Book Review: Deskbound

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I just got my copy of the brand new book Deskbound by Dr. Kelly Starrett, with  Juliet Starrett and Glen Cordoza. Finally! Before I get into the book, I have to say, I am biased– I am already a fan of the Starretts–I like their giant quads, their cheerful, funny approach  and their seeming lack of douchiness.  And I already like the books Becoming a Supple Leopard and Ready to Run and Mobilitywod. To me, Kelly Starrett stands out amongst the many people talking about bodies in that he’s not waxed up, he seems to be respecting ladies, he and the others in his books and videos seem just like regular people. It’s like Yep, here’s a strong lady lifting stuff and it’s no big thing.  Here’s my kids,  here we are just running around. Refreshing.


OK, so Deskbound. It is about the sedentary life that is very common in our culture right now, why it matters, and what we can do about it. It is definitely about sitting, but, you know, it’s like 300-something pages, it offers a lot of information and solutions. Sitting is an issue that affects herbalists because 3 of the most common complaints we get are pain, digestive issues and “stress”/sleep issues. ALL of these issues may be helped by our changing the ways we move and live, so every time we hand out a product to fix something caused by a behavior, we are participating in, we are co-creating this cultural imbalance.

Yes, we are part of the problem, too.

So throughout the book, they are not afraid to say ” ____is a problem, here is why, move away from ___, here is how.” It is a format that actually makes sense, feels do-able and practical to me.

There are a lot of visuals, both photos and drawings, that help to make the concepts clear. The approach feels like systems thinking, where we identify and unravel underlying causes, make connections, which excites me. I’m seeing lots of focus on standing and walking, which might sound boring but IT’S NOT–basically, how can we do these better, and how  will that support our overall health.

And the concept of “environmental loads”–  everything from shoes to chairs– is one that may be useful in talking about what makes us unwell–often we hear, in the alternative health community, about fears of chemicals or radiation, GMOs or “toxins”, from people wearing heeled shoes, sitting all day who don’t lift heavy things. HEY! It’s not the “toxins” that are going to get you, people! Go for a walk!

I also appreciate that there isn’t a diet section. I’ve experienced reading a book about movement or health which suddenly shifts into what to eat, or some pseudoscientific or religious views, or both, and it’s an immediate buzzkill for me.

My only complaint about this book, and much of the media around sitting, heck all fitness, is that they seem to be speaking to “white collar” office workers first. My personal background, community and family are filled with factory workers, farmers , cleaners and carpenters. While this information definitely applies to nearly all types of workers, some interpretation will need to be done to make this feel super relevant to much of the working class.

So go get this book, and learn how to perform basic maintenance on your bod. Bring it to your own community, bring the concepts into your practice, your teaching, or your way of thinking. The next big shift in our culture is out of the chair, and this book shows us how and why.

Changing the way we move will eventually help to change the way we view our bodies–we don’t HAVE a body, we ARE a body, and this book is an owner’s manual.IMG_0933

 

 

Book Review: Yoga–Fascia, Anatomy and Movement

Disclaimer: I have a love-hate relationship with Yoga. I am a big fan of moving around, and Asanas are one interesting way to do so. But I find some Yoga to be extreme. I love inner journeys, but I cringe at “Namaste”. And ultimately, I am turned off by the Yoga industry, by the strong association I find with positive thinking and by what I feel is the cultural appropriation and/or misunderstanding aspect of Yoga’s roots.

But Yoga is, at this moment in time in the West, many things and some of them are worth hanging onto, and I believe we can acknowledge these issues and move on.

So this is the personal context in which I was searching for a book to add to my movement-book-collection. I found that the majority of the Yoga books were either focused on looks, such as weight loss or the mysterious concept of “glowing”. Or had a spiritual angle, which I prefer to avoid.

I found Yoga-Fascia, Anatomy and Movement by Joanne Sarah Avison on Amazon. There were no reviews and only 1 copy available, and it was expensive compared to the other books I looked at, about 50.00. I’d never heard of the author, who according to her bio teaches in London, and it felt a little gamble-y to spend that much money on what I considered a longshot. But the foreword was written by Tom Myers, author of the book Anatomy Trains which is a groundbreaking and intense tome so I went for it.

