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John Elder guiding Brian Bradley

Egoscue Method: For Chronic Pain Treatment and Pain-Free Posture

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John Elder

John Elder is the vice president of corporate operations for Egoscue Inc. and former clinic owner of Egoscue Nashville. John is the main content contributor for the Egoscue blog. A client since 1995, he was an instant believer in the Egoscue Method and felt relief after his first visit at Egoscue headquarters in Del Mar, California. It is because of Egoscue that John was able to realize his dream of playing Division I baseball while at Yale University. John has traveled internationally with Egoscue and handles many of the Midwest and East Coast speaking engagements for Egoscue Inc. His clientele includes the young and old, working professionals, stay-at-home moms, professional athletes, weekend warriors, politicians and the everyday “Joe.”

Brian Rossiter interviews John Elder by telephone in March 2017 in this Closeup interview in Fruit-Powered Magazine.

John Elder Traces the History of the Egoscue Method and the Creation of Some of Its Exercises

In my seven years of practically daily practice of the Egoscue Method, I’ve often wondered, “How did Pete Egoscue come up with some of these exercises?” I’m not alone, I’ve found, because many of my Posture Exercises Method clients have asked the same. Can you describe what you know about Pete’s thought processes and approach early on to realigning the body’s load-bearing joints—the shoulders, hips, knees and ankles—for correct posture and a pain-free body?

John Elder (Egoscue Method): He basically discovered the Egoscue Method out of necessity. He was injured in the Vietnam War, and, coming out of the war, he was basically told that the hip pain, the back pain and everything that he was experiencing—all the X-rays were negative and all the MRIs were negative and the doctors couldn’t “find anything wrong”—was in his head and that he just thought he hurt. And if you’ve spent any time around Pete, you can get how well that went over. Which is not very well at all.

He basically said: “Forget it! I’m going to find my own way. I’m going to do this thing and get myself out of pain because I believe I can.” He bought a copy of the Gray’s Anatomy book and started reading through it. You’ve got to keep in mind that Pete’s a football player and had no formal anatomy training or physiology training. But he just knew—his body’s instinct told him there’s something to posture.

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“When I look at the Gray’s Anatomy book, I see the shoulders on top of the hips, on top of the knees and on top of the ankles from the front view and from the side view. The spine has a sort of “S” curve to it, and when I look in the mirror, I’ve got one shoulder that’s higher than the other, my hips are rotated, my feet point out in different directions, my head’s in the next county.” He started seeing all these things that were different in his posture that was different than the design posture.

And he basically just said, “There’s got to be something to this.” So he started putting himself down in different positions and started doing different things based on the premise of body balance and musculoskeletal balance, with the left and the right sides doing the same thing and front and back doing the same thing and the top and bottom doing the same thing. He set out to restore himself back to a balanced state. It took him about a year, but he got himself back out of pain. And he had a belief along the way and said, “Gosh, this posture thing is the key to all chronic pain.”

“For me, Egoscue has been a complete game changer, personally, on the physical side, with what it’s done for my body. … And now, professionally, to be able to do what has certainly become my life’s calling, which is to tell other people about my experience and show them the power that their bodies have to heal themselves.”
—John Elder

Pete Egoscue’s Influences in Creating the Egoscue Method

What were Pete’s biggest sources of influence and inspiration in creating the Egoscue Method?

John Elder (Egoscue Method): Gray’s Anatomy is the one he always talked about when telling his story, which he doesn’t tell often. He’s come to a point where: “This isn’t about me and isn’t about my story. It’s about all the clients and getting them better.” But the origins of this, the genesis of this, was really in Gray’s Anatomy. And I think, at the time, not having any background, that’s all he knew.

You walk into a bookstore and say, “What’s the best book you have on anatomy?” and they go, “It’s right here; it’s Gray’s Anatomy,” and he went: “OK, great. I’ll take it.” Obviously, I’m imagining how the conversation went. That’s the only book I’ve ever known him to talk about.

