Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Wellness Wednesday: Life-Changing Wellness Seminar

About ten days ago I went to a really intense wellness seminar in Seattle. We all know about diet and how important it is to eat healthfully to have a good quality of life. We all know about exercise and how we need to keep moving in order to be able to stay mobile and healthy as we age. However, we often forget posture. I know that I did.

I have been plagued with back, neck, knee, and foot problems for years, so I had high expectations for this seminar from the Esther Gokhale Wellness Center. I was taking Gokhale Method 101, based upon the book I'd recently read, "8 Steps to a Pain-Free Back: Natural Posture Solutions for Pain in the Back, Neck, Shoulder, Hip, Knee, and Food (Remember When It Didn't Hurt)" by Esther Gokhale. This method is based upon how people throughout history have stood, have moved, and stayed healthy without all of the problems we experience in our post-industrial society. It is full of amazing pictures--a beautiful book that I've written a review of for Amazon here. If you go to the book on Amazon, you can use the "Look Inside" feature and see so much of the book (scroll down and you will see that there is a huge exerpt of the book, including pictures, that the author has made available).

Even if you just look at the pictures, I think you'll be impressed. You can actually see how differently people used to sit, stand, lie in bed, work, bend over, walk, and more.

I have begun integrating this posture practice into my life. Three days of classes were so very helpful, and now I need to follow up at home. The really good thing is that although there are some optional exercises for people like me (super out-of-shape with weak muscles)--for the most part this practice is done in the process of life itself and takes no extra time--while you're sitting, driving, moving about the house, working, playing, etc. There is also almost nothing to buy; there is an optional cushion that can help you stretch your back, but a towel or other support can be easily substituted instead. Also, there are free classes, online classes, and more.

This is not simply one person's ideas, but a new movement--a movement to help us return to some of the wise ways of our ancestors that led to health. It's really cool. I took a class in Seattle for which there was a fee, but my health problems are debilitating and I needed something intense and immediate to prevent much more money from being spent on other solutions.

Here are some pictures so that you can see some early changes in my way of moving. This picture is BEFORE, sitting normally (and up straight--I usually slump) on the edge of a chair:

This picture is two days later, after 9 hours of posture instruction:

This picture is BEFORE, standing normally. Note the swaying out in the upper back:

This picture is AFTER, standing normally. Note the straightness in the upper back:

No body cares too much about posture per se, but everyone cares about the benefits that good posture can bring. So if you'd like even more resources about this posture practice, here they are:

Can't Exercise at Work? Try StretchSitting (this is an article describing a particular posture practice in a bit of detail)

Video of Esther Gokhale talk at Google (this is a longer talk given for those of you who are very interested--it's wonderful though!)

Preview of book (8 Steps to a Pain-Free Back) on Google

Great book review along with picture of Esther Gokhale (the founder) bending as she sits (you can really, really see how Esther has an unconventionally healthy back)

I plan on continuing with this for a long, long time. I look forward to the health benefits that will ensue!


Seeking Simplicity said...

I'm at work at the moment; so will read all this tonight... but the pictures are pretty amazing. I've had 2 back surgeries... and right now my low back is really bothering me. I slump at my computer desk, I don't have good posture at all.

I'm excited to read this and will do so tonight. Thanks for sharing!

Kim Mailhot said...

I love things that just make sense to the mind, body and soul, don't you ? This makes so much sense ! I suffer from lower back problems myself - and no, I can't really remember when it didn't hurt at all... I have been naturally trying to walk with a straighter posture and have felt relief, plus when I strengthen (gently ) my stomach muscles through wonderful stretching exercises that I got from my physio therapist, I find myself sitting straigher and feeling a lot less pain. Thanks so much for sharingthe commonsense wonders that you have found, Olivia ! Straight onward...
Big Love !

Olivia said...

Oh, Angie, I think you'll like this. I can't imagine anyone not. It's so easy and makes so much sense. I only wish I'd known it before. Let me know if you have any questions at all about it. xo, O

Olivia said...

Thanks, Kim. You're right it makes so much just plain common sense...and we are taught weird things now in the west instead of things that for thousands and thousands of years have worked for people.

I think often we jettison too much ancient wisdom as we modernize.

I wish you continued relief and strengthening, Kim. And if you get a chance to see some of those pictures in the book preview, do (at the bottom of my post). Or even to get the book. The pictures motivate me and give me hope as well.

Feel better my Queen!

Wishing you Queenly Big Love right back today,


groovysabrina said...

Awesome, Olivia! Daryl and I talk a lot about posture. I think it's crucial to health, well-being and even beauty! It pains me to see people slumping! Posture is such a simple thing yet so ignored by so many. I look forward to learning more from your links.

groovysabrina said...

p.s. Just to chime in with the info from the book - when I spend time in remote villages here, I am always amazed by the beautiful posture of people, people who never took dance lessons or yoga. They just get it!

Olivia said...

Sabrina, I think this is cultural. I hadn't ever even really thought about it until I read the book...can you believe it? When I was brought up, posture was just something grumpy that your mother said to you: "Stand up straight!" --like "Do your homework!" or "No tv until all the work is done!" Too bad for we Boomers are suffering.

People in the remote villages DO get it---it is passed down within the family, not primarily consciously but unconsciously through imitation. We have so much that we can learn from people who have not lost things that we have through modernization.

