What is Limiting Your Happiness?

happinessWhen John Lennon was a young boy, his teacher asked the class to write down what they wanted to be when they grew up. Some kids said they wanted to be doctors, actors, nurses and teachers. John Lennon wrote, he wanted to be happy. When the teacher came across his answer, she said, John, “I think you misunderstood the assignment.” John responded, “I think you misunderstand life.”

Today we have more of everything than we have ever had before: more, choices; freedom; opportunities; education; more spending power; more TV’ channels; more ways of drinking a cup of coffee. The interesting thing is, that our happiness levels have not increased as a result of having more. In our striving and struggle to acquire more things, many of us have lost our true selves. So what are some things that might be blocking our happiness in our busy lives?

Here are some blocks to happiness, based on the teachings of Robert Holden, PhD. “The Happiness Project”

#1 The Pursuit of Happiness – When you are chasing happiness it becomes something outside of you like a needle in a haystack. You become so wrapped up in chasing happiness that you never really grasp it. We are living quicker than we have ever lived before. We tell ourselves we will be happy when… The longer we pursue happiness the longer the pursuit takes. In doing so, we forget how to enjoy our lives in the present moment. Children, no matter what they are going through, will choose happiness all the time. They focus on the now and not yesterday or tomorrow, and kids will find pleasure in the most mundane things. Perhaps we need to remember how this felt and choose to be happy now.

#2 Mind-Wandering. We will be happy once we find our purpose in life. Instead of living our purpose now, we’re off chasing the pot of gold and not seeing the rainbow right in front of us. When we are chasing purpose it evades us. Looking for happiness instead of living our joy. Looking for love instead of being a loving person. We put our lives on hold because we’re trying to find our happiness and purpose somewhere in the future. We’re not really living our life, we’re somewhere else. We understand that we should be living our life in the now. It’s just not the “now” now that we want. Our now is somewhere down the road. All of this adds up to something missing in our life. What is missing is YOU. You will never be happy until you stop the pursuit and get into your life.

#3 Positive thinking can mask our feelings of unhappiness. It can be your greatest strength. But, because you’re so positive, you are probably the last person to know you’re unhappy. Getting honest with your unhappiness is one of your greatest learning experiences. Meeting your sadness can help you make positive changes that need to happen. It can be a gift, even if it seems unpleasant at the time. “Happiness is the capacity to meet your sadness and handle it in a positive way.”

One of the greatest ways to find happiness is knowing what causes us to be unhappy.  At first glance most of the causes of unhappiness are outside of us. They are in the circumstances, the events or our relationships. On closer inspection we find that we are playing a part in these situations. That is what we are going to look at now. How are we limiting our own happiness? Examples: (chronic busyness, focusing on what I could have done, playing the martyr, self-neglect, holding grudges)

Fill in the Blank Exercise: Do this NOW! Get a pen and paper and complete the following sentence 5 times. “One way I’m limiting my happiness is___________.”

You now have a list, a personal inventory of how you see yourself limiting your happiness. Take that list and see what’s not working for you. Then take an action to change something. You can do this with a friend or family member. Sharing your list actually helps you release things on it more readily. Knowing what doesn’t make you happy enables you to see more clearly what does make you happy. That is a good place to start.

Michelle “Mickie” Ball Massage Therapist and Gokhale Method® Teacher – Ph: 0428 223 271 or michelle@gokhalemethod.com

 

 

 

 

 

The Value of Healthy Posture

We put value on many things in our life. Diet and exercise are considered important in today’s society to stay healthy and fit. But there is a blind spot when it comes to the importance of posture. Funnily enough it is something we use 24/7 and it gets little focused attention beyond trying to sit up straight when we catch ourselves slumping. This doesn’t last and it’s as bad for you as slumping.

What value can we put on properly aligning the organs, bones, and muscles of the body? In a nutshell, it: improves circulation and breathing; boosts the nervous system; supports organ functions; promotes muscle relaxation and stress reduction; enhances athletic performance; reduces risk of injury; and accelerates healing from injury.

