Body Image

On a Columnar Self—

To my eye, the two women featured just below–the vibrant young mother I photographed in Burkina Faso and the powerhouse poet Emily Dickinson in Amherst, Massachusetts–have qualities in common. Do you see what I see?

Burkino Faso woman hangs clothes out to dry at communal well

Burkino Faso woman hangs clothes out to dry at communal well

American poet Emily Dickinson sits with posies in a parlor

American poet Emily Dickinson sits with posies in a parlor

Although separated by oceans and ancestors and more than a century of time, both young women model exquisite posture that would serve anyone well, whether she is writing poetry in the seclusion of a candle-lit bedroom in New England, or washing and hanging clothes out to dry in sun-drenched West Africa.

Posture, poetry, power

Because I see poetry in healthy posture and find inspiration in the powerful poems of Emily Dickinson, I will connect some disparate dots and weigh in on the fundamental strengths of the poet’s posture, as captured in the 1847 daguerreotype of her at about age 16,  just above.

Also, because some believe the woman in the patterned dress, below left, to be the poet at age 28 or 29, I will comment on her very similar posture, as well.

As an aside, because it makes a compelling case that the woman seated above left could be the reclusive poet, please take a look at this silent 30-second video created with advanced Photoshop layering techniques.

Beyond the facial similarities, another characteristic the two figures share is expansive and powerful posture. Postural similarities don’t hold up as an argument in favor of identifying the poet in her late twenties, however, simply because pretty much everyone sat well at that time.

Healthy posture, a 19th-century norm

Let’s consider postural elements captured in both portraits. 
Expansive, powerful posture is characteristic of both (cropped) portraits

Expansive, powerful posture is characteristic of both (cropped) portraits

From head to wrist, here’s what particularly strikes me:
  • Emily’s chin angles down naturally and her neck is elongated. One indicator of this is that the tragus, the little bump in the middle of the external ear, is positioned above the tip of her nose. This has nothing to do with the length of Emily’s nose, it’s all about the angle of her head influencing the architecture of her neck.
  • Neck lengthening is beneficial because it decompresses spinal disks and nerves and resets the baseline length of long back muscles, which reduces muscle pain.
Healthy orientation of the head and an elongated neck characterizes the posture of all of the women, above

Healthy orientation of the head and an elongated neck characterizes the posture of all of the women, above

  • Seated with siblings, below left, Emily at age 8 or 9 models the same healthy posture as  shown in the daguerreotype(s).
The Dickinson children painted by O. A. Bullard circa 1840; Emily is on the left

The Dickinson children painted by O. A. Bullard circa 1840; Emily is on the left

  • In the daguerreotype(s) and the oil portrait, there’s a lot of separation between Emily’s shoulders and her ears. Her shoulders are relaxed and downward-sloping, which indicates that her rotator cuff muscles are not clenched and pulling her shoulders close into her body.
The distance between Emily's ears and shoulders is great; her shoulders are relaxed

The distance between Emily’s ears and shoulders is great; her shoulders are relaxed

  • Instead, her arms hang wide, as indicated by the significant gap between her body and her arms. And, though she holds flowers in front of her, there isn’t unnecessary strain anywhere in her body.
  • Emily’s spine is wonderfully elongated, especially in the 1847 daguerreotype, and her body is both upright and relaxed. Because her shoulders remain back, her chest is open and available for optimal breathing.
  • I can’t see Emily’s “behind,” but the physics of such “adequate, erect -” posture dictate what I call “the building-block stack,” and I have to deduce that her behind is in fact behind her and her pelvis well-settled.
Tai-Chi-fashion, Emily maintains her wrists intact

Tai-Chi-fashion, Emily maintains her wrists intact

  • Finally, in both daguerreotypes, the line of the wrist is not broken and the hands are relaxed.

On a Columnar Self— and I Choose, just a Crown–

Because no post featuring Emily Dickinson would be complete without including some of her poetry, I’ll share two favorites.