That's so great that you can see it in Brazil. I'm sure it is striking and is yet one more thing our culture misses on.

And I think it's also great that you and Daryl talk about posture. You two are something good!

xo, O

Kate said...

This is amazing those pictures really tell the story. I keep hearing my mother"stand up straight" she was always correcting our posture so maybe that is not a bad thing after all.

Thanks for sharing this.


Olivia said...

Kate, they do! The problem is that no one ever tells us HOW to sit up straight and if you do it wrong it can hurt.

In the first picture of me sitting, I'm sitting up "straight", but look at that sway in the upper back. It's hard to see because of the dark background and my dark clothes. My upper back pooches out. It's actually easier to see on the standing one.

And things like where your weight is (on your heels or on the front of the feet). And am is my pelvis artificially "tucked" (NOT GOOD!) or sticking out too much (also not good). Usually we can learn by imitation, but so many people have poor posture, who are we imitating!

I've become an enthusiast :)

Take good care,

Seeking Simplicity said...

I've added the book to my Mother's Day list for my son. I can't wait to learn the techniques and benefit from it. Thanks so much for sharing... and again... the pictures of you before and after are like mega amazing.

Olivia said...

Ang, YAY! You'll love the book, I'm sure. Again, let me know if you have questions. Peace and blessing, O

kate i said...

This looks wonderful Olivia! I'm definately going to look into this. As you know, I've had a lot of problems in the past with my back/hips/legs. Even though my situation has improved, I believe posture and our walking "gait" are so very important for prevention of further problems. Thanks for the info.

Olivia said...

You're welcome, Kate. Your situation was very encouraging to me. I look forward to a day and life of walking without pain. Let me know if you have any questions...xo, O

Rick Hamrick said...

O--I will have this book in my hands either today or tomorrow. Thank you Denver Public Library!!

One benefit which I'm imagining happens as one begins the learning of the age-old, best positioning of the body: awareness and presence! If you are paying attention to how you sit, stand, and move, you are present and living right where you are.

Sure, this benefit may lessen over time as you become more accustomed to the pain-free positions and assume them by habit, but staying with the present can also be a habit! Why not develop the habit of sitting and standing correctly *and* the habit of being attentive to your life right now, right here?

Thanks, O, for cluing us all in! This looks like a great resource, and I'm looking forward to diving in as soon as the library alerts me that the book is in.

Olivia said...

You are absolutely right, Rick--it does prompt you to be present and right there in all ways. It takes a huge amount of attention and energy that lessens as time goes by (which is actually good because you want that to be free for other things). But in the beginning instead of seeing it as something burdensome it could be seen as something welcome in a presence practice.

Let me know what you think, Rick! xo, O

Anonymous said...

Thank you for pointing us to her, Olivia. Tonight I had a chance to watch that whole video. Wonderful stuff.

Olivia said...

Gosh, Kelly, in your busy life, I'm glad you watched it, and even more glad that you enjoyed it. Let me know if you have any questions, xo, O

Mickey (Michel) Johnson said...

...olivia...thanks so much for popping by and i DO remember you and what you said about why you bought the necklace! by the way, this post is so cool. i had surgery on my back a few years back after i herniated a disc from a fall. posture is so very important, but easy to forget about with our slouchy lifestyle. how is the raw food diet going? i tried it for a while and then winter came and i missed my hot bowls of soups and i compromised and started eating a lot more raw with my soups! take care, mickey

Olivia said...

I'm so glad, Mickey, that you remember. And the significance of the necklace to me, way beyond aesthetics.

Yes, our society reinforces slouching, doesn't it? To be healthy we have to be countercultural.

I was full-time raw for 3 1/2 months, and then stopped because I also wanted to eat other foods. The transition was very diffcult back to cooked foods and I had lots of digestive problems from it for several months, some of which were serious. I am convinced that for most people, an all-raw diet is good as a cleanse only. A high-raw diet is more nourishing, I believe. I would go back to being all-raw but only for a few weeks!

Good to hear from you here! Peace and blessings, O

patti said...

All this looks very good O and as we speak I am tightening my stomach muscles and thinking it's been a while since I did Yoga!

I really hope this works for you, I know you've had problems for a while.

Olivia said...

Thanks, Patti. It seems to be working so far very well...but, as with so many things, it really is a lifetime practice. It's nice to know that I'm on a healthy, healing path instead of forming habits that will result in more problems down the line.

I know how much you love yoga! It's good to see you here, Patti.

Love, O

Jane said...

That seems like an awesome seminar. What a great way to honor and take care of YOU. When I was 16 I had full spinal surgery. I have a rod all the way up and down my spine so there's no way I can slouch. The downside is that arthritis has been slowly setting in at the base of my spine where much of the fusion took place so now I experience lots of lower back pain. I'll have to research good tips for relieving that pain.

Olivia said...

Jane, this is a fantastic book, and look also at the YouTube video, etc. by Esther Gokhale. I hope that you are able to find a solution to your pain. I would never have guessed that you'd had back problems as you are so active. Good to see you here, Blessings and love, O

Anonymous said...

Hi, Olivia! I need for you to blog soon. Okay? Please? :) K

patti said...

Hi Olivia, I know you're out there lurking :) Hope to see you back here soon. I miss you too!

Olivia said...

Thanks you two sweet gals. I will be back soon. It's good to hear from you "in between" (the LOOONG gap) posts. xo, O

Anonymous said...

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