Thanks for joining us for episode 123 of The Ancestral RDs podcast. If you want to keep up with our podcasts, subscribe in iTunes and never miss an episode! Remember, please send us your question if you’d like us to answer it on the show.
Esther Gokhale who known as “The Posture Guru of Silicon Valley”. Esther is the creator of The Gokhale Method, author of 8 Steps To A Pain-Free Back, and host of the nationally televised program Back Pain: The Primal Posture Solution. She has taught her methods at companies like Google and Facebook and today she’s here to share her knowledge with us.
We’ve all heard the instruction to “stand up straight.” While the typical response is to put our chin up and chest out, this is actually the opposite of what is required for healthy posture.
Esther Gokhale is with us today to enlighten us to the postural habits cultivated by our modern culture and share with us how to relieve back pain and improve health using techniques of the Gokhale Method.
Join us today to hear Esther share what she’s learned by studying ancestral and indigenous populations, how improving posture benefits more than just physical health, and why ergonomic chairs are not the solution for those of us who sit all day at work.
If you think isolated exercises are necessary to stretch and strengthen your way to better posture, you’ll definitely want to listen as Esther explains how her techniques are integrated into everyday activities. You’ll even learn the stretchsitting technique to start improving postural health today!
Here is some of what we discussed with Esther:
- [00:03:10] What lead Esther to developing the Gokhale Method
- [00:09:01] Trends in posture Esther noticed when looking at ancestral and indigenous populations of people
- [00:11:46] The origins of the altered posture of our modern culture
- [00:15:35] Physical and psychological health benefits of improving posture
- [00:20:33] Indicators of poor posture
- [00:22:34] Esther’s take on the belief that sitting is the new standing and how to get a variety of movement for those who sit at a desk all day
- [00:26:55] A walkthrough of the stretchsitting technique
- [00:31:49] Why an ergonomic chair is a bad choice for back support and how the technique of stacksitting is helpful regardless of the type of chair
- [00:25:20] The technique of stretchlying
- [00:37:47] A description of the Gokhale Method and how the techniques are integrated into everyday activities instead of isolated exercises
- This episode is sponsored by Paleo Rehab
- 8 Steps To A Pain-Free Back
- Learn the stretchsitting and stretchlying techniques
- Gohkale Method on YouTube
Kelsey: Hi everyone! Welcome to episode 123 of The Ancestral RDs podcast. I’m Kelsey Kinney and with me as always is my cohost Laura Schoenfeld.
Laura: Hi everyone!
Kelsey: We are Registered Dietitians with a passion for ancestral health, real food nutrition, and sharing evidence-based guidance that combines science with common sense. You can find me at KelseyKinney.com, and Laura at LauraSchoenfeldRD.com.
We’ve got a great guest on our show today who’s going to share her insight into posture and the many ways it affects our health. We’re so glad Esther is joining us and we think you’ll really enjoy this episode.
Laura: If you are enjoying the show, subscribe on iTunes so that way you never miss an episode. And while you’re in iTunes, leave us a positive review so that others can discover the show as well. And remember we want to answer your question, so head over to TheAncestralRDs.com to submit a health related question we can answer or suggest a guest that you’d love for us to interview on an upcoming show.
Kelsey: Before we get into our interview, here’s a quick word from our sponsor:
This episode is brought to you by Paleo Rehab, a five week online program designed to help you recover from HPA axis dysfunction, also known as adrenal fatigue. Is your perfect Paleo diet and lifestyle leaving you exhausted? Now is the time to start feeling the health and wellness you know you deserve. If you’re sick and tired of feeling sick and tired, and are ready to take back your health, then head over to MyPaleoRehab.com to get your free 28 page e-book on the 3 step plan for healing from adrenal fatigue. That’s www.MyPaleoRehab.com.
Kelsey: Welcome back, everybody! I’m very excited to have with us today Esther Gokhale who is known as the posture guru of Silicon Valley. Esther is the creator of The Gokhale Method, author of 8 Steps To A Pain-Pree Back, and host of the nationally televised program Back Pain: The Primal Posture Solution. She has taught her methods at companies like Google and Facebook and today she’s here to share her knowledge with us.
Esther: It’s wonderful to be with you.
Kelsey: We’re super excited to have you! I know that you yourself dealt with back pain during your first pregnancy it sounds like so. Is that what kind of started this whole journey for you?
