Saturday, February 20, 2010

8 Steps to a Painfree Back by Esther Gokhale

8 Steps to a Pain-Free Back: Natural Posture Solutions for Pain in the Back, Neck, Shoulder, Hip, Knee, and Foot (Remember When It Didn't Hurt)

8 Steps to a Pain Free Back is one of the most thought provoking book I have read.  Its power is twofold: first, its approach of looking a populations which have few back problems and second, its conciseness and practicality.  This book reminds me of Nutrition and Physical Degeneration by Weston Price except that Gokhale deals with teeth instead of backs.  Price was a dentist and went looking for answers about dental decay and ended up finding broadly useful information about nutrition.  Gokhale started her search looking for a way to solve her back pain and developed a broadly useful concept of posture.

The main difference between Price and Gokhale is the path they have chosen for spreading their message.  Price took a more scientific and theoretical approach in his lengthy book Nutrition and Physical Degeneration.  He went deep into the concepts behind his theory, described experiments he had conducted, and gave a lot of supporting evidence.  This book was attempting to convince medical professionals, so the housewife looking to improve her cooking would not have gotten much out of it.  Gokhale started by offering lessons teaching people correct posture and has moved from there to writing a book showing people how to teach themselves correct posture.  To my knowledge she has never written a book going into depth about her theory, discussing the different populations she has interacted with, describing her experiments, and presenting in depth case studies.  Hopefully, she will do this sometime in the future.

8 Steps to a Painfree back has a introductory chapter giving the background for the book and describing how the reader go through the lessons.  Next there are 8 chapters each describing and teaching one aspect part of correct posture.  The reader is supposed to do only one chapter a week to allow the lessons to sink in before going on to the next chapter.  Finally, there is an appendix with exercises to help learn the posture.  The 8 lessons are:
  1. Stretch sitting
  2. Stretch lying on your back
  3. Stack sitting
  4. Stretch lying on your side
  5. Using your inner corset
  6. Tall standing
  7. Hip Hinging
  8. Glide walking
The book and lessons are well thought out, but many of the concepts are still difficult to grasp.  It is hard to go from a verbal desription to a mental image of how your body should look.  It is also difficult to actually make your body carryout a process you conceive in your mind.  The large number of pictures in the book make this conceptualization as easy as possible.  When she describes a concept you will be able to look at pictures of people doing the concept correctly and people making common mistakes.  This is very helpful.

Esther's posture can be summarized by a few key points.  It takes a lot of work to actually incorporate these into how you lie, sit, stand, and move. 
  • The pelvis should be anteverted
  • The back should be straight not hunched or swayed
  • The shoulders should be back and down
  • The feet should be arched
  • The head should be upright with the chin down and neck straight
My one reservation about the Gokhale Method is glide walking.  I do not feel that glide walking is the optimal way to walk, but on the other hand I am not exactly sure where it goes wrong.  I have had trouble glide walking in snow or slick places and I feel that the ideal method of walking should work in all circumstances.