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“I had no idea that the Gokhale Method would change my life:” Teacher Kathleen O’Donohue’s Story

December, 2020

Gokhale Method teacher Kathleen O’Donohue worked for many years as a Physician Assistant and headed an organization helping seniors age in place.

Who knew that learning to walk well could change the course of one’s life — even in one’s 60s? I was inspired to teach the Gokhale Method after experiencing welcome relief from chronic hip pain by learning how to glidewalk. 

"The Gokhale Method: No More Aches and Pains" was the title of the flyer that I grabbed as I exited my mother’s appointment with a Neurologist M.D. “Why have I never heard of this?” I asked as I explored the website later that day. After a deep review of online material, I purchased Esther Gokhale’s book, 8 Steps to a Pain-Free Back, and a Stretchsit® Cushion. I did not have back pain at that point, but I had a lifelong habit of learning about health and well-being.

What led me to learn the Gokhale Method for myself
My hip had bothered me since a miles-long walk in my late 20s, after a car break-down, though it wasn’t severe until later on. While in my early 30s, I had experienced severe back pain after doing new workouts on machines at the gym. I had horrid back spasms requiring bed rest, with spasms and back pain for at least 6 weeks. Standing was the best posture to avoid this pain, or sitting upright on the edge of a chair (at the time, I didn't know why this worked or that it approximated stacksitting).

Fast forward to the day I picked up that fateful Gokhale Method flyer in my mom’s doctor’s office, when I was in my 60s. My new chief complaint was an increase in frequency and level of pain in my left upper leg/hip/groin area during and after walking. Walking daily was my practice, and the discomfort impeded this. A couple of times each year, my left knee would start “clicking” while I walked. And then there were the times that my back would “go out”…

I guessed that Esther’s book would educate me as well as the folks I worked with, but I had no idea that the Gokhale Method would change my life.

Trained as a primary care Physician Assistant (PA), I have studied and practiced health and wellness for decades. Much of my healing arts practice focused on women’s healthcare, elder care, LGBTQ matters, and community health education. I’m a longtime practitioner and teacher of Tai Chi and Qigong and a certified instructor of the Tai Chi For Health Institute, with multiple specialty accreditations.

Kathleen teaches Tai Chi to 4th graders in rural Grundy County, Tennessee.

Starting down the path of pain-free living
The Stretchsit Cushion went directly into my car and made a big difference on my 17- to 70-mile commutes. A light round of cedar wood was my first head weight in my attempt at head alignment and neck strengthening the Gokhale way. This was followed by a light bag of beans, before I bought the Gokhale™ Head Cushion. I appreciated hearing Esther say that she created her products to fill a need, and she always offered home-made substitutes…hence my bag of beans.

Glidewalking is the focus of Chapter 8 of 8 Steps to a Pain-Free Back, and I jumped right in. The pain in my left upper leg/hip/groin area lessened, but I did not really understand why. I wanted to know what I was doing and why it was successful. In the past when my hip was “acting up” and the chain reaction seemed to include my left knee getting “wonky”, I’d go to a practitioner of the Feldenkrais Method® and have positive results. But neither they nor I knew what was causing my problems. I was discouraged and dreading that this repeated misalignment would lead to hip surgery.

I signed up for every Free Online Workshop that Esther offered, and became a “frequent flyer” as I absorbed her teachings like a sponge. Esther is extremely generous with her teaching and the many and multiple modes of educational resources that are available. This impressed me, and I appreciated the cultural richness and factual basis of her material.

Teaching the Gokhale Method as a way to give back
Six months later, I completed the Gokhale Method Foundations Course and told Esther that I knew I wanted to become a teacher. I wanted to empower people in the way that I’d become empowered. At this time, my job was as the founding Executive Director of Folks at Home, a local nonprofit that coordinated services in the village-model of aging in community. I gave two (2) years’ notice and started preparing to transfer my knowledge to my successors. At the same time, I was on the teacher path, enthusiastically studying and practicing the Gokhale Method.

In October 2019, Esther invited me to join her for a year of teaching in Palo Alto / Stanford. We traveled around the Bay Area and the southwestern states, teaching Pop-up Courses, a 1-day immersion with two qualified Gokhale Method teachers in a group setting, using the newly-developed SpineTracker™ wearable technology. In addition, I taught individual and group Foundation Courses, Alumni Continuing Education, Free Workshops, and online follow-up lessons.

When the COVID-19 shelter-in-place orders were initiated in March 2020, the Gokhale Method Team went into super high productivity mode to create a new online curriculum, online alumni offerings, and online workshops. I transitioned to being a completely online teacher of the Gokhale Elements Course, Online Consultations, and online Follow-ups from the Premium Online Workshops, which are deep-dives into specific topics.

Teaching the Gokhale Method is extremely satisfying. Students usually get some level of immediate relief from their pain, discomfort, and/or tension, as well as valuable insights into and realizations about their habitual postures. They notice the changes, feel better, and gain hope that their chronic problem will have a resolution. Crowd-sourced data supports this.

I appreciate the clarity and effectiveness of the Gokhale Method, which blends intellectual, visual, kinesthetic, and hands-on learning methods. Each student is empowered to integrate and apply this training into all aspects of daily life. The worldwide team of Gokhale Method teachers and workers are smart, passionate, and collaborative. The new-in-2020 live daily programs of Gokhale Exercise allow for the worldwide community of spirited students and teachers to have fun, to connect, and to learn, strengthen, lengthen, reshape and move together in new ways.

A great journey begins with a single (glidewalked) step.

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Thank you Kathleesn for sharing.  The patient way you answer questions in the Q and A has ispired me to be brave enough to ask questions myself but your colorful story helps me get to know you as a person.  Thank you for letting us into your journey. Loved the tai chi picture.  I also learned a great deal from the video on aging - which encourages me to plan ahead. 

Hi Kathleen,

Thank you for putting yourself "out there" and sharing your life experiences with us.  It's good to get to know you!!         I, too, appreciate your clear and precise manner in answering a wide array of questions and concerns in the daily 1,2,3 classes.  And, I also found your video on "Aging Matters" very beneficial.  Keep spreading your knowledge and positive attitude, BarbB.

Nice story Kathleen!
Happy holidays,


Wonderful story, Kathleen.  Thanks for all your help with our family!