Season 1, Episode 5

Meet the Posture Genius 

We meet the Posture Genius Aaron Parnell, and talk about his unique Reposturing method. Aaron works in the Silicon Valley, helping people overcome bad posture and pain.

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Also, check out The Posture Genius’ light-hearted rap about posture – it put a smile on my face…

About This Episode

Meet The Posture Genius!

Meet the posture genius

Aaron started out supporting athletes at the Los Angeles Olympics, and was inspired by posture expert Dr Vic Barker. Aaron developed a body-work method that included stretches and exercises that were having a great impact on people’s posture. Soon after, his clients, so impressed by their improved posture, encouraged him to form his very own Reposturing method. Listen as Aaron tells us about posture, explains how Reposturing works, and offers his tips to help you improve your own posture.

Transcript

James Crow
Hey everybody, its James from Posture Stars. Thanks so much for coming on again. Today I’m going to be talking to the posture genius himself, Aaron Parnell, who hails from the United States. Hi, Aaron, how are you today?

Aaron Parnell
Hello, thank you for having me on.

James Crow
So pleased to have you. I’ve heard a lot about you, you’ve got a great Instagram channel, we’ve been watching you on there as well. So it’s a delight to have you on board. I wanted to get an idea about how you’re helping people with posture and some of the recommendations that you can give to people today. So without further ado, Aaron, would you like to introduce yourself and tell us a little bit about who you are and where you work and what you do?

Aaron Parnell
My name is Aaron Parnell. Some people call me the Posture Genius. And that’s my handle on Instagram, if you’re looking looking me up. I am a posture therapist, expert, hands on with the work that I do. And I invented a word called ‘reposturing’. It’s a standalone technique, technology, that’s just as viable as Pilates or a chiropractor, or even yoga. It’s got a wide breadth of content and value. So that’s about reposturing and I own a natural health Wellness Centre in Silicon Valley.

James Crow
So that’s a popular place to have a Wellness Centre, I’d imagine. I’d imagine it’s going really well.

Aaron Parnell
Yes. Yes, it’s fun work here. And at my centre. I have chiropractic massage, Ayurveda acupuncture and of course reposturing.

James Crow
Okay so you’re looking after all of those high and mighty peeps from Silicon Valley who are making the world tick now. And you’re keeping them going whilst they’re building their amazing computer programmes.

Aaron Parnell
Exactly. I have quite a few clients who work for Apple, Oracle, Microsoft, and even Google.

James Crow
That sounds like a great client base. I wish I had a few of those myself. I’ll have to I’ll have to poach them from you, Aaron.

Aaron Parnell
Okay, yeah, come on down.

James Crow
I’ll take a trip over any day. For those people listening. I’m in the north of Manchester and it is dark and gloomy at the moment. Aaron is over on the west coast of the US in lovely sunny weather, no doubt, enjoying the best of it. You mentioned that there are various modalities like yoga and Pilates and they’re very mainstream, and they’re very well known. Reposturing is your own. And I haven’t come across that before I came across your stuff on the internet. Perhaps you could tell us a bit more about what reposturing is and how you developed it.

Aaron Parnell
At first, when I was helping athletes in the Olympics in Los Angeles, I was helping them get the best out of their sports performance, either faster recovery, more performance, longer duration of being able to stay in the game and stay sharp. And by the end of the Olympics, I really, something woke up inside of me. And I decided I really like working with people who are trying to get the best out of their bodies. So wind the clock forward, I get out of the Olympics, and I’m starting to work with my clients who came to me to work with me not only just for sports massage like they did before the Olympics, but they started asking me to work out with them. And I added the exercise and fitness component to the work I was doing on the table. One of my clients is a marketing expert. And 10 years later, he said, “You know, Aaron, this stuff is great. I’ve talked to a lot of your clients, we have them as friends. And we all agreed that this is not a regular massage, it’s better than sports massage. And one thing that even though we all get different results, we all agree that our posture gets better. So why don’t you call this reposturing”. And so that’s how the that’s how the trademark came up, came about. Reposturing is a synthesis of exercises, and hands on treatment or exercises alone and stretches alone, that help to balance your body out. It gives you what I refer to as posture optimization. And what posture optimization is and I know you’re going to get to that question, what is it? Posture optimization is the ideal arrangement of your bones, you have 206 balls at 637 muscles, but there is a perfect arrangement for the bones to be in, so that the bones do the work of weight-bearing and the muscles do the work of movement.

