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Let me introduce myself. My name is Mark Sisson. I’m 63 years young. I live and work in Malibu, California. In a past life I was a professional marathoner and triathlete. Now my life goal is to help 100 million people get healthy. I started this blog in 2006 to empower people to take full responsibility for their own health and enjoyment of life by investigating, discussing, and critically rethinking everything we’ve assumed to be true about health and wellness...

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March 11, 2010

PrimalCon 2010 Announcement: Sit, Stand and Walk Like Grok

By Guest
45 Comments

I 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:

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:

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

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.

TAGS:  Grok, guest post

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45 Comments on "PrimalCon 2010 Announcement: Sit, Stand and Walk Like Grok"

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Alex
Alex
6 years 6 months ago

Additional biographical information for Maya: Really attractive!

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

shastagirl
shastagirl
6 years 6 months ago

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.

Kishore
Kishore
6 years 6 months ago

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.

Adam | SEE
6 years 6 months ago

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.

Chris P.
6 years 6 months ago

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

Steve Scarfia
6 years 6 months ago
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… Read more »
Chris P.
6 years 6 months ago

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.

Steve Scarfia
6 years 6 months ago
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… Read more »
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Kishore
Kishore
6 years 6 months ago

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!

Todd
6 years 6 months ago

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!

Jeff Sutherland
Jeff Sutherland
6 years 6 months ago

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!

Holly
Holly
6 years 6 months ago

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.

Tas
Tas
6 years 6 months ago

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.

Stevo
Stevo
6 years 6 months ago

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.”

Rodney
Rodney
6 years 6 months ago

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.

Glenn McElfresh
6 years 6 months ago

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.

anzy
anzy
6 years 6 months ago

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.

Athena
6 years 6 months ago

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!

matt
6 years 6 months ago

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.

Maya
6 years 6 months ago

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.

Steve Scarfia
6 years 6 months ago

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

Maya
6 years 6 months ago

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.

Steve Scarfia
6 years 6 months ago

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

Ben
Ben
6 years 6 months ago

You have classes in Boulder? Awesome, I’m in.

Heather Norton
6 years 6 months ago

Hi Ben,
Please see the link below for the classes in Boulder. Please let me know if you need help with the registration. We look forward to seeing you there!

http://www.egwellness.com/instruction/gokhale_method.html#Boulder,%20CO

Andy
Andy
6 years 6 months ago

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.

Maya
6 years 6 months ago
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… Read more »
Jenna
6 years 6 months ago

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.

Mark
Mark
6 years 6 months ago

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?

Esther Gokhale
6 years 6 months ago
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… Read more »
Sue
Sue
6 years 6 months ago
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… Read more »
Sue
Sue
6 years 6 months ago

much not mubh

bodyhacker
6 years 6 months ago
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… Read more »
Daniel
Daniel
6 years 6 months ago
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… Read more »
Maya
6 years 6 months ago
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”… Read more »
Daniel
Daniel
6 years 6 months ago
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… Read more »
Daniel
Daniel
6 years 6 months ago

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.

Maya
6 years 6 months ago
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… Read more »
Cheri Boeckmann
6 years 6 months ago
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… Read more »
Ika
Ika
6 years 6 months ago

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 ;))

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[…] White: Maya White and Esther Gokhale’s posture and movement mechanics presentations at PrimalCon 2010 and 2011 were […]

James
James
4 years 11 months ago

The secret is you sleep without a pillow.

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