Critical thought.

It’s probably the unifying theme to this blog.

I apply it to the subjects that interest me the most: nutrition, wellness, emotional well-being, parenting, birth and pregnancy, breastfeeding, movement, relationships, the media’s perspectives on women and mothering … and more.

I thought it would be fun today to share with you a list of some of my most favorite critical thinkers about exercise and movement. These are all folks who refuse to just toe the conventional wisdom line. They’ve investigated and thought things through, and continue to ask some really good questions.

So, without further ado:

Katy Bowman

Perhaps I’ve sent you to Katy’s website Aligned and Well. Or maybe I’ve told you to read her book Every Woman’s Guide to Foot Pain Relief or you’ve seen me quote her Alignment Matters. And I share pretty much every blog post to Katy Says that she writes. Chances are, somewhere along the way, you’ve read some Katy Bowman.

Who is she? Technically, she’s a biomechanist, writer and mom. But I think of her more as a subversive little revolutionary in stretchy black pants and minimalist shoes.

After she decided that the study of biomechanics was the best way to integrate all of her various curiosities, Katy decided to take a different tactic than most of her peers. Most biomechanists study things like athletic performance, prosthetics and the like. But Katy decided to take a look at the way our biomechanics impacts our wellness. She contends that many of the causes of modern-day illness are mechanical in origin.

She turns on its head the notion that adults need X amount of “exercise” per week to be “healthy.” Instead, she looks at the loads and forces with which our bodies would have to contend were we not living our modern lifestyle. And, she encourages us to try to replicate those loads and forces in the context of our modern lives in the developed world.

Her work has revolutionized my thinking on so many subjects from how I stand and walk to the clothes that I wear and even where I look when I am outside. Since I’ve discovered Katy, I think about both my macro and micro life choices in a radically different way.

Matthew Remski

I don’t remember how I first heard about Matthew Remski and his WAWADIA project. What is WAWADIA? It stands for What Are We Actually Doing in Asana? (If you’re not familiar with the yoga parlance, “asana” refers to a posture adopted in hatha yoga practice.

It’s not possible to sum up the important work that Matthew is doing with his research and reporting, but here’s a paragraph from his introductory post that comes closest:

I want to know what people are feeling and thinking when they practice something repeatedly that they’ve been told is beneficial, yet may suspect or even directly feel to be injurious, but continue with anyway. Is it a question of faith? Have they been burdened with the vestiges of a paradigm that blends the sensation of pain with the promise of virtue? I want to know how we might be unconsciously encouraged to express love for the body by testing it to the point of hurting it.

Matthew critically examines yoga in light of biomechanics, but he also delves into the spiritual “baggage” that the practice carries with it. I find his discussions thought-provoking, intellectually challenging, and very important.

For a fantastic slice of what Matthew has explored thus far, listen to this interview featuring Matthew and Brooke Thomas of Liberated Body. It’s a WOW-filled conversation that has remained on my mind since I listened to it more than a month ago.

Brooke Thomas

Speaking of Brooke Thomas, she has a newish podcast that is knocking my socks off!

Brooke is Liberated Body (formerly Fascia Freedom Fighters) and her podcast, blog and other goodies reside here. She is a Rolfing practitioner, and clearly falls into the category of “body nerd,” into which I also place myself.

But Brooke goes deep. Her podcast guests aren’t likely to talk to you about toning your core and working opposing muscle groups.

No, you’re going to hear about how your body ages structurally because of how you use it. You’re going to listen to the person who developed Neurokinetic Therapy explain how he developed the theory. And, the guy who wrote the concept behind anatomy trains? Brooke talks to him, too.

And not only does she talk, she asks great questions. She asks great questions with this soothing, warm voice that calms me and opens my mind. And, she ends every podcast with a “homeplay” (not “homework”) challenge, which urges you to use your body in a way that aligns with the subject of each episode.

If you want to go deeper into your body knowledge, Brooke’s your girl.

Jules Mitchell

One of my newest favorite critical thinkers in the realm of movement is Jules Mitchell, and I found her through Brooke’s Liberated Body podcast.

Here’s a blurb on Jules from her website:

Jules Mitchell, a yoga therapist and Master’s of Science Candidate in Exercise Science at CSU Long Beach, blends the science of biomechanics with the tradition of yoga to help people move better.

Jules breaks down yoga and applies scientific principles of biomechanics to the movements. Plus, she just completed her Master’s thesis on the science of stretching, and here’s a good summary of that:

Jules finds that the emphasis on stretching in the yoga community is often misunderstood, resulting in anecdotal information unsupported by the vast body of evidence published by Exercise Scientists.  She intends to dispel common myths about yoga and stretching while educating the  public about the properties of collagen-based soft tissues (mainly fascia,  tendons, and ligaments) and how they respond to forces.

You can get a sneak peek of Jules’s work, which will hopefully be published for the masses in the next few years, by reading her blog here.

Perry Nickleston

Your neck hurts? Let’s look at your obliques. Got a bum hip? It could be your quad.

Sound crazy? Well, not when you walk through it with Perry.

Perry’s got a lot of letters behind his name. He’s a chiropractor with training in Neurokinetic Therapy and Functional Movement Screening. Which means he’s a specialist in looking for the real reasons you are in pain, instead of just treating the site of your discomfort and sending you on your way.

The man knows his compensation patterns.

Stop Chasing Pain is his website, but he’s a fantastic Facebook follow, too.

Julie Wiebe, PT

Julie is a physical therapist, with a passion for changing the mainstream view of the pelvic floor and, by association the “core.”

One of my favorite features on her always thoughtful blog is when she drafts open letters to folks who have, in some way, misrepresented the science on the pelvic floor or core development. Take, for instance, this one she wrote to Dr. Oz  or this one she wrote to a youth gymnastics coach featuring this bit of wisdom:

Finally, let’s consider the message we are sending the girls at such a young age about their shape and level of abdominal ‘softness’. They have a lifetime ahead of being self-conscious, culturally bombarded with images of physical perfection and made to feel like they are less beautiful than a stick thin model. Let’s challenge these notions from the get-go with positive talk about strength, health, fitness, and stability over words like soft or hard abs.

Julie’s got some fantastic visuals. I don’t know how you could watch Julie’s video on pressure and the diaphragm, and still think it’s a good idea to suck, suck, suck it in all day.

Finally, I would be totally remiss if I didn’t share my absolute favorite post of Julie’s wherein she notes the “junkless trunks” she witnessed in a mom’s stroller fitness class. She details five reasons why tucking the bum under is bad news for new moms.

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So there you have it – a glimpse into iconoclasts in the realm of movement who inform and challenge my thinking.

Add to the list by sharing your favorites in the comments.

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