Marks Daily Apple
Serving up health and fitness insights (daily, of course) with a side of irreverence.
11 Mar

PrimalCon 2010 Announcement: Sit, Stand and Walk Like Grok

primalconupdatesI am very pleased to announce that Maya White of the Esther Gokhale Wellness Center will be leading a breakout session at PrimalCon 2010. If you’ve ever wondered what it means to sit, stand and walk like Grok you’ll want to attend this event. Maya will be offering instruction on Primal body mechanics to help you correct years of poor posture and get you moving like you’re meant to.

Maya has graciously written the following guest post for Mark’s Daily Apple readers. Read on to learn why posture is an integral part of health and wellness and how you might be doing something as simple as sitting or standing all wrong.

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We all know that Grok ate well, moved frequently, and sometimes engaged in strenuous physical activities. One other piece that Grok had going for him was excellent form and optimized body mechanics. If you really want to live a long, healthy life, and not end up with back pain, joint pain, and a spine that looks like a question mark, you need to know about posture.

If your idea of good posture involves holding yourself upright rigidly, get rid of that idea. If you think that good posture is useful only for curing back pain, get rid of that idea too. Grok’s naturally upright posture allowed him to avoid musculoskeletal ailments and stay active well into old age, to mostly avoid and quickly recover from acute injuries, to be alert and ready to deal with challenges (physical and psychological), to enjoy good circulation and high blood oxygen levels from full, deep breaths, and to feel and look happy and confident. How do I know what natural posture for our species is? Because the norm for humans, until very recently, was terrific structure. Whereas diet changed for the worse about 10,000 years ago with the explosion of agriculture, posture changed only about 100 years ago. We have photographs and scientific evidence that our ancestors until early in the 20th century used their bodies well in everyday positions and movements. And in fact, there still exist populations in much of the pre-industrial world where everyone has beautiful posture and strong, graceful physiques.

The flapper age in the 1920s, the breakdown of kinesthetic transmission across generations with family members no longer living close to each other, and the poor design of most modern furniture have all contributed to the disastrous habit that most of us have of tucking the pelvis (curling our tails under us). Realizing this was causing people to hunch, someone came up with the idea of lumbar support and lumbar curvature. Well, terrific – now we have two problems instead of one. Now not only are most people still sitting with a tucked pelvis (which is damaging for the L5-S1 disc and indirectly leads to a whole host of other problems, including hunched shoulders, forward head, misaligned legs, and muscle imbalances), but they are also ending up with swaybacks. Conventional wisdom has come up with all sorts of devices and exercises to promote the S-shape spine, which is now considered the normal shape for the spine. Well, just because S shape is the norm in our culture does not mean it’s healthy! We have to stop mistaking average for normal. And we certainly have to stop mistaking average for ideal! After all, would you settle for the average body fat percentage in our culture? I didn’t think so.

So what is the natural shape for the spine and what does good posture mean? Mark touched on this the first time he wrote about posture and the Gokhale Method (How to Improve Your Posture). For a really clear in-depth explanation and hundreds of photos showing good posture and how to get there, check out Esther Gokhale’s book, 8 Steps to a Pain-Free Back. It is much more than just a way to get rid of back pain, just as the Primal Blueprint is much more than a weight loss program. Gokhale’s book has extremely valuable information for anyone who wants to optimize his or her health.

This photo from her book is one of my favorites, as it epitomizes fantastic posture:

Ubong

These hunter-gatherers are about as close to Grok as we can find today. Note the J-shaped spine (straight all the way to the sacrum, with just the bottom angled back – not exaggeratedly stuck back, but rather naturally back due to a healthy balance between gluteus tone and abdominal relaxation (yes, strong doesn’t mean tense!) The Ubong tribesmen are long, lean, upright and relaxed simultaneously. Their amazing structure and alignment puts their muscles into mechanically advantageous positions – this allows the muscles to relax during standing, sitting, and lying positions, to engage effortlessly for simple movements like bending, walking, and reaching, and to quickly activate strongly for challenging activities like lifting, carrying, and of course, the occasional all-out sprint.

