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Excerpt from "8 Steps to a Pain-Free Back"

by Esther Gokhale

Primal Posture for a Pain-Free Back

If you suffer back pain, you are not alone. In industrialized societies, back pain has reached epidemic proportions. Approximately 80 percent of individuals in the general population will have at least one episode of low back pain during their lifetime. Although we typically blame sedentary lifestyles, stress, weight, or old age for these problems, there are many populations where people live painlessly into old age regardless of occupation or body type.

In my travels in Burkina Faso, Ecuador, and India, I encountered numerous sedentary workers including potters, basket makers, and weavers, who spend long hours sitting and yet do not suffer from nearly as many back problems as we do. I believe that it isn’t that we sit but how we sit that causes our problems.

Many people think that age is the biggest contributor to back pain. Certainly with age our bones and muscles weaken; however, the same is true for all humanity. If we use our bodies wisely, normal wear and tear should not incapacitate us. I met a Burkina brick maker who showed me what is possible even in advanced age. He spends numerous hours every day digging clay, mixing it with straw, and fashioning it into bricks using a wood mold. In some low-income, rural communities, 80-90% of workers are laborers who often carry heavy weights on their backs and heads and may work well into old age. Yet their rates of low back pain are 50-75% less than in higher-income, industrialized populations.

The Real Cause

Many musculoskeletal ills can be mitigated by good posture. People with good posture can better withstand the effects of strenuous work, weight, height, age, and even genetic predisposition to disc degeneration.

To find a model for healthy posture, we need to return to the ways of moving that were normal for us in earlier times and that are still normal for people in many cultures.

Moving Out of Misery

In your efforts to reduce or eliminate your back pain, you may have tried well-established interventions that physicians typically recommend: anti-inflammatories, muscle relaxants, physical therapy, injections, and even surgery. But by re-establishing natural posture and movement patterns, you will be addressing the root cause of your pain, regaining and maintaining a pain-free back.

As you learn the Gokhale Method, you can also expect it to:

• Reduce or eliminate other muscle and joint pain

• Prevent further muscle and joint degeneration and injury

• Increase your energy, stamina and flexibility

• Reduce stress and improve your appearance

Equipment needs are limited to a good chair, a few cushions, and good shoes. Integrate the basic principles into your everyday activities and, suddenly, your days become opportunities to stretch and strengthen your body, rather than hurt it.


If you lived a hundred years ago or in a village in Portugal or Africa today, you would have a good sense of what healthy posture looks like. Since you live in a modern industrialized society and are surrounded by people who have poor posture, here are a few key principles that indicate good posture.

1) The pelvis is tipped forward or anteverted. An easy way to see this is to imagine a belt line and notice that it angles downward toward the front. Another helpful image is to envision that your pelvis is a bowl tipping forward.

2) There is an even groove down your back. The groove should not be especially deep in any location nor should the vertebrae be prominently bumpy anywhere.

3) The shoulders should be relaxed and positioned back. Your arms should hang toward the back of the ribcage. A technique I call the ‘shoulder roll’ will achieve this positioning and prevents hunching.

4) The chin angles downward as a result of a relaxed and elongated cervical spine.

5) The buttock muscles are well developed because they are used in walking.

6) The muscles throughout the body have good tone (not bunched up with long taut tendons attached to bone). The main weight-bearing bones in the body are vertically aligned over the heels.

7) The feet point 10-15 degrees outwards and the arches of the foot are muscular and pronounced.

If you are interested in learning about primal sitting, sleeping, standing, walking, and bending, check out 8 Steps to a Pain-Free Back or take the six-session Gokhale Method Foundations course. Reap the benefits of primal movement throughout the day and sit, sleep, and walk your way to a pain-free back. To learn more, visit egwellness.com.

Purchase info: 8 Steps to a Pain-Free Back is available wherever books are sold. It is sold online at egwellness.com (http://egwellness.com/8-steps-pain-free-back) and amazon.com.

Esther Gokhale founded the Esther Gokhale Wellness Center 20 years ago and has helped thousands of people rid themselves of pain through the Gokhale Method – a systematic process of restoring pain-free posture and movement. As a young girl growing up in India, she helped her mother, a registered nurse, treat abandoned babies awaiting adoption. She went on to study biochemistry at Harvard and Princeton and acupuncture at the San Francisco School of Oriental Medicine. After crippling back pain during her first pregnancy and unsuccessful back surgery, she began her lifelong crusade to find a solution to back pain. Her studies at the Aplomb Institute in Paris and years of research in Burkina Faso, India, Portugal, and elsewhere led to her development of the Gokhale Method. She and other trained Gokhale Method instructors routinely offer courses worldwide.

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