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The Secrets to Pain-Free Sitting, Part 1: The Inspiration behind a New TV Show

June, 2022

People are sitting poorly and continue to blame sitting for their back pain. We believe the solution to this problem is more urgently needed than ever… and that the solution is now more readily available than ever, given one of the Gokhale Institute’s recent projects. I am excited to tell you about The Secrets to Pain-Free Sitting, a pledge show we made with producer Frank Zamacona for American Public Television (APT). 

Esther Gokhale teaching a team member to stretchsit, close-up view.
The Secrets to Pain-Free Sitting TV show teaches techniques to sit comfortably, including using your backrest to give gentle traction to the spine. Here I am helping Susan van Niekerk, a key member of our admin team, to stretchsit. 

Gokhale teacher Eric Fernandez stretchsitting in recliner. 
Gokhale Method teacher Eric Fernandez enjoys a reclined version of the highly therapeutic stretchsitting technique. 

Sitting has become a problem

In recent years people have become confused about and even afraid of sitting. Sitting is considered problematic in our society, both because it is associated with an unhealthy level of inactivity, and because it is generally done with poor posture, leading to discomfort and pain. 

Assorted books (covers) featuring the dangers of sitting.
In recent decades a range of books and audiobooks have given the impression that sitting is the enemy of movement. In truth, both are important and both need to be done well. 

Inactivity has been baked into aspects of our culture for many decades, caused by various factors including long hours of desk work, the design of our environment, and car use. I have long advocated frequent exercise breaks from sedentary work, as well as active recreation. We recently started Gokhale Exercise as a contribution to positive change in this area, and it’s already helping our Alumni community to get fitter, stronger, and more flexible while they continue to improve their posture. By learning good form while exercising, they are also reducing their risk of injury and wear and tear.

The pain and discomfort that many people experience when seated for any period of time understandably gives sitting a bad reputation. Given that the mission of the Gokhale Institute is “to make back pain rare,” should we be discouraging people from sitting? I don’t believe so. 

I prefer to celebrate the fact that sitting is a natural, universal, and important human activity. I would go so far as to say human civilization requires it. There are many tasks that benefit from the rest, stillness, and mental focus afforded by sitting. Imagine nursing a baby, playing the piano, writing a book, creating pottery, watching a movie, eating a meal, or taking a flight, without being able to sit!

Images showing people sitting to do involved tasks.
Sitting has enabled human civilization to develop all manner of skills, talents, and ideas. Unsplash(bottom image)

The Gokhale Method® approach to preventing and healing back pain is based on observing traditional societies around the world where people report very low levels of back pain and few other musculoskeletal problems. People in these traditional societies have maintained healthy posture and also sit as part of their daily lives, sometimes for long periods doing crafts or preparing food. And they sit on all kinds of seats, not only on the floor or squatting. The key is that they sit well.

Images showing individuals sitting well in Africa, Thailand and India.
People in different traditional societies all over the world share the ability to sit well. Here you see people in Africa, Thailand, and India.

Gokhale Method students learn these natural posture principles, plus the techniques they need to implement them. They discover healthy ways to go about their daily tasks, work, sports, hobbies, and even sleep positions. This process builds strength and resilience in the body, minimizing compression, tension, and degeneration. 

Since the COVID-19 pandemic, there have been reports of and also research into an increase in back pain¹. There are likely several reasons for this increase which are related to sitting poorly. Many people switched to working from home, hunching over laptops, rather than using their usual office workstations. There was also much more remote working in general as, where possible, activities that had been done in-person switched to online platforms. For example, the Gokhale Method, in addition to teaching in-person Foundations and Pop-up courses, developed our online Elements course

Research graph showing tweets in the US about back pain, 2019 v. 2020
This graph shows an increased number of tweets in the US about back pain in November 2020, during the pandemic, as against the lower number of such tweets the year before.¹ www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov

Years of experience assure me that not only can sitting be pain free, but that it can be done in ways that are positively therapeutic for the back and spine. This knowledge is exactly what we want to take into the American home with our 45-minute show. Below is a trailer to whet your appetite!

Enjoy this short preview of what’s in store with our Secrets to Pain-Free Sitting TV show.

The network uptake for Secrets to Pain-Free Sitting has already exceeded expectations. The show began airing on June 2, 2022, and as I write this, 32 networks have already screened the show. You can find the air dates for Secrets to Pain-Free Sitting in your area here. Should you need to request for it to be shown in your area, you can email APT at [email protected]. We hope you will enjoy watching it and recommend it to your friends and family. 

To complement the TV show, we are offering a number of special online workshops where you will be coached in 5 Top Tips for Sitting Well. In these bespoke workshops Gokhale Method teachers will be helping me to give you personal attention and answer your questions. I look forward to seeing you there! 

References:

¹ Krzysztof Fiok et al. “A Study of the Effects of the COVID-19 Pandemic on the Experience of Back Pain Reported on Twitter ® in the United States: A Natural Language Processing Approach.” Int J Environ Res Public Health. May 2021; 18(9): 4543. PubMed (Apr 25 2021) doi: 10.3390/ijerph18094543

Our Free Online Workshop program continues as usual:

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Upcoming Workshops

Introduction to The Gokhale Method and Living Pain-Free
Date and time: Thursday, July 07, 2022
5:00pm

Europe/Ljubljana

Open spots: Open
Language: Slovenian
Teacher: Sabina Blumauer

Have you been diagnosed with Fibromyalgia?

Date and time: Thursday, July 07, 2022
5:00pm

Pacific Time

Open spots: Open
Language: English
Teacher: Esther Gokhale

Revolutionize Your Wellness through Posture

Date and time: Tuesday, July 12, 2022
12:30pm

Pacific Time

Open spots: Open
Language: English
Teacher: Esther Gokhale

Is Sitting at Work a Pain in the Back?

Date and time: Wednesday, July 13, 2022
5:00pm

Pacific Time

Open spots: Open
Language: English
Teacher: Esther Gokhale
Introduction to The Gokhale Method and Living Pain-Free
Date and time: Wednesday, July 13, 2022
8:00pm

Europe/Berlin

Open spots: Open
Language: German
Teacher: Julie Johnson

Wake up Your Glutes: They Snooze, You Lose

Date and time: Monday, July 18, 2022
12:00pm

Pacific Time

Open spots: Open
Language: English
Teacher: Esther Gokhale

How You Use Posture to Relieve Stress

Date and time: Tuesday, July 26, 2022
2:00pm

Eastern Time

Open spots: Open
Language: English
Teacher: Eric Fernandez
Introduction to The Gokhale Method and Living Pain-Free
Date and time: Friday, July 29, 2022
11:00am

Eastern Time

Open spots: Open
Language: English
Teacher: Eric Fernandez