I’m in awe of the simplicity and complexity of the Egoscue Method as a practitioner since April 2010 and postural alignment specialist, trained by Egoscue Institute. It’s when I’m writing menus designed for a person’s posture and alignment that I catch myself thinking, “Pete’s a genius for coming up with all this” as well as “Everyone should know about the Method.” How long did it take for Pete to get his Egoscue Method down to produce a high success rate and when did he know the Egoscue Method had arrived? What was the linchpin to make it all work?

Pete Egoscue

John Elder (Egoscue Method): There are two different stories on that. So when Pete finally got himself out of pain, he was still in the Marines, actively serving. His buddies, Marine buddies, started coming to him, and saying, “I have knee pain,” “I have ankle pain,” “I have back pain,” “I have hip pain,” etc. And Pete would send them away because he would say, “You know, Brian, I know you have knee pain, but, buddy, I don’t know anything about the knee. I was able to fix my back, but I have no idea what’s going on with your knee.” They would hound him and bug him, and so he finally would say, “OK, Brian, come back in two weeks.”

And he would take those two weeks and learn everything he could about the knee but not only about the knee, about the hip sitting above it, the ankle sitting below it and how the opposite side of the body acts and reacts based on what the other side is doing. And he basically learned everything he could about the function of the body as it relates to this client or this buddy’s knee pain. So the fellow Marine would come back two weeks later, and Pete would take him to do some exercises, and the pain would go away. And it was kind of a lather, rinse and repeat with all his Marine buddies for various symptoms.

And that continued on as he was trying to do this part-time gig as a hobby for about seven or eight years. Right around 1980, he decided to do his hobby full time and set out on his own. He was basically working out of the back of his van. He would drive house to house and service the clients. It was all based on word of mouth. One would tell the other, who would tell the coworker, who would tell the friend at the gym.

I would say the turning point for him was, as he was doing this, he had left the Marines and was trying to pursue this Egoscue Method full time, and he ran into an elderly woman at a pool one day, and she looked like she was in quite a bit of pain. She would walk out of the locker room and take a step and drag one leg and take a step and drag the other leg, and she got down into the water and was moving around, and Pete was observing this and got down into the pool with her. He said: “Ma’am, you don’t know me, and I don’t know you, but you seem to be in quite a bit of pain. Would you mind if I show you a couple of things just to see if it would help you?” And she said: “Oh, my gosh, no. I’d love it. If you could do this, it would help.”

So Pete showed her a couple of things. She went into the locker room and changed and then came out walking better and said, “Excuse me, sir, I don’t know who you are, but you do this full time, and I’d pay you for what you do.” And that was kind of the turning point. She ended up being the connection to Jack Nicklaus. Pete was introduced to him in the late ’80s, and here we are. Jack wrote the foreword to The Egoscue Method of Health Through Motion book. He’s been a very much trusted friend and confidant over the past 30 years. Pete and Jack are still in communication with each other. I think Pete just watched the Super Bowl at Jack’s house a few weeks ago. They’re great friends, and Jack is forever grateful for what the Egoscue Method has done for him.

From the Egoscue Method to Patch

More than 400 E-cises, short for Egoscue exercises, have been developed for the therapy side of the Egoscue Method. There are almost 350 more in Patch, with some overlap between the two. Can you talk about what Patch is, how and when it was developed and what its role is in the Egoscue world?

Logo for Patch Fitness

John Elder (Egoscue Method): The Patch is, in its truest definition and its origins, was a tomato patch—a tomato patch of a thousand or so acres. What we now refer to as Patch Fitness as is basically functional fitness: moving the body around, manipulating your body around your environment. So you’re going over something, going under something, going around something. That’s what Patch Fitness has grown into.

In its origins, it started out as, essentially, a Marine and almost boot camp-style mentality. There were some athletes who were kind of bored and complaining, saying “We want to do more.” And Pete said, “All right. Meet me at the next stop north, and the next day, we can work at the clinic.” There was an equestrian center that was adjacent to this tomato patch. And we basically started having the athletes move in ways that you don’t typically move in when you’re in the gym. It wasn’t bench presses, squats or leg presses. It was bear crawls, duckwalks and piggybacks. It was throwing big logs from a jump squat, or jump-thrust position. It was walking with logs overhead, lunging with logs overhead, one-legged hops, two-legged hops. It was getting these guys outside their typical training box.