James Crow
I hear you there. So when I talk to an ergonomist and I say what is posture, they talk about posture in relation to a workstation or a job and from a chiropractic angle you’re coming straight in terms of: here we are, here are your bones, here are your muscles, let’s make sure that they are functioning optimally to give us the opportunity for best posture. Is that right?

Aaron Parnell
Effectively yes, but there’s there’s more to it than that. Posture optimization embraces and encompasses an entire spectrum of how you would use posture. So yes, if you’re sitting at your desk, you want to be upright with your head upright and your head level so that your eyes can see directly across at your screen. However, if you’re playing golf, there’s a different posture for golf. And you can posture optimize for golf, you can posture optimize for equestrian sports and you can posture, optimise for just about anything you do. What you want to do is restore your body’s weight-bearing and force-transfer through the bones and not through the muscles. So you don’t have to think about it if you have it right. And so that’s why reposturing includes the exercises that strengthen the posture muscles that keep you upright, but also liberates and provides flexibility to the muscles that need to move. So that being upright with great posture all the time is easy and effortless.

James Crow
I’m sold Aaron, I’m getting on the plane in the next five minutes, I’ll be with you in four and a half hours, you can have a session, you can do a session on me it sounds great. Well, that’s really clear, then so so you’re working muscularly you’re working skeletally to get people set so that they can apply themselves as best they can to individual situations like golfing, like horse riding, like a lot of our listeners, using a computer. So let’s let’s drill down on our very first question, then, which is such a broad question, but you’ve got a great angle on it. And my question to you is what is posture?

Aaron Parnell
Posture is the arrangement of bones, that allows the muscles to do the work of movement, and the bones to do the work of weight bearing and force transfer. Posture also, without trying to get too esoteric about it, posture can also mean the effective way that you can transmit force to create a result. So yes, indeed, you know, military has posture and when they talk about, you know, whether they’re going to be set up to go to war, or set up to be at peace, they talk about a military posture or a political posture. You can have the posture of fighting, and there’s an optimal position for fighting. So posture is more than just, you know, you standing up or sitting up straight. Posture is how you arrange your bones to transmit force, energy and intention.

James Crow
So a lot of people when they hear the word posture, they immediately think of a before and after image. And they think that posture is the end, it’s the end goal. And here what we’re talking about is that posture is one of the means that you can apply to achieve your goals in life.

Aaron Parnell
That is correct. Absolutely. So, Amy Cuddy gave a great TED talk about how she used posture to transform herself while she was in college. And by changing her posture, she changed who she was, so that by the time she got her degree, she was a completely different person compared to who she was when she started.

James Crow
If any of our listeners are looking for that, if you look up Amy Cuddy on TED talk. Really, really popular TED Talk there about power postures and how you can improve your life by improving your posture. We’re kind of in that area, aren’t we Aaron, we love to improve people’s posture. It’s such a pleasure when you see people who are struggling with pain and self image and other life problems, because their posture is bad, and then improving their posture, all of a sudden, a lot of their issues are resolved and life becomes a lot easier for them. And yet, so few people talk about it because I think posture is such a broad term and people see it as, you know, do I look like a film star in this photograph or don’t I? And they they forget that you know, we have posture to load the washing machine. We have posture to drive our car and they all have a big impact on how we feel and and how much we can achieve in life.

Aaron Parnell
Yes, indeed. In fact, there are comparably as many esoteric manifestations or aspects of posture as there are physical and structural and musculoskeletal. So, you know, in my book, The Slouching Superheroes Guide to Achieving Great Posture I talk in depth about each one of these aspects. Of course, yes, most people come with their interest in posture because they have a chronic pain that they want to alleviate. But there’s a posture for self mastery, there’s a posture for beauty. And if you if you have poor posture, no matter how attractive you are, because posture is a dynamic thing, you can get lost in looking so beautiful, but being clumsy, and you can lose your beauty that way. You can have habits that take that detract from your beauty.

