Alignment Snacks: Just A Dab of AbsKaty Bowman
Year Released: 2013
Categories: Athletic Stretch , Instructional / How To Videos , Special Health Conditions
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Katy Bowman’s “Alignment Snacks” are short (20-30 minute) downloads which focus on body alignment. In each “snack,” Katy leads an unseen (but not unheard) class through an alignment session consisting of various stretches and/or gentle exercises. These movements 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 Just a Dab of Abs, a 19 minute alignment session for the core. This class seems to be misnamed, because it teaches the proper way to come up from a prone position into a plank and to do a pushup (all on the knees; no big girl/big boy push ups here!). Because I didn’t know what to expect, the first time I did it I was surprised, and I’ll admit, a little disappointed. The second time around, however, I see the value in what she’s trying to teach.
This session is all on the floor. Katy starts with alignment tips, shows you the goal of what you should do by the end of the class (a push up/plank combo), and then walks you through the first step to get there. This class is taught in stages, with strength moves punctuated by long breaks for stretching. You begin by pushing up to plank from your elbows and then holding it for awhile. After practicing this for several rounds, you progress to pushing up to straight arms, then practice coming back down to the elbows. Katy has you try this “down to the elbow” move with your non-dominant side down first to show how your strength is (or isn’t) uneven. In between each strength set, you do stretches for your hands/shoulders/hips and your hamstrings. There is also a minute or so of child’s pose. Katy gives helpful alignment / positioning tips throughout, and she explains what you should not do as clearly as she explains what you should.
At the end, there is 6.5 minutes of “bonus” material, presented in black and white. There are two pieces to this material. In the first, Katy talks about how to move your shoulders to get good posture (don’t pull down, but instead externally rotate). In the second, Katy gives what seems to be a lecture on the purpose of exercise and the importance of movement. It’s interesting, but if you read her blog, you’ve probably heard it before.
Equipment used: a mat
What I Liked (or Not)/ Things to Consider
The primary purpose of the alignment snacks is to provide alignment information and then put it into practice through motion. Any strength or flexibility gains are almost secondary. So if you’re looking for a good ab workout with great alignment techniques, you’ll likely be disappointed in this one.
Expectations are everything with these snacks. I’ve done this one twice, and the first time, I didn’t like it at all. However, this time around I could hear what she was saying instead of anticipating what I thought she’d say (or what I wanted her to show). I’d only recommend trying the Abs snack if you’re not looking for a core workout — and instead would be happy getting some alignment theory and putting it into practice.
This class requires some upper body and core strength. However, because there are limited repetitions and many long breaks for stretching, I wouldn’t say that it’s unsuitable for beginners. In fact, from listening to the comments from the class throughout this series, I suspect strongly that there are a number of people at a beginner exercise level among the class participants! So don’t avoid this one because you worry about the level.
Finally, each of the snacks builds on the others. Because they are not dated and are organized on the website alphabetically, it’s hard to know where each session fell in the lineup. This was obviously not the first in the series. Katy tells the class to use the alignment information from previous sessions when stretching, although her positioning cues are clear here and for the most part you don’t need any prior experience. I would not recommend this as a starting place to explore the series, but that’s because of the content and not because of a prior knowledge / building block issue.
If you’re still interested after reading this review, I say go for it!
Katy isn’t all business in this one. She makes silly comments now and then (”flip over like a pancake”). Her positioning cues are clear and helpful.