And rather than saying, “Hey, meet me at the equestrian center next to the tomato patch,” he would just say, “Hey, we’re going to Patch.” So that’s how it began. Now, we have a full obstacle course, outdoor-indoor obstacle course that asks your body to move in 360 degrees in an unloaded movement, meaning there’s no weight on you. It’s simply body weight and manipulating yourself around your environment. For our clients, where Patch fits into our therapy process, as we start to get a client pain free—and I won’t even say we wait until they are pain free—there are certain elements of the Patch that we can incorporate into the therapy process to actually get our clients pain free.

This is too improve hip function, to improve shoulder function, to improve how the body’s moving overall on a global aspect. So it has become not only how we train our athletes but also become a part of what we incorporate into our therapy.

Watch Coach Glass With Egoscue’s Brian Bradley in a Patch Fitness Workout Video

Exploring Specific Egoscue Method Exercises

Fran Adams of Egoscue Philadelphia clued me in on the back story behind Static Back in connection with the wrestler Gorgeous George. Can you please tell this story for Fruit-Powered Magazine readers? It’s a wonderful example of serendipity.

John Elder (Egoscue Method): I’ve heard the Gorgeous George story as it relates to Supine Groin Stretch. So this is kind of like the telephone game where one person whispers in the other person’s ear, and by the time you get around in the circle, the story’s changed a little bit. I’ve always heard it as it relates to Supine Groin Stretch, which, for us, is an exercise in which one leg is up on a block or a chair ottoman, and the other leg is straight out on the ground.

When Pete was in the Marines, there was a Marine boxing event, and Gorgeous George was on the event card, doing an exhibition wrestling match. And for the readers who don’t remember Gorgeous George, he was a professional wrestler who was a bit big back in the ’50s. And the story that I’ve heard was that George was in the locker room before the event, kicking and screaming, and Pete said, “Hey, George, what’s going on?” And he said: “Oh, I’ve sprained my ankle. I’m not going to be able to go in the ring. I’m not going to be able to wrestle.”

Fran Adams demonstrates the Egoscue Method exercise Static Back, with Joan Adams looking on, at Egoscue Philadelphia
Fran Adams demonstrates the Egoscue Method exercise Static Back, with Joan Adams looking on, at Egoscue Philadelphia on March 12, 2015.

And Pete, in his anatomical, physiological infancy, the only thing he knew to do for a sprain was to elevate it and ice it. So he said: “Come here, George. Lay down on the ground. Put your sprained ankle up on this chair. I’m going to put an ice pack on it, and let your other leg just relax straight on the ground.” So he had one leg up and one leg out. Pete got called away for about 30 minutes or so for a meeting, and he comes back into the locker room he says: “OK, George. Stand up and walk around for a little bit. Tell me how your ankle feels.” And George said, my ankle doesn’t feel a damned bit better, but my back hasn’t felt this good in 15 years.”

And that was, again, an a-ha moment for Pete, when he kind of went: “What the heck did I just do? I’m trying to take care of George’s ankle, and all of a sudden, his back pain is gone.” So that led to what we now know as Supine Groin Stretch. What Pete found as he went back and really thought through the process and then put himself down in that same position, the hip flexor muscles, the iliopsoas, was allowed to return to its proper length of tension. That allowed the pelvis to reposition, and that allowed the femur to reposition as well as the lumbar spine and the thoracic spine. It had this full downward body and upward body domino effect. It had a chain reaction because what was happening at the pelvis and the hip joint during that time. So it’s now become, by accident, one of our most or probably our most powerful exercise. Supine Groin Stretch was the original supine groin exercise.

