Alignment Snacks: A Real Pain in the NeckKaty Bowman
Year Released: 2013
Categories: Athletic Stretch , Instructional / How To Videos , Special Health Conditions
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I've know about Katy Bowman for years, occasionally following her blog or her Facebook page, but I have only recently downloaded a few of the "Alignment Snacks" 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).
Katy teaches this class in a seated position, and no props are used. She starts by simply dropping one ear to the shoulder, then reaching the opposite arm away (reaching from the elbow). The next stretch involves placing one hand behind the back, with the wrist against the spine; if possible, the hand is then flipped so that the palm is facing the spine. After doing this on both sides, Katy interlaces both hands at the small of the back. Keeping them there, she focuses on drawing the shoulder blades together, especially the TOP tips.
At this point, Katy changes the leg position to a v-sit. The neck stretch (ear to shoulder) with elbow reach is repeated in this position. Katy then does a bit of work from this v-sit position for the inner thighs, including a lean forward and to either side. To finish, she returns to a cross-legged position and repeats the hand behind back neck stretch, again with an option to turn the palm in towards the back.
Out of the three snacks I have (the two shoulder ones and this one), this may be the one I've used the most so far, which is at least in part due to the fact that it's all seated, so I can easily sneak it in at work. These subtle routines seem to help some of my chronic neck and shoulder issues more than many of the other stretching/therapeutic interventions that I have tried, and I would definitely recommend them.
Katy yawns quite a bit during this routine, which was filmed when she was postpartum. But the yawning seems to fit right in with her goofy, low-key style. At times, she goes off on a mini-rant issues like high heels, so if that's not your thing, you might not enjoy these "snacks."
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) under the “Move” tab.
This review is for A Real Pain in the Neck, a 28 minute alignment session primarily for the neck and shoulders. Katy says that this is one of her favorite classes in the series. I carry a lot of tension in my neck and shoulders, so I really wanted to agree… but I couldn’t. The snacks can be hit or miss, and this one was less of a hit (but not quite a miss) for me.
The session begins sitting on a yoga block while Katy gives instructions on how to get into proper alignment. Katy then has you begin stretching your neck, first by tilting your neck to one side then adding an arm reach. Katy does both sides (5 minutes total), then does a shoulder stretch by putting your arm behind your back along your spine. She has you flip your palm down (ouch!) and then give yourself a self massage. You do the other side, and then do a different shoulder stretch using both arms at the same time (fingers linked behind the back and pull down, although Katy says up. I was confused until she explains better in the middle of the stretch). This all takes another 7 minutes or so. Then you sit in a straddle (“V sit”) and go through the neck stretches again.
At about the 17 minute mark, Katy switches to adductors alone with more V sit stretches, then a stretch with the feet together. After 3.5 minutes of this, Katy has you repeat the first shoulder stretch (with the arm behind the back) and then do the neck stretch again. The neck stretch is only done to one side but it didn’t feel uneven to me (although it was, obviously!). For the last minute, Katy does a few movements designed to help you assess how much better you feel.
Equipment used: a mat and a yoga block
What I Liked (or Not)/ Things to Consider
The purpose of this session isn’t to work out. It’s to provide alignment information and then put it into practice through motion. If you’re looking for a nice stretch workout for the neck and shoulders, you may like this one (especially if you don’t have high expectations going in).
Overall, I liked this one — but I didn’t like it as much as some of her others. I’m not sure why, exactly. Maybe it was the cueing? Or my interpretation of the cueing (i.e., maybe the problem was with me, not Katy)? I couldn’t find the tension point in some of the stretches, so I didn’t feel as stretched out at the end of the class as I have with other snacks. On the other hand, it does include a lovely series of adductor/hip stretches, which felt great. So this one was sort of a mixed bag for me.
Also, my impression is that there is less alignment information/theory here than in others, although what was provided was useful. Katy discusses why it’s important to train your muscles to adapt to new loads, as well as why muscle soreness is a good thing. So don’t worry if you’re sore after this one! (I wasn’t sore…) Her alignment cues were frequent.
I did feel better at the end than when I started, so I’ll do this one again. I just won’t do it often.
Katy is obviously sleepy; she yawns once or twice at the start of the session (she had an infant at home at the time these were filmed). This isn’t as distracting as it sounds. Katy gives good positioning tips throughout.