“On a Columnar Self-” particularly resonates, because I recognize and identify with the subject. The poem reminds me of the time I first sat comfortably. The feeling was very much as if a window had just been opened. I also had the strong awareness that everything I needed was right there, and everything else life brought would be a bonus. I had no further needs because I felt so much delight and self-sufficiency. And that’s some of what Emily describes so compellingly in this poem:

On a Columnar Self—
How ample to rely
In Tumult—or Extremity—
How good the Certainty

That Lever cannot pry—
And Wedge cannot divide
Conviction—That Granitic Base—
Though none be on our side—

Suffice Us—for a Crowd—
Ourself—and Rectitude—
And that Assembly—not far off
From furthest Spirit—God—

 

Caryatid of Erechteion, a literal example of "a Columnar Self"

Caryatid of Erechteion, a literal example of “a Columnar Self”

All the women shown above are regal and self-possessed. They set the bar for us to rise up to our best selves, and, in so doing, call up this second favorite Dickinson poem:

I’m ceded—I’ve stopped being Theirs—
The name They dropped upon my face
With water, in the country church
Is finished using, now,
And They can put it with my Dolls,
My childhood, and the string of spools,
I’ve finished threading—too—

Baptized, before, without the choice,
But this time, consciously, of Grace—
Unto supremest name—
Called to my Full—The Crescent dropped—
Existence’s whole Arc, filled up,
With one small Diadem.

My second Rank—too small the first—
Crowned—Crowing—on my Father’s breast—
A half unconscious Queen—
But this time—Adequate—Erect,
With Will to choose, or to reject,
And I choose, just a Crown—

Image Credits:
Burkina Faso woman at communal well, Esther Gokhale
1847 daguerreotype of Emily Dickinson, William C. North, original held at Amherst College, Wikimedia Commons
Unverified daguerreotype ca 1859 that might show Emily Dickinson with Kate Scott Turner, Amherst College Archives and Special Collections, Wikimedia Commons
Head orientation and elongated neck illustration, Gokhale Method
A New Emily Dickinson Emerges, video by North 100, uploaded from YouTube
The Dickinson Children ca. 1840, O. A. Bullard, From the Dickinson Room at Houghton Library, Harvard, Wikimedia
Photo of postcard of Caryatid of the Erechtheion, Athens, Benaki Museum Photographic Archives, 1932-1939

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Teaching the Method

A deep pool of knowledge

Esther Gokhale, Founder

Esther Gokhale, Founder

We have an amazing pool of teachers, and I’m extremely proud of every one of them. They have diverse backgrounds and bring all kinds of knowledge, experience, and sensitivity to our Method, which benefits us all–teachers and students, alike. We are constantly tweaking and improving our offerings. Every month we get together via regularly scheduled, continuing-education teleseminars, where I or another expert in a specific area makes a presentation, followed up with a lively discussion. In addition, we stay in regular communication via what we have dubbed the “Teacher Water Cooler.” This is a private collaboration, a place where one teacher might write, “I just reviewed the intake form for ‘Student Y,’ who has this unusual syndrome, plus this and this and this. Any ideas how I might adjust my approach?” Another teacher might offer, “I ran into a cool educational tool the other day,” or, “Check out this interesting video on YouTube, and tell me what you think about its point of view.” So we teachers benefit from an ongoing and very dynamic interaction and, once a year, we gather together for a weekend of hands-on work.

A Gokhale Method Teacher who played a very helpful role in in the early days of our organization, when we most needed assistance, is Roberta Cooks, MD, who helped create a support group for teachers, as well as the teacher peer-review form that established standards against which we could begin to measure and improve teacher skills. She also tackled various writing and editorial projects, pitching in on the ever-evolving teacher training manual, which is now huge, because it covers all aspects of the training in great detail.

A physician who trained as a psychiatrist, Roberta spent much of her medical career in the museum industry, creating health-related exhibitions. Currently she is one of our most active teachers, regularly offering Gokhale Method Foundations courses and one-on-one sessions in and around Philadelphia, where she lives, as well as in New York City; Boulder, Colorado; and in Boca Raton and Fort Lauderdale, in South Florida.

Recently, I checked in with Roberta. Here’s some of what she had to share….