Esther: Yes. Short answer, yes. I go back earlier to discover insights, to recall observations from my childhood in India from my mixed parentage. My mom is Dutch, my father is Indian. I had to navigate different cultures all my life so I have developed resources and a bank of observations from that background.
But the first time I became aware of back pain as a problem and used those memories, and resources, and further research to help deal with it was when I was pregnant with my first child. That’s where the story begins.
Kelsey: Was that the beginning of your creating of The Gokhale Method? How did that inform what that method looks like today?
Esther: Well it didn’t start out as a method and creating a method. It started out as a solution for a very serious problem of mine. I had no method in mind. I was just desperate and in pain and trying to find a solution for it and not wanting to be a cripple for the rest of my life.
Kelsey: How severe was your back pain at that point and did you start some of this research then and started implementing some of the tactics that you figured out from your research?
Esther: The pain was extreme. I was unable to sleep for more than two hours at night without waking up with severe spasm. And then I had to sort of hobble out of bed and start walking and walk around the block outside a few times before the muscle spasm would ease enough for me to be able to go to sleep again. That was my life for a period.
I started out by exploring all the current therapies. Conservative, alternative, you name it. That included of course physical therapy, and stretches, and strengthening exercises, chiropractic, acupuncture, massage, me checking my head, Alexander Technique, Feldenkrais, all sorts of things that are currently available.
My problem was that nothing made a dent on it and I was forced to have surgery which was very counter my mindset. I didn’t do that casually, but I was really desperate. I had a large L5 S1 herniation. By the time my daughter was nearly a year old, I would have been unable to pick her up and unable to even hold a cooking pot without extreme pain. My mother in law had to come in and bail me out.
At that point I was desperate enough. I underwent surgery, gave me some relief, but within a year I had the same disc re-herniate. I had to cast an even wider net. I was being offered a second surgery but I realized that that wasn’t a solution either. That’s how I started coming to the conclusion that I need to not look for a Band-Aid solution because those don’t really work. None of them had worked for me and I need to get to the root of the problem.
It’s a combination of things that set me looking to ancestral populations, and indigenous populations, and young children it turns out who share a common architecture, a primal architecture you could say.
But before I came to that, I was studying other methods that also look to what you’re doing with your own body as a solution, and that resonated for me. It’s like it’s got to be something I’m doing. I’m only in my mid 20s. Why did this happen? It just can’t be that it’s chiropractic that I was missing. That just wasn’t a satisfying answer.
I really went on a quest. Certain techniques resonated for me and I delved into them more deeply. The common denominator was look to your own structure and what it is you’re doing against nature that is causing this problem.
Long story short, by using all the techniques that I sort of assembled and I did many, many things including search the medical literature, eventually travel around the world photographing, filming, interviewing, studying all the techniques that made any sense to me and absorbing bits and pieces that either work for empirical reasons or make sense. Finally I put something together that really made a difference for me.
I never needed that second surgery. It’s been now over 20 years. I’ve not had a backache, or a twinge, or ache, or pain. Nothing. Now I get to help other people which is really a pleasure, a privilege, and a duty really.
Kelsey: I think that’s amazing. You triggered something for me when you were talking about looking at our ancestors and looking at young children and sort of how their posture is different from ours. What are some of the trends that you noticed when you looked at those populations of people?
Esther: Well, number one they have their behinds out behind them. You figure it’s called a behind for a reason. When that part of our anatomy was given the name, people knew that it was supposed to be out behind you and not like where you sort of slink and slide and begin your steps with your hips kind of tucked in and set out in front. That’s one very striking characteristic. Their behinds are extremely muscular and they’re not going to the gym to get that. Every step is a rep. It’s just one of the things I now teach.
And also the baseline curvatures in the spine are different than what you find in modern populations and interestingly also different from what we’re taught is normal. That’s more surprising. It’s easy to accept people aren’t doing things right, but it’s a bit strange that what we’re taught to do is usually diametrically opposite to what these people are doing.
We’re taught tuck your pelvis. We’re taught S-shaped spine. I teach J-shaped spine because that’s what these populations have. We’re taught chin up, chest out and that arches the neck and arches the lower back. Those are the two most fragile areas of the spine. I teach chin angled down and rib cage not stuck out with an arch in the back.
