Running – Preventing Injury

Well-being for the Open-Minded Sceptic #83 – Running, Feet and Gait

I started running when I was 18 years old. My first attempt, I was able to run a block and then I had to walk a block. Each day, I was able to run a bit longer and walk less. Run-walk intervals, when you are learning, is a great way to ease into the sport safely and stay motivated. Eventually, I was able to run without walking in between. I loved the freedom of being able to put on my shoes and go. I found that it was great for stress relief, mental clarity, and my fitness improved overall. Now that I live in Tassie, I still run casually most days, mainly on trails or at the beach. I run because I enjoy it. It is a form of meditation for me.

It has not always been a bed of roses though. I did experience some injuries before changing my gait and discovering the Gokhale Method. Posture work has influenced me in changing my running style and given me tools to help prevent further injuries. I still get the occasional sore muscles, but that is usually because I’ve overdone something or run different terrain without proper warmup or cool down. Having a better understanding of how the body is meant to work, can open doors and possibilities if you are considering running.

Let’s start with the feet. In most instances, unless you’re running barefoot, good shoes that fit your running style are important. For me, finding the right shoes has been a journey. Engaging and strengthening my feet has been a game changer.

In running, your feet are the first point of contact every time you hit the ground. Strong feet are important. Issues that can occur in people with weak feet are inflammationplantar fasciitisbunions, neuromas, and even stress fractures in the feet or shins. Working on foot strength can help improve your natural elasticity allowing you to be springier when you touch the ground. Strong feet are also less likely to experience an unhealthy level of pronation or supination

One of my favourite GM concepts is kidney beaning the feet to help with stability. You start with your feet parallel about shoulder width apart. Imagine that your toes are taped to the floor. Keep the toes in place and lift your heel just a little bit. Now swivel the heel in gently without moving the toes. You will notice this shortens the foot and increases the inner arch of the foot. When you get the feet right there is a whole positive chain reaction up the leg into the hips. Kidney beaning the feet, helps keep the inner arches from collapsing and it externally rotates the leg. The external rotation of the leg in running assists in opening the hip joints, it can help prevent IT band pain and patellofemoral (runner’s knee) pain.

Many runners land heel first instead of landing on their forefoot or mid foot as our ancestors did. That is exactly what I was doing. It was causing excessive collision force on my heel and a lack of spring in my overextended stride. The result for me was a case of Plantar fasciitis and knee pain. In running, heel striking which usually goes along with over-striding, is like someone hitting you on the heel with a hammer two to three times your body weight.  If you do this long enough it will wear on your joints. In the Gokhale Method we teach landing on a bent knee when walking to soften the impact when touching the ground. The landing knee in running should be bent for the same reason. I find this easier with a mid or forefoot landing.

Landing on your heel with a straight leg extended out in front of the body increases the collision force impacting the body all the way up into the knees, hips and back.

Foot strengthening and stretching exercises have helped my feet become stronger and more flexible. You can find a lot of these online. Sometimes if I am running a trail and there is a raised root or rock, I will stop for a moment and stand on it. It feels great to have it under the arch of my foot to help stretch the planter fascia.  I will also place the front of my foot on it, with my heel on the ground then lean forward to stretch my calf muscle. When the leg is straight, it stretches the gastrocnemius and bent knee will stretch the soleus. Calf stretches can help to reduce the risk of injury or conditions such as Achilles TendonitisPlantar Fasciitis and Cramp.

Today, whenever I feel a bit of niggle in my knees or tightness in my Achilles, I focus on engaging my feet more as well as my glutes. That resolves the issue for me.  (Glutes are another lesson.)

To find out more about posture in general, join me for a free 1.5-hour workshop- 10am on 22nd September, St Helens Neighbourhood House  

Written by: Michelle “Mickie” Ball , Massage therapist and Gokhale Method Teacher 0428 223 271


Your Best Foot Forward

Well-Being for the Open-Minded Sceptic # 77-  Keeping our Best Foot Forward – Dec 2020

First I just want to acknowledge what a year 2020 has been. With all that has gone on in the world this past year, I am grateful to call Tasmania my home. I feel sorry for my friends and family members back in the US. Overall, it has been more of a struggle for them than it has been for us in Tassie.  In saying that though, it has been an eye-opener for us all, no matter how much we were impacted by this year’s challenges. But as you may know, I am forever looking for the silver lining. I look at 2020 as having been an opportunity to learn a bit more about ourselves and our fragile connection to each other and our environment. I will continue to give you tips and tools to assist you in feeling healthier and more confident in your bodies. It is my hope to make your life a bit easier and perhaps more pain-free as we move forward