We then went to Supine Groin Progressive, in which you have one leg up and the straight leg elevated, and then you work it down to the ground. That was based off of clients with such extreme back pain that they physically couldn’t get their leg to the ground without just writhing in pain, so Pete said, “Let’s just elevate it to a point where they’re comfortable, and then we’ll work them down to the ground.” So these are a couple of exercises where one certainly was discovered by accident, Supine Groin Stretch, and the other one, Supine Groin Progressive, was modified by the client’s inability to get into that position in a pain-free nature.

A demonstration of the Egoscue Method exercise Supine Groin Progressive on Towels
Supine Groin Progressive—here, with towels in use—is perhaps the most impactful among 700-plus exercises in the Egoscue Method library.

Wall Drop is an exercise I enjoy partially because it enables me to work some key postural muscles—my glutes and inner thighs—in a variation of the straight-up exercise. As a wearer of negative-heel shoes, this exercise resonates with me deeply. How did this exercise, which calls for the feet to be raised on an incline using a slanted board, come to pass?

John Elder (Egoscue Method): To be honest, I don’t know how he came up with Wall Drop other than [his] looking for a way to hit the whole posterior chain of the body. On the slant board, you’ll feel a “calf stretch,” which is absolutely part of it. Not stretching so much—we’re asking for a change in the length and tension of those muscles but there’s a whole upward chain impact that it has from calf up to the hamstring, pelvis, lumbar, thoracic, cervical spine head position, shoulder position. We’re impacting the whole, let’s call superficial back line, if you’re familiar with Thomas Myers’ Anatomy Trains.

That looks at superficial back line, and you’ll see there’s one continuous line of connective tissue that goes from underneath your foot—it kind of attaches up out of your toes—from underneath the foot, up the heel, up the higher backside of the chain, up the skull and then wraps up over the top of the skull and attaches right above your eyebrows, right up to the eye socket. So if we were to dissect you and dissect your superficial back line, it would be longer than you are tall because of going underneath the foot and going up and over the head. So that’s a very powerful exercise for our clients who are rounded over in their upper back, whose heads are forward and shoulders are rounded. It’s asking that whole posterior line to re-engage and open up.

Arnold Kauffman practices Wall Drop, an Egoscue Method exercise
Arnold’s Way owner Arnold Kauffman performs Wall Drop, an exercise in the Posture Exercises Method. Read a story about Arnold Kauffman’s journey to improve his postural alignment

Airbench is a favorite exercise of mine. It does so much—helping get the hips squared while stacking the joints and strengthening the glutes and thighs—in so little time. Where did this one come from and, after watching 60-year-old Fran Adams do this for a shade more than 30 minutes in November, I have to know what the record length for doing this exercise is?

John Elder (Egoscue Method): That one was developed as a way to make a trade of work for pain. So essentially what we want to do with all of our clients is trade work for pain with the proper muscles working or getting the muscles functioning and working properly in order to take pain out of the areas that are compensating, or doing jobs that they’re not designed to do. So Airbench was developed as a way to improve and engage bilateral hip function, meaning getting both hips working, or doing the same thing, at the same time. Doing work on the hips to take pain out of the back—the lumbar spine specifically.

With 99 percent of our clients with low-back pain, they have this pain in their lumbar spine because of a lack of proper hip function. So the more balanced we can get the hips, the less pain you have in the lumbar spine. The lumbar spine is reacting perfectly when there’s pain no matter what the diagnosis is. Your clients, readers and listeners need to know that there’s absolutely nothing wrong with the back, even if you have a herniated disk, spondylolisthesis or scoliosis or any of these other conditions that they’ve been diagnosed with. These aren’t death sentences, these diagnoses. They’re signals. It’s as simple as that.

Low back pain, knee pain, hip pain—whatever the symptom—it’s a signal that something isn’t happening that should be happening. Not that something is happening. It’s not that, “Oh, my gosh, my disk is herniated.” No. The lumbar disk—L4–L5—that’s herniated? Why? Why is it not L3–L4? Why is it not L5–S1? What happened at L4–L5? Not to the disk but to the surrounding area? For example, the hip imbalance or the hip function? What’s happening at the hips that caused L4–L5 to take the brunt of the work? So Airbench is designed to get the hips to fire properly, to get the hips to fire bilaterally, to take pain out of the back. So we’re trading work for pain.