To teach people, to train them out of these habits that have been cultivated by everyone around them…when we tell our kids to sit up straight, stand up straight, we’re basically telling them to thrust their chests out, arch their back and develop a back problem. It’s very sad.
It’s strange, but in the field of posture that is pretty uniformly the case. Even the exercises that we’re taught to do like crunches and sit ups are actually really damaging for the spine. I figure crunches are well named, they crunch your discs, they crunch your nerves and they’re terrible exercise.
Kelsey: That doesn’t sound very good. Do you think that the reason that we are taught these specific exercises and this kind of posture, did that come from an aesthetic that we now think is better than maybe we used to be standing or sitting?
I think that’s part of the reason. I think somewhere around World War 1 the flappers and so on made tucking and slumping kind of look like casual and ease. People needed a new look after all the devastation they had just been through and the fashions reflect this altered posture and associate with it with ease, casualness, modernity, the new way.
But I think it’s also that we have lost our kinesthetic traditions because we transplant ourselves and we no longer have our grandparents to model for as what is good posture. We no longer have them holding babies and assisting in the family. And now grandparents are part of that flapper era distorted posture sect, so grandparents no longer could serve that function anyway.
But at an earlier phase with all the running around that happened in modern culture, we lost that unbroken thread of wisdom, of body wisdom, and we didn’t substitute for it with a set of guidelines. Nobody tells you how to carry your baby and how to provide healthy furniture as they grow. We don’t even do it for adults. We provide ergonomic chairs that insert exaggerated lumbar curve all in the name of good posture, you’re supposed to have lumbar support, lumbar cushion. And that’s actually creating an exaggerated arch in your lumbar area.
I’ve created a lumbar support cushion that goes higher. It’s a thoracic support cushion and instead of creating curve, it actually lets you hook to it. It has little sticky knobs and you’re hooking your midback to it so that your lumbar area elongates instead of curves. So you’re stretching yourself out instead of forcing a curve there. Opposite philosophy. Easing the vertebrae apart giving more room to the disks and the spinal nerves.
It’s pretty common for people in their first lesson, we have a six lesson course that’s taught all around the world. First lesson we teach stretch sitting and they hook up either to the chair that I’ve designed which has these sticky knobs sewn into the backrest, or we have an inexpensive little cushion that you can hang from any chair and it has these sticky knobs sewn into it. In any case, you hook there and now you’re in traction.
We have so many people just say I don’t feel my psychotic pain or wow, this feels comfortable. I could sit here a long time. I haven’t been able to sit like this for more than ten minutes in a long time. We get a lot of people with back problems. That’s kind of what we targeted as our first group of people who will listen because they have pain in their face.
Kelsey: It sounds like originally, or at least the intention originally was to work with people with back pain. I’m curious to hear from you in working with people with back pain and improving their posture and obviously lessening their back pain, I want to know were there other benefits that you noticed in people’s health as they started to improve their posture that were outside of back pain?
Esther: Yes, absolutely. The most obvious and least unexpected other effects were benefits in other muscles and joints: neck pain, plantar fasciitis, bunions, hip problems, knee problems, etc.
What was perhaps less expected were physiological benefits like breathing better, asthma attacks gotten less frequent, digestion improved, irritable bowel syndrome episodes less frequent and less severe, things like that.
And then the third set of benefits was in the psychological realm. People feel more confident, they have more energy, they feel like they are a new person, they love their connection with others, things like that.
That is not totally crazy if you think about the animal world. The way we judge animals is through their posture. So as a human animal, that posture would be relevant or related to mind situation is not so crazy and there is increasingly research supporting that link.
Kelsey: You’re right because when you do think about the animal world, it’s like that’s how of course they relate to each other. That’s how they read cues and signals. So you would imagine that that probably should be true for humans as well.
Esther: And we are doing it. People notice these things. They can always name it, but my students will come back and say someone asked her if she had lost weight, and she hasn’t. Or someone asked her if she’s changed her haircut. And no, what she’s changed her posture. But we don’t read that very accurately. We just see something is different. We sense it, we respond differently. People open up to you differently. It’s been very beautiful to see these changes in students.
Kelsey: Yeah. I would think too, going back to what you said about digestion, I work a lot with people with digestive problems and I think you’ve got a really good point there. If you improve your posture, I would imagine that just all your organs kind of fit together more normally.