So, let’s get started from the bottom up…or feet first. Here in Tassie, we like our walks. We have so many beautiful natural attractions to see. But if we have painful feet, it may not be so appealing. So just how important are these two extremities on the ends of our legs? Well, we have 26 bones, 3 arches and 4 sets of muscles in our feet. Our foot bones actually account for over half of the bones in our entire body.  I was telling a massage client that had particularly stiff feet, “try to grab the ground when you walk, it will help strengthen your feet.” He said, his toes were not really very flexible. This is common with people as they get older. Their arches start to collapse from years of not using their foot muscles or from time spent standing passively on the front of their feet with their hips rocked forward. When the metatarsal transverse arch (the one across the top of the foot) starts to collapse the toes start to splay and the foot widens. This leaves you standing flat-footed. Not a very stable or comfortable place to be. Plus, flattened arches can cause a multitude of problems like heel, foot, and ankle pain, knee, hip, and lower back pain, rolled-in ankles, Morton’s neuroma and bunions. Finding some good shoe inserts that help support all three of your foot arches can help. But you really want to start getting some strength and movement back into your feet. You can throw a cloth on the ground and gather it under your foot, or practice picking up a small ball or pebble. If you find it particularly hard to get movement in your foot you can get a foot massage or roll your foot over a foot roller or tennis ball to help loosen it up. You can also place a small superball behind the toes under the transverse arch of the foot while standing to help strengthen your arches and train your weight to rest primarily on the heel. Make sure you have a wall or something to hang on to when first practising this.

Eating the cloth foot arch exercise.
Grabbing a ball using the arch of the foot, not just the toes.

If you are not a hunter-gatherer bushman, then good shoes are especially important when you venture out for a walk. This is especially true given the harsh, natural and unnatural surfaces on which we walk and the corresponding damage and underdevelopment in our feet. Unfortunately, good shoes are hard to find. Most consumers and shoe manufacturers are ignorant of what constitutes a good shoe, leaving a proliferation of cheap and or compromised footwear on the market. Here are some characteristics of a good shoe. 1. a firm last that provides a slight kidney bean shape 2. Shock absorbent soles, particularly in the heel 3. Arch supports for all 3 arches of the feet.

The strength and pliability of these men’s feet make them able to move more softly and quickly. The spring action and the pivoting off of the big toe gives them power to run down an animal.
Shoes that enable our feet to function the they they were meant to.

But what about walking on the beach? A frequent question is whether or not it is healthy to go without shoes. The answer is it depends on the condition of your arch muscles, the alignment of your body and the surface on which you walk. If your feet are healthy walking barefoot on sand is a great way to stretch and strengthen the feet and calves. If you have weak arch muscles, even a casual stroll on the beach can further distend your ligaments. Don’t go barefoot on the beach without actively engaging your arch muscles while walking. Even if your arches are in good shape, it is never advisable to go barefoot for a long length of time on hard surfaces such as concrete or asphalt.

Monisha white, Esther Gokhale’s daughter, showing how to concave the foot and stregthen the foot arches.

Remember to always keep your best foot forward and have a safe and happy holiday season!  

Contributed by Michelle “Mickie” Ball Massage Therapist and Gokhale Method® Teacher 0428 223 271. Some excerpts taken from “8 Steps to a Pain-Free Back” by Esther Gokhale


The Neck

Why is neck length so important?  Neck pain seems to be an even more common problem than back pain in corporate settings or in work situations where you are spending a large amount of time in front of a computer. It doesn’t help that most ergonomic furniture is not only unhelpful but can be counterproductive.  In office settings and everywhere else these days, we are surrounded by people who model poor (usually slumped) posture with forward head. Whether we know it or not, it’s in our DNA to mimic what’s around us. And last, but not least, our lay and medical experts have adopted a particularly unhelpful (and in fact, counterproductive) set of posture guidelines (including “chin up,” “chest out,” “stand up straight,” do crunches, tuck your pelvis — all of which harm the neck among other parts of the body). 

Notice the mannequin in the photo. She cranes her neck to look up. The base of the skull where it meets the neck is fine as a joint to rotate on, but the amount of curvature in her neck here is intense and unhealthy. The origin of her problem is actually lower in the back and pelvis. Her pelvis is tucked, causing excessive sway in the lumbar spine, which gets reflected higher up as excessive curve in the thoracic spine and a compromised neck curve. If you pattern yourself on mannequins like this, you’ll soon end up bent out of shape.

Observe the surgeon’s cervical (neck) curvature in the centre photo. This posture will not serve to maintain healthy cervical discs and nerves. Surgeons are remarkably able to step up to work incredibly long hours, and sacrifice comfort for the benefit of their patients, but at some point the effects of bad working posture catch up with even the most determined of us. Paresthesias in your hands are not symptoms anyone can will their way past. Surgeons have trust in their craft, and seem to readily subject themselves to surgery. But if surgery is not accompanied by measures that get to the root of the problem, the problem comes back. The plight of many surgeons is to be forced into early retirement due to injury. Dentists also receive no training on sustainable, healthy ways to bend over their patients and twist to examine teeth. A full third of dentists retire early due to disability.

The photo on the right of the Yao woman from Thailand,shows exemplary head and neck posture. Not only does she have a regal and dignified bearing, but her healthy posture also protects her neck and spinal health.

How to get to a lengthened neck: a few techniques

  1. Gather in your hands a handful of hair at the base of your skull on each side and gently and smoothly tug upward and backward. Try to pull symmetrically.
  2. You can also pull on your head itself. Your hands should be on your ears or behind them, gently guiding your head up and back.
  3. You can use the tips of your three central fingers on each hand (index, middle, ring) on the occiput to gently push the base of the skull back and up.
  4. You can also imagine that you have a helium balloon inside your head. Survey the area, discover and release tensions, and let your head waft up.