Here are a few added-value tips to help you move towards healthier posture:

  • Shoulder Roll: Instead of trying to pull your shoulders back and sit up straight, try rolling one shoulder at a time into a healthier place. Starting with the right shoulder, move it a little bit forward, a bit up and then all the way back and then relax. Now do the same with the left. The shoulders will actually stay where you place them without straining the rhomboid muscles located between the shoulder blades. Value: Truly good posture does not take a lot of muscular effort and quickly becomes a comfortable habit.shoulder-roll
  • Breathe: Once you’ve gotten the shoulders where they belong, take a deep breath in. You will notice that the breath goes into the chest and expands the ribcage. Value: More oxygen to the body and to the brain.
  • Stretch-sitting helps to stretch your back while letting the chair do all of the work. Hint: You may wish to place a towel on the back of the chair to create some traction if it is slippery. 1.Start by placing your buttocks well back in a chair with feet hip width apart. 2. Now hip-hinge forward and round the upper body over slightly. This lengthens the lower back and prevents any sway you may have. 3. Keep your bottom anchored to the chair. With both hands hold onto some part of the chair (seat, sides or armrests) and push the upper body up away from the lowerstretchsitting half of the body while maintaining the forward curve. This move adds extra length to the spine. 4. Maintaining the length you’ve created, gently come back and hitch your back to the backrest of the chair and relax. You have just put your lower back into traction. Value: relaxes and lengthens the muscles in the back, brings more circulation to the spine, decompresses spinal nerves and discs.
  • Start Now: It is never too late to learn healthy posture. The more you align the body and start using the weight bearing bones that you are meant to use, the stronger these bones get. When weight-bearing bones are not used and stressed due to poor postural habits, they tend to get weaker. Value: Using the weight bearing bones helps prevent osteoporosis and osteopenia.
  • stack-sittingUn-Tuck: Tucking the pelvis as instructed by many exercise and dance instructors as well as some health professionals, goes against the natural structure of the body. When we became bi-pedal millions of years ago, the disc between our L5 & S1 vertebra evolved to be wedged shaped. Tucking can cause this disc to bulge or herniate. Also if you observe people sitting with a tucked pelvis, you will notice that their upper bodies are usually slumped with head protruding forward. Un-tuck the pelvis and watch what happens to the upper body. Value: Having a forward tipped pelvis provides the optimal position for the upper body to align itself.
  • Activity & Athletics: If you have poor posture, increased activity is not an efficient
    way to arrive at better posture and can even result in injuries instead. It is better to focus on posture in its own right, or on posture alongside increased activity. Value: Once you have good posture, you will get much more out of your activity; activity will maintain your muscles and your posture.

If you have any questions regarding your posture, contact me

Michelle Ball, Massage Therapist and GokhaleMethod® Teacher – Ph: 0428 223 271 or michelle@gokhalemethod.com

 

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Every Bone In It’s Natural Place

Every Bone Has It’s Natural Place

The particular arrangement of the human skeleton is a product of the demands of upright living and the constant force of gravity. Each bone has a natural place relative to its neighbours. As in the song “Dem Bones” by James Weldon Johnson, The foot bones connected to the ankle bone, The ankle bones connected to the leg bone, The Leg bones connected to the knee bone … and on it goes.

Our weight bearing bones need healthy stresses to keep them strong. If they are not stressed adequately enough calcium leeches from them leading to osteoporosis or osteopenia. Weight bearing exercises keep the bones strong. If the bones are misaligned and weight is distributed incorrectly, it can lead to arthritic changes in the form of bone spurs (osteophytes). Our spines, hips, knees and feet are subject to misalignment.

Foot Problems – When we went from being qudrupedal to bi-pedal beings, we developed a large heel bone to support our new upright position. The heel bone is made of cross fiber construction and can bear the weight of our bodies. The bones in the front of the foot are delicate and not meant for weight bearing. The problem is that many people now days carry their weight on the middle or front of the foot. This can lead to bunions, Morton’s neuroma, sesamoid bone fractures and planter fasciitis. Remember to keep your wknockknees2eight over your heels.