The Ubong tribesmen (as well as tribal Africans, rural Brazilians, village Indians etc.) do not have to consciously learn healthy posture – they have all the right environmental influences – their parents hold them the right way as babies, they have very basic but healthy sitting arrangements, they have good role models to copy – and they never un-learned natural habits. We are all born with excellent structure. Check out the perfect J-shaped spine of this baby:

babyStanding

The bottom line is that posture counts. Not only does it significantly decrease your risk of pain and injuries and deterioration of your musculoskeletal system as you age, it sets you up for optimal athletic performance, it allows for proper blood circulation and more powerful breathing, it promotes emotional well-being, and it looks relaxed, confident, and strong. In our society where we have so many factors working against us, it takes some awareness and re-learning good habits until they become your default.

I will be attending PrimalCon 2010 as a guest speaker and will be leading a breakout session on healthy, natural ways of sitting, standing, and walking. It is never too late to learn – the right body mechanics are patterned into your genes; but you need to learn how to best express them in our environment that promotes such poor patterns. And for those of you who have young children, in addition to improving your own structure, you will take with you important tips that will help promote healthy form in your children. I will also be happy to address questions and concerns about proper form during exercises.

For those of you who are not able to make it to PrimalCon 2010 (and those of you who are, for that matter), I encourage you to check out the free download of Chapter 5 of Esther Gokhale’s 8 Steps to a Pain-Free Back on the home page of EGWellness.com. That chapter, entitled “Inner Corset” describes the best way of using the abdominal muscles to protect your spine. It involves using the right muscles in the right way, especially during activities like your Primal sprints and Primal lifts. And it’s not about just tightening your “core” – I avoid using the word core because so often people over-engage the rectus abdominis muscle and don’t use the deeper abdominal muscles – the transverses abdominis and the internal and external obliques) enough when working their abdominal muscles, and they usually end up tucking the pelvis. Using the abdominal muscles as needed in everyday activities and strongly during physical exertion will give you the strength and tone you need. You can also watch Esther Gokhale’s Authors@Google talk about the Gokhale Method and natural posture on YouTube here.

Maya’s Bio

Maya100310

Maya White is the lead certified Gokhale Method instructor in Palo Alto and the Bay Area. She also teaches intensive posture courses across the United States.

Maya received her B.S. in Biomechanical Engineering at Stanford University in 2008. She is a member of the Tau Beta Pi Engineering honors society. While at Stanford, she developed an interest in nutrition, gait and other aspects of the human body and decided to pursue a career in medicine. She will be starting medical school this coming fall, and plans to focus on preventive medicine. Maya has been involved in athletics since childhood. She played for the Stanford Women’s Rugby team and won the Division I national championship in 2008.

As the daughter of Esther Gokhale, founder of the Gokhale Method, Maya has received informal training in posture since age two. She has traveled extensively to Thailand, India, Mexico, Nicaragua, Dominican Republic and Europe. Her formal training in the Gokhale Method began in 2005; she received her certification in 2007.

You want comments? We got comments:

Imagine you’re George Clooney. Take a moment to admire your grooming and wit. Okay, now imagine someone walks up to you and asks, “What’s your name?” You say, “I’m George Clooney.” Or maybe you say, “I’m the Clooninator!” You don’t say “I’m George of George Clooney Sells Movies Blog” and you certainly don’t say, “I’m Clooney Weight Loss Plan”. So while spam is technically meat, it ain’t anywhere near Primal. Please nickname yourself something your friends would call you.

  1. Additional biographical information for Maya: Really attractive!

    If that’s what good posture does for you, count me in!

    Alex wrote on March 11th, 2010
  2. the title also reminds me of the “third world squat” technique inwhich we should be squatting rather than sitting on our buns. also i regularly use chiropractic care, which i love its quite addicting. and my doctor is fantastic, 3rd generation chiropractor.

    shastagirl wrote on March 11th, 2010
    • ART is also a very effective soft tissue work (it does not feel very soft!) if your chiropractor offers it. It can improve flexibility, performance and posture in a few sessions.

      Kishore wrote on March 11th, 2010
    • Shastagirl: You beat me to it…working with the third world squat will definitely give you an idea of how unnatural sitting in a chair all day is.