The key ingredient in all of these techniques is to first relax your neck. If you tense your neck, your hands are going to be challenged to help with lengthening. You want to yield to the push/pull of your hands.

There’s more to learn, but if you begin with the above steps, you’ll be well on your way to repairing whatever damage has happened and preventing future damage. You can learn more by attending one of the Free Posture workshops on offer this month at the St Helens Neighbourhood House. You can also join a free online workshop https://gokhalemethod.com/classes-services/free-online-workshops

Article submitted by Michelle “Mickie Ball, Massage therapist and Gokhale Method teacher 0428 223 271 – Excerpts from Esther Gokhale’s Blog. gokhalemethod.com


Posture is like learning a new language. It takes time and practice.

We in modern society have forgotten how to use our bodies. We suffer a lot of aches and pains because of that. The good news is that we can heal most of the neck pain, planter fasciitis, back pain, repetitive stress injuries and more.  We can do it simply by going back to our primal posture and truly natural ways of bending, sitting and walking. It is in our scope to relearn how to use the correct muscles for what they were actually designed for. Many of us use lesser muscle groups to do tasks that are really meant for a larger under-utilised muscle group.

 idea of learning proper posture can be a bit daunting. It is almost like learning a new language. It takes time, practice and a bit of patience. But you can start to see results from the get-go, if you just start now.  So, here is what I thought I might do, I’ll give you bits of information in this and upcoming articles. Little titbits that you can start to use in your journey towards better posture. 

I will start by addressing a common problem that I observe daily when I see people out walking. It’s the same problem that has contributed to many of my massage clients complaining of knee, hip and back pain. The posture problem I am referring to is walking with the legs internally rotated. This can cause a misalignment in the body. If you look at the photo, you will see a version of this. As the knees come in, the upper body sways causing a great deal of unnecessary movement. There is a lot of shifting side to side when there needn’t be. Walking should be smooth and driven from the gluteal muscles and not jarring the body with every step. Internally rotating the legs not only misaligns the leg, but it inhibits the use of the gluteal muscles.

Internally rotated legs cause misalignment of the ankles, knees and all the way up into the hips

Here is an exercise that you can do to help you address your gluteus medias muscle. This is the muscle that you should be engaging to drive you forward in your stride as you walk. It is also an external leg rotator.

Wake up the Glutes for walking Exercise: 1. Start from a standing position with your feet relatively close together. Now move one leg forward. As you do this, keep the heel of the stable foot down on the ground and your hips facing forward. You should feel the upper buttock muscle (gluteaus medius) engage. You will also notice a nice stretch in the calf muscle of the leg that is not moving. If you do not feel it, try straightening the back leg and moving the front leg a bit further forward while keeping the back heel down. 2. Now move that same leg that you just moved forward, back behind you. You should feel the glute engagement shift to the other side. Try this movement backward and forward on the same side until you can really feel your glute muscles engage. 3. Do the same movement on the other side. See if you notice one side engage more easily than the other or if they are both the same. If you feel like one side is stronger, then you know you need to pay a bit more attention to the weaker muscle to get it activated.

Notice the glute engagement happening from the back leg. The back leg is straight, heel down and the front leg is bent. (Try not to sway the back when doing this move. )

After you have done this exercise, try walking and see if you can locate that same muscle to help move you forward. You can try walking uphill. This will help you find these muscles more easily. Using the gluteus medias in walking helps strengthen these muscles and gives you more control in your stride and landing. It also helps externally rotate the legs and stabilises the entire movement of the body in walking.

Have fun with this. If you want to learn more, I will be teaching a free posture workshop on July 29th at 6pm at the neighbourhood house. There is a maximum of 16 people, so sign up soon. You can either call me on the number listed below or go to www.gokhalemethod.com and sign-up online.

Article written by:  Michelle “ Mickie” Ball, Gokhale Method Teacher and Massage Therapist.  0428 223 271 • Email michelle@gokhalemethod.com


Moving with Grace and Efficiency

My partner Knut and I were in Bali in August. It was an amazing journey as we had never been before. I particularly loved watching the local people move about in their daily lives. I was fascinated watching them carry heavy loads on their heads instead of in their arms. I marvelled as I watched them squat and bend while doing manual tasks for extended periods of time. They seemed to move through their work with ease and grace. They performed tasks in a way that Westerners would struggle to do with such efficacy.

Carrying the catch Lovina, Bali.

