We have all had it at some point. When something suddenly makes sense and falls into place.My “Ah Ha” moment hit in 2013 when I found Esther Gokhale’s “8 Steps to a Pain-Free Back”. Before I start explaining how this book is the best thing that could happen to you, let me jump back to 2004, when I was 14 years old.
I injured myself quite badly when I was attempting a Birani at my trampolining club and my life went pear shaped very quickly from there. I over rotated and didn’t get enough height which caused me to fly off the trampoline in a diagonal trajectory, hitting the wall and landing on my back on a basketball court completely missing the crash mat.
This one moment ended up ruining my chance at the ‘normal’ teenage experience. I was bed ridden for months, couldn’t support my own weight and ended up isolated from the friends that I had only just made at my first Australian school.
At that point, I knew I was in trouble, but I didn’t know that I would suffer from severe back spasms for the next 10 years of my life.
I find pain a difficult thing to describe because it is relative to the person experiencing it and their tolerance but I got pretty good at explaining it to doctors, surgeons and alternative therapists so I’ll attempt to explain it to you here.
Feel your lower back right now and those two dimples at your lower back. Give them a wee push and you can feel the edge of your sacrum and pelvis. It might be a little tender? Well, imagine somebody with a big ass needle shoving it into that spot and then wriggling it around as roughly as they could. The pain is unimaginable and I hope to hell I never get another one in my life. The spasms would cause the nerves in my legs to go crazy, which would cause me to buckle and hit the deck. I wouldn’t be able to pick myself up until the spasm had passed. I’ll never forget the night my dad had to pick his 20 year old daughter off of the floor and carry her to her bed. I just couldn’t walk. It is like being electrocuted. Nerves firing off left, right and centre and the complete inability to control your body’s knee jerk reaction.
Not only is the spasm itself unbearable, but spasms actually damage your soft tissue and nerves. My recovery time after a spasm often raged from 2 days to 2 weeks depending on the severity. Being a high school and uni student at this time was a nightmare and I have missed out on a lot of things in life that most of my peers took for granted.
I tried physio, chiro, osteopathy, kinesiology, acupuncture, 2 orthopaedic surgeons, attended a 2 week pain management course run by the Wesley Private Hospital and received painful injections into my spine every fortnight. I tried it all and none of it worked or only provided temporary relief from pain. 7 years of searching with no results. The below was taken in Singapore airport on the way home from visiting Scotland. I was broken – and still had a 13 hour flight to go.
The Ah-Ha Part
Ok, so here is the good bit – where my “Ah Ha” moment finally comes on the scene. I had given up hope in getting back to life without having back pain when my mum came across this book at http://gokhalemethod.com/. I had absolutely nothing to lose at this point so I humoured her for once, read the book and tried to half-heartedly adjust my posture based on the diagrams. It didn’t take long for me to realise that this was gold – the secret to cracking the posture and pain crisis (yes, mum… you were right).
The book is very basic and the imagery is slightly dated but its message is powerful. If you can get over your own snobbery /visual expectations, actually look at what the images are showing you and understand the story, this $12 book will relieve you of your pain, prevent you from future injury and will make people double take at how graceful you are.
No matter how beautiful your clothes are – you will look awful if you have poor posture. So even if you are blessed and don’t have back pain right now, this book will still add value to your life. It will also save you from suffering from pain later in life.
Esther developed the Gokhale Method (pronounced ‘go-clay’. Took me years to realise I had been pronouncing it wrong the entire time so let me save you the embarrassment with that one) because she also suffered from chronic back pain.
Through her studies in underdeveloped countries and cultures, she realised that back pain is a modern, first-world medical issue. Cultures where men are out in the crop fields day in day out are unaffected by back pain. Families who sleep on the floor 365 days of the year are unaffected by back pain. Women who walk miles each day to fetch water with a child strapped to their back are unaffected by back pain.
This is one of the images from her book. On the left is a photocopy from a medical textbook from the early 1900’s and on the right is a ‘modern’ spine which is used by the medical profession today. Notice how we have altered the shape of our spine? Is 100 years long enough to put it all down to evolution? Or is something else to blame?
Our chairs, cars, beds and media have changed our perception of ‘normal’ and Esther realised this by visiting countries which remain untouched by the western curse. We used to sit on logs and on the floor, kings sat on wooden, backless, benches when ruling their kingdoms for hours and we slept on the floor or on questionable mattresses as early as 50 years ago. What has changed to cause back pain to become such an epidemic? Our furniture! Go into any shop and look at the chairs. Nearly all of them have ‘built in lumbar support’ which effectively forces your spine to look like the image on the right. Mattresses are built to be soft and comfortable, but again, force your spine to resemble the image on the right. This over extension causes your disks to ‘pinch’.
Throughout her book, Esther draws many more striking correlations between how we used to function before we became an “elite” race and how we function now as a highly affected Westernised culture. She then provides easy to follow step-by-step guidance on how to correct your posture.
The book alone was enough me to make changes to my postural habits however I contacted Esther in to see whether there were any classes in Australia. I wanted to learn more. Every page in her book just made sense to me and I could find myself becoming passionate about the method.
Success! One of Esther’s teachers was visiting Adelaide I was able to meet with her for a few hours one weekend in 2013 (after flying from Queensland and having to book 3 nights accommodation) and I have never looked back since. Within 2 intense days, I learnt how to listen to my body and ‘reset’ my posture, undo 22 years of bad habits and start to see a future that I was actually going to be able to participate in.
The point of this post is to share with you the power of the Gokhale Method and to let all of my fellow Aussies know that we now have a certified teacher based in Tasmania. (Here is a link to her teachers’ page) – http://www.gokhalemethod.com/biography/Michelle_Ball
In April this year my former teacher returned to Australia and I was asked to attend a weekend workshop in my capacity as an assistant. During the workshop I realised that I had been successful in changing my habits. I saw the evidence that this book works.
No frills. No gimmicks. Just results.
I don’t consciously think about my posture anymore – I just do it. It’s natural. It has been 3 years since I met with Cheri and it only took two 4 hour classes to give me three years of pain free living. I have since started a 9 to 5 job where I am chained to my desk each day and I don’t suffer from pain because of the “stack sitting” method taught in Esther’s book (I don’t use the back of the chair – ever. For the entire 8 hours I am at work). Back in the day, I couldn’t sit for more than 15 minutes even if I was heavily medicated.
I could talk about how amazing the methods taught in Esther’s book are but unfortunately today’s society wants the temporary “quick fix” offered by chiropractors or a magic surgery which will fix their problems without having to expel too much energy, effort or commitment. All I can do is share my personal experience and hope that this is enough to at least make you look into it further.
Think of your posture as an investment in your future. I don’t see how investing in your health for a sure win is any different to dropping a grand on that horse who has the odds in its favour but I am finding that that more I share the success of this book, the more people dismiss it and put it in the ‘too hard’ basket.
This is extremely frustrating for me as an advocate of the Gokhale Method but I can only spread the word – the rest is on you.
Check it out. It may just be the best decision you ever make.