Knee Problems – Rotating the knees inwards can wreak havoc on other areas of the body. It can cause our hips to be misaligned in the socket and the feet to pronate causing instability in the ankle and the foot arches to collapse. It also directly correlates to underuse of the buttock muscles. In any case this posture can cause torn ligaments, damaged meniscus or arthritic changes in the knee. Solution- wrapping the leg muscles outwards will externally rotate the entire leg resulting in healthy alignment of the hips, knees and ankles.9-hyper-extended-knee

Another problem is locking the knees. Locked knees causes tension in the leg and poor circulation. This can lead to improper hip position which can cause it’s own set of problems. Think “soft knees.”

Hip Problems – People today often let their hips ride forward when standing or walking. This causes the natural space in between the ball of the femur and the acetabulum (hip socket) to lesson, compromising the joint and causing a bone on bone situation. Bursitis, arthritis or even the need for a hip replacement could be the result of this unhealthy stance.hips-forwardvsproperalignment

Hips pushed forward will also impede circulation by occluding the femoral arteries, veins and nerves to the legs and feet. Some situations that may result are cold feet, slower heeling of the legs, and Raynaud’s Syndrome.

Learning to align the hips over the weight bearing heel bone is key in avoiding these unpleasant scenarios.

Proper Alignment – When you look at yourself sideways in the mirror what do you see? Where are “Dem Bones?” If you are standing correctly the shoulder, hips, and ankles should be in a straight line. This tells you that you are putting healthy stresses on the right bones in the right places. Re-establishing correct posture is your ticket to preventing future problems caused by misaligned bones.

Article based on “8 Steps to a Pain-Free Back” by Esther Gokhale

Contributed By Michelle “Mickie” Ball, Massage Therapist and Gokhale Method® Teacher – 0428 223 271

For more information on current Gokhale Method® Courses in Australia go to www.gokhalemethod.com/biography/Michelle_Ball

 

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Strong Feet and Glutes Allow Me to Run Without Pain.

I had been running for years in really expensive cushioned shoes. When I was in my 30’s I developed a sharp pain in my heels. I fixed this problem with orthotics as it was a quick fix. My arches were supported and the fascia no longer got inflamed due to the shortening of the foot. Supporting the arch in my foot lessened the pull on the attachment of the Fascia to the heel bone. I ran with these orthotics in my very cushioned shoes for 20 years. Then in my mid 50’s I developed runners knee. I couldn’t run anymore, it hurt too much. So I started bike riding. I found that if I pointed my feet outwards (externally rotating the leg) when I peddled, it didn’t hurt my knees. I took this concept back to my running. I read the book “Born to Run” By Christopher McDougall. In it, I discovered that really padded running shoes gives the body a false sense of protection. When the brain doesn’t perceive danger it does nothing to protect itself from repetitive actions like running with the knees misaligned or a hard jarring heel strike as was the case for me. I switched to a mid barefoot shoe and got rid of the orthotics. I found that consciously using my feet again and having a better connection to the ground was profoundly helpful. I became very interested in posture and mechanical alignment of the body and how it correlates and affects performance.  After reading the book “8 Steps to a Pain-Free Back” by Esther Gokhale. I signed up for the Gokhale Method Foundations Course. This is where I learned to walk a line with my inner heels on that line.  This was the deal breaker for me. I found that this movement along with using my new found foot muscles and engaging my glutes helped externally rotated my leg and align my ankles, knees and hips. I am now 58 years old and I am happily running again without any knee or foot issues. Today, I just came back from a barefoot run along the beach. I haven’t had knee problems for over 2+ years now.

Conclusion: We are meant to move and run. Finding out the best way to do this is important. Our Ancestors didn’t have orthotics or marshmallow running shoes. Yet they managed to hunt and gather their food on a daily basis without all of the injuries that we incur today. Maybe our bodies are not designed to be supported with so many comfortable and corrective external objects. I believe, looking carefully at how the body is designed and relearning how to use it, is the answer.

Is Sudden Back Pain Really So Sudden?

Scenario: Imagine you are getting ready for a holiday. You’ve been planning it for a long time. You’ve spent every spare minute fantasizing about all the activities you will partake in. All the details have been meticulously prearranged and it’s now time to pack your suitcase. Your mission is to free the case from where it has been buried for far too long. You find yourself balancing on one leg and twisting slightly to get at it. Now with an unassuming tug you free it from its’ hiding spot. But wait, something’s wrong! That little tug has caused your back to go into spasm. How can such a small movement feel like someone has just stabbed you in the back? Ugh!!