I wondered, how the Balinese people could do such physically demanding tasks day after day and still be smiling so beautifully. I believe it has to do with their outlook on life along with the intuitive way they carry and hold their bodies.  I watched a group of villagers bringing in a catch of Mackerel when we were in Lovina. I was told that they did this quite often to supply fish to resorts and restaurants in the area.  It was like watching a dance as the men pulled in nets full of fish. I noticed that as they heaved on the nets, they were hip-hinging with flat backs.  They used the larger muscle groups in their body to pull in the heavy loads.  The muscles in their abdomens and backs were engaged in a way to help protect their spines. They used their legs and glutes along with their arms to perform their task. They made it look so effortless! I marveled at the way the women bent to the ground to sort the fish and load them into large buckets. Their legs were straight, and they bent from their hips. Their hamstrings were incredibly long and flexible. In our society, there are not many people who can bend all the way down to the ground this way without bending their knees or rounding their backs. They chatted away playfully as they helped load heavy buckets of fish onto each other’s heads.  Once they were loaded up with full buckets, they walked with the precision of a type rope walker, balancing their heavy loads with ease. They moved with lengthened necks and straight backs.  Their gluteal muscles were switched on and engaged. They used their well-developed muscles along with a straight back leg and their heels pushed into the ground to drive themselves forward. It was so powerful, and yet it was done in a way that made them look as if they were gliding. This is a normal part of daily life in Bali and explains why the women have such strong necks and good posture.  It is a far cry from many Australians who walk, stooped over with heads protruding forward.

·      There was a study done in Kenya by N. Heglund. “The Energetics and Mechanics of carrying Head Supported Loads by African Women” They tested the respiratory rate of women carrying heavy loads on their heads while walking on a tread mill to measure their oxygen consumption. The researchers were astounded to find that when they loaded these women up with heavy sandbags, their oxygen consumption did not increase. It remained the same as when they were unloaded. In this study they compared the efficiency of these head carrying women to soldiers loaded with packs. It turns out that the women were about 60% more efficient when it came to carrying weight than the soldiers were.

I also loved watching the way the Balinese squatted in tiny boats as they paddled around fish farms on Lake Batour. The boats sat low in the water and it seemed that there wasn’t enough room for their legs to sit western style. As they paddled they maintained a position that looked more like a squat with very straight backs. They moved in and out of the boats, hopping onto little jetty’s with ease checking their nets.

Fisherman Lake Batour, Bali

Workers in rice fields stayed bent over for long periods of time working their crops. Again, the majority of them hip-hinged with backs so straight you could eat your dinner off of them!

I could go on and on. I loved observing the way the traditional Balinese people moved and functioned. I observed that some of the younger men that I met, mostly drivers that were taking us around the island, didn’t have such beautiful posture. They had adapted the “western way” of sitting, standing and moving. These were the ones that complained of back or neck pain when I asked them if they’d ever experience it. I told them that that they needed to mimic their elders. There is a lot of wisdom in the way that they move. Sometimes you need to look at the old ways to find your primal posture.

If you, the reader, want to learn more about primal posture and how to move more efficiently, I am offering a Free Workshop on the subject at the St Helens Neighbourhood House Tasmania  5:30pm – 7pm on Thursday October 18th 2018     

Written by: Michelle Mickie Ball Massage therapist and Gokhale Method® Teacher. Contact me: 0428 223 271 or for information on all of my workshops go to my teacher’s page.

Moving with Grace and Efficiency

  • Posture
  • Neck
  • Back

Weak Pelvic Floor/Prolapse – How to keep things where they belong.


This is a subject that I hope I can shed some light on for those dedicated to kegel muscle exercises or those suffering from pelvic organ prolapse. Most people have no idea that pelvic alignment is essential for pelvic floor function. *1. The pelvic organ support system is actually a postural system not a gynecological one. Restoring natural primal posture repositions the pelvic organs where they belong, up against the lower front abdominal wall and over the pubic bones (which is key.) Strengthening the pubo-coccygeal, or “Kegel” muscle may enhance sexual experience, but can actually make pelvic organ prolapse worse. Kegel exercise actually pulls the organs in the direction of prolapse by pulling the tailbone closer to the pubic bone and tucking the pelvis. These exercises may work in the beginning as they contract the muscle. But they do not lengthen it. Example: a bicep curl. A strong muscle contracts and then lengthens. By only contracting the muscle, it actually becomes shorter and weaker. Many women have reported increased prolapse symptoms after engaging in prolonged Kegel exercise. If the abdominal wall is not constantly pulled in (as we are taught to hold our stomachs in) and the pelvis not tucked, the breath and the diaphragm can work to push the organs forward and into the hollow of the lower belly where they are safely positioned by the forces of intra-abdominal pressure. Prolapse is caused by organs falling back not down. A “tucked pelvis” places the pelvic organs on top of the pelvic floor muscles or the kegel muscle. Women are told to do kegel exercises, but this muscle is just not cut out to do the job of supporting all the pelvic organs. Positioning the pelvis this way is an invitation to have the pelvic organs fall out of you. In our society we see a lot of organ prolapse especially in women who have more to loose there in the form of uterine and bladder prolapse and urinary incontinence. Both genders can suffer hemorrhoids and rectal prolapse. So I highly encourage you to consider an anteverted or forward facing pelvis. With an anteverted pelvis as opposed to a tucked pelvis, you have the pubic bone underneath these organs supporting them perfectly well. The pubic bones are our true pelvic floor. I personally would rather have bone supporting my organs than a relatively weak trampoline of muscles. A realignment of posture returns us to natural pelvic organ support and can help us in some cases avoid surgery. The word pelvis means “bowl.” But this pelvic bowl should be tipped forward on its’ rim which is the pubic bone. You can keep your bones under you by picturing a bowl filled with water. But you want the water spilling out the front. As I have mentioned before a really great way to help antervert the pelvis is by walking using and developing the glutes as you go. Leaning forward slightly in the beginning can help you engage the proper gluteal muscles and place the bones where they should be. Also sitting and standing with your “behind” behind you being careful not to sway the upper lumbar area while doing this. (See *2) If you had a tail you would want it out behind you and not in between your legs or sitting on it. Keep the shoulders open and think tall as you breath creating more space for all of your organs. *1.)Christine Kent www.wholewoman.com. *2.)Esther Gokhale – http://www.gokhalemethod.com Article written by: Michelle “Mickie” Ball Gokhale Method® Teacher and massage therapist 0428223271


