Thursday, June 3, 2010

The Woman Who Saved My Back

For the past five years, I have suffered from severe chronic back pain. The surgeon offered his services, but I declined. I had heard too many stories about botched back surgeries. While meditation helped tremendously, to the point where I could go for extended periods of time, feeling almost no pain, it  did not address the physical cause. So be it, I thought.

Until I met Esther Gokhale.

Esther's office is only a few blocks from my house. She also happens to be a back guru whose reputation keeps on expanding. She has been endorsed by the Mayo Clinic. The Palo Alto Medical Foundation is doing a research project on her technique. She saved Joan Baez's back. She has been written up in Vogue . . . And several of my friends swear by her.

She was also invited to give a talk to Google employees, part of Google Talks Series:

Esther showed me how my posture was all wrong. Feet falling inward, instead of assuming their original kidney shape. Knees locked, instead of being relaxed. Pelvic bowl tipping back instead of forward. Spine overextended in the front, instead of in the back, shoulders hunching forward instead of back, chin  up instead of head and neck straight . . . No wonder my back had given up! 

Esther told me to read her book, 8 Steps to a Pain-Free Back, and to sign up for her six class series. I am almost through, and can't say enough. I have relearned how to walk, and sit, and lie down, and lift, so as to not stress my back, using proper posture, and all the right muscles. The pain is gone, really gone. And, I can now experience again the satisfaction of meditating on a cushion, as opposed to a chair!

I am feeling so grateful!


  1. A book called Pain Free by Pete Egoscue was recently recommended to me by a massage therapist who said it was the most intelligent book on the body she had ever read and helped her with a problem she had spent years trying to find a solution for. Sounds a lot like Esther's ideas, that it has to do with posture. Egoscue calls it misalignment. So if you have spare reading time and feel so inclined I highly recommend "Pain Free". Here's to wishing you that state.

  2. Thanks, I'll be sure to check that out!

  3. Thank you ZenDot! You know, what amazes me most with this, is how little attention is paid to such simple remedies. It's a bit like meditation, and how potent of a medicine it can be for the mind. The good news is things are changing! Traditional medicine is making room, slowly, for those new ancient ways.

    May you be well, and at ease :)

  4. Chong Go Sunim, do you suffer from back pain also?

    I wish Esther's way could become an integral part of sitting instructions . . .

  5. What courage or wisdom or both you showed to say no to the surgery. I know myself that when in chronic pain, it's easy to say yes to almost anything -- legal or illegal in hopes the pain will stop. And then you found someone to help and so close. That's so wonderful! I'm so glad that you're sharing about Esther here. It's the simple things that seem to impact our lives most profoundly. How to stand, for you and your back pain. How to breath correctly for me and my migraines.

  6. Hi Marguerite,
    Yeah, I've had problems off and on for years. Fortunately, I met a great physical therapist a few years ago who taught me some helpful stuff. The things Esther was saying seem consistant with that, about alignment and training the muscle support structure. But with some ideas I haven't heard before. So as we speak, Amazon is rushing, well, moseying, the book to me.^^

    I absolutely agree with you about the sitting instructions. So many monks and nuns in Korea have back problems. There's a lot of emphasis here on the 100-day sitting retreats, with 10-14+ hours of sitting a day. But I think the Thai style of one hour sitting, followed by one hour of walking is a much healthier model.

  7. I know what you're saying about simple remedies. I used to be an EMT, and the stories I heard about back surgeries gone wrong were horrible.

    "Experts" are always going on about disks, but I read a study where they took 100 people with back pain and 100 without, and x-rayed them looking for disk problems. About 45% of the people with back pain had disk problems, and 45% of the people with no back pain at all, also had disk problems. Which means what's the point of all this surgery for disk problems? There doesn't seem to be a relationship.

  8. Thank you Sonja, for your appreciation! and I send much metta your way . . . I heard it is good for migraines also :)

  9. Chong Go Sunim, in my own view, those sitting marathons that you mention, put the body through undue stress, and remind me of the ascetic extremes undergone by the Buddha before he found the Middle Way.