OK so maybe this particular scenario has or hasn’t happened to you. But perhaps you have had the sudden onset of back pain that kept you from doing something you really wanted to do. Something like: a holiday activity; gardening; picking up your child or grandchild; maybe it kept you from going to work … All right that one may not seem so bad for a while. But it’s not so great if you can’t do anything fun either.

I am a massage therapist and I get many people coming to me with these types of scenarios. They will say, “I don’t know how it happened. I picked something up, sneezed, bent incorrectly or whatever and it just went out.” People on holiday often over-exert themselves or spend too many hours sitting poorly in a car or on an airplane. In any case it ends up with the same result, an annoying pain that keeps them from doing what it is they really wish to do.

Back pain is frustrating and can keep you from doing things you love. But I am here to tell you that it doesn’t usually just happen all of a sudden unless you’re involved an accident or something that really jars the back. According to statistics, eight out of 10 people will develop back pain at one point in their lives. And in many cases, people come down with a serious case of back pain for no apparent reason.

While it may seem to be something that strikes from out of the blue, it’s really just the straw that breaks the camel’s back. A whole syndrome of muscular imbalances precedes the movement or sneeze that triggers the back pain incident. It doesn’t take much to cause the muscle spasm to start, if for months or years those muscles have been forced to do something that they were not really designed to do.

It could be that you sit with a tucked pelvis causing the upper back to slump forward forcing spinal discs to bulge, ligaments to over stretch, and muscles in the neck and shoulders to get tense. You may stand with your hips thrust forward in front of the torso causing the weight to be disproportionate over your feet and your back to sway. Or maybe you suffer from hip imbalances because you don’t engage the gluteal muscles enough when walking or running.

Untitled-1slouchstandingWeak Glutes

These are just a few poor postural habits that come to mind. All muscles are fashioned to do a specific job. Some muscles can become tight if they continuously get used in place of muscles that are designed to carry that particular load. Also, muscles that are meant to do very specialised jobs become weak and underdeveloped when not used as they should be. Ligaments can become loose or over-stretched in both of these scenarios. This can cause the muscles to tense up and spasm in an attempt to protect the area.

In these cases, my clients ask me if massage will fix their problem. I say, “It can definitely help ease the spasming muscle and make you feel more relaxed and at ease. But unless you change your daily habits, it will rear it’s ugly head again.” Don’t get me wrong massage is a great thing…that’s why I do it. But changing your daily habits needs to also be addressed in order for real change to happen. Building greater body awareness is key. Most of us don’t pay a lot of attention to how our body is positioned in daily life.

I am a Certified Gokhale Method® Teacher. I  teach posture and alignment courses to help students prevent or relieve back pain using everyday postures like sitting, standing, bending and even sleeping. People will often laugh and try to stand up a bit straighter when I tell them what I do. They will say something like, “Oh ya, my posture is really bad.” But what they don’t understand is that their poor posture habits are the key to them having back, neck or other musculoskeletal pain in the first place. I recommend to my clients and students that they start sitting, standing and moving in ways that help lengthen the spine and strengthen the muscles of the back, deeper abdominals and gluteals. There is a lot that can be done to help prevent sudden or not so sudden back pain from messing up your plans. But you need to make some changes to your daily habits for this to happen.

I teach  Free Workshops and Gokhale Method Foundations Courses on posture and alignment. Check out my Teachers’ Page on the Gokhale website for a course near you or to request a course in your city.

Contributed by Michelle “Mickie” Ball – Massage Therapist and Gokhale Method® Teacher Ph: + 61 0428 223 271

Is Sugar the New Fat?

We were told for years by the Heart Association to cut out fat from our diet. That fat was bad for us. How many times do you see packaging on food items in the super market claiming that it is “Low Fat or Fat Free.” What does this mean for our health and our waistlines? If you look closer at the ingredients in many of these products, what makes up for the fat is added sugar. So what do we do and how do we make healthier choices.