Self-Care is Important to Our Health and Well-Being

Let’s clear up one common misconception from the get-go: Self-care is not synonymous with self-indulgence or being selfish. Self-care means taking care of yourself so that you can be healthy, you can be well, you can do your job, you can help and care for others, and you can do all the things you need to and want to accomplish in a day. Many people can be compassionate and kind towards others but have a hard time being compassionate towards themselves. Self-compassion is one of the most important things we can do for our own mental health and well-being. It is essential that we love ourselves no matter what faults we think we have. No one is perfect!

Paula Gill Lopez, PhD, an associate professor and chair of the department of psychological and educational consultation at Fairfield University in Fairfield, Connecticut, says the need for self-care is obvious. “We have an epidemic of anxiety and depression,” she says. “Everybody feels it.”

This is where self-care or self-compassion comes in to help us really see our own self-worth. Many of us get dragged down by circumstances or people around us. These can be people that we have trusted or love. The bottom line is it is up to us to love ourselves. When we practice self-care, we activate the parasympathetic nervous system. This allows us to relax and counteract the effects of long-term stress. 

According to Kristin Neff, an expert in the field of self-compassion, Self-care or compassion can be made up of 3 main parts. They are:

Self Kindness. Being kind to ourselves in moments when we feel “not good enough.” This is part of the process.

Commonality: Everyone has moments of feeling they are insufficient, anguished or unsuccessful. No one has a stress-free life. Even though you may feel alone in these states, there is always someone going through something similar. You are not alone.

Mindfulness: Notice Thoughts that make you feel like you are “not good enough.” Don’t ignore them, but don’t dwell on them either. Recognise and acknowledge them and then move on.

Here are 5 ways that you can practice self-compassion:  1. Change your state of mind. Whenever you start thinking negatively about yourself. Reframe the thought. This could involve thinking about a benefit or upside to a negative situation that you had not considered. Alternatively, it can involve identifying a lesson to be learned from a difficult situation. One example of reframing is redefining a problem as a challenge. Such a redefinition activates a different way of being. Problem has a heavy quality to it, while the notion of a challenge is enlivening. 2. Use only Kind Words. Stop yourself when you hear that self-critical voice, calling you lazy, unattractive or insufficient or anything else that is negative. Find a positive word that describes you instead. When you do this, think about how you would describe a good friend. You would never treat your friends as badly as you do yourself! Start with something small. “I have nice eyes or a kind smile.” 3. Everyone makes mistakes. It is how we learn. Forgive yourself and move on. If an apology is in order, apologise to yourself or others, make it, and keep progressing forward. It is common humanity.  4. Follow your passion. Everyone deserves joy, happiness and excitement. Don’t feel that if things aren’t going well that you aren’t worthy of these favourable feelings. Make sure that you do things that you are passionate about and spark joy in your life. 5. Connect with others. Find other people who share your passions. They may need the connection as much as you do. Finding someone who shares some of your passions, can help you get through feelings of loneliness. It is definitely a step towards self-kindness and perhaps new friendships.

Some self-care activities that can help. Do not limit yourself to these suggestions. Write down any ideas that help you be kinder to yourself.  Add them to your own self-care calendar. Include any activities that can increase your connection to yourself. Here are some examples.

  • Do something altruistic. Be kind for the sake of being kind and let go of the need for recognition. This lifts those happy hormones! You don’t need constant validation for you to be okay.
  • Show your body some love. Take time every day for a week or more and do some stretching, go for a walk, do some yoga…Your body does so much for you. Take time to replenish it.
  • Be present. After you wake up, simply sit comfortably, and try to focus on your breath for two minutes. When (not if) your mind wanders, just notice it and label it “thinking.” And gently return to the breath, without harshness. Set a timer, and when the timer goes off, you’re done!
  • What makes you smile? Take a few minutes to think about things that make you smile. Then smile and enjoy the experience.
  • Get — or give — a hug. Physical affection reduces our stress levels and makes us feel more connected.
  • Get a massage and revel in the beauty of touch and take time for yourself!

Have fun with this and know you deserve love, kindness and self-compassion.  The trick to creating a self-care practice that you’ll stick with is self-awareness and creating a routine that works for you. You don’t need huge, uninterrupted blocks of “me-time” in your schedule to cultivate self-care. Don’t let being “busy” stop you from making time for yourself!

