Alignment Snacks: Frankie Says: Relax the PsoasKaty Bowman
Year Released: 2013
Categories: Athletic Stretch , Instructional / How To Videos , Special Health Conditions
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I have only recently started trying a few of Katy Bowman's "Alignment Snacks" downloads from her web site, restorativeexercise.com. These are 25-35 movement-focused classes offered for $5 each. Katy is teaching live in front of a live class (who you sometimes hear but never see).
After trying several of Katy upper-body focused classes (which I loved--and you can try her "Can't Get Enough of Shoulders" free on her web site), I decided to try several for lower body, as I wanted to work in particular on my psoas and hamstrings. I found Frankie Says: Relax the Psoas to be a bit more of a workout than some of her other snacks. You will need two blocks for this snack (Katy herself uses a block and a half dome interchangeably.)
After a brief (2 minutes) anatomy introduction using her skeleton, Katy begins lying on the back with one block under the head for support (you could easily use a firm pillow here instead) and a second block under the sacrum in what she calls the "toaster" position--I would call this the medium height. Here you basically just focus on relaxing the psoas in this position. Katy then transitions to kneeling for runner's lunge to focus more on stretching the psoas from this position. This first segment is about 11 minutes total.
Next, Katy discusses moving into an "inverted V" position. She differentiates this from downward dog in yoga because she says that her positioning is different to focus more on stretching the hamstrings. For her setup, she starts in plank with the hands directly under the shoulders, and instructs to then push back into an inverted V without changing the position of the hands/feet and without worrying whether the heels reach the floor--which is EXACTLY how I've always been taught to do down dog in yoga! Anyway, Katy moves been the inverted V position and back to the lunge position several times, eventually lifting the back knee in the lunge. This segment is pretty intense!
Katy ends by returning to the back and again lying with the block under the pelvis. There is a brief relaxation to finish, with the total time of this snack being 29.5 minutes. As the title of this snack would suggest, it mainly worked the psoas, both in stretching and releasing, and I thought it did a nice job with that. I would have liked more hamstring stretching (I choose the snack because customer service on Katy's web site suggested that it would be one of the best snacks for hamstrings), as I did not find the inverted Vs sufficient for this. Still, this was a nice snack overall, and I would recommend it.
Katy is rather goofy, but I like her! She's not above giving mini-lectures about alignment or other issues she feels strongly about, and she tends to go off on little tangents at times, but I don't mind this myself; she is VERY low-key.
Katy Bowman’s “Alignment Snacks” are short (20-30 minute) downloads which focus on body alignment. In each “snack,” Katy leads an unseen class through an alignment session consisting of various stretches and/or gentle exercises, which are performed while Katy provides information on proper alignment. The snacks currently cost $5 each; you can find them on her website (katysays.com or restorativeexercise.com) under the “Move” tab.
This review is for Frankie Says: Relax the Psoas. It runs 29:38 and the file size is 357.5 MB. This is an alignment “session” more than a workout, although there are enough stretches that I could see using it as a stretch workout too.
The session begins with an anatomy lesson. Katy uses a skeleton to demonstrate where the psoas are attached (from the northernmost lumbar vertebra to the front of the hip). She then discusses the mechanics of why and how the psoas get tight. At about the 2.5 minute mark, she begins work to release the psoas (she gives a helpful example of how releasing (not clenching) differs from stretching (elongating)). This involves lying on on your back with a yoga block or pillow under your head and a half dome or yoga block under your hips. For the next 8 or 9 minutes, Katy talks about proper alignment while you lie on the block. She also gives a couple of ways to assess whether your psoas are tight. Katy then transitions to 5 minutes of runner’s lunge (one knee down, one knee in line with the ankle) coupled with alignment tips, followed by 2.5 minutes of an “inverted V” (like downward dog) and, of course, alignment tips. She cycles through the lunge/inverted V sequence twice more, with the last lunge iteration having the knee up. The session ends with a brief relaxation, sort of like savasana.
Equipment used: a mat, yoga block, and half dome or pillow
What I liked
I love stretching my psoas, and the stretches here felt good. They were also held for a long time, which I thought was helpful. I found the alignment information/theory/mechanics to be interesting, and it was nice to have a couple of assessment exercises to see whether I have a problem (I don’t — this was unexpected!). I particularly liked the release portion of the session; it helped my lower back, which has been twinge-y lately.
What I didn’t like
While the stretches were good, there wasn’t a lot of variety. Also, I’m not a big fan of down dogs due to a rotor cuff injury/repair years ago. Neither of these things is a fatal flaw for me. I will definitely do this one again.
What You Should Be Aware Of
The purpose of this session isn’t to work out. It’s to provide alignment information and then put it into practice through releasing/stretching the psoas. So if you’re looking for a stretching workout, this may not be for you. Then again, my psoas did feel great at the end…
Katy is very chatty in this one. You learn about alignment, of course, but also about a visit to her optometrist (she has myopia and prefers having correct answers rather than options) and her age (almost 37). This didn’t bother me; in fact, I thought it was nice that she wasn’t all business.