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Healthy Posture for Babies and Children

Tools for Helping Children to Sit, Stand, and Walk Naturally

Foreword by Peggy O'Mara
Published by Healing Arts Press
Distributed by Simon & Schuster



About The Book

A manual for parents, teachers, and kids to restore their natural alignment

• Explores the principles of natural alignment in accessible ways to share with children

• Details simple and fun exercises--for kids and adults alike--that “remind” the body of its natural patterns and movements

• Explains how innate movements and natural alignment play an essential role in the development of a fully functioning body and nervous system

Babies and toddlers develop naturally healthy alignment by moving in instinctive ways. Their posture is easy and relaxed, founded on correct pelvic positioning and deep core muscles to hold their bodies upright. Yet, as evidenced by the slouching epidemic seen in school-age children, most kids lose this natural alignment early in life, often due to an overreliance on strollers, baby seats, and bucket-style carriers during infancy and the reluctance to put babies on their bellies because of widespread fear of SIDS.

In this richly illustrated manual for parents, teachers, and kids themselves, movement educator and researcher Kathleen Porter explains how to relearn natural alignment with a simple movement routine that “reminds” the body of its natural patterns. Detailing the principles of natural alignment in accessible ways to share with children, she also explores research on the importance of “tummy time” and how the movement patterns present at birth act as an engine that activates neural pathways to key areas of the brain. In this way, movement plays an essential role in the development of a fully functioning nervous system, coordinated muscle tone, and a strong, internal core that stabilizes the spine and prepares the baby for the soon-to-be-acquired upright position. The author explains how many children who struggle with a growing number of neurodevelopmental challenges, including autism, learning disabilities, and ADHD, also exhibit poor muscle tone, lack of core development, and difficulties with balance and coordination.

With a multitude of easy-to-follow principles and exercises--far more fun and effective than the futile mantra of “sit up straight”--Kathleen Porter provides a detailed road map for parents, teachers, and health professionals to learn how to guide children back to their natural posture by inhabiting their bodies mindfully for a lifetime of easy movement, strength, and energetic vitality--the hallmarks of enduring good health.



Finding and Teaching Natural Alignment

MANY OF US KNOW that our children’s posture is a problem. We struggle to know what to do about it, having already learned the futility of simply telling a child to “sit up straight.” Truth be told, we often are at a loss to know how to inhabit our own bodies in ways that are comfortable and relaxed, yet strong and energetic. Can we ever expect children to know what to do, if we ourselves do not?

Teachers are frustrated, too. Many of the children in their classrooms are ill-prepared to participate in learning--their bodies are collapsed, and they are restless and unable to sit still and focus, or they are lethargic and “zoned out.” In the meantime, there are lessons to prepare, tests and homework to correct, administrative paperwork to complete, not to mention the aches and pains that come from being on one’s feet in a classroom all day.

It makes sense that posture is a topic that is easily ignored. The general attitude tends to be that it is something we should pay attention to, but it’s just “too hard” to maintain. We remember our mother’s nagging us to “stand up straight,” but whenever we tried, we felt rigid and uncomfortable, and our ability to maintain “proper” posture lasted hardly any time at all. And so it continued, we either gave in to slouching or we pulled ourselves up and held ourselves together with tension. Sound familiar?

The good news is that it doesn’t have to be this way. Our cultural ideal of “good” posture turns out to be all wrong. Truly good posture--natural posture-- is comfortable and relaxed, while also solidly strong and upright. This book is the missing manual that shows how this is possible.

As it is with many other things, natural posture is simple but not entirely easy. It does take a bit of re-learning as well as some practice. Doing this with others--parent and child, teacher and students--not only makes it more interesting and fun, but reinforces our efforts along the way.

I started out to teach children, but they ended up teaching me. While the programs I’ve conducted in elementary schools were at first limited to helping children know how to sit upright with ease, whether at their desks or on the floor, from them I learned the following:

  • Children have a great appetite for knowing how to inhabit their bodies with ease. They are enthusiastically attentive and curious about how their bodies work.
  • In a home and school environment that emphasizes acquisition of information and development of cognitive skills, children are grateful to be invited to feel what is going on inside their skin.
  • Children respond well to being part of a process of mutual learning. They are fully aware when we are not walking our talk or practicing what we preach, and they appreciate our admitting that we, too, still have much to learn. They are inspired by our sincere commitment to improving ourselves and will follow our lead.
I will end with a brief story of what first inspired me to write this book. Months after the conclusion of a pilot project at a public charter school in Hilo, Hawaii, in 1999, I had a conversation with the fourth-grade teacher. After the program concluded, she found it helpful to occasionally remind the children that she saw some “sad dogs” in the room. This reminded them that sitting up with ease begins with establishing the pelvis as the foundation. One day, when she said she saw some saddogs in the room, one boy blurted out, “That’s over!” My heart sank momentarily as the teacher recounted this to me, before she added that another child had earnestly called out, “No it’s not! It’s for your whole life!”