Roberta Cooks and the Gokhale Method–the early days

Roberta Cooks, Gokhale Method Teacher

Roberta Cooks, Gokhale Method Teacher

“Esther was teaching and fine-tuning the Gokhale Method on her own for a long time. Somewhere around 2008, she had arrived at the point where she knew it was important to have more people learning and teaching the Method, and she began to bring on teachers, a few of us at a time. I was one of the first, one of a group of seven or eight. Some of us stayed at Esther’s house, where we worked late into the night, doing our homework and brainstorming ways to boost our own training. Another teacher, Kathleen Marie, and I were especially interested in pursuing this, and—under Esther’s tutelage—we took next steps. On her own, Esther had developed a teacher training manual, but we began to build on this, with the goal of standardizing excellence. Esther was chock full of ideas, of course, but didn’t have the ‘bandwidth’ to develop them all.

As a physician, what particularly struck me when I first read Esther’s 8 Steps to a Pain-Free Back was the side-by-side comparison of the spine—the anatomical drawing from a 1911 anatomy book contrasted with a 1990 illustration.

The 1911 anatomical drawing of the spine, on the left, shows a less arched lumbar spine and a less tucked pelvis than the 1990 drawing on the right; the left spine illustrates what's going on inside the straight-sitting Maryland Governor and Congressman, above

The 1911 anatomical drawing of the spine, on the left, shows a less arched lumbar spine and a less tucked pelvis than the 1990 drawing on the right; the left spine illustrates what’s going on inside the straight-sitting Governor/Congressman, just below

Seeing these images, both from American anatomy books, prompted the thought: “This is the ‘black hole.’ No one knows what to do about the huge problem of back pain, so why aren’t we looking back into our own medical textbooks and reflecting on the early photographic record? Why aren’t we acknowledging this pertinent and poignant information?” And I felt I needed to convince other physicians of the common-sense truth of this core element of the Gokhale Method, which of course is only one piece of the evidence that supports Esther’s work.

The healthy stacksitting posture modeled by this Maryland Governor and Congressman is typical of our 19th-century forebears

The healthy stacksitting posture modeled by this Maryland Governor and Congressman is typical of our 19th-century forebears


Museumgoers have been known to try to console Duane Hanson's 1977 'Man On A Bench,' his disconsolate, slouching, vinyl and polychromed body is so hyper-real

Museumgoers have been known to try to console Duane Hanson’s 1977 ‘Man On A Bench,’ his disconsolate, slouching, vinyl and polychromed body is so hyper-real

The dance connection

I dance Tango. In fact, it’s through dance that I first found Esther. My Tango teacher was handing out copies of Esther’s 8 Steps to a Pain-Free Back to anyone in the class who had back pain. Pain wasn’t an issue for me, but at the time my sister was experiencing problems with her shoulders, her hip, and her feet. Nothing she was doing was working, so I read Esther’s book and was sufficiently intrigued to seek Esther out. I took a Gokhale Method Foundations Course with Esther and was very impressed by her work and teaching style. I saw how her Method helped students with a variety of health issues and backgrounds. At the end of the course I spoke with Esther and we really hit it off. So I decided to become a Gokhale teacher by going through the teacher training course.

Tango is a "gildewalking" dance

Tango is a “gildewalking” dance

Argentine Tango is a walking dance that has a lot in common with the glidewalking we do in the Gokhale Method. Just as practitioners of the glidewalking technique engage the gluteus medius muscles by sending the back heel into the floor to propel themselves forward, so dancers of the Argentine Tango take the same basic actions. Perhaps you can see in the video just below that in propelling myself forward with the heel of my back foot and my back leg and my engaged gluteus medius muscles, I’m communicating a strong message to my partner to move backwards. My shoulders are rolled back, my rib anchor is engaged, and my partner, who is following, receives most of my ‘information’ from my chest.

So dance was one of the ways Esther and I connected, although “her dance,” as you perhaps know from an earlier blog post and a Gokhale Method online workshop, is the Samba.