I’ve always heard the record is around 40 minutes by a female teenager. So I’m working with a 20- to 30-year-old man, and I’m like, “All right, are you going to break the record today?” They’re like, “What is the record?” I’m like: “Forty minutes. By a girl.” And they’re like, “No way!” They start laughing, and they come out of it 30 seconds into it. But you know, Fran’s being able to hold that with the whole back is quite a remarkable feat. I get to about 2 to 3 minutes, and my legs start shaking. You know, that’s enough for me.

Fran and Joan Adams practice the Egoscue Method exercise Airbench
The clock shows 16:59, and Fran Adams, with his wife, Joan Adams, went on for about 15 more minutes sitting in an invisible chair—practicing the Egoscue Method exercise Airbench—in early November 2016. On this day, I lasted 12:30, besting my previous best of 8 minutes from November 2015.

You know, I think Fran’s heroics exceeded Tom Brady’s Super Bowl LI performance.

John Elder (Egoscue Method): Quite possibly. Fran is a functional beast.

Developing New Egoscue Method Exercises

I learned from Caroline Weber through an Egoscue Institute Insiders call that one or two E-cises are added to the lineup a year these days. Can you take us through the process by which exercises are conceived, developed, fine-tuned and then embraced by Egoscue clinics and postural alignment specialists such as myself?

John Elder (Egoscue Method): A lot of it is throwing something against a wall and seeing what sticks. One exercise sequence that Pete developed several years ago was, as he was out watching gaits, just watching people walk, he noticed there was an overall lack of and certainly a decrease in plantar flexion at the ankle. So this is that last little bit of ankle movement as your leg travels behind you and you start to push off the ground and then bring that back leg forward, when the ankle is pushed and kind of extended. That’s what we call plantar flexion.

So Pete set out to find a way. “Gosh, how can I change this? How can I figure this out?” And he went through what we know now as the Ankle Sequence. These exercises went through a series of revamps. It was rolling the pelvis forward and sitting up tall, and then it was to let the pelvis roll back and let the spine flex. We’ve gone through kind of various trial and error with the sequence to see what is actually most beneficial and what our clients need most.

So I would say a lot of it is experimentation by the therapists. Some of them are more seasoned therapists who see that a certain exercise and how it’s been has been done isn’t as effective with the general population. Or maybe the general population just can’t do it like we could 10 to 15 to 20 years ago because we’ve become much more sedentary. So we’re always tweaking and fine-tuning our exercise database. We only address posture. That’s it. We’re not symptom driven. We’re only making it about posture.

Condition postures in the Egoscue Method
Many more Method clients exhibit Condition 3 posture, marked by a posterior-tilted pelvis, in recent time. Almost all clients also face rotational issues in the body in which one side swings forward of the opposite side. This is referred to as Condition 2 posture.

So we’ve found more and more walking through our clinic doors on a daily basis is what Pete wrote about in The Egoscue Method of Health Through Motion, his first book, which came out in the early ’90s, what he would refer to as the Condition 3 posture in which the pelvis tucks under, the upper back rounds forward, the head goes forward—kind of that capital “C” or question mark-looking posture. We see more and more of that because we are spending so much more times at our desks, in our cars, on the couch, etc. We’re just not moving as much as we were 20 years ago, let alone 30, 40, 50 years ago. So as we see more and more Condition 3 posture, we may have to adapt and tweak our therapy based on the general clientele who’s walking through our doors.

That’s not to say we don’t see a Condition 1 [exhibited by a forward-leaning pelvis] or a Condition 2 [exhibited by rotation in the body from side views] anymore—we certainly see those—but Condition 3 is becoming more and more common.

John Elder’s Healing Story with the Egoscue Method

What was your introduction to the Egoscue Method, John, and how did it help you?