For decades we blamed fat for making us fat. It seemed to make sense. Just cut out the fat and we’ll get skinny. So manufacturers were touting Low fat foods but slipping in extra sugar The consequences have wreaked havoc on our health and our waistlines.

The fat versus sugar debate has intensified in recent times, with more nutritionists arguing it is not fat making us obese, but sugar, in an argument that threatens to turn the dietary world upside down. Indeed those who warn sugar is the enemy claim we should be eating full-fat products and ignoring ‘diet’ labels. Some go so far as to say that while even natural honey and high-sugar fruits such as bananas and watermelon are off the table, cream, cheese, nuts and butter can be piled on aplenty.

According to Dr Mehmet Oz. Too much sugar in your diet decreases nitric oxide levels, causing blood vessels to become narrow, which causes high blood pressure and an increased risk for cardiac disease. He claims it can also lead to higher levels of Bad cholesterol, leading to heart disease. Too much sugar spikes insulin which can affect the liver, lead to obesity or diabetes.

In a study in 2012. The average Australian consumed approx. 27 teaspoons (118grms) of total sugars a day (including natural sugars) The American Heart Association says that adult women should get 5 teaspoons (20 grms) of sugar per day, adult men 9 teaspoons (36 grms), and children 3 teaspoons (12 grms). To put that in perspective, a can of soft drink alone can have as many as 40 grams, or about 10 teaspoons of sugar.

The best way to cut added sugars out of your diet is to limit processed foods as much as possible, and satisfy your sweet tooth with fruit. Hidden or added sugars in things like fruit-flavoured yogurt (19grms), low sodium pasta sauces (12grms) and granola bars (21.8grms) are very deceiving. While it’s important to avoid added sugars in processed foods, you should also limit the amount of sugar you add at the table. It’s worth mentioning that things like breads and crackers have hidden sugars in the form of refined carbohydrates. They have a high glycaemic index and can spike insulin and cause the body to store more fat.

There is also a need to examine the health risks linked to artificial sweeteners. They’re not always the healthier option. You may wish to look to natural spices and herbs to trick your tastebuds into thinking you’re eating something sinfully sweet. Try adding cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, vanilla or allspice to your coffee, cereals and baked goods. These natural alternative sweeteners may also do the trick: Honey, unlike white table sugar, honey is a complex food. One teaspoon contains 25 other compounds including proteins, amino acids and trace minerals. Stevia, a low-calorie sweetener that comes from a plant native to Paraguay and Brazil, stevia is 200 times sweeter than table sugar, so a little goes a long way.
Dr Oz says to never eat high-sugar foods by themselves. When not eaten with other substances like fat or protein, sugar consumption can cause blood sugar spikes. Pair sugars with nuts or some olive oil and bread first. This slows your stomach from emptying and will keep sugar levels stable.

So is sugar bad? If we eat lots of high-sugar foods (or drinks) that have little nutritional value it can make it much harder to stay healthy and be active. Sugar spikes your energy then depletes it just as quickly leaving us craving more sugar. It makes it very easy to consume extra kilojoules, which can lead to being overweight and this then sets the scene for other problems such as Type-2 diabetes and heart disease.

 You be the judge. Maybe consider exchanging that coke for some spring water with a twist of lemon. Try dark chocolate in moderation or some berries that are loaded with anti-oxidants. Add some healthy fats to your diet like nuts or avocados when your craving a snack… As always be well and keep trying your best.

Contributed By Michelle “Mickie” Ball – Massage Therapist and Gokhale Method® Teacher Ph: 0428 223 271

Dr’s Testimonial for Gokhale Method

I have to share this great testimonial coming from a GP in my recent Melbourne Gokhale Method Foundations Course. He encourages his patients in Australia to look at root causes of their pain and promotes healthier ways to eliminate it for good!

“One of the most difficult things all healthcare practitioners have to grapple with is the modern 1st world epidemic of chronic back and neck pain. We now realise patients have been over-prescribed strong opioid painkillers as a ‘ last gasp quick fix’ instead of trying other things first.

