The Way You Walk
We are pleased to present a Bee’s Knees Podcast interview (click the Play button above) with Jonathan FitzGordon. Excerpts from the conversation about how to improve the way you walk are presented below.
I was born and raised in Brooklyn, There’s not many of us left: I never thought I’d ever leave New York.
I started a waiter and a carpenter and just kind of a wanderer in my youth. I’m a high school dropout and I didn’t know what I wanted to do. I wanted to be a filmmaker and a writer, and it turns out I am both of those things, but not the way I had planned. I started doing yoga in my thirties in 1995 on the lower east of Manhattan.
Two years in, I was doing stuff that I never thought I could do. And then my knees started to hurt. I had three knee surgeries over the course of a year and a half. It was a classic meniscus injury, a plant and twist injury while playing softball. That was really severe, the whole meniscus pulled off the mooring.
I was supposed to go to India and study with a guru and the doctor said, no problem, you’ll be on your feet in 10 days. But instead it was a six-week recovery on crutches, not like your usual meniscus surgery. That was the first of three surgeries. Then back to yoga. I went through physical therapy, I went back to the mat, I blew my knee out again. I did it again. I had another surgery, I did physical therapy again, like I’m an idiot, right?
A Life-changing Moment
Finally, I was back in yoga and one of my teachers said to me, “What are you doing to not have a fourth surgery?”
And that was it. That was the life-changing moment. It’s like my apocryphal tale. Once I picked my jaw up off the floor, I said, “Oh my God, I am doing nothing to avoid a fourth surgery. I’ll be back under the knife if I don’t make some changes.”
I started to learn about my body. I studied anatomy. I became a yoga teacher. I realized that the more I knew about my body, the easier it was to stop getting injured.
What I Learned
I realized that I had very loose joints, and not nearly enough muscle. I packed muscle on where it made sense to put muscle on. I got into a muscle balance. I healed myself. I was my own first patient. I started learning how to walk, completely incorrectly, until I met a woman on the Upper West Side of Manhattan who became my mentor. And then my wife’s mentor, a woman named Sandra Jamrog, who has since passed away. She very patiently showed me everything, and I started to change my walk for the better.
I owned a yoga center at the time. I had two rooms in that yoga center and one of the rooms became my walking room. I said to everybody, “Anyone who wants to learn how to walk for free, just come on down. It’s an eight-week program, sign up and I’ll put you through it.” And that’s how it began. I put 40 people through it like that. And then somebody came to me and said, “I worked for the New York Times, so I’d love to write a feature about you.” And I said, “Yeah, sure, that sounds great.” In November of 2008, I got a full page feature in the New York Times.
Knee Replacement Patients
If someone comes to me as a candidate for knee replacement, I’m not necessarily going to be able to tell them, “Oh, you know, let’s learn how to walk. You’re not going to need that knee replacement.” But I can say to many, “If you need a knee replacement it’s because of the way you walk and stand. So, if you don’t change the way you walk and stand, your knee replacement is only going to help you so much.”
Learn how to walk and you will support this new knee that you’re about to get. My walking program quickly became about alleviating pain, but I quickly learned that no one knows how to walk correctly!”
The PSOAS Muscle and Core Walking
The psoas is my favorite muscle, the most important muscle in the body. The psoas is the main muscle of walking. The main muscle is standing. Most importantly, it’s the main muscle of pain and trauma. It became the focus of the Core Walking program.
The Core Walking program is a perception program. I am teaching you that when you stand up straight and you follow the God-awful instructions that everyone’s mother gives them, which is stand up straight and take your shoulders back, you’re actually leaning backward. When you’re leaning backward you’re not serving your knees, your hips, or your lower back. I’m trying to teach people to change their self-perception in space and then to go make this essential change from leaning backward to leaning forwards. If you’ve watched me walk, it doesn’t look like I’m leaning forward. I am leaning imperceptibly forward. I tell people that you have to be willing to lean forward a little bit, slump even a little bit and find a very different way of standing.
The key concept of Core Walking is: change your perception of yourself and then change the way you walk.
The Causes of Hip and Knee Replacements
I believe that if you get a hip replacement, you need that hip replacement surgery for a reason. If you have a knee replacement, you need that knee replaced. People are very often doing these surgeries because of patterning, in that they wear out the hip socket because they stand poorly, the way I used to stand. You simply wear your knees out. When you go to get a bone-on-bone diagnosis, it may be because you wore your cartilage out by the way you stand, and the way you did not have your legs transfer weight from femur to shin. The tibia just wore out the cartilage.
Bone on Bone?
I don’t like the concept of bone-on-bone. When I hear that out of the client’s mouth, it drives me crazy. I always say, okay, “So the doctor told you you’re bone-on-bone. Let’s schedule a knee replacement.”
There are always three questions I want to know.
- Did he say anything to you about your posture, and the way you stand, and why you ended up needing a knee replacement?
- Did he say anything about how active you are and if you’re athletic?
- Did he say anything about that being overweight? Because every 10 pounds of weight we carry extra is 30 pounds of pressure on our knees.
To me, there’s so much involved in the diagnosis of getting your knee replacement. I think people need to see me before their hip and knee replacement is a necessity.
Improving the Way You Walk
Some choose to work with me privately. But I have lots of ways to help people. I have a podcast, blog, website with lots of valuable and free information for everyone.
You don’t even need to meet me. You could do that through my blog posts. You could go through my podcast. Or you could buy my walking program, which is a lot of my information condensed into a “Psoas Release Party.”
What do you do next?
- Visit the Core Walking website: Corewalking
- Listen to the podcast: A Step in the Right Direction
- Consider emailing Jonathan with to begin the learning process: email@example.com
- Look at Core Walking programs for purchase: The Core Walking Store
- Explore the new Anatomy Program (comprised of streaming video that you own forever and weekly calls to review the content.
Editor’s Note: I highly recommend that you listen to the podcast at the top of this page. It is a great opportunity to get to know Jonathan and get significantly more detail on the role Core Walking could play for you and your knees.
The X10 Meta-Blog
We call it a “Meta-Blog” because we step back and give you a broad perspective on all aspects of knee health, surgery and recovery such as Changing the Way You Walk.
In this one-of-a-kind blog we gather together great thinkers, doers, writers related to Knee Surgery, Recovery, Preparation, Care, Success and Failure. Meet physical therapists, coaches, surgeons, patients, and as many smart people as we can gather to create useful articles for you. Whether you have a surgery upcoming, in the rear-view mirror, or just want to take care of your knees to avoid surgery, you should find some value here. For more on MUA click here.
Two resources for you below. Both are email series that we created to help those who need some additional thinking for pre-surgery and post-surgery.