I spent all last weekend taking the foundations course in the Gokhale (“go-clay”) Method. You may remember when I last spoke about this technique founded by an acupuncturist in the 1990s who, after experiencing crippling back pain and unsuccessful back surgeries, noticed how in some indiginous cultures (Kenya and Burkina in Africa; parts of India and Asia; Portugal; etc.) there are almost no (roughly 5 – 7% reported) incidence of back problems, whereas in the US, approximately 85% of US adults report back pain at some point in their lives. NPR recently did an expose on Esther Gokhale and her techniques.
I wanted to share some of my insights from the class, and also to offer my services. There is no way to learn how to prevent back, shoulder, neck, hip, knee and foot pain through this technique without the kinesthetic experience of doing it. It would be like reading about how to exercise and then expecting 6-pack abs to show up when you’re done with the book.
There are 2 ways of sitting, depending on the chair and your personal preference: stacksitting and stretchsitting (see photos). The idea is that you should be able to sit a lot – say you have a desk job – without pain IF you’re sitting correctly.
Notice first your feet. they should touch the ground comfortably. If not, use a bolster (rolled up blanket or towel is enough) or stool. Your heels should root into the ground at a slight angle, about 10 – 15%. This is a naturally comfortable position for your feet and will help prevent foot problems like bunions, fallen arches, and plantar faciitis. Your knees and hips will then externally rotate. It is not very lady-like, but don’t worry about that for now. We first need to create a good foundation of open hips and pelvis. When your hips are more flexible which they will be through this training, then you can cross your legs and still keep a good foundation.
The most important part of good posture is all about your butt. Your behind should be behind you. Many of us are in the bad habit of tucking our tails under. Do not do this ever. There is a disc in your lower back between L5 and S1 shaped like a wedge. When you tuck your tail, this wedge becomes compressed and can bulge or herniate or press on your sciatic nerve.
Scooch your bottom as far back into your chair as you can. You may even grab the flesh of your cheeks and pull them out behind you. If you’re sitting near the front of your chair or on the ground, you may want to use a bolster or rolled up towel on the back of the chair to angle your glutes up and back easier.
Now, to avoid becoming over arched in your back, we need to tuck in and anchor your ribs. Place your fists on your ribs and roll your body over them. For now, just hunch on over to get the sensation of your ribs going in and not out. Now, keep that sensation and bring your body back up. You either anchor your back on the back of your chair or pillows OR you stack your spine up straight.
CHECK: use your hands to feel the muscles on either side of your lower spine. Do they feel tight and ropey? Stick your ribs out and check. Now bring your ribs in. Now they should feel relaxed. This is a good way to check if your ribs are properly anchored. Your lower back should feel very loose and relaxed. If not, pretend to slump. If your pelvis is tipped in the right direction, you will not slump all the way, but your ribs will come in.
The last 2 parts we need to look at are your shoulders and neck.
One at a time, rotate your shoulders first forward, then a little up, and then a lot down and back. This will open the chest and create
room to breathe deeply. When you’re working, focus on keeping this feeling in your shoulders. Resist the temptation to lean your shoulders in to work. Just scoot your chair closer to your work or your steering wheel.
Your neck should be straight and long through the back. If you look at a properly aligned neck from the side, there is a slight downward angle from the middle of the ear to the tip of the nose. You may even use your fingers to push your chin in. Avoid “tech neck” where you jut your chin out. Angle your computer screen or work to where you look straight out or even slightly down. Goodbye headaches and neck pain.
Next time, I’ll talk in detail about tall-standing; glide-walking; hip-hinging (using the “inner corset”); and then laying down.
If you’d like to schedule a private consultation with me about posture, please email or give us a call. It may be covered by your insurance or as part of your ongoing treatment plan; just ask.