The Gokhale Method - In Conversation with John Carter
John Carter will be joining us at Santosa for workshops starting in July to run workshops on the Gokhale Method.
We spoke to him about the Gokhale Method, what it is, and why he was inspired to study and use it.
John is an experienced yoga teacher and practitioner, with a scientific background in psychology and IT. After suffering for 20 years with chronic back pain, he discovered the Gokhale Method.
Having realised the incredible healing qualities of the method for his own back pain, John was inspired as a Gokhale Method teacher to share this freedom.
Not many people have heard of the Gokhale Method. What is it?
In short it’s learning how to sit, stand, bend and walk like a village Indian.
Why do that?
Because we have forgotten, as a culture, how to use our bodies. 80-90% of us will suffer chronic back pain (6 weeks or more) at some point in our lives. In the highlands on Thailand it’s 5% reported back pain.
Have you seen this?
Yes in southern India on a 3 week yoga holiday touring Tamil Nadu. Magical temples, good food - stunning elegance and strength in the movement of the local people. Not in Chennai, you could have been in an Indian version of London with more sunshine, traffic and slumped poor posture. In the remote villages very different, very much as described in Esther Gokhale’s “8 Steps to a Pain Free Back” book.
Is long haul travel necessary to catch a glimpse?
No, young kids, typically before they start school have great standing and walking form, each of us had it back when were just a few years old. Recent immigrants from remote parts of Africa, people from rural Somalia for example.
Why did this interest you?
My low back started to hurt when I was 27. By my mid 40s my spine was a mess - almost constant burning pain in my lumbar (low back) stabbing pains at the top of my pelvis, neck & shoulder pain plus nasty migraines once or twice a month - and a very weak right knee which would give way every now and then. I had just qualified as a yoga teacher, which taught me a lot, but was a mixed blessing for my back sometimes yoga helped, sometimes it made my back worse.
I then read the “8 Steps” book (several times), took an online free workshop with Esther, took a deep breath and booked flights to Boston Massachusetts and took the Gokhale Method Foundations course -
Did that help?
Yes! Initially I was too impatient, was too gung ho so I got a mix of blissful relief from pain - I had forgotten what pain free felt like - and soreness when I tried too hard to do everything at once. I soon learnt what techniques felt good, focused on them and went easy on the tricky bits
What worked best initially and what did you find a bit of a challenge?
Gentle lengthening techniques, stretch lying on the back was just the best! But I found that Tall Standing* and Glide Walking* were a bit of a challenge at first.
*These are terms for different postures and movements in the Gokhale Method.
Did you find that your pain was slowly fading?
I got initial relief from day 1, bit of an up and down for a few months. Then realised I hadn’t had a migraine for several months, my neck stopped freezing solid, low back gradually stopped burning. The stabbing pains right at the base of my spine reduced to a dull ache.
Pain free for several years now. What used to be a relatively minor nuisance, SI joint pain, has proved to be more persistent than the others. With attention to how I move, and a regular, very specific yoga practice this behaves itself now.
10 years ago I nearly sold my boat, gave up the allotment, stopped long walks in the hills - all too painful. All 3 are back - was digging my allotment earlier today. Only concern was getting everything planted after a slow start to the growing season.