Argentine Tango, San Telmo Plaza Dorrego, Buenos Aires

Argentine Tango, San Telmo Plaza Dorrego, Buenos Aires

My writing, medical, and museum background

In addition to Tango, I’ve always been interested in self-education and preventive medicine. And I’m a writer; I’ve written a children’s book. These interests, together with my psychiatric medical training and my background designing health-related museum exhibits, are relevant to teaching the Gokhale Method. What’s wonderful about the posture work is not only what we teach, but how we teach it! The Method is so clear and practical. And it’s multisensory, which is essential because we want what we teach to become part of peoples’ bodies. The multifaceted approach is very similar to what I do when designing medical exhibits, where the challenge is to take difficult-to-understand information and make it visual, aural, and very hands-on. I know–and Esther and all our Gokhale Method teacher colleagues well know–that people learn in different ways. That’s why the rich, multimedia training we offer is so effective. Not only is it common-sense practical and intellectually clear, it’s also tactile.

I’ve been designing museum exhibits for a number of years–for example, the first big traveling exhibit on HIV/AIDS, as well as an exhibit on the brain, the heart, and–as shown in these photos–‘the universe inside us’–the cells. What I’ve observed about health education in museums is that people come to theses places, which are much more neutral settings than a medical office or a hospital, absolutely hungry for information. This seemed particularly true with the brain and AIDS exhibits, and I think this is because many people feel frightened or intimidated by medical settings, which makes it difficult for them to process what they’re being told.

One of the projects I directed and developed was the Maryland Science Center's permanent and traveling exhibit 'Cells: The Universe Inside Us'

One of the projects I directed and developed was the Maryland Science Center’s permanent and traveling exhibit ‘Cells: The Universe Inside Us’

I share these pieces of my professional biography, because the diversity of my experience provides a great foundation for the Gokhale Method work at hand.

Hands-on, highly visual, and interactive exhibits like the one shown here offer a multisensory learning experience--this is what the Gokhale Method offers, too

Hands-on, highly visual, and interactive exhibits like the one shown here offer a multisensory learning experience–this is what the Gokhale Method offers, too

 

Healthy posture can positively impact the universe inside us

Healthy posture can positively impact the universe inside us

The mind-body connection–wellbeing and healthy posture

I have seen some very positive psychological changes in people I’ve taught, and the improvement in the outlook of many of my posture students is one of the reasons that I find teaching the Gokhale Method to be so satisfying and joyful. Research has shown that there are biochemical advantages to being physically open, with shoulders rolled back and chest open–as opposed to standing with arms crossed and shoulders hunched–and my own experience confirms that posture can be a complementary wellness approach to psychological conditions. And what surprised me initially–and what I still find delightful, today–is how quickly these positive effects so often happen!

It’s not unusual when I’m teaching the Foundations Course for one student to say to another as early as the second day, ‘You look like a completely different person.’ In a class I just taught in Florida, a massage-therapist student who had participated in the free class and returned to the Foundations Course, told me: ‘After I learned the shoulder roll and then worked with my clients, I felt so much more open to the world.’

Might stretchlying, with shoulders rolled back and chest open, alter this fellow's sense of wellbeing?

Might stretchlying, with shoulders rolled back and chest open, alter this fellow’s sense of wellbeing?

Again, even though I’m not working directly on the psychological state of my posture students, I see positive results that are in the psychological realm. People with healthy posture tend to have a more positive body image. Practicing healthy posture, which requires us to be present in the moment, can also be an effective way of quieting the mind.

Yet another thing I know from my teaching of the Gokhale Method, as well as from my own experience as an individual with rheumatoid arthritis, is that by having a better understanding of my body and by knowing how to protect my muscles, joints, and skeletal system to prevent pain–all these things give me actual greater control over my health. This is such a rich topic, because I also know, both professionally and personally, that feelings of helplessness–a loss of control over one’s life–represent one of life’s biggest stressors!

Small groups

Another strength of the Gokhale Method is that classes are taught in small groups, which to my way of thinking is a wonderful way to teach people, many of whom are not comfortable with their bodies, or are feeling frightened or are in pain. Not only does the small-group approach enable teachers to do hands-on work with each individual, it encourages students to learn from one another, and to form a kind of community. The Method is a practical, step-by-step educational model, not a medical model, and in a small group this becomes a very powerful way to learn.