James Crow
Yeah, totally. I understand now what posture is from an Aaron Parnell Posture Genius point of view. Very good. My second question, which is a larger question is, so how exactly do you help people with their posture?

Aaron Parnell
Two ways. So typically, someone calls me and says, “Hey, Aaron, you know, I’ve got this ache or pain that nobody else has been able to solve. And I’ve been to 10 doctors about it but maybe it’s a posture issue, maybe you can take a look at it”. And so, the work that I do with reposturing is hands on. So I’m typically isolating not only the musculature, but the fascia that goes along with it. There’s this thing called myofascial meridians. And if you ever get a chance to look up or go to the website, anatomytrains.com. Thomas Myers has done a magnificent job at mapping out all the myofascial meridians. So I’m stretching the myofascial meridians, as well as the musculature that’s adjacent to it, and are restoring flexibility and freedom to the parts that are imbalanced by strength. And I’m giving you exercises to make sure that you restore your flexibility, and make sure that your body is flexible enough so that having great posture is natural, easy and effortless for you. What I find is that when people try to think about their posture, then it takesp them away from what they’re focusing on. Like, if you’re driving and you’re thinking about your posture, that’s too much thinking about your posture. I want you to focus on being on the road safely. When you’re at work, you don’t want to be thinking about your posture, you want to be thinking about your work. And if I’m an employer, I want you to be solely focused on getting your best work done for me. If your posture comes to you effortlessly and naturally, so that you don’t have to think about it, that’s the goal of reposturing.

James Crow
Great, so it’s a bottom-up way of giving people the capacity for good posture by ensuring that physically they’re in the right place to to enable that. Absolutely. I see some people who’ve worked out a lot who actually, it seems to me, that their physical prowess is spoiling their posture. People who have, you know, a great six pack, but they’re rounded over like a pill bug or something like that. Is that something you come across?

Aaron Parnell
Absolutely. In fact imagine a person who does what I refer to as front loaded workouts. That’s the person who goes to the gym, they do push ups, crunches, leg lifts, planks, incline extensions, where their chest muscles are pushing weight up. And what winds up happening is their whole body is curled forward, and over time, they’re actually causing more problems that they’re solving by doing the workout. Very often, if you have people who spend more than 50% of their time working on their front muscles, you’re going to have a person who’s going to be imbalanced, and their back muscles won’t be able to hold them upright. And over time, they’ll lose what I call their vertical flexibility, their ability to stand upright. And so yes, this is a big problem. And it’s one I hope to be part of the solution for.

James Crow
Okay, so people who are working out, your suggestion is that they make sure that they’re not just front-focusing that they’re giving themselves a rounded holistic workout session.

Aaron Parnell
If your back muscles are weak, you want to make sure you strengthen the back muscles that pull your body upright. And you know, we’ve got two sets of back muscles, I grouped them in twos. There are some back muscles that pull your body upright. And for the for the geeks out there, it’s the erector spinae group, the quadratus lumborum, and latissimus dorsi to some to some degree. But then you also have muscles that go across and these are rhomboid major, rhomboid minor and trapezius, mainly upper trapezius and middle trapezius, that pull the upper body and pull the shoulders back. So you want to make sure that these muscles are strong enough to do their job, so that the shoulders wind up behind your body’s midline. And if your workout doesn’t do that for you, if your workout pulls your body too far forward, it will never achieve the balance that it’s supposed to have.

James Crow
So assume now that Apple and Google listen to this podcast and they say “Hey, that James Crow, he’s amazing. We’re going to fly him out to Silicon Valley. And we’re going to give him a job in one of our offices. And then I spend several years working at a desk or working from my home office at the desk, and I’m so busy that I haven’t got time to work out. And I ring you up and I say “Aaron, Aaron, I’m ruined. Look at the state of me”. And I come into your clinic. What would you do with me?

Aaron Parnell
On a first session, we’ll take measurements, photos and video of how your body is right when you come with us. Of course we do a initial consultation where I want to know your life story. Were you involved in a sports? Which sport? Did you have any car accidents or injuries that might affect how your body is today. And I put all of those into a composite of a treatment plan. And the hands on treatment might involve unravelling the legs so that they fit better in the hips. And opening up the rib cage, restoring the expansiveness of the rib cage and shoulders. So it looks like somebody is doing a facilitated stretch, or like somebody doing yoga to you on a treatment table, in a much more specific way. And in a much more personalised way then than say a Thai massage might be, where they have routines that they do, but they’re not specific to create a result that structurally specific.