      Adam | SEE wrote on March 11th, 2010
  3. Mark, I think it’s snakeoil, but what are your thoughts on the new study on the genotype diet? http://www.reuters.com/article/idUSTRE6224UV20100304

    a friend asked me about it and I want to go to him with a solid answer. Things I’ve thought of: company just wants to sell their genetics diet kit, body weight is not the only marker for health, low fat diet can lead to other complications involving the brain, joints, etc., high carb diet can lead to all sorts of problems….thanks in advance

    Chris P. wrote on March 11th, 2010
    • Chris,

      I can tell you that Dr. D’Adamo isn’t a snakeoil salesman. He is a Naturopathic Doctor out of Bastyr University (one of the most prestigious Naturopathic Medicine schools) and it is because of him that most Naturopaths today don’t prescribe a vegetarian diet to everybody that they see. His views may not be in line with the PB (I know, I have his book and Mark’s), but it’s a step in the right direction. I am actually considering going to the same school that he did for my N.D. as well, but I will try to bring more of a Primal Blueprint approach to Naturopathy.

      Hope this helps,

      Steve

      Steve Scarfia wrote on March 11th, 2010
      • Steve, thanks for the background. I’m not sure if D’Adamo was involved with this one, but they did divide the group of women up by testing their DNA, hence the genotype reference. Subjects were put on Atkins, LEARN, Zone, and Ornish diets and then evaluated. I guess I’m very wary of the fact that one group is determined to be “high carb dependent” so trying to get as much info as possible. I’m all for learning though, so I will look more into D’Adamo’s works.

        Chris P. wrote on March 11th, 2010
        • Oh, I’m sorry Chris, I didn’t realize you weren’t referring specifically to the “Genotype Diet”. This study is kinda interesting. Also, think about it, there are some tribes of people who have subsisted on high carbohydrate diets and thrived (check out Nutrition and Physical Degeneration by Dr. Weston A. Price for more info), however, they also still had a lot of animal fat and protein too, so I wouldn’t jump to the conclusion that there are people that need tons of carbs while not getting much protein or fat. The ramifications of such a study though could do some very good things for the science of diet & nutrition (so long as they don’t fall into the wrong hands… a la Monsanto). According to Dr. D’Adamo, everybody who is a type O blood type should be essentially eating a Primal/Paleo diet. Well, Type O’s make up about 59% of the population, so really it’s like saying that the majority of the population should be eating Primal. Sounds like a good thing to me.

          Steve

          Steve Scarfia wrote on March 11th, 2010
  4. Nice post! It seems like most people in the so called civlized, modern (read unhealhty) world consider themselves more sophisticated than a hunter gatherer. On the contrary, these people have better posture, diet, low stress and happy lives. They seem more in-tune with nature. Maybe Bravo TV should start producing ‘Housewives of XXXX tribe’ rather than the botox enhanced, superficial, dumb housewives of OC!

    Kishore wrote on March 11th, 2010
  5. Excellent guest post. In order to improve my posture I purchased a stand-up workstation. I work from home, am on the computer for 5+ hours a day and so sitting down that much was too much.

    This stand up workstation has done wonders for my posture and focus!

    Todd wrote on March 11th, 2010
    • Great idea, could you post a link to the workstation you purchased?

      Mark, any suggestions for office workers? Swiss ball, stand up station, etc.?

      Thanks for the article!

      Jeff Sutherland wrote on March 11th, 2010
  6. Incredibly important topict! Especially for all of us that sit at computers 8+ hours a day. I know that prior to full-time work (aka when I was in school) I didn’t have any back problems, and now that I work long weeks my back kills me (and I’m in my early 20s!). I’ll definitely be reading the free chapter provided.

    Holly wrote on March 11th, 2010
  7. YAY PrimalCon! So excited for this event and loving the “teasers”! Thank you for the sneak peak into the wonders of what PrimalCon is bringing.

    Tas wrote on March 11th, 2010
  8. Totally into posture. Especially sitting posture. I sit quite a bit. I sit at work. I sit at home. I sit in my car. I sit when I eat. And I sit when I s*it. Sit happens, I may have to go to PrimalCon just to learn to sit properly.

    And @kishore, I would definitely watch “Real Housewives of the Basarwa.”

    Stevo wrote on March 11th, 2010
  9. I purchased Esther’s book after Mark’s last post about posture that mentioned her work. I can highly recommend it. I am still working on making her tips a matter of habit, but have already made great strides in that area.

    Even if you don’t have back issues you would benefit from reading Esther’s book and incorporating her techniques as a preventative measure.