Contributed by:  Michelle “Mickie” Ball, Massage Therapist and Gokhale Method Posture Teacher – 0428 223 271

Autumn in Australia

Autumn Brings New Beginnings and Change.

It’s that time of the year again, when the sun seems to disappear too quickly and it’s dark by 5:30pm. We’re starting to feel the crisp chill in the air. I have gone through my closets and stored away my most of my summer wear and rediscovered my cosy jumpers and boots. Some of us have stoked up our fires as the nights get nippy. It is Autumn once again. It has taken its time settling in this year, and pondering it a little longer, may encourage winter to slow its arrival as well. 

We just experienced our last super moon of 2020 on Thursday May 7th. Did you see it? It was pretty awe-inspiring. I associate this type of moon to a harvest moon that occurs around the autumnal equinox. There is a traditional symbolism associated with a harvest moon of a new beginning, coming after hard work and dedication. The brightness of the harvest moon, according to Farmer’s Almanac, actually gave farmers an extra 25 minutes of picking and gathering time. Autumn is a time of beneficial outcomes for those who have properly prepared the ground and planted seeds.  But in some traditions, Autumn is a time of Melancholia. Growing up in the US, Autumn started in September. It meant that daylight savings was over, as it is here.  2 1/2 months of summer vacation had also come to an end and I was back in school. With this came some feelings of dread. It was an adjustment to let go of all that sunshine and freedom. But on the bright side, the change of season also brought my birthday. “A new beginning” for me for sure.  It was a time when I got really excited about being another year older. Now, maybe, not so much. In the southern hemisphere, there’s no birthday on the immediate horizon for me to look forward to. So how do I embrace this seasonal change and it’s new beginning?

I look to some of the symbolic meanings of Autumn for inspiration. How can we find meaning and glean some appreciation for this time of year? Ancient cultures, science, and astrology have associated many aspects of this beautiful season to human life. These symbolic associations are powerful reminders that Mother Nature has an incredible influence on us. Autumn represents the preservation of life and its basic necessities. It also represents balance. Day and night are the same length during the autumnal equinox. As a result, ancient cultures have always associated this time with the concept of balance. It’s a time to acknowledge both the dark and the light, and to give thanks for aspects of both.

The tree of life has a parity of branches above the earth and roots below. In the “Lion King” Mufasa explains to his young son Simba: “Everything you see exists together, in a delicate balance.” How do we find balance when Autumn is the paradigm of transition? We can often experience a bit of summer in the afternoon while winter cold can sneak up quickly in the evening. Sharp contrasts can result in less than 24 hours. I choose to go with the flow and let the day present what is possible. Balance for me today means rugging up and going out for a bike ride while the sun is shining. As the sun sets, I will come home and prepare some delicious soup. The epidemy of comfort food. The evening will mean spending some time cosying up, finding a movie or book to settle into and stoking a warm fire. As the leaves on deciduous trees change colour it is a reminder that all things change. Life is impermanent and we need to embrace our now moments. Fall is the end of many things, but it can also represent the beginning, use this season to help you find the balance you need.

Autumn also means letting go. As temperatures drop to the tune of leaves falling, autumn illustrates the beauty of letting go. It doesn’t have to be considered morbid or morose. Instead, we can apply this concept to our inner egos and patterns of greed and pride. The idea of letting go also stresses the temporary nature of everything around us. You can do a bit of cleaning out of unwanted things. It may be a great time to physically give away excess items that no longer serve you.  Put some things on e-bay perhaps?

Autumn is a time to be thankful for what we have experienced throughout the year. It’s a time to embrace the simpler things that present themselves. It could be a warm cuddle or a child’s laugh. “I read that certain spiritual masters in Tibet used to set their teacups upside down before they went to bed each night as a reminder that all life was impermanent. And then, when they awoke each morning, they turned their teacups right side up again with the happy thought, ‘I’m still here!’ This simple gesture was a wonderful reminder to celebrate every moment of the day.”

Celebrate your harvest no matter how small and be patient through this seasonal time of transition. Balance your life and appreciate the little things in it.

Written by Michelle “Mickie” Ball, Massage therapist and Gokhale Method® Teacher 0428 223 271

An Interview with Esther Gokhale on Back Pain and more…

Interview by Molly Tynjala “Experience Life” assistant editor.

Esther Gokhale | In the ninth month of pregnancy with my first child, I experienced excruciating back pain. I had previously had back spasms doing yoga poses but returned to an active life after each episode. This time the back pain was accompanied by sciatica. I was told the pain would go away after my baby was born, but it got worse. I couldn’t lie down for more than two hours at a time. A year later, after not getting help from numerous conservative and alternative therapies, I underwent back surgery, an L5-S1 laminectomy/discectomy for a badly herniated disc. I was unable to lift or carry my baby and was advised not to have any more children. Within 12 months of the surgery, the pain returned and further surgery was recommended. At that point I decided to find my own way out of misery and began research into the causes and treatments for back pain.

That’s when I came across L’Institut d’Aplomb in Paris. Its founder, Noëlle Perez-Christiaens, questioned the explosion of back pain in industrialized cultures while people in traditional societies had virtually none. She saw that in industrialized societies we have increasingly poor posture and don’t use our bodies well, and that we can learn from traditional cultures, which retain both strength and elegance.