The rewards of teaching the Gokhale Method

When, as a prospective teacher, I signed on for Gokhale Method teacher training, I first needed to take the Foundations Course, and then I needed to find someone willing to work with me. I chose my cooperative sister!  At the time, she was having difficulties with hip, shoulder and foot pain. She had been going to health professionals for several years with no relief. ‘I was at my wit’s end,’ she said, when we recently reminisced about this. ‘It was so amazing to me that, after years of getting no relief through the usual channels, learning this method from you–my sister–could make such a positive difference.’

With most of her hip, shoulder, and foot problems resolved over the course of my teacher training, she was able to go back to biweekly Jazzercise classes that she still enjoys today. After working with my sister, I taught two people at once, then four people, then six–until I graduated my way up to teaching small-group classes.

My sister was my first student! Here, when we were pre-teens, it seems I was already encouraging her to roll back her shoulders

My sister was my first student! Here, when we were pre-teens, it seems I was already encouraging her to roll back her shoulders

A teacher-centric organization

While the 8-step fundamentals of teaching the Gokhale Method have remained essentially the same, Esther has ensured that teachers’ skills, energy, and time are leveraged by technology, and that the company stays cutting-edge. For example, teachers now use an iPhone app that makes it possible for us to take before-and-after pictures of our students and upload them in real-time to the private, secure, student-portion of the Gokhale Method website. Uploading these images straight from the classroom triggers an email to the student, so that as students walk out the door after completing a Foundations Course, an email alerting them to private (for their eyes only) class photos is waiting in their inbox.

Instant  access to these before-and-after photos is a powerful tool for students, in part because so many enter the classes wondering, ‘How am I ever going to change in such short period of time?’ And, with the before-and-after photos, they can see what a difference the training has made, even if they’ve taken an intensive course over a single weekend. The before-and-after photos also remain a valuable tool for students long after they have completed the coursework.

Also advantageous to both students and teachers is the ease with which student histories are privately, securely, and  instantly shared via the Method’s electronic educational record. This allows for uniformity across Gokhale Method training and continuity for students. Just now, for example, I taught a student in Florida who had been taught by my fellow-teacher Kathleen, which means that prior to my meeting with her I could access private information about her case and be prepared.

Also hugely helpful is the student intake form. When students sign up online or call the Palo Alto office, they complete a form that provides teachers with need-to-know information. This creates a link between individual students and teachers prior to their meeting. Gokhale Method teachers have access to only their students’ intake form, although, via the Teachers’ Water Cooler, we can reach out to our colleagues for additional expert input on unusual or particular cases. In these ways–and more–technology makes us stronger. We have the support of the entire teacher community, including Esther. And of course there are advantages to teaching–and learning–in a franchise where there is uniformity of high standards.

To sum up, I love being a teacher of the Gokhale Method, because it gives me back so much. To help people get to the root of their pain and posture problems, without imposing risks–to make such a difference in peoples’ lives by putting the practical power to heal into their own hands and teaching them to problem-solve significant challenges in their lives–well, it’s just incredibly rewarding.

If you are interested in learning more about what’s involved in teacher training, please check in with us at teachers@gokhalemethod.com. The Gokhale Method Institute is not able to satisfy student demand in a number of places in the US, Canada, and abroad and would love to have more qualified teachers join us.”  – See more at: http://gokhalemethod.com/blog/56476#sthash.dpLoglOm.dpuf
Here, I help a Gokhale Method student anchor his ribs

Here, I help a Gokhale Method student anchor his ribs

Inclined to teach?

If you are interested in learning more about what’s involved in teacher training, please check in with us at teachers@gokhalemethod.com. At present, the Gokhale Method Institute is not able to satisfy student demand in a number of places in the US, Canada, and abroad, and we would love to have more qualified teachers join us.”