    Rodney wrote on March 11th, 2010
  10. I have started to incorporate the mobility and stability exercises from assess and correct into my warm-up, and I have to say I’ve already noticed improvements in my daily life and in the gym.
    I hadn’t heard of Maya until today, but I definitely recommend all of the readers of this blog look into mobility and stability. There is tons of information out there, and it pays dividends in the short- and long-term.

    Glenn McElfresh wrote on March 11th, 2010
  11. I wish that I could attend primal con. This presenter would be worth the price of admission alone for me. My posture is something that I have been struggling with my entire life. Thanks for the links to more resources to check out.

    anzy wrote on March 11th, 2010
  12. Wow great post! I will definitely have to look into this and try to adjust my back accordingly. I know I have horrible posture and a history of family back problems. Maybe this will be just the thing to help prevent those problems from happening!

    Athena wrote on March 11th, 2010
  13. the book is truly great. but a few weeks ago I took the weekend workshop with Esther Gokhale in NYC…totally transformative to the way I was walking. I was an inveterate back cracker and even more so in the mornings. She remade my relationship to my body.

    If you had to boil it down it is Primal Walking, Sitting and Working

    brilliant.

    matt wrote on March 11th, 2010
  14. anzy – Too bad you won’t be able to join us at PrimalCon this time. The Gokhale Method Foundations course that Matt mentions in the comment above is offered in various cities around the country. Esther and I have both taught weekend courses all over the U.S., and at egwellness.com you can request a course in your city. Once there is enough demand we try to schedule a trip there.

    Maya wrote on March 11th, 2010
    • Maya,

      I just really wanted to thank you for this guest post. You are a true Grokette.

      Also, congrats on also deciding to go into medicine. Where will you be attending med school?

      Steve

      Steve Scarfia wrote on March 11th, 2010
      • I’m glad you enjoyed reading it.

        I just got into Duke this week, which is one of my top choices, so I’m very happy about that. I am still waiting to hear back from a few other schools.

        Maya wrote on March 11th, 2010
        • That’s awesome! Congrats to you on that! I just watched an interesting documentary about different school that use integrative medicine to help heal patients and allow them to prevent becoming sick in the first place. Duke was one of them.

          Best of luck on your endeavour and we all hope that you have many more guest posts here at MDA!

          Steved

          Steve Scarfia wrote on March 12th, 2010
  15. You have classes in Boulder? Awesome, I’m in.

    Ben wrote on March 11th, 2010
  16. Maya, I have purchased the eight steps book which I have started to work through. I would like to attend one of your courses but live in the UK, are there any plans to bring any workshops to the UK or Europe? I believe, like the primal blueprint the eight steps method makes perfect sense and enables us to move as we are designed to do.

    Andy wrote on March 11th, 2010
    • I may be coming to Europe in June or July. Check for updates on the website as the summer approaches, or fill out a class request form so that your name is on our list for the UK.

      Yes – the basis for the Gokhale Method, as described in Esther’s book, is exactly the same as that for the Primal Blueprint. The MDA audience understand that nature designed our bodies to eat a certain way and move and position ourselves a certain way. That is why I am very excited to meet all of the modern-day Groks and Grokettes at PrimalCon!

      Maya wrote on March 11th, 2010
  17. I am sorry to not be able to make PrimalCon this year- sounds like an informative lineup (not to mention a lot of fun.

    I’ll have to check out the book.

    Jenna wrote on March 11th, 2010
  18. In the past I have studied some Tai Chi and similar Eastern “internal” martial arts, which heavily emphasize tucking the pelvis. The explanation has basically been to straighten the entire spine to most effectively transfer energy throughout the entire kinetic chain of the body from the ground all the way to the hand. This seems to be in direct conflict with what is described here; however, it seems to have worked for Eastern cultures for centuries. Any thoughts on this?

    Mark wrote on March 12th, 2010
    • I first want to comment that it’s wonderful seeing all this discussion – Grok on!