Esther Gokhale’s postural guidelines, which act in effect as a daily mindful ‘manual traction/posture optimisation’ approach to chronic back pain, are nothing short of a revelation. More importantly, her teachings are based on sound biomechanical, anthropological, and clinical observations that just make total sense.

Whilst Esther’s book and YouTube videos are a great introduction/primer to her techniques, the weekend ‘Foundation Course’ for those with chronic pain is strongly recommended/needed if you want to gain a deeper understanding of the key concepts.

Esther’s work in back pain is well known in the United States, with many doctors routinely directing patients to learn her teachings, but it is time her posture principles were much more widely known in Australia as something to encourage chronic back pain patients to learn.

I highly recommend attending Michelle Ball’s weekend ‘foundation course’ in Esther’s posture principles for anyone trying to manage chronic musculoskeletal back pain issues.”

Dr. Christopher Oh

GP, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia

For more information on the Gokhale Method and classes on offer in Australia visit my Teacher’s Page

Cheers Michelle

Physician, Heal Thyself

 

Gokhale Method® for a Pain-Free Back

By: Esther Gokhale listed in Positive Health Online back pain, originally published in issue 213 – April 2014

Physician, Heal Thyself

Physician heal thyselfIf you are a health and wellness professional, sitting, standing, bending and lifting likely constitute a large part of your work life. Are these positions comfortable for you or do you experience the same aches and pains that your clients seek help with? Do you have concerns about how age and time will affect your future ability to work, live and enjoy life? If so, you are not alone.

The anaesthesiologist pictured above, for example, suffers significant back pain.Back pain, at the top of the list of musculoskeletal problems, is a very democratic affliction. According to BackCare, the UK national charity for back pain, almost half the adult population of the UK (49%) report low back pain lasting for at least 24 hours in the year, and it is estimated that four out of every five adults  in industrialized countries will experience it at some stage in their life. Though back pain peaks in adults of 35 to 55 years of age, it is increasingly common among children and adolescents. Interestingly, in about 85% of all cases, no clear pathology can be identified, and conventional medical wisdom finds it very difficult to identify a single cause for lower back pain.

While it is good news is that most back pain resolves within six weeks, the not-so-good news is that such bouts often recur, developing into an ‘intermittent’ or chronic condition. No surprise then that NICE (National Institute for Health and Care Excellence) guidelines cite a report saying that 62% of people still experience pain one year after a first episode of back pain. Doctors offer symptomatic relief with anti-inflammatory and pain-killing drugs. A range of musculo-skeletal treatments are available which may get people out of trouble in the short term and also help with long-term management. However, sufferers often feel that these responses fall short of getting to the root of the problem. large number of people, having tried numerous approaches without seeing long-term results, give up on even looking for solutions and accept pain as a part of the natural course of ageing, work stresses, sedentism, or being inadequately adapted to bipedal living. These people constitute a silent contingent of the population that has downward adjusted their activities, expectations, and enjoyment of life. They don’t even show up in our statistics on pain.

Anesthesiologistpoorposture

I photographed her at work as part of my research for the Neurosurgery Grand Rounds I presented at Stanford in 1998. As she held her back and winced with pain, she remarked “I’m looking forward to when I retire and won’t have to bend anymore.” What a sad, low bar this signifies! This physician is a young woman, a well-trained medical professional, and the only way she can see herself out of pain is to wait until retirement and quit bending. Such a lacking solution and one that she will have to wait decades for. She sees no other options that hold promise on her radar.

 

For those of us living in the industrialized world the experience of musculo-skeletal pain, malfunction and joint degeneration is becoming more common. We rely increasingly on orthotics, joint replacements, disability aids and pain medication, as we become increasingly resigned to the inability of our bodies to find their own solutions. Ailments that used to be associated with old age in our culture, such as back, hip, knee, neck, shoulder and foot problems, are affecting people at an increasingly young age. In this article I would like to present some insights that, though contrarian, extend hope to those who suffer pain.

African Woman beautiful posture

Learning from the Pain-Free

I took the picture right in Burkina Faso, a country off the tourist track in sub-Saharan Africa.

