Tuesday, June 18

USA, California,Silicon Valley's "posture guru"

Matt Drudge recently noted an anniversary of his aggregator news site with a Twitter post: “18 years of DRUDGE REPORT in February! And STILL sitting ;) .”
Drudge, 46, hasn’t just been sitting for two decades. Like so many workers chained to technology, he has been hunched over desktops, laptops, smartphones and tablets, and it’s all taken a toll on his body.
To ease his back, neck and shoulder pain, Drudge says, he has learned how to adjust his posture. Whether he’s typing in the car, from the wooden folding chair in his Miami home office or from a boardwalk bench at the beach on cloudy days, he makes sure to tilt the top of his pelvis forward, roll his shoulders back, elongate his spine and straighten his craned neck.
Drudge is one of thousands of people who have trained with Esther Gokhale, a posture guru in Silicon Valley. She believes people suffer from pain and dysfunction because they have forgotten how to use their bodies. It’s not sitting for long periods that causes us pain, she says, it’s the way we position ourselves.
Esther Gokhale, right, helps a student
Esther Gokhale, right, who teaches techniques for maintaining better posture, helps a student position her back during a class session in Palo Alto, Calif., April 1, 2013. [CREDIT: Jim Wilson, for The New York Times]
Gokhale (pronounced go-CLAY) is reintroducing her clients to what she calls “primal posture” — a way of holding themselves that is shared by older babies and toddlers and that she says was common among our ancestors before slouching became a way of life. It is also a posture that Gokhale observed in a dozen other countries, as well as in India, where she was raised.
For a method based not on technology but primarily on observations of people, it has been embraced by an unlikely crowd: executives and staff members at some of Silicon Valley’s biggest companies.
Gokhale is not the first to suggest that changing posture is the key to a healthy spine. Practitioners of the Alexander Technique and the creators of the Aplomb Institute in Paris help clients find more natural and comfortable ways to position themselves. Pilates and physical therapy can improve posture and bring awareness to it. A handful of companies, like Lumo BodyTech, now sell personal posture monitors.
Gokhale’s methods have not been tested scientifically, although a doctor at the Palo Alto Medical Foundation is planning on conducting clinical trials. But Gokhale, trained as a biochemist at Princeton University and Stanford’s medical school, has influence among medical professionals. More than 100 have referred patients to her, and a similar number have taken her course, she says.
The nearest Gokhale classes so far are in Fort Lauderdale and Boca Raton.
Regardless of occupation or lifestyle, backaches affect most Americans — about 8 in 10 deal with the pain at some point, according to Dr. Richard Deyo, a professor of family medicine at Oregon Health and Science University. For the majority, the aches are short-lived and relief comes with rest and time.
But methods to help those with chronic pain are diverse. Using a standing desk has become a popular way to ease discomfort. Exercise, yoga, acupuncture and chiropractic have also been shown to reduce pain.
Surgery and steroids continue to be important options, doctors say, even amid concerns that these have been overused.
With the care of a kindergarten teacher, Gokhale adjusts clients’ bodies from bottom to top. She helps clients relax the front of the pelvis downward, so the belt line slants forward and the butt angles back, so “your behind is behind you, not under you.”
Gokhale guides students’ rib cages that sway too far back, so they are flush with the stomach. She takes their hunched shoulders, rolls them up and brings them gently back and down.
And she helps students release tension in their necks by re-centering their heads over their spines and pulling upward slightly at the hairline on the neck. The result is a well-stacked spine many students say they maintain comfortably because their muscles are not strained.
After a workshop with Gokhale this year, Drudge says many things now remind him to make adjustments — seeing others with poor posture at Starbucks or the gym, passing by his reflection in a window, or sitting down to work.
“But I don’t beat myself up about it. When I’m aware of my posture, I fix it,” Drudge said. “And eventually, I think, it becomes who you are.”

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