John Elder (Egoscue Method): My introduction to the Egoscue Method was in the mid-’90s as a client. I was diagnosed with a bulging disk, L4–L5, from the ages of 14 to the ages of 16½. It was a two-and-a-half-year battle with this chronic-pain issue. I had tried other things but not Egoscue. I was doing physical therapy three to five days a week. I was in a back brace for about six months. I had tried acupuncture, massage therapy, chiropractic work. I had surgery scheduled at the age of 14 and canceled it literally at the eleventh hour, about 11 o’clock or midnight the night before. I remember sitting in my bedroom at the age of 14 with tears streaming down my face, scared to death of the surgical procedure that was scheduled for the next day.

Something in my gut said that if this is happening at 14, what will 24, 34, 44, 84 look like? I’ll never be a baseball player, basketball player. “Was I going to be able to play baseball?” “Was I going to have to take up photography?” “God, I hate piano, do I have to keep playing piano?” You know, all these things were running through my mind. “If I can’t play baseball, what’s life going to look like?”

And you know on the surgical consult, my orthopedic surgeon said, basically, that they were going to go into my lumbar spine with essentially a needle-sized shop vac and suck out some of the disk matter. He said, “But the body is a living, breathing organism, and it can and will regenerate and so we’ll get you some relief, but I don’t know how long it’s going to last.” And even at 14, that made zero sense to me. It just didn’t sit well.

A pitcher throws a baseball to a batter
John Elder dreamed of playing baseball at the collegiate level. His practice of the Egoscue Method enabled him to correct musculoskeletal dysfunction, which caused him chronic pain, and achieve his dream.

I didn’t know anything about Egoscue at this point. But I was like, “Gosh, if this is happening, why am I going in for this procedure if there’s a chance I’m just going to have to do it again?” So we canceled surgery, and I continued on with physical therapy. I had some pretty good results from physical therapy and got my pain to a point that I would consider manageable, tolerable. Out of a zero-to-10 pain scale, I was looking at about a 3, maybe 4. Looking back, it was probably closer to about a 5 or 6 on a daily basis. I think those of us who have been in chronic pain, we tend to numb it down. The 5 or 6 over time begins to just—you get used to it. It begins to feel like a 3 or 4.

My sophomore year of high school, I believe it was, I had a basketball tournament. We played on Thursday, Friday and Saturday. I had a baseball clinic that I attended on Sunday and woke up on that Monday morning to go to school. I tried to stand up and froze at about 45 degrees. I Couldn’t move. I was 16 at the time, with pain shooting down my butt, down my legs in my low back. I freaked out. I had no idea what I was supposed to do in terms of: “Do I stand up? Do I drop down? How do I even move from this point?”

About six weeks prior to that, one of my sisters was seeing a chiropractor, and his intern had suggested The Egoscue Method of Health through Motion book to her. He said: “Hey, I think this will really help you with the hip pain you’re dealing with. With what we’re doing here, I think would be a nice compliment.” She called my folks, told them about it and said: “I think this book will be really good for John with his back pain. I think you should check it out.”

So six weeks prior, we went out and bought the book and, like all good books, we came home put it right on the bookshelf. [Laughter.] So that Monday morning, we got the book out, and I spent the next eight to nine hours in the Static Back position, which was flat on my back, legs up on the couch. That was the only comfortable position I could find. I grew up in Wichita, Kansas, there’s no clinic there. There is no clinic there still. The only clinic, at the time, was our San Diego headquarters, and so about 10 o’clock Central time, 8 a.m. Pacific time, my folks were on the phone with San Diego to say, “Hey, when can we get in for an appointment?” They said, “Well, how soon can you get here?”

We flew out that very next morning, Tuesday morning. I had my first appointment Wednesday. We were there Wednesday, Thursday and Friday and flew back that weekend. My dad and sister went with me. At dinner Wednesday night, my dad was what I called “taking inventory.” We had booked three flights on 24 hours’ notice, he was off work all week and we had hotel, car, meals, therapy and therapy equipment expenses, which is a big investment for my folks. All of our eggs were in the Egoscue basket, so to speak.