Kelsey: You’re not crunched in and everything.
Kelsey: So especially the digestive stuff, I would think that would make a huge difference for people.
Esther: Huge difference! The most common thing people do in modern posture, a most common error is to tuck the pelvis. This reduces your pelvic volume by I’m estimating about a third. So you’ve got twenty two feet of intestines sitting in there and all these other organs that have suddenly lost a third of the natural volume. Well that doesn’t function as well.
Esther: Not to mention that you’ve influence the blood supply and the nerve supply to all these organs. Everything gets compromised when you change your structure. Structure of course informs function. When people drop their pubic bone by relaxing the rectus abdominals instead of just tightly scrunching it up all the time, they find that oh my chronic constipation got better, and my irritable bowel syndrome got better, my periods don’t hurt so much and such.
Kelsey: That’s pretty amazing. I think you’re right. It’s like once you start to actually think about it, it’s like, yeah, that that does make sense. But I think a lot of people probably initially going into this think, at least somebody with back pain, they’re like I’m doing this from my back pain. I don’t think it’s going to do anything to any other part of my health.
For people without back pain, I think most of us probably don’t think about our posture a whole lot in terms of how it relates to our health because there’s no severe, imminent pain that we’re experiencing that makes us pay attention to it.
Esther: True. It’s only when they improve they realize it wasn’t that great before.
Esther: We’re used to the way we are. If it’s sluggish or if it’s you’re sort of living half mast, that’s all you know and it isn’t until things improve that you realize things can be a lot better.
Kelsey: Yeah. Maybe for somebody without back pain currently, what would you say to look for in terms of figuring out if your posture is not very good or if it’s doing okay? I know you mentioned the rear, talking about that’s not how we’re supposed to be. Your behind is supposed to be behind you. Anything else that you can think of that is a clear indicator that says that your posture is not very good?
Esther: Well if you find yourself having to fidget, and tossing and turning at night, and not getting restful sleep, and unable to stand in the museum for long periods, or you feel like if you aren’t exercising all the time that you don’t feel your best, you have to size to get your blood to circulate, those are pretty good signs that there’s something in your structure that is impeding the natural flow of blood even when you are sedentary. It should be that you can sit, stand, do whatever for extended periods of time. That’s one indication.
But also if you feel like there are sort of bulges or a little unsightly here and there and you are eating pretty well but you’re not satisfied with your shape, it could be structural. It could be that you have arranged your parts in such a way that certain muscles are underused, others are overused and it’s not working out all together in a pleasing functional way.
I think human beings are naturally elegant, naturally beautiful just the way cats and horses are. It’s worth really taking care of our most important art object, which is our own structure.
Kelsey: Now you just mentioned a point that you’re saying you should be able to stand, you should be able to sit, you should be able to be sedentary for long periods of time with your blood circulating well if your posture is good. So I’m curious to hear what you think about this idea that sitting is the new smoking and that it’s something terrible for our health.
Esther: Sure. It goes without saying that sitting like a lump on a log eight hours a day or more behind a computer is not a great recipe for health. It’s natural to change it up. You want to sit, stand, move around to some extent. But sometimes we need to sit. You’re on a long journey or you’re an Inuit seal hunter and you can’t be moving around and scaring away that seal through the air vibrations and whatever.
And so you want to be able to do all those things. That doesn’t mean that’s what you want and choose to do every day all day. So change it up is a much better way to live your life. You sit, you stand, you walk all with good posture, and not because you have to escape the bad nature of sitting, or standing, or staying still. Because you also have these sayings like the next position is the best position and that’s really a big copout, like every position is so bad you have to be running away from it all the time.
I think the opposite is true. Each position is wonderful for you if you do it well, if you do it in moderation. You want to be able to do it for extended periods of time without choosing to do that all the time like as part of your sort of daily habit.
Kelsey: Right. So it’s more like do your normal type movements. You don’t need to do anything special to take care of your body necessarily. Like you were saying, you don’t need to be doing all sorts of exercise and necessarily have a healthy body but you need to do the things that we are naturally meant to do; so sitting, standing, lying down in a way that supports good posture.
Esther: True, but most people in modern lifestyles don’t have very much variety in their work situations for example. A lot of people have to be behind a computer for eight hours or more. So yes, then you want a sit/stand desk, you want to get up, go get water, and so on. But even that isn’t very much variety.
