Joan Adams received a bachelor of science degree in exercise physiology from Temple University in 2004. She went on to receive a certification in the Pilates Method through Power Pilates NYC in 2005 and has been instructing clients ever since. In 2009, Joan was introduced to the the Egoscue Method and was immediately enthralled by its simplicity and effectiveness. She proceeded to become certified as an accredited exercise therapist through the Egoscue University. Joan is grateful for the opportunity to introduce the Egoscue Method to the Philadelphia area.
Anyone who’s done the Egoscue Method could describe it in a few different ways by saying it improves posture, aligns the body, enables peak performance and reverses and prevents pain. Can you sum it up and explain how it works?
Joan Adams: The Egoscue Method is a tool available for anyone to use. The concept is simple in that realigning the body allows our body to operate at its optimal level. What we often find hard is allowing ourselves the time to get realigned and to keep it that way. Our bodies have the innate ability to keep themselves healthy and strong, but we do have the responsibility of feeding it what it needs. Proper nutrition is extremely important, but the part that is often forgotten, especially in today’s world, is motion. Movement of all kinds is food for our bodies and absolutely essential for health. All our systems—digestive, circulatory, lymph, etc.—depend on motion, but as we become more and more sedentary, so do our bodily functions. The Egoscue Method shows us how to bring a variety of movements back in our lives. It is very individualized to fit each person’s posture and lifestyle. The E-cises are gentle strengthening and stretching exercises geared toward changing joint position. Often times, we are not even aware it is happening until we stand up and feel more relaxed or more straight or more solid on our feet.
Much of the focus of the Egoscue Method is on our eight load-bearing joints: two each of shoulders, hips, knees and ankles. Why do our load-bearing joints get so out of whack in the modern day?
Joan Adams: We get “out of whack” due to the lack of movement in our everyday lives. Many of us believe that starting our day at 6 a.m. and going all day—nonstop until 9 p.m.—means that we live a very active lifestyle, but that is not necessarily true. If we could take a snapshot of what joint motions happen in our average day, most of us would find certain movements lacking. For example, those of us who have office jobs would most likely find that extension is not something that happens in any joint on a regular basis. We sit all day, so our hips are flexed, our spine is flexed, our shoulders are rounded forward. After work, we go to the gym and walk on the treadmill or the StairMaster or the elliptical, all of which but the treadmill continues to flex the hip and little else. Our upper bodies are still flexed forward because we haven’t done anything to reverse the position we’ve been in all day. The environments we have created for ourselves have essentially put our joints in smaller and smaller invisible boxes so we simply forget how move with a full range of motion.
Hips and shoulders, my first Egoscue Method exercise therapist, Mike Kenny of the Westchester, New York, clinic, used to say are key with the Egoscue Method. Is this what you’ve seen as well with your clients and, if so, why?
Joan Adams: Absolutely! There is a kinetic chain that runs through our bodies. When one joint moves (or doesn’t move) there is a chain of events, or a chain reaction, that happens up and down the length of the chain (the body). The pelvis is the center of this chain. As Pete states in Pain Free: A Revolutionary Method for Stopping Chronic Pain, the hips unite two powerful creatures into one being—from the runners, jumpers, high kickers and dancers to the throwers, hand-over-hand climbers, painters and crafters. If one or both hips are dysfunctional then the knees, ankles, spine and shoulders will react differently or compensate in order for the body to stay upright and moving. A dysfunctional hip can change the tracking of the knee cap and/or change how our foot strike is during walking or running. Hip dysfunction can also travel up the chain, changing the “S”-curve of the spine as well as shoulder position. At the same time, if the shoulders become dysfunctional, postural muscles that help hold our shoulders back and our heads up are prevented from doing their job. This will travel down the chain as well, creating compensation and eventually dysfunction in the lower load joints.
If you saw 100 people walking down a sidewalk in an average place on an average day, about how many of these people would benefit from practicing the Egoscue Method?
Joan Adams: Everyone.
Can you compare and contrast how the Egoscue Method stacks up against traditional physical therapy? How about yoga and pilates, both of which you’ve practiced?
Joan Adams: The Egoscue Method is complementary to all modes of movement.
What kind of person succeeds in practicing the Egoscue Method?
Joan Adams: Anyone who is willing to do it. The Method is a lifestyle, and it takes commitment. This is not for those who don’t want to take the time and put forth the effort.
What is the Egoscue Method’s success rate?
