Gokhale Method Review: Posture and Movement Education

 

This hub is about my experience with the Gokhale Method of posture and movement education. I found Gokhale Method in my search to solve my problem of chronic pain, but this information would benefit anyone interested in taking good care of their body. The viewpoint is unique: Esther Gokhale brings a historical and anthropological approach to the question of body mechanics. Her book and class are filled with photos of ancient art depicting the human body, preindustrial tribesman at manual labor, and black and white photos of 19th century Americans. Her thesis: modern Americans manage their bodies in ways that will increase pain, while the ancients and preindustrial people use their bodies in ways that minimize pain and damage.

 

I consider the Gokhale Method the most helpful treatment of all I tried during my chronic pain journey. Did it get rid of my pain completely? No. But Gokhale method improved my pain situation. In the end no treatment brought enough relief for me to function in my daily life, and currently I control the pain with prescription medication. (I've written another hub about that decision.)

What the Gokhale Method did accomplish was to make me comfortable in my body for the first time in a long time. That is an invaluable gift. At my physical last week I measured a half inch taller than in the past, and I attribute this to the education in posture and movement I received from Gokhale’s book and class. (And I guess I should say, applying what I learned pretty much continuously.) I believe this education has given me the tools to avoid a second ruptured disc. I also think if I had had this information 20 years ago I would not be in this situation with chronic pain now.

A newsclip about the Gokhale Method

How the Gokhale Method was developed

Esther Gokhale, an American biochemist, ruptured a disc in her low back during the ninth month of her first pregnancy. She was in her late twenties, and had been athletic, with gymnastics and yoga to her credit. The pain was excruciating, and pregnancy prevented taking painkillers. After delivery, holding and carrying the baby caused intense pain, which did not lessen with time. Esther decided to study back pain and made an interesting discovery: 80% of Americans experience back pain during their lives, but there are cultures where back pain is virtually unknown. Esther set out to learn why entire cultures do not experience a health problem which is epidemic in the US.

Esther traveled to Africa, Brazil and rural Portugal to study both manual laborers and sedentary people who report no back pain. Her conclusion: back pain (also other problems like knee pain and shoulder issues) is the result of posture and body mechanics. The way pain free cultures sit, stand, walk and lift differs from the way 20th century Americans perform these functions, and that difference leads directly to the back pain epidemic of the modern world. Interestingly, the posture and movement of 19th and early 20th century Americans closely resembles the rural Africans and Portuguese Gokhale studied (she demonstrates this with numerous photographs). I had wondered myself when I kept reading news articles about how chronic pain was becoming widespread in the US, with even teenagers now reporting back problems in increasing numbers.

Gokhale’s research makes sense, and best of all shows that chronic pain can be mitigated by changing how one uses one’s body. Gokhale solved her own pain problem by applying her research to herself. Today, nearly 30 years after her ruptured disc, she is pain free. Though she had been told by doctors she could never manage another pregnancy, she became and remained pain free, and gave birth to two more babies.

Ways to learn the Gokhale Method

I discovered the Gokhale Method in her book 8 Steps To A Pain Free Back. The book is excellent, and for the $16.47 price tag through Amazon I can’t think of any purchase more worthwhile for the health of literally anyone, pain sufferer or pain free, young or old. If you are interested in anthropology or anatomy the book might be interesting to you just on that level. First the book lays out the theory behind the method, and then gives lessons in how to sit, lay, stand and walk. Each lesson breaks down the new posture or movement into many steps, with plenty of illustrations.

There are also classes. The basic class covering the whole method is 6 sessions of 90 minutes, at a cost of $450. Esther’s home studio is in Palo Alto, CA, but she regularly travels around the country. For a list of available classes in US and international locations see the website http://egwellness.com/

Esther also offers teacher certification in her method, online classes, and a class for teens.

 ...to view your species as a failure on a physical level is profoundly demoralizing.