What I recommend is in that case you supplement according to what your job is. You supplement appropriately so you’re getting a little bit of moving your heart fast, of stretching beyond where you would otherwise stretch just sitting at a desk or reaching for a file cabinet.
You want to sometimes be running away from something or be running after something. If you don’t have that anymore, which is most of us, then do it in a pretend fashion, maybe sprints and weights. Sometimes you want to be lugging an animal home. Well we don’t do that very much anymore and so instead we got weights in a gym, or kettlebells, or you take up some arduous sport, or you have gardening as a passion, something so that you’re pushing yourself in various ways throughout your routine.
Kelsey: Got it. Variety is key it sounds like. We always talk about on our podcast that variety in your diet is key, but it sounds like variety in movement is also key.
Esther: Very much so, and pushing a little bit in different ways is also important I think. You don’t want your scope diminishing as you age, so it’s important to stretch, to strengthen, to go fast, things like that to keep that all from shrinking on you.
Kelsey: Right, makes perfect sense now. If somebody has identified that they don’t have good posture right now, and I’ll throw myself into that category I think. I probably don’t have the greatest posture that I probably could. What are some of the next steps that they can take just like if they’re not maybe necessarily ready to jump into your course quite yet? What is what are some things, some techniques maybe that they could just use at home to just sort of start sitting and standing better?
Esther: I have a lot of free services. There are videos on YouTube. We do a free online presentation that is one hour that is very content rich. It teaches people to stretch, sit, to roll their shoulders back. That’s a good one and I can teach that now if you’d like, although I always like it to be visual as well.
Kelsey: Yeah, I think the visual part is probably a great aspect of it I would think, but we can maybe talk about some pieces of that.
Esther: We can. Stretch sitting is easy to describe. So instead of just sitting against your back rest for example when you’re driving your car, you could be stretch sitting. You could use the backrest like a little traction device. For that I did create the Stretchsit Cushion, but you could also just put a towel back there in your midback. If you have a fabric chair it won’t slide, or at least not too much. It should be a towel that has some friction.
And then you want to lengthen your back, and that does require a technique. You first come away from the towel and then you kind of curve your upper body forward in such a way that you undoing any sway you might have in the low back and flattening and lengthening that area out.
And then in addition, you use your arms to kind of push your hands on the seat maybe to push the top of you away from the bottom of you. So your bottom stays in the chair and then you’re elongating the back of you the back and then attaching the back to the towel, or the Stretchsit Cushion, or whatever you have that has friction. They are behind you and now you feel a very nice boost.
The Stretchsit Cushion or the towel is elongating your lumbar spine and it feels really nice and it makes it a pleasure to drive, or sit watching a TV, or just sitting at a computer desk. If your back is getting a nice stretch as you work, it’s a pleasant feeling and it’s also very therapeutic.
Kelsey: I’m sort of like trying to do that as you’re talking through without a towel. But I would imagine that that is kind of stretching the lower portion of your back. Is that correct?
Esther: Exactly. And if you stretch the lower, then the upper part will position better because whatever excess curve you have in your low back gets reflected as kyphosis or a hunch in your upper back, and then your neck is obliged to have an excessive lordosis or concave curve.
All of those excessive curves do mischief on your discs and nerves and such. All these spinal nerves need room and they need gaps between the vertebrae. If the vertebrae are all kind of curving around, then there’s less room and things can get pinched. And that’s no fun at all.
Kelsey: Right. I mean that sounds incredibly easy and it sounds like it makes a huge difference. That’s a great way for people to get started. I’m thinking I’ve got to start doing that right when we get off the call.
Esther: You hit it on the head. It’s not necessarily easy. It is very simple and it’s one of the easier things we teach, but it’s still nuanced because people will misinterpret length because we’re taught so repeatedly that length means stick your chest out. If you think about it, that’s actually shortening your back, shortening your low back. But it’s still what we’re conditioned to do.
It’s very common for people as they’re trying to lengthen their lumbar area to somewhere along the series of steps that I describe to stick out their chest and then lose the length that they just created. You really want to be curving forward and thinking about your lumbar spine kind of hooking your back up against the backrest like it’s a picture hanging from a wall and then getting that nice comfortable stretch.
