After a yoga injury a couple years ago, I have struggled with back pain that has confused my doctors and physical therapists.
After feeling stuck and not getting much better, I became depressed and gained weight. This also impacted my knitting – no one wants to knit while they are in pain!
I began searching high and low for an answer that did not include medication or surgery.
Fortunately, I stumbled across a book and teacher that eventually changed my life and helped me heal my back. I just knew I had to share this technique with all my fellow knitters!
Plus, instead of doing a book review, I thought – why not film a video with the author herself?
So Esther Gokhale, the “Posture Guru of Silicon Valley,” and I set out to record a video just for you on how to relieve back, neck, and shoulder pain.
Video Demonstration: 5 Ways To Relieve Knitting Back, Shoulder, and Neck Pain — with Posture Expert Esther Gokhale
Summary and Recap – 5 Ways To Relieve Knitting Back, Shoulder, and Neck Pain
1. The Shoulder Roll (2:00)
Because of the shapes of our couches, chairs, and car seats, our shoulders tend to get hunched forward over time, which can give you shoulder pain. Concentrating on your knitting makes it worse.
Shoulder repositioning is an easy way to start fixing your posture and relieving your shoulder pain.
1) Isolate the shoulder and take one shoulder at a time a little forward, a little bit up and then, without letting your chest pop up, relax the shoulder back down.
2) It should feel as though you have ratcheted the shoulder back over a gear or wheel.
3) You’ll notice your hands don’t reach out as far as they did previously- that’s good!
2. Stretchsitting (3:30)
To mitigate the fatigue and pack pain of sitting and compressing your spine, you can use a backrest to traction your back and actually stretch and heal it as you sit.
You can use any chair with a low-ish back – even a folding chair.
Position a stretchsit cushion over the back of your chair or use or a folded towel positioned side-to-side.
It should hit mid-back, not low back.
If you have nothing to hang the cushion or towel on, just rest it on the chair back right above your bum.
1) Scoot your bottom all the way back in your chair.
2) Lean forward, away from the back rest.
3) Curve your ribcage forward.
4) Use your hands on the seat pan or wherever you have leverage and stretch your lower spine up.
5) Lean back without popping your chest out and “hook” your back onto the cushion or towel.
6) Follow with your shoulder roll. This will help you stay hooked.
3. Standing Up Periodically (7:07)
It greatly benefits your muscles to get up periodically. We all intuitively know this will relieve our back and neck pain, yet it’s hard to take a minute and actually do it. Think about this as you sit:
1) Every 15 minutes you should be standing up.
2) Stand up and do what feels good! Esther likes to samba, I like to lean forward and stretch my back.
3) When you stand up you are subjecting your body to all kinds of healthy G-forces and additional circulation.
4) As you knit, keep your yarn in a little project bag so that you can bring it with you whenever you have to stand up.
Tip: Whenever you feel a little uncomfortable and start to move and shift in your chair – THAT’S a sign from your body to stand up!
There has been a ton of research lately that shows how bad uninterrupted sitting is for you.
4. Stacksitting (10:03)
When you’re not sitting against the back rest of a chair, you probably alternate between relaxed and slumped or being upright and tense. Both of those do damage and can increase shoulder and neck pain.
The Goal: To learn to sit upright AND relaxed. The key is to have the pelvis well-positioned.
You need a wedge, pillow, or folded towel or blanket on the seat of your chair to help tilt your pelvis forward.
A wedge is built-in to the Gokhale pain-free chair.
You can also use the front edge of the chair if you don’t have a wedge or soft towel (if you’re at a restaurant for example).
1) Sit on the chair almost like sitting on the toilet so that if you had a tail it would be on the seat behind you.
2) Bring your torso upright.
3) Take a deep breath.
4) Do a shoulder roll.
Tip: if you’re using the front edge of the chair, it helps to have your knees below your hips – your legs should angle down.
It takes lots of practice to learn how to stacksit correctly. If you’re doing it right, you should be able to relax (i.e. think “slump”) and remain upright.This is a great technique – you can stacksit anywhere – even on a rock – because of how versatile it is.
Tip: Switch out between stacksitting, stretchsitting and standing up. Each of the positions has its advantages in relieving and preventing back, shoulder, and neck pain.
5. Lengthen the Neck (13:23)
It’s very easy to get drawn into your work and crane your neck forward and down, exacerbating neck pain. To counteract this and to complete your posture ritual, lengthen the neck.
This technique will help relieve tension and pain in the jaw and face, and it often helps reduce chronic headaches, neck, and jaw pain.
1) Grasp one or two little tufts of hair at the back of your neck and gently pull back and up.
2) You are gliding your head back and lengthening the neck.
3) Let your chin relax down. Do not lift the chin, as this causes compression in the neck.
Tip: you can place a small amount of weight, like the Gokhale head cushion, on the top of your head to keep your neck straight.
My Story: I had a daily Bikram Yoga practice for about a year and a half when I hurt myself doing a deep backbend after class one day. In the backbend, my left arm went numb. Since then, every time I raised my arm above waist high, it would go numb again. Scary!
I tried prolotherapy first (the doctor told me to stop going to yoga — cue tears), then dry needling, fire cupping, massage therapy, MAT, and I even got insurance specifically so I could go to a neurologist for an MRI (he said I was fine).
During the two years that followed my injury, I could not do yoga and was too depressed to pick up another sport. Yoga was my sport! I gained weight and lost my enthusiasm for being active.
When a friend recommended the Gokhale Method and I took the free workshop, for the first time I understood WHY my back was hurting, and how a healthy spine was actually supposed to work.
I took the weekend Foundations course. Wanting specific advice on how to go back to yoga safely, I then applied to Esther herself for one-on-one lessons.
While I’ve only recently eased back into yoga, I no longer feel like I’m not exercising. Walking, sitting, standing, bending, and sleeping correctly is now my yoga! My arm and back feel much better, and I also was able to lose weight, a side effect which Esther says is common.
It takes practice, but thanks to the Gokhale Method I am simply enjoying the movement of everyday life, which is a beautiful thing.
Learn the Gokhale Method
- Book: 8 Steps to a Pain-Free Back – Highly recommended – makes a great gift!
- DVD: Back Pain: The Primal Posture Solution
- Learn in Person: Find a Free Workshop or Foundations Course in Your City
- Private Lessons: Get One-On-One Coaching
About Esther Gokhale and the Gokhale Method
The Gokhale Method helps people restore their natural architecture — the posture and movement ways that we all had as little children.
Up until 100 years ago people had excellent architecture and movement patterns.
You still see the same patterns in babies and some cultures around the world today — and all those people are free of back, shoulder, and neck pain!
The Gokhale Method helps you get back to that health and posture efficiently and in a sustained way.
Esther Gokhale’s book, 8 Steps to a Pain-Free Back, has sold over 100,000 copies and has been translated into eight languages. In 2010, Gokhale hosted the nationally televised program Back Pain: The Primal Posture Solution (available on DVD).
Esther has been a speaker/teacher at corporations such as Google, IDEO, Mimosa Systems, and Varian Medical Systems and conferences including TEDx(Stanford), Ancestral Health Symposium, Western Price Foundation Conference, and PrimalCon.
Leave a Comment
Which of these techniques really hits home for you? Did you try any of them and experience any relief right away? What other movement tips would you recommend to our readers? Leave a comment and let me know.
- Top 5 Stretches For Knitting Hand Pain and Stiffness
- Here’s What’s Been Going On (the original post about my injury)