EL | How did you develop your Gokhale Method? What was your research and development process like?

EG| The Gokhale Method retained an anthropological base. I continued to research widely in Europe, Asia, Africa, and South America, observing healthy posture at first hand. For example, I spent days learning how to carry water on my head, seeing how the women doing it would naturally engage their “inner corset” for length and stability, protecting their spines. I asked a lot of questions and documented the body wisdom I saw with photographs and video.

Back in the United States, I practiced acupuncture and started teaching some of the postural principles to patients with back pain. And they got better! My husband, Brian, is a professor of mathematics at Stanford University, and we live on the Stanford campus. I reached out to the many physicians I knew at the Stanford medical center and other local clinics who were suffering with back and neck pain. Like many professionals, they were highly skilled but had received no training in how to stand and operate for many hours. Similarly, academics like my husband were suffering from decades of poor posture at their desks. And so word spread locally that the posture re-education I teach is a highly effective alternative to painkillers and surgery. Over time the techniques I used gelled to create the Gokhale Method.

My book, 8 Steps to a Pain-Free Back, was published in 2008. I’ve trained more than 50 teachers worldwide to provide hands-on instruction in the Gokhale Method. Our teaching team continues to discover improved ways to explain, observe, and speed up the process of transforming a student’s posture.

EL | What kind of response have you received? Is your method generally accepted?

EG | Physicians have been the strongest allies of the Gokhale Method. They appreciate its effectiveness and its logical basis. Considering the contrarian nature of our approach, we have met with surprisingly little objection. The arguments are compelling, and the techniques work — it seems the world is ready for this paradigm shift.

EL | How is the Gokhale Method different from traditional approaches to easing back pain, and how is it more effective?

EG| The Gokhale Method introduces a paradigm shift away from the conventional S-spine shape to a J-spine. A J-spine has significantly less curvature than an S-spine in both the cervical and lumbar areas. The J-spine shape is seen in ancestral populations, young children, and indigenous people, and protects the spinal discs and nerves from strain and injury. It also accommodates a healthy position for the pelvis. There is now radiological evidence supporting that a J-spine correlates with a healthy, pain-free back, whereas an S-spine correlates with back pain.

EL | Do you have pet peeves about the way back health and posture are covered?

EG | It’s striking to me that just about every popular guideline on posture is not only unhelpful but counterproductive. Here is a short list of common posture notions that I consider problematic: chest out, chin up, S-spine, tuck the pelvis, crunches for ab strength, sit up straight, stand up straight, parallel feet, lumbar support, cervical pillows. As a society, we now know that we made some errors in our notions about diet; the errors we have made in posture far exceed the errors we made in diet!

I believe that, perhaps because common advice has been ineffective, the medical profession has largely ignored posture as a measure for addressing back pain. Posture simply wasn’t being approached in a useful way. Now that the Gokhale Method has formulated an effective way of improving posture and addressing back pain, the medical profession is beginning to take note and refer patients to this method. They are doing so, but change in medical protocol takes a long time to implement. Posture needs to be recognized as an essential pillar of health, like good nutrition, exercise, work–life balance, etc.

EL | What do you hope to achieve through your work?

EG | Our mission is to make back pain rare.

EL | Can you describe some of the results you’ve seen? What excites you most?

EG | Every student and every success is exciting. The most common adjective people use in their feedback forms is “life-changing.” Our teachers feel very privileged to be able to shepherd that level of change for our students.

Since the advent of our wearable SpineTracker, we’re seeing speedier learning and better understanding, and we’re able to track and research posture changes over time. The possibilities are limitless, and we are keen to see how far we can take high tech in conjunction with high touch to support people being pain free and functional for their entire lives.

EL | Do you have any tips for improving posture and easing/preventing back pain?

EG | The most general category of recommendation would be to lengthen, strengthen, and remodel the spine so that there is plenty of room for the discs and nerves to remain healthy. I believe the most natural “playground” to make these changes is in everyday movements: Sitting, lying, standing, bending, lifting, and walking provide ample opportunity to stretch, strengthen, and reshape the body. That way, everyday life provides much of our exercise and therapy. Once good habits have been learned as a part of daily life, these same habits extrapolate to the gym.

The most important thing is to take the first step toward a life free of back pain!

Interview by Molly Tynjala “Experience Life” assistant editor.

Submitted by: Michelle “Mickie” Ball Massage therapist and Gokhale Method Teacher® 0428 223 271

Warm Weather…Get out the Push Bikes!

Ride your Bike!

I was recently visiting family back in the US. The weather was warm there and I found myself riding bikes everywhere. I don’t normally ride very much in the winter months in Tassie. Maybe it’s just me being a wimp, but I think more people tend to ride when the weather warms up. So here is a bit of advice for those looking to get their bicycles out of hibernation.

