Find your primal posture – Gokhale method

This could change the way you do martial arts forever

Now, this is interesting. Esther Gokhale has created a method of sitting and walking that she claims will restore your “primal posture”. As you’d expect there’s a book, a DVD, a six-lesson course you can go on, and associated paraphernalia (like cushions) that you can spend more money on, etc, but you can actually get the core of the information for free by watching talks she’s given, like this one at TEDx. If you watch the following video you’ll get the background to what she’s talking about, plus she shows you how to sit in a chair using the method.

 

I’ve tried it, and I have to say, it makes sitting in a chair way more comfortable than usual for me. I find I can also stay there. Using her ‘sitstretch’ method I lose the urge to fidget around that I normally get when correcting my posture. The slight stretch on your lower back that the method gives you is actually kind of like having a hot bath – very relaxing and restorative.

There are lots of other videos on YouTube for different aspects of the method – like lying and walking. The method is based on observation of tribal people and how they don’t tend to have back pain, and move with a natural grace that we lose as soon as we become ‘civilised’ and live in larger groups in cities.

One idea is the ‘J spine’ – that the spine should be relatively straight, without a large lumbar curve that was associate with an ‘S’ shape.

 

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The J spine in ancient Greek statue.

 

One tip she gives for keeping this spinal alignement throughout activities is to imagine you have a tail behind you, and you want to keep it behind you and pointing ‘up’. From an evolutionary point of view, this makes sense. Human foetuses actually have a tail, until at some point in our development in the womb it shrinks back into the body.

 

monkey

 

It’s interesting to apply this idea to Tai Chi, which has long been associated with ‘tucking the tailbone’. I’ve always thought of it as ‘centre’ the tailbone myself, which means that you basically relax the lower back. In fact, the Internet is full of people who have suffered health problems due to excess tucking of the tailbone in Tai Chi practice. There are a lot of people who seem to think that ideally you should form some sort of ‘c’ shape with your spine when doing Tai Chi. I’m of the opinion this is a misunderstanding.

From the classics:

When the tailbone is centered and straight,
the shen [spirit of vitality] goes through to the headtop.

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The spine on the right is from an older medical textbook, before the idea of the ‘S’ shape.

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