Fitness

Is your posture causing you back pain? Try the Gokhale method to find out

Barely two minutes into my interview with Sangeeta Sundaram, one of the few proponents of the Esther Gokhale method for good posture in India, we become extremely aware of how we are sitting. Are our shoulders hunched? Is the spine curved? Is the neck drooping?

And that is the main purpose of the Gokhale method, the 43-year-old tells us: “To make you aware of what good posture looks like, so that you can work on bringing it back in your daily life.” Created by Indian-American Esther Gokhale in 1994, the method focusses on restoring the natural alignment of the body, by addressing the root cause of most muscle and joint pain: poor posture.

Is your posture causing you back pain? Try the Gokhale method to find out

Regaining body wisdom

“Nobody is born with an instruction manual on how to use their bodies. We have a kinaesthetic culture, in which we observe each others’ movement patterns and subconsciously mimic it,” says Sangeeta, looking tall in the chair she is sitting in, at Chennai’s Amethyst café. “In the last 100-odd years, as our societies became industrialised, our jobs and lifestyles have changed the way we sit, stand and move,” she says.

The Gokhale method, she explains, was formed by observing the postures of people in non-industrialised societies.

Is your posture causing you back pain? Try the Gokhale method to find out

“It was similar to the postures of children. However, as children grow up, and are made to sit for long hours on school benches — designed for and by adults with poor postures — they lose their body wisdom,” she says.

Every bone in the body has a purpose; that is how the human body is structured, explains Sangeeta. Any time the load shifts to muscles that weren’t designed for the purpose, they end up causing pain.

Common culprits
  • Gadgets: As they grow smaller and smaller, you tend to become more closed. Your shoulders hunch, neck droops and the spine curves inward, instead of being elongated.
  • Furniture: Most modern furniture is designed so that you sit with your pelvis tucked in. If you had a tail, it would have been under you, instead of behind, like it should be.
  • Vehicles: Car seats are too bucket-y as well. Motorbikes have been modelled after horse saddles, but a horse wouldn’t let you ride if you didn’t sit well, whereas a bike doesn’t give that feedback.
  • Clothing/fashion: Our pants are all too tight, which restrains our waist tilting forward. The fashion industry encourages young girls to thrust their pelvis and bust forward.
  • Footwear: Heels, as we know, push all the weight to the front. Cushioned shoes, on the other hand, don’t give us feedback as to what’s happening on the ground. Not paying attention to how we land affects the knees. We also don’t use our gluteal muscles enough while walking. If we did, we could walk longer without our knees and feet hurting.

“Your original body posture can be brought back, not by force or exercise or training, but by becoming aware of your movement. By noticing how you sit, whether you are lengthening your spine, have your shoulders back, your neck aligned and so on.”

As an example, she asks us to roll our shoulders: “Bring your shoulder front, up and back, now let it relax there. Do the same with the other shoulder. This is what your natural position should be like. Simply saying sit up straight won’t work. If you’re conscious about your position, eventually, your bones and muscles will find their way back home.”

A lifetime of pain

Not everyone who has poor posture has pain issues, but most people with pain issues have poor postures, says Sangeeta. She should know: she was 20 when her back first gave out. After that, pain was a dominant feature in her life. Her work and lifestyle revolved around it.

“When you’ve lived with pain for 16 years, you have tried it all… orthopaedic surgeons, physiotherapists, Ayurvedic massages. They all tell you what the treatment should be, but nobody tells you the reason it’s recurring,” she says.

Is your posture causing you back pain? Try the Gokhale method to find out

In 2012, she took six months off from a high-pressure corporate job, to find a cure once and for all. That’s when she learnt the method from Esther in California, US.

“My pain had gone down from being a 7 on an average daily, to 0. I even took up a job that involved travelling and lots of long journeys,” she says. Satisfied, she went to Esther again a year later, this time to train as a teacher. Despite having passed the method down to many students, her pre-teen son still remains impervious to her teachings. “His school and friends are a bigger influence on him than his mother!” she chuckles.

To learn more about the Gokhale method, you can reach out to sangeeta@gokhalemethod.com.

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Printable version | Feb 18, 2021 11:08:26 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/life-and-style/fitness/is-your-posture-causing-you-back-pain-try-the-gokhale-method/article26702414.ece

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