 

 

 

WomenbendingAfricaThe women pictured here were collecting a chestnut-like fruit that grows under water. I had my guide halt the motorcycle and began observing this duo from afar. They stayed bent over for long periods, over 10 minutes long, coming upright only occasionally to languorously survey the landscape and then return to collecting fruit. We approached until we were close enough to begin a conversation with them, explain what I was doing, ask permission to photograph and film them, and ask my usual questions about back pain, their way of life, etc. They live with their sons, they pick water chestnuts every day for 7-9 hours, beginning around 10 am when the water is warm enough to wade in. They sell the fruit in the market so they have pocket money (their sons provide for their basic living expenses), and they wish they could sit in chairs all day. Do they have pains? Yes, by the end of the day they get sore. Does the pain stay with them? Does it travel down their legs ever? No and no. The soreness they described was what any of us might feel after using a set of muscles all day. Nothing very significant, and nothing pathological. I tried to explain to them that where I come from people sit in chairs all day and don’t have it so good…I don’t believe I got the concept across.

All around the world people from non-industrial cultures bend to wash, cook, clean and gather in much the way these two women do. They are active into old age and they do not suffer pathological pains the way we do. What’s striking about their form is not only that it is different from what do in modern industrial societies, but also that it is different from what we are taught to do. This last part is surprising. It’s one thing for us to be slack in our form; it’s another to be making efforts to head in the wrong direction.

Carpenter

 

I believe we need to take a fresh look at what constitutes ideal form and body mechanics for our species. Much of what we describe as normal is informed by the average in modern culture (a poor standard by any reckoning) and by an over-reliance on our inadequate engineering assessment of our complex frames. These are flawed approaches indeed, and account for the fact that most of the popular guidelines for improving posture are, in fact, counterproductive. ‘Chin up’, ‘chest out’, ‘tuck your pelvis’, S-shaped spine, are sure-fire ways to destroy discs, impinge spinal nerves, and wear and tear all spinal structures. I suggest that until we have a much more advanced understanding of the biomechanics of our bodies, we should approach the problem anthropologically and historically. We should use well-functioning specimens of our UbongTribesmengreatposturespecies as models, and figure out why their ways of moving make sense. In this way, I believe that we as a society could find our way back to our natural heritage of pain-free, fully functional, and beautiful bodies.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Let’s compare and contrast the posture characteristics of people in nonindustrial cultures with those most commonly found in our own modern culture.

           Non-industrial cultures            Industrial Cultures
The pelvis is anteverted at the lumbar-sacral junction, as if with your tail is behind you. The pelvis is held in a retroverted, or        tucked under position, as if with your tail tucked between your legs.
The spine is aligned in a ‘J’-shape (the bottom of the ‘J’ being a posterior sacral angle) while standing, walking and sitting. An “S” shape is considered the ideal shape for the spine..
The spine remains aligned in a ‘J’-shape while walking, sitting and bending. The spine tends to slump forward in a ‘C’ shape while sitting, standing and bending. From time to time, in a misguided effort to become upright, the spine overarches in the lumbar area.
The cervical spine (neck) remains vertically stacked over the vertebrae below, with the head centrally balanced. The neck and chin jut forward, the weight of the head held by shortened neck muscles which arch the cervical spine.
The shoulders and arms are positioned far back along the torso, with the chest open. The shoulders and arms drift forward, rounding the upper back and collapsing the chest.
The feet and legs are externally rotated by 10 – 15 °. Feet are active and arches lifted. The feet and legs are parallel or internally rotated. Arches are flat and ankles pronated.

Why Have these Postural Distortions Occurred?

Since the industrial revolution and economic migration, families have become more geographically dispersed, with parents often raising smaller families many miles away from grandparents and other extended family. This has led to a break in all sorts of cultural transmission, including the handing down of tried and tested body movement traditions. Unlike some types of learning, the kinaesthetic patterns of human movement need physical proximity and repeated visual cueing to be acquired. Traditionally, elders show the younger generation how to carry infants, who then learn how to sit, bend and walk using appropriate postural patterns that have evolved over many thousands of years. When the ancestral line is broken, the disconnected generation is more likely to be, sometimes literally, shaped by the twentieth century developments of mass media culture and mass-produced consumer goods.

