by As someone who has managed sciatica pain for many years by doing different stretching exercises, I was very impressed when I came across Jonathan FitzGordon and his CoreWalking Program. The philosophy of the program is to help people live pain-free lives by changing the way they walk. Jonathan and I sat down to talk about how he started yoga and CoreWalking, and what we can learn from playing guitar to improve our walk.
Jaimie: Jonathan, how did you discover CoreWalking?
Jonathan: I’ve been teaching yoga since 1999. My story is one of injury: I was born with very open, loose hips, and was one of those kids who could bend both feet behind my head.. I was always naturally strong, though I never did push-ups or sit-ups or anything to make myself strong. So when I started yoga at 32 years of age, I was quickly able to do pretty advanced yoga because of how flexible I was. But lacking strength, I got a number of injuries, specifically to my knees. I eventually had to have three knee surgeries and spent a year and a half having surgeries and going through physical therapy.
My life changing moment came when a yoga teacher asked me, “What are you doing to prevent the 4th surgery?” And I realized, “Wow, I am doing nothing.” That was when I noticed a cycle: I would get hurt, go back to yoga, get hurt, have surgery, do rehab, go back to yoga. Of course, if I kept doing the same thing, I would keep getting hurt.
I realized I had to change if I wanted to stop getting hurt. So I started doing some research on patterns. That led me to walking. At this time, I owned a yoga center out in Brooklyn. There was a long hallway to get to my desk and as I sat at the desk, I started watching people walk in and I started noticing how badly everyone walked. People moved in such strange ways and different patterns. Dancers had a specific kind of turned-out stride. When men walked their knees would go wide.
Then I started seeing that when all my students got into class, and I said “do this,” they all did whatever I told them. So I knew they could align their bodies “correctly.” But when class would end, I would watch them go right back into their pattern, whatever pattern they brought into the room.
That was a big moment for me. I realized I love yoga, and I want to take yoga off the mat. I wanted to help people find a way to bring the yoga practice into their life 24/7 and walking is an amazing way to do it.
Jaimie: I love that idea of having a very deliberate follow-through program after students leave your yoga class. When I was younger, I went to the Chiropractor as often as 3-4 times a week. Not a lot of fun.
Jonathan: Chiropractors get a bad wrap. People say that once you start you have to keep going back to them, but that’s not true. You get addicted to the chiropractor if you don’t make changes to accommodate the work they’re doing on your body. For example, you go to a chiropractor because your spine is misaligned and he helps put it back. But it’s just like me with my surgeries, if you leave the chiropractors office and continue to walk and run and play the same way, why would your spine remain properly aligned..
My walking program is really the idea that I’m a guide. I don’t fix people. I’m a messenger, I’m a guide and I will help you work with yourself or other body workers to change your patterns. And it’s pretty simple. It just take repetition. And pain is a great incentive to help people change the way they walk.
Just like learning to play the guitar takes immense focus and muscle memory, you have to be aware.
Jaimie: I’ve been playing guitar most of my life. It certainly takes discipline. I think Andre Segovia once said if I miss one day of practice, I notice. 2 days of practice, my wife notices. 3 days of practice, the audience will notice. One must be aware of the time it takes for muscles to learn new patterns, and sustain new patterns.
Jonathan: There’s a quote that says it take 21 days to change a habit. I don’t think that’s true. Everyone is so different. Some people can pick up that muscle memory and change a habit very quickly, and others might take a long time.
Jaimie: Yes. Sustaining the new muscle pattern is another story.
Jonathan: I’ve been teaching myself to play the guitar for the past 6 months and learning to play the guitar is a great analogy to how muscle memory can differ by individual. Say you’ve been playing the guitar for thirty years and I’ve been playing for 6 months. If you wanted to learn something new, because you’ve been playing for so long and it’s in your brain and in your muscles, you could pick up new patterns much quicker than someone who is a newbie.
Jaimie: Very true.
Jonathan: Our brains are beautiful. Our bodies are beautiful. We can do anything we want with our brains and our bodies. We can change the way we walk. And we can change the way we walk in order to get out of pain. Back pain and hip pain and sciatica. And it is really not that difficult. All the testimonials we get are people saying how surprised they are that the process really wasn’t that difficult. But it is whether or not you have to focus to make it a habit and a pattern in your life.
Jaimie: In 2010 Iris and I started ballroom dancing lessons. I have been a musician all my life, so I thought that having that rhythm would help my dancing. I was wrong. We had a ballroom dance instructor come to our home once a week. After a few years of her coming, Iris and I are dancing now. We’re dancing all the time. But we wouldn’t have had that unless we had a teacher showing us how to position this way, extend our body that way, take larger steps. What I like about your particular program is that you’ll watch the way people walk and then you comment and guide them. It adds a much needed personal touch to the process.
Jonathan: I want to empower people to change themselves and to feel responsible for their change. What I like about the Walking Program is that it ain’t happening unless the person makes the changes.
Jaimie: Thanks Jonathan. I look forward to us getting together. I’ll teach you guitar. You can teach me CoreWalking.