Source

Mental benefits of the Method

This method gave me back my confidence in the design of the human body, a confidence severely shaken by personal experience and also by the number of other chronic pain sufferers I met. One neurologist I consulted told me "the human spine is designed for failure." To believe yourself a sick or injured individual is one thing: to view your species as a failure on a physical level is profoundly demoralizing. Esther Gokhale’s research convinced me that the human body is naturally strong and pain free if managed correctly. I will benefit for the rest of my life from what I learned, and recommend this education to everyone who is interested in maintaining good health.

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Comments 16 comments

Andrea 5 years ago

The basic class covering the whole method is 6 sessions of 90 minutes, at a cost of $450 (not $600).


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graceomalley 5 years ago Author

Thanks Andrea! I changed the above. The class felt like it was worth more than $450 :)


RTalloni profile image

RTalloni 5 years ago from the short journey

This sounds excellent! Very much looking forward to checking into this. "applying what I learned pretty much continuously" is probably a big factor and it sounds like her research could be quite motivating. Great vids. Voted up!


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graceomalley 5 years ago Author

Thank you for the vote RTalloni, I am a great advocate of Esther's work!


David 4 years ago

So far I found the book beautiful but impossible to use on my own, so then I signed up for a class and it was actually quite difficult physically and I developed some back pain that I hadn't had before.


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graceomalley 4 years ago Author

David - I'm so sorry to hear that. The body is so complex. One never knows what will work ultimately.


David 4 years ago

I accidentally hit enter before I had finished my comment. I did not have a serious injury but the class was difficult physically and stirred up things in my back where I hadn't been having problems. My only point was to caution that her method is both complex and demanding. It is not easy or a panacea. I may still benefit from learning about it.


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graceomalley 4 years ago Author

I agree, it's not a panacea. For me it has been a useful thing to have in the toolbox, both physically and mentally. Pain has become an epidemic and I think there are many pieces to the puzzle. Body mechanics are one, but so is nutrician, environmental toxins, depleted soil, the stresses of globalization, social isolation, demands of computer use, ect.


aqua 4 years ago

Its says something that not only did it not heal your back pain- its also $450 a class!

These are not complicated movements to teach nor is there many of them.

They are postural movements that Esther purloined of others without credit and ruthlessly promotes at a very high price as her own 'method' and then exploits people who are desperate and in a lot of pain-

It may or may not help people -but even if it does-nothing justifies such prices or such unrelenting self promotion for what is essentially very simple and not of her research or hard work -

Even just considering the handful of photos she keeps recycling at any opportuity should make your alarm bells go off-you must have enough life experience to have observed the 10000 upon 10000s of 'healers' with their own 'TMarked methods' that all follow the same essential narrative, and invariably invoke ancient traditions/natural natives.

I can assure you if common sense doesn't do it for you -that in even one hour of googling pictures of people from the same cultures as Esthers pictures, i came up with hundreds of shots of people with 'bad' posture.

I say all this because I care deeply about alternative health and Im so sickened by the tsunami of frauds, quacks and just downright, lazy, greedy, ego freaks out there, exploiting desperate people.

Genuine healers DO NOT charge a fortune, DO NOT appropriate other peoples research and DO NOT call it things like 'The GOKHALE METHOD' TM- by the way just out of interest the TM is utterly meaningless, it has no legal binding like for instance a copywrite

-but it does look self important and gives an image of respectability and credibility to the unwary.


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graceomalley 4 years ago Author

Aqua- I'm unaware that Esther has used the research of others - do you know whose research? It is true that her method did not solve my pain problem - but no other method did either, and i tried lots of them. Compared to the amounts i spent on chiropractic, accupuncture, vitamins, physical therapy, massage, surgery, bodywork, ect, the $450 price tag was quite reasonable. I do think i was helped by what i learned in the class. I feel more comfortable and confident in my body now.

But it sounds like you had a bad experience, and no one thing works for everyone. And i am with you that using anyone else's research is very wrong.