James Crow
I had a Thai massage. About a year ago, I had a few, I really enjoyed them and the first time I went, it was a one size fits all massage. And I swear they nearly broke me. I came out of there, absolutely destroyed. So I’m glad to see you taking someone’s history and taking notes of how they need to be helped. A lot of people nowadays, they’re working from home more often, if someone wanted to take advice from you, and they were working from home, they weren’t able to come into your clinic, how would you help that sort of person? Is that something you can do?

Aaron Parnell
Yes, as a matter of fact, there are two things that I have. I have a free workout that’s specific for people who are wanting to improve their immune system. And so that will help you a lot. If you go to my website, theposturegenius.com. Just click on and order the Super Heroes Startup Bootcamp. But if you want to help your posture, especially if you sit for a living, then order my workout that’s called 22 Days To Great Posture Bootcamp. And every day, you get one exercise to do two or three times. And each one of the 22 exercises improves your posture in some specific way. Some are flexibility, some are strength, but what winds up happening is you keep doing these and your posture gets better and better and better to the point where you’re just about your maximum vertical height that you’re supposed to have. And you have the freedom you’re supposed to have.

James Crow
When you talk about this, the first thing that comes to mind when I hear a lot of experts speaking is they talk the talk, but they don’t walk the walk. Do you do follow through? Do you do your own exercises? It’s something that you take time to do?

Aaron Parnell
Absolutely, yes. In fact, I’m going to be teaching a class right after this. In addition to my own teaching class, what I find is that if I have an ache or a pain or something feels kind of stuck and not moving, I know the specific exercises to do. And I do them regularly. Because if you look at the nature of my work, I’m kind of leaned over a table like a chef might be leaning over a table chopping all day. I’m constantly working on a table that’s, that’s at the perfect ergonomic height for me to use my weight to do the work. But what winds up happening is you know that my front muscles get stronger. And I have to make sure that I posture optimised by strengthening my back muscles and restoring the flexibility back to my hips.

James Crow
Last year, I think probably about a fifth of my clients were massage professionals and physiotherapists and other body workers who were breaking themselves working on other people and everybody forgets to look after themselves. I can clearly see you look after yourself, Aaron because before we came on air, we were talking about what you were doing. You were you’re working with the with the Olympics, the Los Angeles Olympics in the early 1980s. And frankly, folks, I’ve just turned 50 and Aaron looks probably half my age. So whatever you’re doing there it’s working well.

Aaron Parnell
You know, when I was 26 I remember looking at a slide with my blood on it and I and I knew enough about haematology that I this was not the blood of a healthy person. And I decided then that in order to be as healthy as I would like to be, you know when I’m 50 or 60 I need to start now. I decided to get healthier, 5% healthier every year for 20 years. And you know, as a matter of fact, that is a good thing that I had that strategy because it’s worked in my benefit. And so time went by, but I didn’t age like people get old.

James Crow
You’re going to have to stop doing that, otherwise you’re gonna get so young, you’re going to end up like a toddler and then going through the birth process again. They’ll make a film about it. No, you’re definitely looking looking well for your age. Okay, so we’ve got a good idea about what you think posture is. And I’ve got a good idea about how you help people. And we’ve talked about some of the ways online now that people can get help. So my final question is, for my listeners, and those who aren’t driving, obviously, if there’s one thing that they could do right now, to help with their posture, what would that be,

Aaron Parnell
Okay, improve your flexibility all over your whole body. But most important, strengthen your posture muscles. You have to make sure that if you have the balance of strength, and flexibility, that leaves you upright and enables your bones to do the work of weight bearing, then having great posture is easy and effortless for you.

James Crow
I’d agree. On the flexibility side. So many people at the moment are focusing on strength and appearance for photographs like on Instagram and stuff like that, and they are neglecting their flexibility and it is having a very negative impact and will lead to injury if they’re not careful. And just talking about ageing, once you’re past your 20s, you’re out of warranty and if you don’t start looking after your flexibility it’s downhill from there on.

