tack (sailing reference!) from teaching Pilates to teaching Restorative Exercise. Since I’ve been immersed in the RE paradigm for 4+ years, I wasn’t sure how working with Tom again would translate to my new approach. To be honest, I was thinking that if the workshop turned out to be an exercise in debate, that would be valuable as well. If I truly believe something, I should be able to defend it against opposing beliefs, at least to myself! Concepts that are challenging should be welcomed into any teacher’s study, as at best, you will be forced to think through your choices, and at worse, you might have to admit the fact that you could be wrong.

So it was with some trepidation that I attended this workshop (not least because I suffer from social anxiety and large crowds are very trying for me). As it turned out, I needn’t have worried. I was surprised and delighted to discover that I had way more in common with Tom than I had expected (in both a professional and personal sense!).

Tom began his lecture with the words “Movement is food, and how you move decides what kind of diet you have – junk food for example.” (paraphrasing) But that certainly caught my attention. (Had he read “Move Your DNA” I wondered?) He spoke of the language of anatomy historically and of how we’ve reduced the body into parts to treat in isolation like a machine. I think it’s important to interject here Katy Bowman’s definition of a machine from a podcast she recorded in 2014:

A machine is a complex structure that utilizes mechanical power, where every part has a definite function and a task to perform.
So your liver…has the thing that it does and I don’t know if you could say that the liver is fluid and that the liver could assume the task of the hamstring. Every cell has an assigned role and that’s what I mean about a machine.

So I think they are in agreement in terms of how reductionist our anatomical and physical language has become. Bowman often says things like “when you wear a backpack, all the cells of your body wear a backpack” – in other words, the load might be carried on the back, but in fact, all the parts of your body have a load imposed on them when you wear a backpack. Myers talks about having 1 muscle in 600 “pockets” – the slips of connective tissue they sit in are the continuous structures.

Tom then spoke of how we consider movement therapies as “alternative medicine” although historically, those methods have been around longer than western medicine (doctors, surgeons, chemistry). In fact, that is the alternative medicine, and movement therapies should be far more pervasive and credible than they are currently. And that our work is important.

Both Bowman and Myers are in agreement that the areas that are unmoved are the problem areas and must be addressed. You might be moving yourself through space, but are all parts of you moving? No! Bowman does use a grid for assessment – in order to be able to create a reference system by which to compare body parts to other body parts, in order to define areas that are in or out of alignment. Myers does not use a grid (although his reference to one I took to mean a postural grid). He does measure the body parts in space relative to each other and relative to the ground which is identical to Bowman’s grid. Some similarities:

  • vertical leg
  • 10th rib (or front of rib cage) should be over ASIS vertically
  • pelvis neutral (his definition is a range, whereas hers is a position while measuring statically and then of course, dynamic when moving). I would say their definition is very close.
  • foot pointing straight ahead is foot neutral, but Myers would turn out for femur neutral, whereas Bowman makes a case for externally rotating the femur and exposing foot immobility
  • our culture has a predominance of an anterior shifted/posterior tilted pelvis
  • both agree that hyperkyphosis is “hidden” (Bowman) by lifting the ribcage – creating a posture that looks good but in fact is problematic
  • you might have specific needs for your body to perform, but can it return “home” at the end of the day? In other words, if you are an office worker and sit all day long, can you stand up and have full range in the hips, or do you take the chair with you? If your work (or sport) requires a structural dysfunction, can you leave it behind when you don’t require it?
  • emotional stress can be a load
  • different parts of the psoai can have different effects/results on the body parts associated with them and it should not be treated as one muscle
  • create space, not compression
  • when you work on a body, you change how the DNA express itself (Bowman: mechanotransduction)

I mentioned that Myers and I had some personal similarities. It transpires that he classifies himself as an introvert who is comfortable addressing large groups when he is in charge, but not when he isn’t (parties). So he seemed very understanding of my reluctance to speak out to the group at large, but how I was much more comfortable when we broke into smaller groups for our assessments.

Speaking of which! I was absolutely thrilled to discover that even when I wasn’t trying, my group assessed me as a neutral pelvis on a neutral (vertical) leg. One of the very few who wasn’t anterior shift/anterior tilt. It looks like all this Restorative Exercise is working!

In this photo, my “height challenged” colleague Petra Fisher measures how my length (which is obviously considerable) can change when I tilt the pelvis, Tom Myers is in the background. Colleague Lisa Flores took the photo. All three of us are Nutritious Movementâ„¢ staff and Restorative Exercise Specialists; Petra and I in Toronto and Lisa in Tennessee.

 

Measuring how tilting the pelvis can effect the length of the spine
Measuring how tilting the pelvis can effect the length of the spine

 

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5 thoughts on “REPORT: Gait Assessment and Optimization Workshop with Tom Myers Nov.’16

  • Tom did an interview over the summer on the Rewild Yourself Podcast. I believe it’s fairly long, but I was happy to hear a lot of what he said, as it did fall in line with Katy’s work. I have a lot of friends that go to his cadaver dissections in Phoenix so it may need to be on my bucket list. That or this gait workshop

  • I have a friend/student who went to the dissection last year (who was also at the workshop). I will listen to the podcast, thank you for bringing it to my attention!

  • Thank you for this blog. I started with NM this summer and did two skype calls with Petra Fisher. I am kinesiology major and pilates teacher. I work with individuals and groups for over 10 years now. I have my studio located in Zagreb, Croatia. I am so happy that I found Katy B.and all you guys cause this was big link that was missing in my teaching. And reading this just makes me even more excited about learning from Katy. Thank you. Will continue reading your blog and follow your work.

  • Hi Jelena, thank you for commenting. It’s nice to meet you and I hope to meet you in person one day perhaps during a RES week or on Skype! My blog has been neglected as I’m currently building a new website and then got distracted by trips to Sequim and working with students. I hope to make the blog my focus again very soon. In the meantime, there is still a lot here that may be of interest.
    ps I also was a Pilates teacher – if you get the Pilates Intel newsletter I wrote an article called “Why I Quit Teaching Pilates” that received a lot of interest. I have skyped with quite a few students who read it and sought me out.

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