So Wednesday night, my dad’s sitting at dinner and says: “OK. How we doing? How you guys feeling?” And my sister and I kind of looked at each other, and I think it kind of hit us at the same time that we were sitting there and basically pain free. Pain was not on the forefront of our minds. We were comfortable in our chairs. In order to re-create our pain, we had to really kind of twist and turn and torque to find even just a hint of it. And for the first time in about two-and-a-half years, I went: “Oh, my gosh. There’s something to this Egoscue Method. This is different than I’ve felt in a very long time.” And I was hooked. That was my Egoscue experience.

So that was in 1995. Fast forward 10 years later to 2005. I went back and got certified through Egoscue Institute with the intent of becoming a clinic owner of Egoscue Nashville. And I was the clinic owner for about 10 years. We opened up in July ’06, and I transitioned out of clinic ownership one year ago yesterday. March 2016. I transitioned out of ownership and onto our corporate staff. Now I oversee new clinics that are going to expansion, folks who are wanting to do what I did for 10 years. So I help folks open up all our elite clinics and do a little bit of work with our Egoscue Institute teaching. I also do all of our social media, blogging and things like that.

For me, Egoscue has been a complete game changer, personally, on the physical side, with what it’s done for my body. I was able to play collegiate baseball, which was very much in doubt at one point. And now, professionally, to be able to do what has certainly become my life’s calling, which is to tell other people about my experience and show them the power that their bodies have to heal themselves.

How long do you usually spend on your personal menus and what are your favorite E-cises?

John Elder (Egoscue Method): Great question. For me I do something daily. I’m a 10- to 15-minute kind of guy. And at this stage of the game, I’ve been around this Egoscue Method for over 20 years. My body is pretty functional. I still have my things that I have to work on. I have a little bit of right hip pain, I’ll feel my right knee every now and then. Just different things will pop up here and there. I do Supine Groin Progressive two to three times a week. I’ll do something daily, whether it’s my menu or whether it’s a Patch Fitness workout. I just got back from the gym this morning. I did a Patch Fitness workout.

And then I’ll be in the tower, watching a movie or game or something. … So I always do something daily just to keep my body functional. I’ll do my menu, I’ll do a Patch Fitness workout to be able to keep my body functioning like I need it to. I have three young boys who play baseball, and I coach them. I want to stay being an active dad; I don’t want to be just a bump on a log.

I’m not going to let them “out-activity” me. Even though I’m their old man, I’m always going to be at least, in my mind, a step ahead.

So you do the full two hours of the tower two to three times a week?

John Elder (Egoscue Method): I do.


John Elder's Egoscue Method menu for April 6, 2017
This is a screenshot of a recent Egoscue Method menu for John Elder.

John Elder (Egoscue Method): It’s an absolute must for me. About four or five years ago, I’m 99 percent sure I tore the labrum in my right hip. It’s not been medically or clinically diagnosed, but based on symptoms and working with others who’ve had the same thing medically diagnosed, I’m 99 percent sure I have a torn labrum. As long as I’m doing my menu and spending time in the tower, I have zero pain from it and zero limitations. So I’ve done triathlons, I’ve done a Half Ironman, three-and-a-half years ago. I had was zero issues swimming 1.2 miles, biking 56 miles and running 13 miles. I had zero issues running a 70-plus-mile course. I’ve done other triathlons since then and placed in my age group. So with different things like that, I can ask my body to do pretty much anything I want it to do because it’s functional.

I’m approaching 40, and I may not be as great as I once was, but I still think I’m getting physically and athletically to where I was as a 20-year-old. But, you know, I may not have been where I could have been in my 20s, but I have no limitations as long as I’m doing my stuff. The tower is as an absolute necessity—an absolute game changer—to my overall functional health.

