One hip lower than the other, shoulders sloping steeply towards the floor, toes in danger of becoming pigeon-esque if they point any further in. On a scale of postural perfection, I am veering closer to the shuffling, humpbacked John Mills character in the film Ryan’s Daughter than a temple of symmetrical alignment. Yet in just two hours, promises Donal Doherty, an instructor in the Egoscue Method of body awareness, its series of stretches and strengthening moves will iron out my imperfections.
Egoscue already has thousands of Americans sitting bolt upright and this month sees its launch here. There are currently only 11 qualified Egoscue instructors in this country (Doherty among them), but gym staff, physiotherapists and personal trainers are all queueing up to learn what is set to become the next big thing in fitness.
Exercising to lengthen limbs and improve posture is nothing new – see Pilates, yoga and the Alexander technique – but proponents of this approach claim its peculiar exercises and movement patterns achieve results faster and more effectively than the rest. Doherty believes part of its appeal is that Egoscue is tailored to address individual structural weaknesses. Certainly, initial assessments are thorough. Doherty takes photographs of me from front, back and sides, and uses them to analyse my stance and pinpoint imbalances. Then he gets me to walk backwards and forwards to assess my gait. I am seriously off-kilter; but the good news is my faults are correctable, provided my body is stimulated in the right way.
Egoscue is named after its founder, Pete Egoscue, a self-taught anatomical physiologist who, almost 30 years ago, fused the best elements of existing exercise therapy programmes and created his own approach to improving alignment. His theory was simple: when we are born, the body has the blueprint for perfect posture, but over the years bad habits, such as slouching at a desk, affect the way we stand and move. Eventually, shoulders roll forward, feet point in and hips are thrown off balance. “Everything from bunions and corns to headaches can be a result of the cumulative effects of poor posture,” says Doherty.
Egoscue’s 500 stretching and strengthening moves (called E-cises) target the muscles that support the skeleton, so we can again move and stand in a symmetrical way. During my session, I repeatedly crawl on all fours, perform donkey kicks and jump on and off a bench. Many of the modified yoga postures require you to support your body weight for up to three excruciating minutes at a time, and even simple exercises are surprisingly torturous: try circling your arms while pinching your shoulder blades together and you’ll see what I mean.
Intermittently, Doherty asks me to stand still or to walk the length of the studio to check my postural improvement. Although I’ll need to keep up the E-cises at home, after 90 minutes of crawling and stretching I look and feel less lopsided. “Your shoulders aren’t as rounded, you don’t roll your hip quite as badly and your feet aren’t rolling out any more,” says Doherty. It might not sound like much, but, coming from an Egoscue instructor, this is praise indeed.
· Egoscue classes cost from £10; visit www.egoscue.com for a local practitioner. Individual sessions with Donal Doherty cost from £78; call 07905 545 728.
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