Posture is always at the forefront of my radar. Finding the correct position for your body while riding is key. I see a lot of people rounding their backs when riding. This is not going to do you any favours as it puts strain on the low back, neck and shoulders. This position held for any length of time along with riding on uneven or bumpy roads, can cause low back pain, neck pain and damage to the joints. You do not want to tuck the pelvis under you. Instead, remember to hinge from the hips with a straight back. My motto is, getting your backside out behind you lessens the tendency to round the upper body. Unless you’re racing, It’s far better to sit in a more upright position with your sit bones under you.Byicycliststraightback


Choose the appropriate Frame size: For good bicycling posture, you will need an appropriately sized bike frame that allows you to maintain a relaxed shoulder and neck position, and allows you to touch your feet to the ground from your seat. A frame that is too small can cause you to scrunch up, tuck your pelvis, and round your spine. A frame that is too large can pull your shoulders too far forward.Bike frame.jpg


Bike style: In some areas, road bikes and touring bikes—styles that require a deep bend to reach the handlebars—are very common. In other places, cruisers, hybrids, and flat-foot ‘comfort bikes’ are the norm. Pick a style that works best for you, but if you experience back pain, an upright model will likely be more comfortable and conducive to good posture.

Bike Photo 1

Seat shape and angle: On most bike seats, it’s possible to change not just the height, but the horizontal position and the tilt of the seat. Make these adjustments carefully on any bike you plan to ride regularly. A small difference in the seat position can have a big difference on your posture as well as your comfort.


My Favorite is the older “saddle” style bike seats that cradle your pelvis, distribute your weight comfortably, and promote stacking. The slightly bowl-shaped curve of these seats provides lift in the back like a wedge, but catches your from sliding forward with the projection in the front.


I hope these tips have helped. Now all you have to do is get out there and enjoy the ride!

Contributed by Michelle “Mickie” Ball – Massage therapist and Gokhale Method® Teacher and Posture Coach. PH: 0428 223 271

Winter Mood Boosters

It’s coming into winter here in Australia. But these tips work all year round. So even if it’s summer where you are, try them anyway.

Whether you embrace a cold day or grumble and hit the snooze button on your alarm for the third time, the depths of winter can result in many of us feeling low, but it doesn’t have to be that way. Winter blues are strongly linked with falling levels of the mood-boosting hormone serotonin that occur at this time of year. Here are some ideas to help boost your mood and your serotonin levels this winter:

Cultivate Gratitude: Cultivating an attitude of gratitude can benefit our lives in ways that seem truly miraculous. People who consistently practice gratitude report stronger immune systems and lower blood pressure, and research shows that gratitude increases happiness and decreases depression. You can keep a gratitude journal and add to it everyday. Tell someone you love them and how much you appreciate them. Notice the beauty in nature each day. Nurture the friendships you have, good friends don’t come along every day. Smile more often.

Dance images 11.20.18 pmYes,”Dance allows people to experience themselves in ways they didn’t know they could,” says Miriam Berger, a dance professor and dance therapist at New York University. “You can change your internal state through external movement.” Cardiac-rehab patients in a recent Italian study who enrolled in waltzing classes not only wound up with more elastic arteries, but were happier than participants who took up bicycle and treadmill training. Even watching dancing helps. MRI scans show that watching someone dance activates the same neurons that would fire if you were doing the moves yourself.

Happy Foods: We don’t just “feel better.” To feel better, we manufacture serotonin using an amino acid called tryptophan as the precursor. You can add a serotonin-boosting food at each meal: eggs, turkey, salmon, bean sprouts, asparagus, nuts and seeds, cheese, pineapple, tofu, spinach and bananas are some good ones to try. You can also eat curry Turmeric has emerged in recent years as a powerful antidepressant, in many cases equaling or even surpassing the effects of prescription antidepressants. Turmeric (or curcumin) increases brain serotonin levels.

Go out for a walk and get some sun: While too much of the sun’s warm rays can be harmful to your skin, the right balance can have lots of mood lifting benefits. If you can get yourself out for a quick 10-15 minute walk in the morning it will set the tone for a happier day. Sun and exercise both increase your serotonin levels.

Get a Massage: MassageWe’ve heard about the healing power of touch, but now research backs it up! A study conducted by the Touch Research Institutes at the University of Miami School of Medicine shows that massage increases serotonin by 28% and decreases cortisol (the stress hormone) by 31%.

Pay attention to your Posture: 68ee5e89b4e2e273aa078737af997c8fFeeling taller tricks your brain into making you feel more confident. The next time you’re feeling sad and depressed, pay close attention to your posture. According to cognitive scientists, you’ll likely be slumped over with your neck and shoulders curved forward and head looking down. While it’s true that you’re sitting this way because you’re sad, it’s also true that you’re sad because you’re sitting this way. This philosophy, known as embodied cognition, is the idea that the relationship between our mind and body runs both ways, meaning our mind influences the way our body reacts, but the form of our body also triggers our mind.

I hope you try some of these tips to help boost your mood this winter. I will be teaching a FREE Workshop on Posture in Hobart on June 1st at the West Moonah Neighbourhood House at 10amCome along and see how posture can affect your mood and relieve your pain.

Contributed by Michelle “Mickie” Ball – Massage therapist and Gokhale Method® Teacher and Posture Coach. PH: 0428 223 271