      About Eastern martial art forms:
      1. Don’t assume that because modern day teachers are emphasizing tucked pelvis that it was always that way or that it is universal. There are several Yang styles of Tai Chi that work with an anteverted pelvis. I know more about drift in ballet and yoga form over the years. If you look at Nijinsky and other dancers in the time of the Ballet Russe, they had the same shape you see in the picture of the Ubong tribesmen. It’s only in recent times (and more for women than men) that a tucked pelvis has become the standard in ballet. I think this accounts in part for the atrocious injury rate suffered by many ballet dancers. The same trend is now beginning to influence yoga. If you look at Iyengar, his pelvis is very clearly anteverted in all poses. But many newer yoga teachers are teaching tucked pelvis. One day, someone will ask me why my guidelines conflict with yoga!

      2. Humans are naturally strong and resilient and almost any pose/position, even a distortion, is well-tolerated for limited periods. This includes tucking the pelvis. The problem arises when the distortion becomes the baseline – and then the ideal. I advise my students who practice Tai Qi to go along with practices (making sure their spines and in particular the L5-S1 juncture is lengthened enough to tolerate distortion), to introduce 8 Steps to their instructors (!), and not adopt the tuck as their baseline.

      Wish I could be at PrimalCon – I’ll be teaching in Oregon. But I hope to make it next time!

      Esther Gokhale wrote on March 12th, 2010
  19. FYI – the breathing style recommended is just like the breathing style recommended by Pilates…opposite of yoga (belly breathing). One tip that helped me learn it back in my Pilates days is to put your hands on your rib cage so you can check that your ribs are expanding and not your belly, – that is cinched tight – imagine pulling your navel to your spine without rounding out your back.
    That technique alone has made a significant impact on me – it made my 4th (and probably last) marathon 7 yrs ago mubh easier to recover from – much less impact on my back. These days of course, I sprint :-) – and not long distances!

    Sue wrote on March 12th, 2010
  20. much not mubh

    Sue wrote on March 12th, 2010
  21. Thanks for the great information on posture.

    We are also very interested in improving our own and also helping others improve their posture. If you are interested we wrote about some of the information that we have found so far on Posture that we found useful:
    1. Couple of tests that a person can perform in order to test their posture.
    2. A tool from Ergotron that allows you to find your optimal sitting and viewing positions.
    3. Research from an Ohio State Study on how posture can boost your confidence.

    If interested in viewing any of the info above please visit our site under ‘Posture’ category.

    Hope this helps and thanks again for your information!

    bodyhacker wrote on March 12th, 2010
  22. Maya, I think that you have a strawman argument here. You are creating a problem and then dealing with its consequences. I have been a physical therapist for more that 12 years and I have been involved with these issues for my entire carreer. I have never heard of the prblems you are mentioning. None of us involved on a daily basis with patient have ever told a patient what you say they are being told. I don’t want to discount what you are saying but if you are right you didn’t do a very good job of communicating your point. I read th first part of your article and I said to myself: “I don’t know what she is talking about.” I never said such things to my patients and I never heard them be mentined ina course or a textbook. I think you’re fighting a ghost. To see what approach we really take read something by Shirley Sahrman at Johns Hopkins University. That is what’s being done today and it doesn’t resemble your strawman.

    Daniel wrote on March 12th, 2010
    • Shirley Sahrmann is actually a professor at Washington University in St. Louis, not Johns Hopkins. (Wash U is one of the highest-ranked Physical Therapy schools in the country.) While visiting St. Louis this past fall, I stopped by a physical therapy health fair given by the Wash U students and asked one of the PT students there who was giving posture evaluations to check mine out. I was told that my posture was good on the whole, but that I was a bit too anteverted and that my upper back (thoracic spine) was TOO straight, that I lacked the “normal” curvature in the upper back. Once again – look at the Ubong tribesmen or the hundreds of other photos of people in many other cultures around the world that are found in Esther’s book – they are definitely quite anteverted and have very little curvature in the upper back, and they are not ending up with 80% incidence of back pain like we see here in the U.S. So I personally would rather look (and feel) like them.

      I think Sahrmann has definitely worked towards creating some excellent PT guidelines. She argues against abdominal exercises that involve significant distortion from the lumbar spine, for example, saying instead that it’s more important to use the ab muscles to provide isometric support to stabilize the spine – which I completely agree with. And yet many people are being taught exercises that involve significant distortion of the back (by their PTs and others).