Kelsey: Got it. For many of us who do sit eight hours a day at a desk, when it comes to chairs do you feel like there’s a special sort of chair that people should be get? Or do you think it’s just a straight back and then adding that towel, or cushion, or whatever you want to help you do that stretchsitting? Is there anything we need to keep in mind?
Esther: Yes. If you know the technique I call stacksitting, which is much more nuanced and not a good one for me to just lead people through on a on a podcast, but when you do know how to stacksit which involves placing your pelvis just right and then letting the vertebrae stack effortlessly on top, then it’s very versatile. You can sit on a rock, you can sit on a stump. And if you get your pelvis situated well, then you’re home.
It needs a few other things. You need to externally rotate your legs, you need to have your shoulders rolled into position and your neck transported back in place, etc. etc., and you need to have relaxed muscles in the low back for example, which is why I like to start people with stretchsitting. Because if they’ve got all these curvy-wurvy stuff going on in their spine, then you don’t get to stack no matter how well your pelvis is positioned.
Assuming you’ve done your homework and you’ve stretch stretched out all of your low back muscles both with stretchsitting and stretchlying because there you’ve got eight hours a day to capture, to improve your back. That is a very low hanging juicy fruit that I love for people to understand how to pick and avail themselves of. But assuming you’ve done all of that and your back is all nice and stretchy and able to stack, then stacksitting requires nothing.
Kelsey: Got it.
Esther: It doesn’t matter what the chair is. Almost any chair will work. But it’s not fun to sit that way for hours and hours. It’s nice to change it up and stretchsitting is very nice. Then you have to have something behind your back to stretch up against because most chair backs won’t work. So I like to change it up.
Ergonomic chairs do the worst job of supporting you well because they tend to have exaggerated lumbar support. The one that’s kind of won the cool race is Herman Miller’s Aeron and that’s my least favorite chair of all because it has mesh at the bottom and behind. Behind it gives you no purpose. Even with the Stretchsit Cushion it’s a little hard to get that stretch.
And then at the bottom what it does for your legs is the same thing that umbrella strollers do for a baby’s legs which is turn them inwards because you have a sagging mesh. That is the worst position for the legs to be in. You want your legs externally rotated so your pelvis has room to settle between the legs and is not impeded from this position because of the legs.
A lot of chairs are not great. The moment they try to support, they do some opposite stuff because we got the wrong philosophy.
Kelsey: I see. Okay, makes sense. You had mentioned stretchlying is another nice low hanging juicy fruit. Could you explain that term to our listeners?
Esther: Sure. The idea is that instead of just lying plunking yourself down on your bed, which will then carefully maintain all that tightness that you’ve been cultivating all day long, what you want to do is reset all that tightness. You use your elbows to dig in and as you lay your spine down going from the bottom up bit by bit, so chunk by chunk, you want to introduce extra length. You’re sort of stretching yourself out as you unroll yourself onto your bed.
And this doesn’t require any extra equipment. The bed becomes your traction device. Whatever mischief you did during the day, tightening too much, aligning poorly, whatever, at night you could reset all that.
There are different ways to do it on your side and on your back, I have all of this very well illustrated in my book which is extremely inexpensive.
Kelsey: Yeah. We’ll link to your book.
Esther: 8 Steps To A Pain-Free Back. It’s available wherever books are sold and it has eleven hundred images and takes you step by step to all these techniques because they have little nuances. But with the illustrations people learn stretchlying and stretchsitting pretty well on average. And then beyond that, a coach is very useful.
Kelsey: Right. The stretchsitting and the stretchlying, it sounds like those are the basics. And then beyond that, you kind of need somebody to be hands on with you and tell you where there are some issues. Right?
Esther: Yeah. It’s like learning to play tennis from a book. You’re only going to get so far and that’s not very far. You need someone who really knows what they’re doing to guide you; No, no, this is not the correct way, or more on this side, or push here and there, and so on.
Kelsey: Tell us a little bit more about your method that you’ve created and sort of how that works if somebody wants to get into that.
Esther: It’s step by step and the way it’s designed is that the earlier steps give a lot of bang for the buck. Little effort, hours of results and makes a real difference so people feel encouraged to proceed. They are excited like I got rid of 10 years of sciatic pain last night. That’s pretty exciting and it happens often.