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The result: the book is a masterwork. It is written for an audience of Yoga teachers–and I like that because I believe that if you want to really get into a subject, try to read books written for teachers of that subject. It’s got a whole different tone compared to books written for the masses–it’s an assumption that you, too, are passionate about this subject. There’s no feeling that she has to sell the tickets, cause you’re already on this bus.

Fascia is a newish subject, and one that I haven’t seen a lot of books about yet. I’d love to see a short, snappy, funny and photo-rich Fascia book with easy infographics that appeals to a wide audience…maybe it can come with a tennis ball and a  mat…but until then, we have to accept the challenge of more advanced works.

There are a few moments where I feel like she knows her subject so well that I am not quite getting it, but I suspect that is more my fault for not actually being a Yoga teacher. I haven’t been able to sit down and read it cover-to-cover, I keep jumping around from chapter to chapter, getting up to try things, taking time to think her ideas through. The book is as dynamic as the subject, which says a lot about her depth of knowledge.

I particularly liked that there are drawings and photos but no photos of very well-dressed super-perfect glowy people doing Asana on their stand-up paddelboard.

I particularly liked the back third movement section, and found that more accessible for entry-level people than some of the (albeit super interesting) theory.

And I appreciate that there is NO diet advice. At all. I have noticed many otherwise great movement or exercise books, such as Barefoot Walking and Strong Curves have large  sections on the authors’ ideas about food. Eat more, eat less, eat raw vegan, eat Paleo, eat this not that. Listen, writers, if I want a food book I will get one. Thank you to those who deliver movement content without assuming I need a diet!

Ultimately, I believe this book is going to be like the Velvet Underground, in which it quietly changes the world, becomes a favorite of those who are teaching and writing about t he subject and inspires a million people to start a band.

I am going to go ahead and suggest that if you have any interest in Yoga, movement, fascia, bodies or theory around these subjects you seek it out immediately.

Work! It! Out!

Runnin'
Runnin’

Recently I have been exploring fitness education for herbalists. I am a big advocate for movement and I do not currently see much movement-herbalism integration education, but it is my passion. I have lived my own personal journey from being scared of movement to being a huge advocate for and do-er of movement. I have put together a list of resources for those who wish to further their knowledge of the body, and I’ve decided to make it share-able–since, as I will repeat like 10 times–I really believe in this.
And I’d love for this to be the beginning of a bigger conversation. Tell me what resources you like, and why you do or don’t agree with me. Help me make this list more diverse. Let’s co-create the inclusive and inspiring and integrative movement culture of our dreams! Let’s build bridges across our divisions and go forward together!
So….I believe in movement. But first, my spiel:
I hear that herbs won’t “work” without diet and exercise and I think that is bull. It assumes that your diet is problematic and you’re not already exercising. And it assumes that the speaker knows what diet and what exercise is right. The fact is, sometimes herbs just work. You could be a lazy-ass, sitting around eating chips all day and maybe herbs just fix you up. Or you could be The Zumba Queen living on barley and carrot sticks and just drop dead. Wellness is complicated and none of us has figured this all out.
That said, I do believe that nourishment and movement support health in most cases. I do believe able-bodied people have the responsibility to maintain a certain level of fitness–not to avoid offending people with one’s poor aesthetics but to be of real service.
Who will help our elders safely cross streets, run into burning buildings and save kittens from trees if we all reject fitness? Don’t assume someone else is coming to save you.
It is often stated that fitness is a personal choice. But I believe that when we reject basic training we also reject service to our community and our own self-defense. There is value in being able to outrun anything, from an attacker to an alligator.
And if you actively reject your muscles in order to perform femininity you are part of the problem.
(I want to be very clear that I am talking about able-bodied, basically well people.)

Mr. and Mrs. Fitness America!
Mr. and Mrs. Fitness America!