      I appreciate your concern, Daniel, and I want you to know that we absolutely do not think that PT is a bad thing or that the Gokhale Method is a replacement for it. We see them as complementary; PT focuses more on exercises for re-hab; the Gokhale Method teaches people how to sit, stand, sleep, bend, walk, and do everyday life activities in healthy ways. We have great respect for many other forms of treatment for back pain (PT, chiropractic, acupuncture…), but there is a missing piece, and Esther has found a solution.

      The bottom line is – our results speak for themselves. Take a look at the testimonials for the book on amazon (http://www.amazon.com/Steps-Pain-Free-Back-Solutions-Shoulder/dp/0979303605/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1268494774&sr=8-1) or the course on our website. We have had over 150 doctors take our course in Palo Alto, and without exception, they find our work sensible, effective, and different from what they have been exposed to before. Regardless of what is causing the problem in the first place, back pain is a huge problem in our society. Doctors love us because they send us patients with back pain (many of whom have tried everything else on the face of the planet) and their patients get better – permanently. And then the patients wish they had heard about the Gokhale Method 10 years earlier and saved themselves a lot of suffering.

      Maya wrote on March 13th, 2010
      • Maya, thanks for your response. You are right about Sahrman and even though I knew it was WashU I wrote Johns Hopkins.
        Here are some of my thoughts about what you wrote. I don’t think that the establishment of what’s “normal” in the thoracic spine has been established by some arbitrary, let’s take a vote, criteria. In depth study of the anatomy of the thoracic vertebrae, the relationship to the ribs and the fact that the thoracic cavity houses vital organs would clearly show that a curve is not as arbitrary as it would seem. The impications of straightening the curve are much more profound that what you are implying. Facet joint degeneration and narrowing of the spinal canal would be consequences of the straightening of the thoracic spine (of course except in those people who naturally exhibit a straight thoracic spine who are in limited numbers and for whom it would be wrong to try to add a curve). I would however be more convinced by your approach if some longitudinal studies were available indicating no trace of what I just described as problems with straightening the thoracic spine.
        Refering to the Ubong tribesmen as some kind of standard that the whole world should follow is at least academically dishonest. You state that they represent the “natural” posture for the spine. All this from looking at photos? Have studies been done on the incidence of back pain among these tribesmen? Maybe we just have a society of complainers that go the doctor everytime they feel the slightest discomfort while the tribesmen don’t. There are so many differences between races that it is unsafe to assume that we should all look like these tribesmen. Maybe we should all be bowlegged like Korean women since I don’t ever recall treating a Korean woman for knee pain. Or we should stretch some of the ligaments that control the arch of the foot knowing that African Americans can definitely jump higher even though most are completely flat-footed.
        Don’t forget we all claim that we have helped countless patients over the years even though I do the opposite of what you do.
        There’s more I want to say about your article but I’ll stop before I get too boring ;)).
        Good luck with school!

        Daniel wrote on March 15th, 2010
        • I was going to send you some significant articles on the research involving “normal” thoracic kyphosis. However, I couldn’t decide which ones to send since there are thousands. These were studies that measured kyphosis in non-symptomatic subjects of ALL ages. Others measured kyphosis in children (non-symptomatic and non-biased and not exposed to all the evils you have stated in your article). o mention of the “benefits” of a straight thoracic spine.
          It might all be a huge mistake or even a conspiracy but I would be suspicious of the contrary until there is more proof.