So first length, that’s the first project, and then appropriate strength. Like in the abdomen for example it’s not the rectus you want. It’s not crunches and sit ups you want to do, but it’s the three deeper layers of the abdominal muscles you want to strengthen so you become slenderer, taller, and more protected for whatever activities you are taking on. And then glute strength is very important and foot strength is very important.
With all our techniques we’re teaching people how to do this not in exercises that take them out of their lives but rather integrated into their lives. It doesn’t take any longer to walk well than walk poorly. Every step that you take in walking should be a glute strengthening exercise and a foot strengthening exercise because you are grabbing the floor. Even if you wear shoes you can do the same technique of grabbing the floor and pushing the ground behind you in order to go forward.
We teach all these strengthening things and then we teach people how to reshape their spine, how to get their behinds out behind safely, how to do all these other reshaping of the spine. And then we teach them how to preserve their new length, and strength, and shape in movement while they’re bending.
Bending looks very different from how modern people do it and also very different from what we’re taught to do, which is bend with the knees. If you look at the professional benders in the world, they’re not bending with their knees, they’re doing something quite different and that’s what we teach.
Kelsey: Interesting. Got it. I really appreciate that about your method in that you don’t have all these exercises that you have people do. I was in a car accident about two months ago and I’m going to physical therapy and everything. Even though I know that it’s very important to do these exercises, we get caught up in life and sometimes it’s hard to keep up with those things.
I can imagine that if I was being taught things that would just keep me aware of my posture and like telling me things that I can change about the way that I’m just walking, or standing, or sitting in my everyday life, that I could do a lot more often obviously than having prescribed exercises that I have to do a certain amount of times per day. So I really appreciate it.
Esther: I think exercises have great use, but very limited use. It can get you to a threshold length or strength and accelerate the process of you being longer and the hamstrings, stronger in the back, whatever.
But if you’re using an everyday thing you’re doing anyway, and it’s not by doing it in some contrived way but learning how to do it in a natural way, and you get that exercise covered… like I hip hinge to load my dishwasher and I am so covered for a hamstring stretches. I don’t need to be pulling a band and pulling my leg up into the air, even though that is something we teach our people who are super stiff just to get it going.
But the expectation is they’ll do it very limited amount of time because pretty soon their technique of bending is their hamstring stretch and their technique of walking is their glute strengthening exercise. And then they’re not getting 30 reps or 40 reps, they’re getting like 5000 reps. No matter how conscientious you are, you can’t match that with an exercise routine.
Esther: It’s just so obviously a better an approach to use your everyday life, everyday activities when and where possible. And it’s very possible to cover most exercise if you move around at all. If you’re walking and bending and you’re at all active, you’re covered for most stretches and strengthening exercises if you do it well.
Kelsey: What I’m going to do is I’m going to link to the stretchsitting video that you mentioned and I’m going to link to your book so that people can learn how to do the stretchsitting and also the stretchlying and kind of get those other tasks to get there. We’ll link to your website as well. But is there anywhere else that people can find you and your information online?
Esther: I’ve done a lot of talks and if you just look up my name you’ll find all kinds of things under video. We have a channel on YouTube and on our website we have a video section on the main menu and you can find oodles of stuff. We’re very generous with our information.
If we could do it all in all over the net, we would have done it. But the truth is there comes a point where it’s like you cannot learn this well just on the internet. And so that’s the point we invite people to come to our classes which are extremely low priced, reasonably priced for what they’re getting. That’s a point we hope to bring everyone to because we want to see back pain be rare on the planet and we totally think that that’s possible. Thank you for getting the word out.
Kelsey: Absolutely, my pleasure. I think this is really important. You’ve inspired me to think more about my own posture.
Kelsey: It’s something that I think you’re totally right about in that like just the way that we see people standing and sitting currently is probably very different from what our ancestors did or even people probably 100 years ago were sitting and standing.
Kelsey: It’s so important to realize, be aware of it first of all and then take steps to correct that. I’m very grateful for the work that you’ve done and are doing. We’ll link to everything we talked about today so people can get started on their own. And then if they do want to take a class, I assume they’re able to find a local class for them on your website as well, correct?
Esther: Yes. They just type in their zip code and they can see everything that we have. We also have a newsletter that sends invitations to our online videos. That’s a good one to sign up for, no spam.
Kelsey: Excellent! Perfect. Well thank you so much for being here, Esther. I think this is all amazing and it was really great to talk to you about this stuff.
Esther: Thank you so much!