If you are interested in learning more about what’s involved in teacher training, please check in with us at teachers@gokhalemethod.com. The Gokhale Method Institute is not able to satisfy student demand in a number of places in the US, Canada, and abroad and would love to have more qualified teachers join us.”  – See more at: http://gokhalemethod.com/blog/56476#sthash.2CM0onMl.dpuf
If you are interested in learning more about what’s involved in teacher training, please check in with us at teachers@gokhalemethod.com. The Gokhale Method Institute is not able to satisfy student demand in a number of places in the US, Canada, and abroad and would love to have more qualified teachers join us.”  – See more at: http://gokhalemethod.com/blog/56476#sthash.5inZDSEu.dpuf
If you are interested in learning more about what’s involved in teacher training, please check in with us at teachers@gokhalemethod.com. The Gokhale Method Institute is not able to satisfy student demand in a number of places in the US, Canada, and abroad and would love to have more qualified teachers join us.”  – See more at: http://gokhalemethod.com/blog/56476#sthash.2CM0onMl.dpuf
If you are interested in learning more about what’s involved in teacher training, please check in with us at teachers@gokhalemethod.com. The Gokhale Method Institute is not able to satisfy student demand in a number of places in the US, Canada, and abroad and would love to have more qualified teachers join us.”  – See more at: http://gokhalemethod.com/blog/56476#sthash.5inZDSEu.dpuf

 

Teaching the Gokhale Method is incredibly rewarding--it gives so much back

Teaching the Gokhale Method is incredibly rewarding–it gives so much back

 

If you are interested in learning more about what’s involved in teacher training, please check in with us at teachers@gokhalemethod.com. The Gokhale Method Institute is not able to satisfy student demand in a number of places in the US, Canada, and abroad and would love to have more qualified teachers join us.”  – See more at: http://gokhalemethod.com/blog/56476#sthash.dpLoglOm.dpuf
If you are interested in learning more about what’s involved in teacher training, please check in with us at teachers@gokhalemethod.com. The Gokhale Method Institute is not able to satisfy student demand in a number of places in the US, Canada, and abroad and would love to have more qualified teachers join us.”  – See more at: http://gokhalemethod.com/blog/56476#sthash.dpLoglOm.dpuf
If you are interested in learning more about what’s involved in teacher training, please check in with us at teachers@gokhalemethod.com. The Gokhale Method Institute is not able to satisfy student demand in a number of places in the US, Canada, and abroad and would love to have more qualified teachers join us.”  – See more at: http://gokhalemethod.com/blog/56476#sthash.2CM0onMl.dpuf

 

Image Credits:
All photos and video of Roberta Cooks, MD, courtesy of Roberta Cooks
Maryland Governor and Congressman Thomas Swann, public domain, Library of Congress

Duane Hanson’s ‘Man on A Bench,’ Wikimedia Commons
Three photos of Maryland Science Center Exhibit, Assemble, courtesy of Roberta Cooks
Buenos Aires Argentine Tango, Helge Høifødt, Wikipedia
Psychotherapy Session, Wikimedia Commons

 

Analyze this!

A fun and educational contest

For fun and mutual learning, we’re launching an interactive blog feature where we invite you to share images of posture (healthy, unhealthy, and everything in between) for us to analyze. By us I mean me, Esther, and my Gokhale Method teaching colleagues.

Periodically, we’ll select from all the submissions “best-of” images that offer a rich platform from which we can launch an online conversation. After we’ve added our two cents to your contribution, we’ll publish the photo and commentary here, as a blog post.

With proper credit, images from the private and public domain may be submitted

With proper credit, images from the private and public domain may be submitted

Contest guidelines

If you’d like to join the fun, you don’t have to do much to earn our stamp of approval, but please keep the following guidelines in mind.

1. Image eligibility

Images must either belong to you or the public domain. When you share an image you’ve found online–for example, at Wikimedia Commons or the Library of Congress–please supply the following information, so we can provide proper credit:

  • Image title
  • Name of photographer or artist
  • Online source (if applicable)
  • Link (if photo was found online)

For example, complete credit information for the image above is:

  • Title: Portrait of Beppie Landzaad riding a rocking horse, Pematangsiantar
  • Photographer: Unknown
  • Online source: Wikimedia Commons, Tropenmuseum of the Royal Tropical Institute, the Netherlands
  • Link: COLLECTIE_TROPENMUSEUM_Portret_van_Beppie_Landzaad_op_een_hobbelpaard_Pematangsiantar_TMnr_60021764.jpg

We welcome photos of you and those who share your world, but if you’re submitting a photo of family members or friends, or individuals you’ve encountered when you’re out and about, we rely on you to get the subject’s permission and submit a completed Model Release Form.

