We spoke with Janet Walker, an Osteopathic Manual Practitioner and Restorative Exercise Specialist from downtown Toronto. We found out how she prescribes and teaches restorative exercise, what functional movements are best for new and expecting moms, and how working with an osteopath can even impact fertility.
We love that you chose the fingerprint (with a hidden J for Janet) for your logo. What is the significance of that shape and colour?
The fingerprint represents two distinguishing aspects of osteopathic treatment — individualized and hands-on. Each client, like a fingerprint, is unique; personalized care meets specific needs. And, as an osteopathic manual practitioner, my highly refined sense of touch enables me to detect and treat subtle alterations in the body.
The colour? I love green. It feels modern and vibrant, and reminds me of nature, renewal and health. I hope others feel the same way. (We do — it’s one of our favourite colours too!)
You are the only osteopath in Canada certified as a Restorative Exercise Specialist. What does that mean for your clients?
The biomechanics training I gained through certifying as a Restorative Exercise Specialist (RES) by Nutritious Movement helps me create very targeted self-care recommendations for clients. Some of the ideas about alignment feel weird to people, but they fit with the osteopathic concepts I embrace and are on the leading edge of movement and health research.
It also introduced me to a group of like-minded movement instructors with classes across Toronto that I can recommend to clients!
You just set up a simple, mobile-friendly website on your own – has this made any difference in your business?
Feedback about my new website has been very positive. Clients find it easy to navigate and locate the information they need, and it’s very easy for me to update. My practice has gotten busier, but the real difference seems to be that people have a better idea of what to expect when they meet me. (You absolutely rocked our Borden Formula.)
How can working with an osteopath impact fertility?
Osteopathy is a whole body approach that considers how structure governs function and the relationships between systems. For fertility, this might include treating the cranium for glandular control of reproductive hormones; the spine, ribcage and pelvis for optimal blood and lymphatic flow and nerve conduction to the ovaries/testes; or the uterus and surrounding organs for improved mobility and position.
Balancing the nervous system is essential; a ‘stressed’ system can restrict breathing, circulation, and drainage, impacting fertility. The goal is to restore balance and create a healthy environment for conception.
Our Director of Execution + Evolution Megan just had a baby – what functional movements should new moms (and babies) be exploring?
I recommend starting functional movements like walking and squatting before giving birth – it helps with delivery! Give yourself permission to ‘lie-in” for the first few weeks postpartum to let your body heal. Diaphragmatic breathing is a good way to reconnect to your core right away, then walking. Start with an easy stroll, 20 – 30 minutes, and work up to longer distances. Walking – in correct alignment – is the perfect whole body workout.
Carrying your baby in your arms will build upper body strength and help baby stabilize their neck in an upright position – an important early developmental milestone. Bonus: as your child grows they create a progressive load, naturally.
Getting down on the floor for some tummy time is good for both of you. You can challenge yourself to get back up without using your hands (not as easy as it sounds). You can both work on rolling and later crawling. Let your baby pull up to you as opposed to lifting them; you’ll be surprised how strong they are. By the time they’re ready for the playground you can both have fun on the monkey bars.
What age does someone need to be to start seeing you?
Is pre-conception considered an age? I find the research on epigenetics fascinating; it suggests that it’s never too early. Babies in utero seem to appreciate when their mothers receive treatment, especially when it creates more space. It’s very rewarding to feel them responding. I often treat infants at a few weeks of age, usually for breastfeeding challenges, and I helped one newborn within an hour after vacuum-assisted delivery to help with cranial swelling.
How does your experience as an aqua-fit and ski instructor impact what you do as an osteopath (or vice versa)?
A critical skill in teaching movement and sport is the ability to ‘detect and correct’ technique errors. It requires an eye for detail. When I assess a client osteopathically, I use the same strategy, whether it’s with my eyes or my hands.
When teaching restorative exercise, my osteopathic perspective helps me see the relationship between different areas of the body and determine the limiting factor in a movement. For example, tight calves reduce ankle mobility making a squat more difficult. And how your feet and ankles move might affect how your back or neck feels.
Is osteopathy mainly for people dealing with injuries? Are you ever done treatment?
Osteopathy is for everyone! I don’t treat many acute injuries. Most people I see are seeking help for chronic issues, often the result of lifestyle habits, postural stresses and the accumulated effect of injuries and traumas. I try to equip my clients with the knowledge and skills, like restorative exercise, to take care of themselves, so they’re not dependent on treatment. I might not see someone for years, but when they need help, they return. Occasional maintenance treatments are a good idea, though; we all know the adage – “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure”!
Do you find marketing and social media to be necessary, especially when you have a busy schedule?
I could probably get by with word-of-mouth referrals, but social media allows me to engage easily with both clients and other health care professionals. I can learn and share new information, and build my referral network, more efficiently than one-on-one. It’s fun! I just have to limit my screen time, especially before bed.