Ishta Spinal Touch, Primary Alignment and the
Physiological Efficient Posture
Ishta Spinal Touch enhances what you already practise by returning people
to their Physiological Efficient Posture as a result of correcting their
The Physiological Efficient Posture
You have a Physiological Efficient Posture when all the parts of the body are correctly aligned with all the other parts of the body, and when the whole of the body is correctly aligned to the gravitational field.
We evolved in the Earth's gravitational field and as such we had
to evolve the optimal structure and posture for our upright spines that would
minimise the effects of the constant downward pull of gravity.
The Physiological Efficient Posture is this optimal position.
It is the posture in which the body uses the least amount of energy to maintain
its uprightness within the gravitational field. You probably see it
in your practice rooms every day; not in your clients or even, dare I say,
colleagues, but on the anatomical charts you have on the wall.
If you exhibit the Physiological Efficient Posture then when you are standing
at a plumb line, from behind the string would bisect you equally left to
right and your shoulders, hips and occiput would be level and parallel.
Side on the string would pass through the middle of your ear, shoulder, hip,
knee and ankle and the spinal curves would be smooth and normal.
The actual anatomical points that we assess using the plumb line are:-
Posteriorly; the external occipital protruberance, the seventh
cervical spinous process, the fifth lumbar spinous process, the first sacral
median crest and the gluteal crease.
Laterally; the external auditory meatus, the sulcus
intertubercular of the humerus, the greater trochanter of the femur, the
anterior proximal tibiofibular joint and the talocalcaneal sulcus.
The Physiological Efficient Posture
The Primary Alignment
Every object has a centre of gravity. This is the point at which the
combined mass of the body appears to be concentrated. If that point
is over the centre of support, which is called the counterweight, then the
object will just simply balance.
If the centre of gravity isn't over the counterweight then you
have to expend energy to hold it there or the object will collapse.
Bodies are no exception. When upright in the gravitational field they
have a centre of gravity just anterior to the L5/S1 junction and a counterweight
If these two points are correctly aligned with respect to each other then
the body can hold itself up against gravity, with ease and poise (i.e. the
Physiological Efficient Posture). If, however, the body's
centre of gravity is not correctly aligned with the counterweight then the
body has to expend energy to hold itself up against the pull of gravity.
This led Ida Rolf to state
"The balanced body does not experience weight due to
How can the centre of gravity be in the same place for everyone when people
come in all different sizes?
We have people who have very long legs and very short legs; broad shoulders
and narrow shoulders; heavy builds and light builds.
Centre of Mass
The centre of mass of an object is defined as a point in or near an object
at which the whole mass of the object may be considered to be concentrated.
It can often be found by determining where the axes of symmetry for
the object cross and can be calculated knowing the densities of all the parts.
Centre of Gravity
The centre of gravity of an object is defined as a point at which the whole
weight of an object can be considered to act from and, therefore, at which
all parts of the object are in balance.
In static objects of uniform density and shape the centre of mass and the
centre of gravity are the same point. However, in dynamic biological
systems they are not.
So the answer to the question above is that what we think of as the centre
of gravity is really the centre of mass, and indeed the centre of mass of
an individual does depend on their body shape and size.
However, their centre of gravity does not!
The centre of gravity of humans is where the whole weight of the body is
considered to act from and the biomechanics of the upright body dictate that
this is just anterior to the L5/S1 junction.1 The whole weight of the upper
body has to be transferred to the Earth via the L5/S1 disc, the sacrum, the
sacroiliac joints, the legs and finally the feet.
Newton's Third Law of Motion
For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. This means
that there must be an opposing force coming up from the Earth to balance
the gravitational pull, and in fact there is. It is called the Ground
Reaction Force and it holds us up against the pull of gravity. It travels
the reverse path of gravity; up through the feet, the legs, the sacroiliac
joints and the sacrum.
However, the Ground Reaction Force comes to a focus at the centre of gravity
of the sacrum, which is at the third sacral segment, and not at the L5/S1
junction. This forms a counterweight to the centre of gravity.
A counterweight is defined as a force or influence that balances or equally
The Loose Link
Because the counterweight and the centre of gravity are not at the same point
a degree of instability exists. Some people feel that the reason that
this has come about is that our basic anatomy developed when we were quadrupeds
and has been adapted, but not altered, to our bipedal gait.