  • Click here for a printable Model Release Form.
With subjects' permission and signed model release forms, photos may feature strangers or people you know

With subjects’ permission and signed model release forms, photos may feature strangers or people you know

2. Image format

Only digital images can be considered. (Sorry, we don’t want to receive and potentially lose track of precious originals!)

And the preferred format is:

  • JPG file (ie, those with a .jpg extension)
Only digital images will be considered; JPG files are preferred

Only digital images will be considered; JPG files are preferred

3. Image submission

Please submit photos to:

  •  info@gokhalemethod.com

4. Deadline for first contest

To be considered for the first contest, images must be submitted by: 

  • 11:59 PM Pacific Standard Time, November 30, 2013

Submissions that arrive after this deadline will be set aside for consideration when we run a follow-up contest.

Wikimedia Commons is a rich source of public-domain images; this woman is 102!

Wikimedia Commons is a rich source of public-domain images; this woman is 102!

5. Judges’ criteria and selection process

Some of the questions we’ll be asking as we weigh the merits of each submission are:

  • Does the image relate to Gokhale Method techniques and lessons presented in 8 Steps to a Pain-Free Back, or related materials available at the Gokhale Method website?
  • Can we learn and teach from the image? It doesn’t matter whether the image models ideal or less-than-ideal technique, the question will be: Does it provide enough information for us to constructively weigh in?
  • Is it a relatively high-quality image? Is the focus sufficiently sharp, the subject well lit, and the focal point relatively uncluttered by distracting visual information?
  • Is credit information complete?
  • Have you included with submission of your own photos a signed Model Release Form?

Win a prize!

Nice spine-lengthening!

Nice spine-lengthening!

After we review submissions, we will award a prize for the image we select and discuss. Contest winners may choose from one of the following prizes:

  • Signed copy of 8 Steps to a Pain-Free Back
  • Copy of the DVD Back Pain: The Primal Posture Solution
  • A Gokhale Method Stretchsit® cushion
  • An 8-ounce container of wild-crafted Monisha™ shea butter

A sample image and analysis

Just to kick things off, here’s a fun image from the public domain. We’ll provide a little background, then our very brief analysis. And, if you’d like to weigh in with commentary or questions, we encourage you to do so by adding a Comment to this post.

Dutch-Cupid-Gillrayp-Library-Of-Congress

Princely posture

So, who is this plump fellow with conveniently positioned garden spade in hand, and what sort of posture message does he convey?

The central figure in this hand-colored etching is William V, Prince of Orange-Nassau (he has a Facebook page!), the last chief executive and military commander of the Dutch Republic. He’s lying in repose in London, where–for 11 years–he led the Government of the Dutch Republic in Exile.

Why is a prince depicted in this way?

According to Wikipedia, caricaturist James Gillray was editorializing on “William’s dalliances during his exile,” depicting him as “an indolent Cupid sleeping on bags of money, surrounded by pregnant amours.”

And the orange plants in the foreground?

“Each orange bears the likeness of the prince,” apparently offspring of women of William’s dreams, as represented by the very pregnant milkmaid, fishmonger, house maid, and farm women who gather behind him.

Posture lesson

This is a terrific image, not just because the etching is so skillfully rendered and the scenario so obviously humorous, but because we can actually learn something from William because he embodies healthy reclining posture. His buttocks are a little bit behind him, he’s sporting a J-spine, and he’s wonderfully demonstrating how to prop himself up and support himself in a way that maintains a relatively neutral spine.

How might we apply what we learn from this 1796 image?

Perhaps the key takeaway is that William’s posture represents a healthy way to watch TV, read in bed, or converse with friends from a sofa or chaise.

