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.

Book review – Capoeira Conditioning: How to Build Strength, Agility, and Cardiovascular Fitness Using Capoeira Movements

I’ve been playing with some capoeira movements in my training first through reading about floreio, and then more recently after reading Capoeira Conditioning: How to Build Strength, Agility, and Cardiovascular Fitness Using Capoeira Movements by Gerard Taylor.

I had been looking for more information on using capoeira to keep fit and this book looked like it would fit the bill nicely.

What the book isn’t

If you are looking for a book to help you learn to play capoeira this is probably not for you. It focuses solely on using capoeira movements as conditioning exercises but doesn’t cover how they can be blended together into a flow or how to use them in a game of capoeira.

It’s not really a negative as this isn’t what the book sets out to do. If you are looking for a capoeira reference book then it is best to look elsewhere, if you are looking for a way to gain strength, flexibility and coordination using novel bodyweight exercises then read on.

The contents

The book is split into three sections:

  • Capoeira Conditioning: what is it and why is it good for you?
  • The training
  • The exercises

In the first section Taylor makes the case for capoeira movements as way of keeping fit. He begins by defining fitness, breaking it down into seven core attributes:

  • Strength
  • Power
  • Agility
  • Balance
  • Flexibility
  • Cardiovascular endurance
  • Coordination

He then argues that capoeira movements are the best way to develop all of these attributes and recommends training with them regardless of whether you train the art or not, as they will not just make you fit for capoeira but “fit for life”.

If you’ve ever seen a capoerist do their thing you can see his point, the movement they display is something we could all aspire to.

Taylor then gives some detail about the core movements that make up his program. They are the squat, bridge, cartwheel, handstand and handstand press up.

It’s a very good list, they are all great movements. My only complaint would be a lack of pulling movements, although as they are not really used in capoeira you wouldn’t necessarily expect them. I think it would be well worth adding them in for a more complete program.

The training

In this section Taylor outlines how the capoeira conditioning exercises can be arranged into workouts. He gives lots of examples of 7 1/2, 15 and 30-45 minute sessions, with different difficulty levels for each length of time.

Each session involves a small selection of movements performed as a circuit. You could get in great condition following the examples in the book but it is also clear that after spending a bit of time with the exercises in the book you could easily start to structure your own training sessions. The potential combinations are pretty much endless.

The exercises

This section of the book is good but would be better with some more detail at points.

Each exercise is clearly explained with multiple pictures and there are loads of exercises to choose from. There are also some clear progressions among the exercises so you can progress your sessions as you get fitter and stronger.

The jump between progressions can be a bit big though. One progression goes from a cartwheel to a cartwheel that lands in a pistol, with no detail of how to build up to the pistol.

This is fine for me as I am using the book as a compliment to other training but would make it more difficult to use it as the only book that you follow.

Conclusions

If you are looking for a rewarding and highly enjoyable way to get in shape, that uses no equipment, you could do a lot worse than buy this book. At stages you would need to add to the information in the book to help progress through the exercises, but all the extra info can be found on the internet pretty easily.

All in all this is a great book. I’ve done a couple of exercises from it every training session for the past few weeks and am loving it.