Joan Adams: As Pete says, “Until you recognize the need, the absolute requirement for taking responsibility, you will not succeed. Once you do accept the responsibility, however, the Egoscue Method never fails. Never. No drugs, no surgery, no machines, no miracles. Just you. A normal person, doing normal things.”
How many stretches and bodyweight exercises are in the E-cises canon?
Joan Adams: There are over 500 exercises.
How important is it that some E-cises follow others when experimenting with building E-cises menus?
Joan Adams: Very. The order is important because the beginning exercises are designed to put your body in the best alignment it can be in and then to strengthen it while in that position and then to leave it balanced and aligned.
I find that my body has a remarkable memory and that if I miss practicing E-cises for one day, I feel it. If I miss two or more consecutive days, I suffer physically and mentally. If you’re someone who has a history of physical pain, are E-cises truly for life?
Joan Adams: Motion is for life. The E-cises are but a tool to put a variety of motion back into everyday life. If you can achieve a lifestyle that does that on its own, then you won’t need to do E-cises every day. Once you become more aligned and re-establish full range of motion, your body actually craves movement. After missing a day or two of your E-cises, your bodily systems were beginning to operate at a less than optimal level and were letting you know what they needed: movement.
Some people say they’ve had serious injuries or were born with irregularities and are skeptical whether the Egoscue Method could benefit them. What do you say to these folks?
Joan Adams: We work with people all the time who have had serious injury or birth defects that benefit from the Method. My husband has had chronic pain for over 30 years, and the Method has helped him so much he became a therapist. At the same time, children and adults who were born with scoliosis have found relief from pain and a way to not only stop the curve from getting worse but to lessen the degree of their scoliotic curve.
Can you share some stories about your clients’ recoveries?
Joan Adams: Everyone has success if they are open to the change. For instance, I have a client who I used to be a Pilates client of mine, and his shoulders would pop in and out of joint when he moved his arms up over his head or out to the side. When I opened the clinic, he called to see how things were going and decided to try it out and learn what it was all about. He’s been coming to the clinic for the past five months, and his shoulders don’t pop out anymore, and his back doesn’t bother him either.
We also have a young man who had a cyst removed from his hip socket about two years ago and developed chronic nerve pain and nausea. His physicians have diagnosed him with RSD [reflex sympathetic dystrophy], which is a chronic neurological syndrome characterized by severe burning pain, excessive sweating, tissue swelling and extreme sensitivity to touch. Although he is not back to school yet, he said he has felt more improvement in the past two months than he has had since the symptoms began.
I understand some “A”-list athletes have made E-cises a practice. Can you provide examples of how some of these world-renowned stars, already in solid physical shape, extended or raised their games? The story of the late Junior Seau, playing the demanding position of linebacker in the NFL at age 40, stands out to me as well as Jack Nicklaus’ story.
- John Lynch: Retired NFL safety. Won a Super Bowl with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. An 11-time Pro Bowler. Played 15 seasons and is considered the 10th-hardest hitter of all time in the NFL.
- Trent Dilfer: NFL quarterback. Won a Super Bowl with the Baltimore Ravens.
- Trevor Hoffman: Pitcher for the San Diego Padres.
- Dave Roberts: MLB player. Won a World Series with the Boston Red Sox.
- Lee Trevino: PGA professional.
- Arnold Palmer: PGA professional.
In his first book, The Egoscue Method of Health Through Motion, Pete Egoscue writes that anyone in any condition may practice Static Back, Supine Groin Stretch (or Progressive Supine Groin) and Air Bench in this exact order before exploring other E-cises. Are there any E-cises that you might recommend in addition to these for beginners?
Joan Adams: Interestingly enough, Health Through Motion was published in 1992. At that time, society was more functional on the whole than it is now, and it was pretty much a given that people would be able to lie on their backs and then lean against a wall. In the time that I have been a practicing therapist, I have had clients who cannot lie on their backs, much less get up and down off the floor. So being a beginner is relative to where a person is starting. One that I would add to these is Sitting Knee Pillow Squeezes.
What are the most effective E-cises, based on your experience as a practitioner and instructor?
Joan Adams: All of the E-cises are effective and functional. If any given one is too difficult for a client to do, it is because some part of his or her body is not functional.
The Egoscue Method is growing. How many new clinics have opened in recent years?
Joan Adams: I believe four clinics have opened in the past year and a half. Egoscue builds its client base by word of mouth.
Learn about the Egoscue Method and how it can reverse and prevent pain and injuries and restore the body’s proper structural alignment.
Read my article “A Look at the Meditation Position with Egoscue Method Eyes.”