I have a list of resources to share. It is hard to know where to look for good information. The world of fitness is very fraught with issues, from judgmental attitudes, manymanymany stupid useless products, sexual harassment, actively harmful advice, absurd weight-loss programs, dangerous drugs and supplements–it can be very overwhelming. This list is just a place to start. It is just a reflection of my personal journey. Take it or leave it, I hope it can be of use to you.
This list also speaks to the fact that fitness isn’t just going to a gym. It is very much about doing what you can with what you have. There are great resources for bodyweight-only fitness, outdoor fitness, flexible and functional fitness. I have a few resistance bands, a yoga mat, some kettlebells, a pair of minimalist shoes, a used Craigslist rowing machine and a great playlist. It is not all about the money or the gear.
And I also want to address a HUGE barrier to fitness: body shame. Self-loathing will get you nowhere. I was terrified to start fitness-ing. “What will people think?!?!?!” I look back on it now with a bit of humor, but believe me I am very sympathetic to those sitting at home reading this, thinking “I. CAN’T.”
1. Yes, you can.
2. How can I help?
OK, onwards and upwards. In no particular order:

-The women of Crossfit Dynamix http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kksQV6al1k
I came across this video one day while searching for something else. I can now admit, I burst into tears the first time I saw it. Because it gives permission to seek strength. Because it speaks to my deep desire to be a part of something. Part of a team. I feel like sometimes we don’t know quite what is wrong. Something is off. That something is a culture of movement. A culture of support.
http://www.Crossfit.com and Crossfit Journal
I am going to be clear. I am NOT a Crossfit fanatic. I do not currently belong to a Crossfit. But a lot of my ideas about fitness and what I do come from Crossfitters. I observe that many leading fitness thinkers are involved in some way with Crossfit. I think it is evolving into many branches, some better than others. I personally don’t care for the Crossfit games or the dark side of the competitive Crossfit or competitive fitness in general. But. Crossfit. Way to change the game, especially for women. And I will say, don’t be afraid of the extremes. Just ignore them if needed. Check it out, take what you need from it, integrate the principles that work for you. The Crossfit journal has some great writing and videos and I find it very inspiring. I will never, ever bother with a 5-pound weight again.
-SIDE NOTE: I will warn you though, Crossfit videos, and fitness videos in general, can be associated with sexually harassing comments.   Who are these people who sit at home watching Butt-lift videos and spewing their sexually aggressive thoughts all over them? They didn’t just THINK it, they took the time to SHARE it. They hit send. Try not to read the comments if you don’t care for truly offensive dirtbags making inappropriate proposals. And to those who can’t watch a fitness video without commenting on the body parts of women: please die now.
-Katy Bowman, http://www.katysays.com, http://www.alignedandwell.com http://www.nutritiousmovement.com
I cannot possibly say enough good things about Katy Bowman. There is no “but”. Just run to the store and get her books. Read her blog, like her on Facebook, check out her podcast, and videos, take her classes.
http://www.Movnat.com
Movnat is natural movement. A big part of my point is that you don’t necessarily need to perform “exercises”. You don’t need to Jane Fonda, friends. You don’t always need a numeric goal. Movement is just the human animal, getting from place to place, moving loads and doing work, just like we have always done.
Running, jumping, climbing over something.
I’m into it.
http://www.IdoPortal.com
Ido Portal advocates for a movement culture, a world where it is totally normal to devote time to moving around and noone will point and stare if we occasionally bust out a pull-up at the playground. He seems like a weird dude, and I like that. His videos make movement seem totally normal, and reminds me how our culture is so separated. No touching, no grappling, no horseplay between consenting adults. Let’s bring it back.
http://www.thefitnessexplorer.com
Darryl Edwards also brings back that playful side of movement. His book Paleo Fitness advocates mostly bodyweight strength training, play, group fitness, outdoor fitness and what I see as a flexible and intuitive path.
http://www.evolvemoveplay.com
My final player for now is Rafe Kelley and he teaches a Parkour/play/natural movement system that I just can’t get enough of, and includes dance and outdoors. His videos and blog are inspiring and fun.