Aaron Parnell
Yes, yes indeed. And, you know, way back in the day, people used to say you should have good posture. And they even taught posture in the schools. But then they stopped doing it. In fact, here in the States, there used to be a contest of Miss Correct Posture. And the the American Chiropractic Association used to host it every year. And I don’t know how long they did it, but they stopped doing it in 1969, the year that Twiggy became the role model for how people should look, if they were going to be cute. But then, you know, over the years, we’ve had an increasingly more sedentary lifestyle. So that’s why I say good posture is not good enough. Good posture is what you can think of when your parents walk into the room. They say sit up straight, you hold it for a little while, and then you go right back to where you were before, slouching. But that’s why great posture should be the new model for having posture that sticks all the time and you don’t have to think about it.

James Crow
Particularly as we’re heading into this age of virtual reality, people are going to be wearing virtual reality headsets, they’re going to be lost in the internet, lost in their phones a lot more. I’m sure in years gone by, me saying those words, I’ll look like I’m something out of the 1800s. But if you’ve got natural good posture, then that should look after you during those those periods of being in a virtual world?

Aaron Parnell
Yes, absolutely. No matter what, people need to be in touch with their bodies, and they have to find a way to do that, whether it’s some sport or some activity, and I’m not talking eSports. and there are lots of great eSport. But even then, focusing, taking time away from your game, or having more people develop games that make you have better posture optimization, you know, that should be a goal, you know, you should be able to play your game with great posture, and have it be part of the game.

James Crow
Okay, so you’re in Silicon Valley, all you have to do now is get some some of those guys to build some games with you that are going to help people’s posture as well.

Aaron Parnell
One day somebody is going to be listening to you. Absolutely.

James Crow
With regards to eSports. I’m hoping to speak soon to a physiotherapist who works in eSports called Violeta Ivanova. She’s working with eSports people who are, a lot of them are struggling dreadfully with posture and pain because they’re lost in their game. And it’s all about winning in the game, even if there’s a physical cost there, so it’ll be interesting to see what she’s got to say about that as well.

Aaron Parnell
Yes, indeed, indeed.

James Crow
When I finish this podcast, I’m going to go and have my tea. And I’m just thinking before I have my tea, if there’s one exercise that you would recommend that I did, what would that be? What’s your favourite exercise?

Aaron Parnell
My favourite exercise, if I was going to give you only one is what I call the cross toe reach back. You have your feet apart about two shoulders plus apart, not quite three shoulders, but two and a half shoulders is good. That’s really wide, with your feet, parallel toes pointing forward. You take your right hand, you twist and reach down and do what you can to reach your left ankle. And then you go upright. Swing your arms back, simultaneously in both arms, yank your chest open. What that does is restore flexibility to the anterior chest muscles there, your pec major pec minor, anterior deltoid and biceps, but it also strengthens the muscles that pull and hold your shoulders back. And so you end up strengthening your rhomboids, trapezius and latissimus dorsi as well as erector spinae. So if you only had one exercise to do, it would be that one.

James Crow
Okay, so I’d be better off doing that before I had my evening meal than immediately afterwards by the sound of it.

Aaron Parnell
Yes.

James Crow
Aaron, Aaron, that’s really useful. You’ve talked over some really interesting points there. If people want to find out more, where would they go?

Aaron Parnell
If you hit me back at aaron@reposturing.com then you’ll get you’ll get my email directly. If you go to my website, theposturegenius.com, you’ll find quite a bit more information. You can follow me on Instagram. I’ll be putting something out on Twitter soon. You can also follow me on Facebook as well.

James Crow
Well, I hope that’s been useful to our listeners. And it’s been very, very informative and lots of fun speaking to you, Aaron. I’m just going to go and buy my plane tickets now for a flight over to the west coast of the US and leave this dull northern weather behind here in the UK, and you can treat me to a nice meal on the beach, maybe something.

Aaron Parnell
Thank you.

James Crow
So it’s been great speaking to you. Thanks so much for coming on. This has been the Posture Stars podcast. Thanks for listening. Bye bye

 

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