We hope you’ll participate

We are eager to see your images–and teach and learn from them–so thanks, in advance, for sending something in!

Old_man_fishing Pedro Ramirez_ US Fish and Wildlife Service Public Domain

Photo Credits:
Portrait of Beppie Landzaad riding a rocking horse, Pematangsiantar, Wikimedia Commons, Tropenmuseum

Work in the office, Voglia, Creative Commons
Teen Texting, DLSimaging Creative Commons
Zhuang’s old woman in Fusui, Parper, Wikimedia Commons
Food Reward, GoOutside, Wikimedia Commons
“The Dutch Cupid Reposing After the Fatigues of Planting,” James Gillray, Library of Congress
Old man fishing, Pedro Ramirez, US Fish and Wildlife Service, public domain

Muscling up

“Males should be tall…have broad shoulders, toned arms, ‘six-pack’ abs, and a small waist.” This, according to The Center on Media and Child Health, characterizes the “ideal male body” being aggressively marketed to boys and young men.

Body image and self-esteem

Of course, promotion of the he-man physique is nothing new. For decades, starting in the 1940s, the once bullied Angelo Siciliano, better known as ‘Charles Atlas,’ marketed his transformation from “scrawny weakling” to “The World’s Most Perfectly Developed Man,” in order to sell his bodybuilding program. Atlas’s message was overt: If I could turn my  string-bean body into pure muscle and no  longer be the target of bullies, so can you.

Charles Atlas ads, launched in the 1940s, ran in comic books and boys’ magazines for decades

Charles Atlas ads, launched in the 1940s, ran in comic books and boys’ magazines for decades

Today, “muscular messaging” is  overt and insidious. Via the Internet, television, film, magazines, and countless products, impressionable teens can be targeted pretty much 24/7.

And it’s not just about boys.

“Strong is the new skinny”

Fitspo, characterized in the media as “the new thinspo,” refers to online content girls seeking “fitspiration” can easily create and access via FacebookPinterest, and Tumblr. While the objective of these online postings is purported to inspire a fit, active way of life, many fitspo images feature worrisomely thin or overly sexualized bodies most girls could never achieve.

Fitspo: Online content for girls seeking "fitspiration"

Fitspo: Online content for girls seeking “fitspiration”

“Strong is the new skinny” is fitspo’s tagline.

Recent research confirms “strong and muscular” trends.

Adolescent muscularity–a new study

The authors of “Muscle-enhancing Behaviors Among Adolescent Girls and Boys,” a study published in Pediatrics in November, found that muscle-enhancing behaviors were common among both boys and girls, and that muscularity is an important component of body satisfaction for both genders. To pluck out a few of the many fascinating (and in these instances, alarming) findings: About 8% of girls and 10% of boys report using protein supplements, and just over 2% of girls and 4% of boys report using steroids.

Public-Domain-US_Army_50994_The_Edge,_Kids_learn_to_Excel,_Develop,_Grow_and_Experience_during_'out-of-school'_program

Muscle-enhancing behaviors are common among boys and girls; 4% of boys and just over 2% of girls report using steroids.

What can grownups do?

Discouraging boys and girls from embracing unobtainable standards as yardsticks by which they measure their body image is a daunting task, but concerned adults can begin by paying attention, asking questions, talking about body image, and providing wise counsel. Parents might also consider how their own issues with body image might be impacting their kids.

The authors of the muscle-enhancing study in Pediatrics make some specific recommendations, among them:

  • Broaden existing body-image programs to address muscularity, as well as thinness
  • Explicitly ask adolescents about muscle-enhancing behaviors
  • Initiate conversations when conducting sports physicals
  • Emphasize moderation in behaviors
  • Focus on skill development, fitness, and general health
  • Craft messages to ensure they are culturally relevant
Constructive conversations might also touch on the fact that strength training should not be confused with bodybuilding, weightlifting, and powerlifting–and that while strength training is meant to increase muscle strength and endurance, “bulking up” is something else.

 

Photo Credits:
Charles Atlas Cartoon, public domain
Strong Is the New Skinny, Tumblr
Bench Press: U.S. Army, public domain