          Daniel wrote on March 15th, 2010
        • Daniel,

          Just to briefly address a couple points you made:
          Studies of other cultures: See Volinn, E. The epidemiology of low back pain in the rest of the world: A review of surveys in low- and middle-income countries. Spine. 1997;22(15):1747-54. That’s a good one, and there are more in the 8 Steps bibliography.
          Thoracic curvature supported by studies: I know there are thousands of studies supporting significant thoracic curvature. There are also thousands of studies supporting a low-fat, high-carb diet. Status quo tends to get well supported. The MDA audience is open-minded, values sensical anthropological arguments, and understands that status quo is not always the best way of life even if there are many studies backing it.
          Ubong tribesmen as the standard: Esther has taken thousands of photos in many cultures around the world. Hundreds of them are in her book, 8 Steps to a Pain-Free Back, which I encourage you to read.
          Society of complainers: We are talking about a discrepancy of 80% (5% versus 80-90% incidence of back pain), and some differences, like the fact that the Bhil tribe in India has pristine discs at age 50 (there was a study done on this – see page 113 of 8 Steps), are not subjective.
          Genetic differences: We do not think there are significant differences between races in this respect – all babies start off with the same J-shaped spine. Also, look back 100 years at our ancestors. Before the 1920s or so, the J shape was the norm in all cultures (even older anatomy books published here in the U.S. show this – see page 12 of the book). It certainly takes much, much longer than 100 years to see significant evolutionary changes. The shift from a natural J shape to the typical S shape we see here in the U.S. happens within the course of our lifetimes; the S shape is not patterned into our genes.
          Children not being exposed to evils: I could not disagree with you more on this one. Children are incredibly vulnerable. By holding children poorly and putting them into poorly designed baby furniture (think umbrella strollers, C-shaped car seats), parents pattern their children’s neural pathways in such a way that they are encouraging a tucked pelvis and excessive rounding in the thoracic spine and setting them up for back problems later in life. Parents generally do the best they can, but there’s just very little awareness of this in our culture. Because of this, it is not uncommon now to see children with poor posture even at young ages.

          I strongly encourage you to read 8 Steps to a Pain-Free Back. You will find more in-depth answers to your questions and concerns. I don’t think it makes sense for me to re-write all of the book principles here, especially since the hundreds of photos and diagrams in the book will really add to your understanding.

          Maya wrote on March 17th, 2010
        • I am a licenced physical therapist and have been practicing for 25 years, presently in Lovingston, Virginia after teaching physical education in Australia and spending 2 years in third world countries. All of those experiences contributed to my interest in the Gokhale Method, and after taking the Foundations course, I continued with the work and went on to take the teacher training course and become Gokhale Method certified. Esther’s work both complimented and challenged my practice strategies, but having such a clear sense of the cultures she was referencing, I easily followed her logic, teaching strategies and techniques. If you have not read her book, I encourage you to do so, but keep an open mind. It is an anthropological approach to posture and movement through years of study and observation, with cultural variations but repeated postural trends and patterns of movement across generations and continents.

          Yes, there are some contradictions regarding my previous physical therapy education. One simple example is defining the “neutral” position of the pelvis, which I learned was ASIS and pubic symphysis on the same vertical plane. I also got the correct answer upon testing that the only wedged shape vertebral disc was L5-S1 but never integrated that into the idea that its wedge shape was conducive to a more anteverted pelvis than I had been teaching. In my practice I consistently see a correlation between retroverted pelvis and back pain, herniated discs and radiculopathies, as well as facet arthropathy and disc degeneration often occurring at the hypermobile segments which consistently occur at the apex of our spinal curvatures. The idea of a J shape spine correlates to our body’s ability to elongate the spine on an anteverted pelvis and self-decompress the discs and facet joints by teaching and gaining length in our spine through positioning, changing muscle length/strength and re-aligning posture. With that added length, a flattening of our spinal curvatures occurs.

          Changing posture is and should be a part of what we, as physical therapists, do with all our patients to prevent re-injuries, optimize body mechanics and improve muscle function. Often it is a quagmire realigning one body part only to exacerbate the misalignment of another and postural re-education often doesn’t fit into how we are scheduled to deliver PT services. The Gohkale Method principles make sense and realize what is in fact natural for the body, and once obtained, effortless to maintain. I have incorporated Gokhale Method into my postural program, along with traditional physical therapy practices and am having great results.

          Hopefully soon more physical therapists and medical professionals in general will learn about the Gokhale Method principles and realize there are benefits to anthropological studies to find an optimum body architecture even if it is not routinely found on the subjects we study. To quote Esther, “…we face the common problem of mistaking what is average for normal or even ideal. But with a 90% incidence of back pain, you don’t really want to copy average. You want to go back in time and copy people from the past, or babies or other cultures that don’t have so much back pain.”

          Cheri Boeckmann wrote on March 20th, 2010
  23. Ohhhh…now I wish even MORE than I could go to PrimalCon!!! I have the 8-steps book, and it has really helped me improve my posture, but I would love to get some hands-on critique and advice. You should have classs in Wisconsin (near Appleton… *hint hint* hehe ;))

    Ika wrote on March 13th, 2010
  24. The secret is you sleep without a pillow.

    James wrote on October 12th, 2011

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