I appreciate full-body stuff like freerunning, obstacle racing, rockclimbing, puddle jumping and tracking.
http://www.Mobilitywod.com
I consider Kelly Starrett to be one of the movement geniuses of our time. His writing and videos are inspiring, accessible, interesting and a joy to watch. And he’s funny. I believe he makes learning about our bodies fun and exciting. His books, Becoming a Supple Leopard and Ready to Run, are page-folded, covered in wine splashes and often next to my bed.
I strongly suggest checking him out.
– wwww.BretContreras.com
The Glute guy, Bret Contreras is a wealth of information. He advocates for strong glutes as a source of power. And in many ways, they are. I waffled about suggesting his website because there is a strong bias there towards those who are competing in bikini competitions–which I personally feel weird about. And the last thing I want is to add more body shame!!! So I will say:  this resource is not for everyone. But if you are in the mood to get some solid information and can handle a few butt pics then go for it.
He also has a book, Strong Curves. Again, if you can hack your way through the figure model bits, it’s useful. So, I give it 2 buns up.
http://www.Gokaleo.com
I can’t help but love someone who brings humor and sarcasm to the fitness industry. Amber advocates for eating enough food, and critiques the diet industry.
http://www.yogatuneup.com
Jill Miller just released a new book called The Roll Model, and it is just great. I like her videos and I like her style. Pain is a major reason many people don’t move, and she helps to address that. Videos, classes, YTU balls, etc.
http://www.Liberatedbody.com
Brooke Thomas has a great podcast, one of my favorites. She talks a lot about fascia, an exciting aspect of our bodies that is often overlooked. Her e-book, Why Fascia Matters, is interesting and her writing is great. Highly recommended.
http://www.EvilSugarRadio.com
In case you get overwhelmed by all this input, Evil Sugar radio is a down-to-earth weekly podcast by 2 fitness professionals, Scott Kustes and Antonio Valladares. It is controversial, pleasantly obnoxious, always interesting. They have some great interviews and a lot of ranting. Importantly, they actively challenge the sexism, racism and classism which is rampant in the world of fitness, from diet to exercise and everything in between. Inclusion and tolerance are extremely important to me, and I am very thankful that someone is willing to speak about the reality of the industry–while also bringing good information to  people. They also have a lot of links under each show for further information. This is valuable because I like to research further.
And maybe now is a great time to mention–critical thinking, people. Don’t take anyone’s word without thinking, researching and trying. And that applies to me as well!
OK, how about a short list of other books I like:
-Core Awareness by Liz Koch
-The Swing! by Tracy Reifkind (KETTLEBELLS!!!)
-Mad Skills Exercise Encyclopedia by Ben Musholt
-Kettlebells for Women by Lauren Brooks
-The Art of Roughhousing by Anthony T DeBenedet, MD and Lawrence J Cohen, Phd
-The Parkour and Freerunning Handbook by Dan Edwardes
-Power Speed Endurance by Brian McKenzie
And if you overdo it, I recommend getting bodywork at WestSide wWellness in Providence RI.
http://www.Westsidewell.com

And how about a short list of what to avoid?
Most fitness magazines.
Anything that promotes body shame.
Non-functional exercises that do more harm than good.
Obsessing about every little detail.
Starving oneself.
Trendy doo-dads, like Thighmaster, green coffee beans, 30 days to ripped abs, ass-shaping sneakers and Celery diets.
Ultimately, you are great exactly as you are. You were great before, and you will be great later, whether you work out or not. Movement is not about punishment for being imperfect. Integrating movement into our lives is about stimulating our bodies and minds, about circulating our lymph and running wild. It is about being the human animal, running free through the woods. It is about the future of our mobility, about the ability to get up and down off the floor. It is about creating wellness, having an outlet and giving a shit about lung capacity. It is about power, creating our personal power and cultivating our own inner strength. It is a way to connect, to build bridges. It is a way to add to our world, to serve, to help keep kids out of trouble, to help recovery from physical and mental disorders, addiction, imbalance. It is giving ourselves time to process this screwed-up world and self-care and blowing off steam. Until we see movement as a gift, an opportunity, rather than a thing to check off our to-do list, no resources will fix us.

damn straight it's out of order!
damn straight it’s out of order!