This letter will describe my experience as a
client/patient/student of Esther Gokhale.
Esther has worked with me for over three years. I contacted her on the advice of my
doctor, Thomas Wisler of the Palo Alto Medical Foundation, in order to improve
my posture and avoid back pain. I
am over 6'3" tall, lean, reasonably fit, and have the common problem of tall
people in tending to slouch.
I have been a Research Geologist with the U.S. Geological
Survey for 30 years. This has
involved a few weeks of fieldwork annually in difficult terrain but also a
great deal of office time, mainly sitting at a desk. Over 15 years ago I was diagnosed with a degenerated disk
(lumbar 4-5) which caused me persistent and commonly severe pain, especially
when I had to sit for extended periods such as on airplanes or driving. The disk was removed surgically in 1992
and the pain decreased substantially but still was an everyday fact of life
until I started working with Esther.
I also used to contract headaches that clearly were related to poor
posture, particularly staring at a computer screen. The training I received from Esther has greatly reduced the
frequency of my headaches. My wife
and teenage son also have been to see Esther about posture and she has come to
our home to evaluate chairs, tables, etc., and advise us on how to facilitate
having good ergonomic conditions in our environment. Lastly, I have referred two colleagues to Esther and they
both have reported with much enthusiasm that Esther has helped them alleviate
their chronic back pain.
What has Esther Gokhale developed that has been so
successful? Her approach with me
was first to evaluate my standing, sitting, and walking posture. She then showed me photographs of
people from a variety of times and places around the world as examples of how
to maintain healthy posture during diverse activities, emphasizing sitting and
walking. She also explained about
the structure of the spine, including effects of posture on disks, and
illustrated this with photographs and a skeletal model. During the course of perhaps 4 to 6
sessions she gave me the basics of her posture philosophy. We spent a lot of time with walking, a
little with rhythm through simple dance steps, reviewed stretching exercises I
had been doing, suggested different or modified exercises, practiced sitting,
and worked on posture for sleep.
The last one was a phenomenal breakthrough, although remarkably simple:
Esther taught me to lie down gradually, either on my back or side, while
extending my spine. This has
eliminated the morning back pain that I used to experience daily. My colleague who has been to Esther
volunteered to me that this has been very beneficial for her as well. The method of reclining epitomizes the
simplicity and effectiveness of Esther's approach. I could cite several examples of specific things she has
taught me that are equally as important.
The great appeal to me of Esther's program is that she evidently has put
it together from many sources based on her own keen observational skill,
logical analysis, and ability to reduce elements of posture and activity (e.g.,
walking, bending) to fundamental principles that are simple to learn and
remember. As I recall, the intense
training took place in weekly or bi-weekly sessions over a few months and the
interval between sessions gradually increased. For the past year, I have been visiting Esther at 8 to 10
week intervals for refresher sessions.
I expect to continue at about this rate. I appreciate Esther's flexibility in allowing me to return
at a modest frequency that I can sustain in the long term.
In my previous experience with physical therapists and
exercise programs recommended by physicians I have not had the degree of
success in correcting my posture and managing my back pain as I have had with
Esther Gokhale. Had I been trained
by her long ago perhaps I could have avoided damaging my back in the first
place and certainly would have been spared years of misery. The value of her program is not simply
in treating existing conditions but even more so in avoiding their onset. I hope my son has learned some of the
basic points as a teenager. I
strongly support any effort to facilitate bringing Esther's program to a broad
audience and to especially young people.