In the film Tony Robbins: I Am Not Your Guru, I caught a glimpse of Tony doing E-cises. His posture looks sharp. Has he been on board with the Egoscue Method all these years—it must be two to three decades—as part of his daily routine? How does the Egoscue Method fit into the sphere of Tony’s events?

John Elder (Egoscue Method): For Tony, personally, the Egpscie Method is the foundation for everything he does throughout the day. So you saw him doing some of the vocal training while he was doing Gravity Drop. You saw him doing some other stuff while he was doing the Knee Pillow Squeezes. Brian Bradley, one of my colleagues, and I were just at Tony’s place, where they had shot I Am Not Your Guru back in January, and then we were just with Tony in Canada for an event. Egoscue, for him, was a life saver decades ago. He fell off a polo horse and experienced a ton of pain. He had known Pete, and he and Pete hooked up, and Pete gave him some exercises and got him out of pain.

Tony Robbins practicing an Egoscue Method E-cise
In a scene from Tony Robbins: I Am Not Your Guru, Tony Robbins practices a gentle exercise from the Egoscue Method.

So for Tony, the Egoscue Method has been the basis of everything he does throughout his day. He gets up, does his menu and then goes on throughout his day. He’s such a believer in the Egoscue Method that he has now asked us to introduce it to his groups at large. So we go to the Unleash the Power Within, the Platinum Partners and the Life & Wealth Mastery events—we go to probably seven to eight events of his a year. We’re in front of 50,000 people every year who are getting introduced and inundated and indoctrinated in Egoscue and what it can do to their bodies in a very, very short amount of time. What it can do to their bodies if they take that next step and actually start to do one-on-one therapy and see what effect that has on them from the physical side.

Tony talks about being in state and making sure your physical, mental and emotional state is where it needs to be. Egoscue is the foundation of all of that. You’ve never seen someone who’s depressed with perfect posture. Right? You know when I say, “Picture somebody who’s depressed.” You go to the rounded shoulders, the flexed upper back. That’s the depressed position. So when you’re depressed, you take that posture, and I believe that when you have that posture, you will become depressed. I believe it’s a two-way street because you cannot separate the physical and the emotional. And no one better than Tony Robbins understands that.

Of perhaps the three most visible people in the Egoscue world—Pete Egoscue, Brian Bradley and yourself—who has the best postural alignment?

John Elder (Egoscue Method): [Laughter.] There’s not a chance I’m answering that question. … You know, you look at Pete, he’s in his 70s now, and he gets up every day at 4 a.m. with no alarm clock, thanks to the United States Marine Corps. He does his menu, goes for a walk or a function run on the beach, does a Patch workout or spend time in the tower. He still, in his 70s, walks the walk, talks the talk. He’s the Jack LaLanne, if you will, of the postural function world.

Brian and I, we work very closely together, and we travel to a lot of the same events together. What Brian knows of me and I know of him as it relates to what we do with menus, what we do with the tower, what we do with Patch Fitness, we, as well, are walking the walk and talking the talk. Brian and I can get in a Patch workout and match each other stride for stride. I don’t think you can be in this business and not do what we’re telling everybody else to do. I cannot, Brian cannot, Pete Egoscue cannot not do our menus and then go stand on stage in front of three people or 10,000 people at a speaking event. We cannot get on stage and not at least look the part.

On stage, somebody may not notice that we have one shoulder that’s slightly higher, but that’s completely different than us getting on stage and just being a total functional wreck. Or not being able to get on stage because we’re in so much pain we can’t get off of our backs. Because we’re keeping crazy schedules, Brian and I are in different time zones in different parts of the country throughout the year as well as different parts of the world throughout the year, we have to make sure our bodies are operating as best as they functionally can. So I don’t know if it’s a matter of who has the best posture. It does come down to all three of us doing what we need to do to stay as functional as possible and the answer is absolutely yes.

Joan Adams is photographed at Egoscue Philadelphia on March 12, 2015

Read my special interview on the Egoscue Method with Joan Adams!

A woman sits in a cross-legged meditation pose

Read my article “A Look at the Meditation Position with Egoscue Method Eyes.”

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