The Western feel for Fashion1920fashionslouching

Probably the most significant postural shift occurred in the 1920s. A new, post–war generation redefined the ‘tall but relaxed’ traditional standing posture as stiff and passé. For the first time it became widely fashionable to tuck the pelvis and tail under and droop the shoulders forward, a position reflected in furniture such as the Mies van der Rohe chair and the ‘flapper-girl’ fashions.

Over successive generations this tucked posture has increasingly come to be viewed as normal. Open any fashion magazine or people-watch in any shopping mall, and that is what you find. Unfortunately, we even unwittingly undermine the healthy instincts that our infants are born with because of our modern misconceptions about the human form. For example, because we now think it is normal to tuck the pelvis under, you see babies slumped in car seats or held with the parent’s forearm tucking baby’s bottom under, which prevents her from naturally stacking her spine vertically. We just don’t realize we can ‘wire in’ these poor habits for our children.

Infants naturally stand with their behinds behind them.Babyperfectpostue

Modern attempts at standing with an erect posture include arching the lumbar spine in an attempt to get upright, again throwing our structure out of alignment and producing the S-shaped spine now regarded as normal. Most people in our culture will replicate these same problematic patterns in sitting, usually alternating between slumping forward and tensing the back to “sit up”. If we are unable to sit or stand well, we are also unable to walk or bend properly. Such poor patterns of posture and movement mean that the body no longer functions as a balanced and integrated whole.

 

Does Posture Really Matter that Much?

Everybody understands the correlation of good nutrition and exercise with wellbeing, but, even for many health and wellness professionals, posture does not yet feature on their radar. I regard postural health as something of a cultural blind spot and a neglected health issue that is every bit as important as diet, exercise, and emotional health.

If we recognize the body as a weight-bearing structure, then we can appreciate that poor alignment of the bones in gravity will result in forces that are not distributed where they should be. This causes excessive wear and tear in the joints, the growth of bone spurs (osteoarthritis) and impingements, bulging discs, and poor range of movement. Soft tissues around the bones, including the ligaments, fascia and muscles, will suffer corresponding stresses, typically becoming shorter and tighter on one side of the structure and over-stretched and weaker on the other.

Other common symptoms of poor alignment include RSI-type problems such as inflammation, tingling and numbness caused by constriction around nerves, and poor circulation from unnecessary muscular holding and bracing.

The Way Forward

Fortunately it is possible to unlearn our bad habits and restore our primal posture and movement patterns. My book, 8 Steps to a Pain-Free Back charts an effective and efficient way to help people restructure their bodies. The steps are logically explained and accompanied by high quality photographs and illustrations. They require no expensive equipment, or frequent, ongoing appointments. If you have classes near you, the best way to rediscover your natural posture is to take the Gokhale Method Foundation course.

 

Gokhale Method Foundation course.

 

The course can be taken individually or in small groups and consists of six 1.5 hour lessons. Taking the course brings the additional benefits of teacher demonstration, hands-on help, guided repetition by students to develop muscle memory, exercises and visualization. Teachers all have prior professional experience in a field of bodywork, therapy or medicine.

Like the book, the Foundation course communicates its points clearly with inspiring photographs. Students are encouraged to make full use of the GM website, with links to their fellow students, blogs and webinars. People often experience benefits from the very first lesson, and, having completed the Foundation course, can access local classes and on-line offerings to help maintain and build on their progress.

 

Comments:

  1. 8StepsToaPainFreeBackDr. Christine Andrew said..

I regularly give postural guidance based on this excellent book, and often recommend it to patients who are keen to support their own recovery. It clearly explains: a. what they need to do for themselves posturally to avoid back pain, and b. that it is exactly how they are sitting, bending, standing and lying in daily life that has the greatest impact on their musculo-skeletal system. I have also received very positive reports from patients who have recently chosen to take the course.

The Gokhale Method Foundation course and Free Workshops are available in various towns and cities. See http://www.gokhalemethod.com  for full details.

In Australia

Contact: Michelle Ball-Certified Gokhale Method®Teacher. Ph: 0428223271 mailto:michelle@gokhalemethod.com                              www.gokhalemethod.com/biography/Michelle_Ball