And so it is that working with children is always about planting seeds. Inspiring interest is the first step, because curiosity is the fertile soil in which seeds can begin to sprout. Our own enthusiasm and persistence for putting alignment principles into practice is the fertilizer that we add along with encouragement and supportive reminders. It may take months or even years for the seeds to bear fruit in ourselves and our children. You will forget and then remember many times over. In the days that lie ahead, the best we can do is stay on course. The benefits of this will become clear to our children, and especially to ourselves, by how we feel. There is no guarantee that a self-directed process will unfold in someone else. Yet nothing will motivate our children more, now and in the future, than watching us reap the benefits that come from inhabiting bodies that are aligned, both literally and figuratively, with the truth of who we are.

From chapter 2, “Physics and the Body”

Gravity: Friend or Foe?

Knowledge is power, as the saying goes, and the power that comes from knowing how to realign yourself with the forces of gravity bestows benefits that last a lifetime.

It can be helpful to think of the pelvis, the rib cage, and the skull as three “wheels of alignment” that can turn forward or backward. The direction in which they turn, in relationship to each other, determines how you inhabit your body. You can learn a lot by standing sideways in front of a full-length mirror and turning these “wheels” in different directions, taking on postures of alignment (happy dog), collapse (sad dog), and overcorrection (tense dog). Notice which way your own wheels tend to be turned most of the time.

So, is gravity your friend or foe? It depends which way your wheels are turning.

About The Author

Kathleen Porter is the director of the Center for Natural Alignment in Portland, Oregon. She offers programs for people with posture-related pain and for children and teachers in classrooms. She has taught principles of natural alignment at the University of Hawaii at Hilo, the National College of Natural Medicine in Portland, Oregon, and the Omega Institute in Rhinebeck, New York. She lives in Portland, Oregon.

Product Details

  • Publisher: Healing Arts Press (July 25, 2017)
  • Length: 192 pages
  • ISBN13: 9781620556405

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Raves and Reviews

“Kathleen Porter has so clearly addressed some of the major issues affecting both children and adults today and how to alleviate them through natural spinal alignment and movement. She shares the current research on SIDS (sudden infant death syndrome), hyperactivity, the autism spectrum, and physical decline in age with practical, scientifically validated healthy postures that assist attention, optimal learning, health, and ease of movement for a lifetime. I am highly impressed with her knowledge and clear graphics that make this a must-read book for everyone.”

– Carla Hannaford, Ph.D., biologist and author of Smart Moves

“Human beings of every age can benefit from this book. Our eyes marvel at Porter’s outstanding photos, as our bodies adjust, relax, and align with these easy-to-use tools. Kathleen Porter skillfully explains why belly-to-earth movements are enormously important for babies and why our miraculous natural development is worth safeguarding. This book is a treasure--beautiful, practical, and inspiring.”

– Sonia Story, creator of the Brain and Sensory Foundations course

“In Healthy Posture for Babies and Children, author Kathleen Porter continues to advocate for change in our increasingly sedentary society by eloquently explaining the importance of creating opportunities for natural movement beginning in infancy (and throughout our lives) to encourage cognitive and motor development and a keen awareness of our physical body as we grow. This awareness cultivates a solidly strong, naturally upright posture, optimizing everything from breathing, digestion, intelligence, and behavior. Through her guided exercises, Porter empowers us and transports us back in time to retrace our own movement journey to reclaim some of the strength and resilience of our youth.”

– Sharon A. Vallone, D.C., F.I.C.C.P., pediatric chiropractor

“Healthy Posture for Babies and Children is front and center in my treatment room and is the first book I share with all of my patients suffering from any type of musculoskeletal pain. Kathleen uses visually stimulating examples and easy to comprehend text, which immediately enthralls while educating. When you find yourself in these pages, the proverbial “lightbulb” will come on; you will have the key to understanding how to correct the biomechanical stress in your body. This book should be in the hands of every doctor, teacher, and parent.”

– Donna Beck, N.D., founder of A Family Wellness Center

“With a multitude of easy-to-follow principles and exercises--far more fun and effective than the futile mantra of ‘sit up straight’--Kathleen Porter provides a detailed road map for parents, teachers, and health professionals to learn how to guide children back to their natural posture by inhabiting their bodies mindfully for a lifetime of easy movement, strength, and energetic vitality–the hallmarks of enduring good health.”--

– Top Best in Singapore

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