This instability was called the loose link by John Hurley and Helen
The Primary Alignment of the body is when the centre of gravity and the
counterweight are in the correct relationship to each other.
Loss of the Primary Alignment
No structure is distorted until the centre of gravity is displaced and the
body is no exception. Bodies can cope with life's stressors
up to the point of displacement of the centre of gravity relative to the
counterweight. Within these parameters the body is said to be working
within its elastic limits. Once the stressors go beyond the elastic
limit the structure becomes strained and ultimately distorted and the
relationship between the centre of gravity and the counterweight becomes
off set. This distortion can then be measured at the plumb line.
What happens when the Primary Alignment is displaced?
The first thing that happens is that the paraspinal muscles will tighten
to hold the body upright against the pull of gravity. These then recruit
the larger postural muscles to help them. This gives rise to the postural
compensation patterns we see in our practice rooms. Over time this
stress leads to strain, distortion, pain, disease, exhaustion and ultimately
Until the centre of gravity is restored to its normal relationship with the
counterweight the posture will remain distorted.
A study in 1998 demonstrated how important posture and the rehabilitation
of posture are to the reduction of symptoms presented by clients. It
showed that poor posture leads to poor healing of body tissues and can lead
to pathological postural changes as shown in the above diagram. It
also showed that a reduction in symptoms is not enough of a guideline in
measuring the improvement in the structural load on the human frame.3
This has implications for you if you are involved in addressing
people's joints, muscles, fascia, posture, energy blockages, wellness
or peak performance.
When joints misalign the body has its own self correcting mechanisms.
In the case of the vertebrae the body will use the paraspinal muscles to
make the correction, rather like the guy ropes of a tent or mast. If
those muscles are too busy holding you up against gravity they can't
be flexible enough to correct the misalignments. A similar argument
applies to all other joints of the body.
If muscles have been recruited to maintain an upright posture against the
pull of gravity then so long as those holding patterns have to remain any
muscle release techniques won't be able to remove all the tension
in those muscles.
Fascia is one continuous sheet throughout the body. If the fascia has
compensated for postural distortion, for example the dura mater when the
Primary Alignment is lost, then fascial release work anywhere in the body
will be impaired because of the torsion remaining in the dura mater.
If you are trying to improve someone's posture with education or
exercise techniques then while the Primary Alignment is displaced it will
make it much more difficult to achieve lasting change.
It will require much more work applying energy techniques if the energy channels
within the body are blocked due to postural distortion.
If you are working to promote wellness within a distorted body then there
are going to be several factors which will reduce the effectiveness of wellness
Breathing. When there are postural distortions the
respiratory diaphragm is adversely affected reducing a person's
Circulation and lymphatic drainage. With the diaphragm
distorted you get impaired venous and lymphatic return as the inferior vena
cava is not "milked" superiorly on inhalation.
This can lead on to passive chronic venous congestion and lymphodoema.
With an anterior lean of the body you
can get a sagging of all the internal organs making it much more difficult
for an organ to function properly and to act in concert with the other organs.
Postural distortion can lead to changes to the biochemistry as homœostasis has to convert to allostasis.
When concerned with attaining peak performance in a sport, creating marginal
gains can make all the difference. The restoration of the Physiological
Efficient Posture is a marginal gain often overlooked.
Consider the following ...
The Key to Abundant Energy
The following extract refers to a physical body when it is in the Physiological
"Better than 90 percent of the energy output of the brain is used in
relating the physical body in its gravitational field. The more
mechanically distorted a person is, the less energy available for thinking,
metabolism and healing."
Attributed to Roger Sperry, PhD.
Medical Nobel Prize winner for
brain research, 1981.
If we look again at the passage from Roger Sperry we can see that just under
10% (let's call it 10% from here on in) of the total output of the brain
is used for thinking, metabolism and healing.
Just think about that for a minute. 90% of the total output of the central
nervous system is used for keeping our bodies upright in the gravitational
field and only 10% for everything else.
Only 10% of the output of our central nervous system is available for digesting
our food, making new body parts, composing symphonies, being good at sums,
restoring, renewing and repairing ourselves, loving our families and friends,
being creative, reading this article, and in fact any other activity you
can possibly think about, including being "Faster, Higher,
Obviously we need to keep that 10% working so that we can reach our full
potential in life.
