Book review – Sad dog, happy dog by Kathleen Porter

Sad dog, happy dog by Kathleen Porter is a book designed to help parents and teachers promote good postural alignment in children. I’m a big believer in the importance of posture (see here, here and here) and want to do what I can to help my girls maintain the effortless good alignment they currently have.

This book is designed to do just that.

The book is split up into a number sections:

Background
This section uses babies as examples of good, natural alignment. They haven’t been around for long enough to pick up bad habits and learn to sit and stand by finding a natural balance.

Porter highlights how posture can break down as people age with lots of visual examples of both good and bad alignment. This section also introduces Porter’s sad dog, happy dog concept and how it can be used to teach good alignment.

Why natural alignment matters
This section runs through the various systems of the body (circulatory, skeletal etc) explaining the effect poor alignment has on their function. It’s not good news.

Keeping children naturally aligned
This chapter is main reason I bought the book. There are tips on adjusting buggies and car seats to help maintain the natural alignment of children, and also how to use wedges to help children sit with better posture if it has started to decline.

One great thing about these tips is you can easily adapt them to adult car seats and chairs. The book is aimed at helping children but the content can also be applied to adults.

There is a large emphasis in this section on doing as well as teaching, which is great. The book encourages teachers and parents to be a good example and actually do the things you are teaching, which is great advice (and not just in this context!).

Instructions to align yourself naturally
The first part of this section is a step by step guide to sitting with naturally aligned spine. It is explained very simply and is easy to follow. Each technique has basic instructions that use imagery to help them be easier for children to follow.

There are also more detailed instructions that delve deeper into anatomy and what the various body parts should be doing – this is great if you like to get more information about what’s going on.

After the guide to sitting with good alignment the book explained how to apply these principles to standing, walking, bending, sleeping. The basic principles are the same the whole way through so it’s all very easy to follow.

The section finishes with a few more visualisations that can help keep you aligned. I have found these incredibly useful in keeping aligned while moving about.

What I liked about the book

  • The method is incredibly simple, as you would expect as it is designed to be taught to children. It is the easiest to follow that I’ve come across.
  • I love the emphasis on walking the talk. We should set good examples for our children, they are far more likely to form good habits if they see their parents doing them.
  • Although more detailed information is included for each technique, the initial descriptions use imagery which is much simpler to remember and follow. I now use this imagery alone when thinking about my posture.

What I didn’t like about the book

  • The attitude to gym traing and its effect on posture is a bit blinkered. The book suggests all gym training is bad and that postural alignment is all you need to be fit and strong. Instead, I would suggest improving alignment, then getting stronger in that position.
  • Some of the information about keeping a child aligned is a bit brief. It states that ‘some buggies can be adapted’ but doesn’t really show how. You can work it out fairy easily but having it more detail would make the book more ‘complete’.

Conclusion
I only have minor grumbles about this book. I mostly loved it.

Although it is designed for children, it is the posture book I would most likely to recommend to anyone. I expect I will refer to it again and again over time.

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