Grace Rollins 3 years ago

This is a response to Aqua-- it surprised me to see such passionately negative comments about Esther Gokhale, who is a wonderful person, teacher and healer! My experience as an acupuncturist who recommends her book to my patients, and as someone who recently took Esther's workshop along with my sister and several friends, has only been positive. I wrote an article about my experience with her workshop: http://primaldocs.com/opinion/pain-whats-posture-g...

When I asked Esther for her thoughts/approval before publishing the article, she protested the way I had compared her to Weston A. Price, writing in an email: "Don't give me too much credit. I had a lot of influences (including Weston Price. Noelle Perez did a lot of pioneering work in this field and I learned a lot from her).Also Alexander Technique, Feldenkrais, Mensendieck, Iyengar, etc."

In response I wrote: "I'm sure Weston A Price had his own influences and there are plenty of others who studied nutrition of isolated groups and diseases of civilization. He just happened to do particularly good fieldwork and had a very effective way of documenting and communicating it visually. I believe the comparison is valid!"

In fact I'm very impressed by Esther's original fieldwork, as well as her unique methods for synthesizing and transmitting the works of others into an accessible system. Aqua, I think you're mistaken that Esther is trying to prove all people in the groups she draws images from had flawless posture. She takes good examples of posture and movement from many cultures, including modern American culture, to demonstrate the pattern that is safest for the spine. She also apparently found enclaves where great posture was more pervasive and studied these intently. She has insights into posture during child rearing which as far as I know are quite original and profound.

Perhaps not everyone can afford the $450 workshop but she posts a lot of free video and the book itself is $25 and has comprehensive explanations and illustrations of everything the workshop covers.


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graceomalley 3 years ago Author

Grace - Thank you for visiting, and for adding more information! We all stand on the shoulders of giants - we take what we have learned from others and then add our bit. Often one person takes the work of several others and synthesizes it as you say, sometimes making the information more understandable, or reaching a new audience. Sometimes adding some new information makes the older research much more usable. I tried feldenkrais and Alexander method, and did not find them helpful for my body. Gothale method was very helpful. Esther was able to make her method understandable, and to quickly help me identify ways i could change my body mechanics. These changes brought me both physical and psychological relief. Neither of those other methods gave me clear ways to change to help me improve, and I did study them with teachers.

One other note - $450 is a small price tag in the back pain market.


Marilene 3 years ago

Dear Grace !

Thank you for making this blog, and sharing Esther's knowledge ! I am a massage therapist based in Montreal ( I am French-Canadian, please excuse my English !), and the philosophy of treatments that I give would be nothing without a self-care routine. I help people to correct their posture, but there is a part that people need to do on their own. People generally will not be patient or consistent with small daily postural work as a support to the treatment they receive. That is why I refer people to Esther's book, as her solutions and homework are simple but give true results. I also recommend the entire workshop, for 9 hours of semi-private postural teaching, it is really a life-altering experience and a great gift to do to ourselves. I did her workshop myself, and apply on a daily basis her techniques, and I am slowly on the way to recover from a 20 years old sway back and forword head syndrome.

I recommend her technique, as it is simple and easy to understand. It is worth giving it a try with an open mind and a deep respect for the body: that means be patient with yourself (too fast is never good!), and believe that a little bit of constant work matters !


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graceomalley 3 years ago Author

Marilene-

Thank you for reading and commenting! Esther's work lends itself to dovetailing nicely with other types of bodywork. You are right that consistency is key in an work we do to improve posture and body mechanics.


Jared shindler 3 years ago

This could explain your limited success with the Gokhale method.

http://www.scribd.com/doc/140126317/European-Spine...

Worth looking into at least...


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graceomalley 3 years ago Author

Jared- Thank you for sharing this. Very interesting angle that isn't addressed much with surgery patients.

I had a disc removed during surgery, and the pain in that site did resolve. The pain I have now is in the SI joint area, a joint in the pelvis. I've had scans of the area, which show no problems with the joint - so no one knows why so much pain.

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