Less than 10%
What happens if we are not in the Physiological Efficient Posture? I'm
sure you're ahead of me already. The body will recruit as much of the
remaining 10% it needs to offset the increased drain on the system that is
incurred when the body needs more resources to stand upright.
That means even less of that all-important 10% is available
for everything else, or, as Roger Sperry said,
"The more mechanically distorted a person is, the less energy available
for thinking, metabolism and healing"
Obviously the key to abundant energy is to keep the body in its Physiological
Neurological studies have shown that for the homeostatic pathways within
the brain to be functioning optimally then we need to have a Physiological
Efficient Posture. This is owing to the fact that the vast majority
of the proprioceptors are located within the spine and the stimulation of
these is responsible for the stimulation of the homeostatic regulatory centres
within the brain. So, the movement of a distortion free spine with exercise is essential for more energy being available for thinking,
metabolism and healing.4 & 5
Our body enriches our mind!
How Ishta Spinal Touch Helps
Ishta Spinal Touch, helps the centre of gravity to return to its
correct relationship with the counterweight, and so restores the Physiologically
An Ishta Spinal Touch session starts with a simple yet quantifiable
postural assessment using a plumb line. Once it has been established
in which precise way the centre of gravity is displaced relative to the
counterweight then a neuromuscular holding point can be determined, which
will restore that relationship.
The recipient lays prone while an alignment is given. An alignment
consists of maintaining a contact on the relevant neuromuscular holding point
while releasing the persistent distortion patterns in the major postural
muscles. This uses a unique finger-tip pressure to gently massage
them. In fact once you have contacted the integument under the skin
the pressure used is only five grams.
Following this a post-alignment assessment is done and the improvement
can be instantly measured and recorded. A pre-assessment, an alignment and a post-assessment takes between
ten and fifteen minutes so they can easily be added into your treatment protocol;
allowing your existing skills to become that much more effective.
Watch a five-minute video of the whole process below.
Joints can be re-aligned more easily as you are not working against
the paraspinal muscles. Muscle release techniques are more effective
as the larger postural muscles can release the holding patterns they have
had to adopt. The twists and restrictions in the fascia are more easily
removed as there is less postural disturbance to the fascial system holding
them there. Postural improvements are easier to make as the body
isn't trying to avert collapse. As the energy channels of
the body are lined up then the body will accept energy input techniques more
easily. Wellness will be enhanced because of increased vital capacity,
improved circulation, lymphatic drainage, and a decrease in visceroptosis.
Peak performance can be improved as marginal gains are
Ishta Spinal Touch
The technique that would become Ishta Spinal Touch grew out of Chiropractic in the 1920’s. It was gradually refined and improved by several people over about 70 years and went through several name changes to become known as Spinal Touch.
We became the European tutors of the technique in 1998 and eventually added the “Ishta”. Ishta is an acronym standing for
Integrating Spinal Health with Therapeutic Approaches.
We chose to add this to emphasise the integrative nature of Spinal Touch in that it helps and supports other techniques when added to them
Hurley, J. & Sanders, H. Aquarian-Age Healing For You. Book Two, 1933, pg. 147
Hurley, J. & Sanders, H. Aquarian-Age Healing For You. Book Two, 1933, pg. 149
Troyanovich et al. Structural rehabilitation of the spine and posture: rationale for treatment beyond the resolution of symptoms. J Manipulative Physiol Ther. 1998 Jan;21(1):37-50.
Schmahmann, J. From movement to thought: Anatomic substrates of the cerebellar contribution to cognitive processing. Human Brain Mapping 1996 (4)
Jensen, E. (2000) Moving with the Brain in Mind Educational Leadership November, Vol. 58, No.3, pgs. 34-38, ASCD. Alexandria, VA
Aquarian-Age Healing For You, Book One. John Hurley, D.C., Helen Sanders, D.C., Ph.C.
Aquarian-Age Healing For You, Book Two. John Hurley, D.C., Helen Sanders, D.C., Ph.C.
Essentials of Body Mechanics in Health and Disease. Fourth Edition. Goldthwaite M.D., F.A.C.S., LL.D, Brown M.D., F.A.C.S., Swaim M.D. and Khuns M.D., F.A.C.S.
Clinical Biomechanics: Musculoskeletal Actions and Reactions. Second Edition. R.C. Schafer, D.C., Ph.D.
Innate Physical Fitness & Spinal Hygiene. James L. Chestnut, B. Ed., MSc., D.C.