By Dr. Mercola
|Image: Esther Gokhale|
Back pain is one of the most common pains that people experience and some experts estimate that around 80 percent of us will experience back pain at some point in life. I was certainly in the 80 percent, largely as a result of the time I spent working at the computer. My exercise regimen was not enough to compensate for the damage I was doing while sitting.
I have recently learned that non-exercise movement and posture are two incredibly important yet sorely neglected baselines for health. The more I learn about them, the more convinced I am that posture and non-exercise movement are every bit as important as regular exercise in terms of importance.
Of course, you need both, and I’m not advocating giving up your fitness routine for postural exercises. But proper posture and properly using your body to work against gravity is the foundation upon which everything else related to your health is built.
We know about the importance of diet, exercise, and emotional health, but the fourth pillar, structural health, has for the longest time remained off the radar.
Esther Gokhale’s mission is to educate people on the importance of good posture, which is actually quite different from what is normally taught, such as “sit up straight,” “stand up straight,” and “tuck your pelvis.” According to Esther, virtually all the current guidelines are problematic.
Back Pain Can Be Eliminated Through Simple Posture Training
An estimated 80 percent of the US population will experience back pain at some point in their life, and learning proper posture is crucial if you want to avoid this fate. Esther was herself a statistic, as she developed severe back pain during her pregnancy.
She ended up having back surgery in her 20s to remedy the problem, but soon thereafter the pain came back. Rather than opting for a second surgery, she began her quest to discover the root of her problem.
“The directions that made sense to me were looking for something in my own body. It had to be something about the way I was using my body, rather than looking for a patch, looking for something to alleviate the
symptoms alone. I wanted a solution that addresses the root cause,” Esther says.
Her journey has taken her around the world—to India, Brazil, and Europe—and incorporating her knowledge of yoga, pilates, Indian dance and Chinese Medicine, she eventually created the Gokhale Method.
Esther is no stranger to Mercola.com either. She tells me she’s been following the newsletter for a while now, and I’m delighted to have the opportunity to share her knowledge and wisdom with you as this is such a crucial component of staying healthy.
I’ve been a big fan of exercising my whole life, but the principles taught not only by Esther, Dr. Joan Vernikos and Dr. Eric Goodman, are crucial for optimal health. The interaction with gravity is crucial, and- exercise movements that act against gravity while maintaining proper posture are important for all of us.
Everyone wants to age gracefully and be flexible and pain-free, and I think applying what Esther teaches is a profoundly important tool to achieve that. As Esther states:
“The point is, if you have healthy posture, everything you do becomes exercise in some measure. Every step you take, if you’re doing it in a healthy way, becomes a rep for your glute strengthening and becomes a stretch for your calf, your soleus, and so on. Healthy posture makes everyday life into exercise—into therapy even.”
Rediscovering Your Primal Posture
Esther wisely sought answers among the most functional populations; people who do not suffer back pain and have a very low incidence of arthritis in their spines, for example. And that’s where she discovered most of her techniques. Experimenting on herself, she was able to avoid the second surgery, and she has been pain free for over 20 years.
“I’ve not had a back twinge or ache – nothing, zero. Now I get to teach other people how to be empowered in their bodies and how to get there quickly,” she says.
A testament to the effectiveness of her techniques is how quickly you can get lasting results. Her course is just six lessons long, each lesson lasting about 1.5 hours if done in a group, or 45 minutes when you do one-on-one sessions. Part of the beauty of her method is that she teaches you everything you need to make you completely independent. You don’t have to see a chiropractor on a regular basis or hire a Pilates trainer for the rest of your life to keep your pain under control.
By understanding the functional biomechanics of your body and working with gravity instead of against it, you learn to optimize the way you move about your life all the time. And, it works! I’m integrating her method with a few other things, such as Foundation Training and standing up at regular 10-minute intervals as advised by Dr. Joan Vernikos, author of Sitting Kills, Moving Heals. They do make a difference. I recently went hiking in Yosemite National Park for five days and remained completely free of low back pain. In the past, it was hard to do one hike without back pain.
The Difference Between Flexibility and Laxity
Esther was a yoga teacher before her back pain set in, over 20 years ago, and there’s a lot of wisdom in any discipline that’s been around as long as yoga has. However, she points out that yoga is often misunderstood in the modern context.
“People are going for touching their toes rather than the principle of extending your limits and while keeping your baseline sound,” she says. “You want the integrity of your structure to remain intact. For example, your spine, it has a certain baseline shape that’s healthy. You don’t want to round your back just to make sure you touch the floor or your toes.”
There’s a big difference between developing flexibility, which would be in your muscles, and laxity, which occurs when your ligaments are no longer intact. As Esther points out, the danger of repeatedly rounding your back in one spot is that it creates ligament laxity. You really do not want your back to be curved. You want to maintain a straight spine with strong ligaments.
Most people reading this either have a desk job or are sitting down most of the day. This is absolutely true for me. I’m in a chair for at least 12 hours a day. I noticed that my health was starting to decline – not my biological health, but my structural or musculoskeletal health – even though I was exercising; doing a lot of strength training, and what I thought was flexibility training. Now I know why. I simply didn’t know how to maintain proper posture. Improper posture not only affects you while sitting, but it can also make you more prone to exercise injuries and/or pains resulting from exercise.
Full Article at Mercola.com