The autumn leaves are falling like rain. Although my neighbors are all barbarians and you, you are a thousand miles away, there are always two cups at my table.

T’ang Dynasty poem

Ten thousand flowers in spring, the moon in autumn, a cool breeze in summer, snow in winter. If your mind isn't clouded by unnecessary things, this is the best season of your life.

~ Wu-men ~

Sunday, September 06, 2009

Correct Posture

A friend sent me this. It's an interesting article on your back and posture, which is an essential element to your good health and for martial arts. Below is an excerpt. The full article can be read here.

Esther Gokhale's hunt for perfect posture

Monday, July 27, 2009

Esther Gokhale is not a stalker, but she has pursued hundreds, even thousands of people around the world, mimicking their body alignment and walking style until her shadow matched theirs. She has studied men and women in isolated African, Brazilian and Indian villages where back pain is virtually unknown, despite long hours spent harvesting, weaving, cooking and toting heavy loads.

What she learned inspired her to open the Esther Gokhale Wellness Center in Palo Alto a decade ago, to help others better understand the difference proper posture can make.

Over the years, she has become a "back whisperer" of sorts, winning over tech execs at Google and Cisco Systems, Stanford academics, working moms and medical doctors - including one who described her as "nothing less than the Michael Pollan of posture."

While many are quick to blame stress, sedentary lifestyles and biology for back pain - she found a simpler answer: We have forgotten how natural posture looks and feels.

Even Gokhale, who was born and raised in India and spent summers in yoga ashrams and began teaching yoga as a teenager, was not immune to back pain.

"Yoga teachers in India did not notice my sway back," she says. "I was extremely flexible, but not quite in the right place."

Spinal surgery

After her first pregnancy, at 26, severe pain finally resulted in spinal disc surgery.

That experience spurred Gokhale, who studied biochemistry at Harvard and Princeton and acupuncture at the San Francisco School of Oriental Medicine, to take an anthropologist's approach to finding a better way to treat - and ideally prevent - back pain.

In her light-filled Wellness Center, photos of men, women and children she has studied on her global treks line the walls, statues from India cluster on bookshelves, and mobiles of tiny figures from Africa hang from the ceiling all illustrating one of Gokhale's primary beliefs about posture: It's all about the pelvis.

"Ducky butt, not tucky butt," she said, "Picture Donald Duck." She knows her admonition to "get our behinds behind us," contradicts the "tuck your tailbone" instructions of many yoga, dance and fitness teachers; but as a 30-year yoga instructor, she is convinced of its effectiveness.

"Tucked tailbones create depressed postures, rounding the shoulders and upper back," she says. "Like a dog when it's anxious, with its tail between its legs. Better structure means less pain, more confidence in your health. You look better and people respond to you differently."

It may sound simple, but for many Western bodies, it is not intuitive, which is why Gokhale holds sessions of six weekly classes or three-day intensive classes (both $450) where she practices her three-pronged approach to perfecting posture - showing, demonstrating and repositioning with gentle hands-on manipulation. Single sessions ($165) and Skype classes are available, and she offers free classes at schools for teachers and students.

"I really want to reach this audience, " she said. "Good posture can alter the trajectory of a young person's life."


walt said...

That critter pic would be a useful addition in the room where I "stand" each morning!

Interesting article. The reviews of her book on 'Zon are very positive. One mentions that she has a 53-minute talk on YouTube; since I only have dial-up, I'll have to leave that for others.

Even though I have no aches and pains to speak of, the subject of posture and alignment is always fascinating. Thanks, Rick!

Rick said...

Good posture and alignment is one of the foundations of good health.

Andrea said...

If you are interested in a hands-on class on the Gokhale Method, check out her international tour stops starting Jan 2010:

as well as her book, "8 Steps to a Pain-Free Back". The reviews on Amazon are phenomenal:

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