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Okay, let’s get this out of the way up front: I don’t thoroughly understand some of this PRI stuff (i.e. Postural Restoration Institute), and I am not certified in it. There, done. Moving on.

But I do know it’s made a huge difference to my own asymmetries over the past year and a half since my then-powerlifting coach introduced me to it. (I was really good at the front-to-back body movement stuff before, but the side to side part of the equation eluded me.) It’s dramatically reduced the frequency of my training injuries, and has even decreased the severity of the scoliosis in two regions of my spine. (High-tech drawing below.)

 

Here’s the long version and the super-sciencey background of PRI. Have at ‘er if you want!

And here’s an absolutely wonderful, medium-sciencey version.

In Short

The short version, as I understand it, anway, is that mostly due to our internally asymmetrical organs (especially the stronger diaphragm attachment on the right side, plus having no liver to anchor the left side), by the time we get through puberty, the rest of our body has adjusted and also become somewhat asymmetrical. Typically, we end up “living” more on the right side of our body.

We end up sort of stuck in a state where it’s like we’re always stepping forward onto the right foot or loading the right side, even where we’re actually stepping towards or using the left side of the body. That’s a great place to be, but only for half of our life. Problems occur when that posture or phase is always on for the other half of our life too, whereas we should be able to fluidly switch back and forth.

This can have far-reaching implications for some of us as far as dysfunction and pain levels.

 

Side to Side Discrepancies

  • The left leg gets stuck in a constant state of flexion (reaching forward), and the right leg is in a constant state of extension (reaching back). The left front of the hip is often therefore way tighter than the right, as are the right hamstring and adductors (back of the thigh and inner thigh).
  • Consequently, we don’t load the left outer side of the body (such as the obliques / side wall of abs) very heavily; the left side is more externally rotated or opened up. On the right side, the adductor and hamstring are more heavily loaded and the body is somewhat closed in toward the midline, with the right glute not as “on.”
  • This means that we typically don’t breathe well into the right front chest wall or the left rear upper back.
  • There is a counter-rotation in the torso, around the base of the T/L(thoraco-lumbar) junction, so that the head can stay facing forward. (This is where my own scoliosis spots have probably developed from, and my recent improvements spring from less need to counter-rotate due to experiencing less side-to-side pull on my spine.)
  • Finally, up at the top of the body, the right neck and upper body are more chronically “on,” being pulled in toward the midline, with the right shoulder riding lower than the left, and possibly a hump in the back on the right side, and/or overdeveloped right mid to lower back musculature.

So…What Can We Do?

Here is a beginner program from someone who does a very thorough job of explaining things.

Not gonna lie, it’s a sprawling system with far-reaching ramifications and claims. Somewhat surprisingly, there may even be a strong connection between vision and pain for some people.

Basically, we want to access the other side of a mirror image of the pattern of posture/gait, one that has likely been underused for decades. That way, we can exist and move in a more symmetrical fashion.

Here are the video versions of my own understanding (admittedly, less than completely thorough) of the PRI principles and correctives.

  • Minimalist overview
  • Floor-based correctives
    • Supine 90/90 with hip shift
    • Right side-lying: left adductor pullback / respiratory scissor slides
    • Left side-lying: R glute activation
  • Seated: basic postural considerations with optional add-ons
  • How to incorporate these principles into everyday activities

My Own Cues

For myself, my conscious cues are:

  • Breathing into the full mid back/torso, particularly the left back and right front chest wall… (A somewhat technical rundown of how to bring rib/torso positioning awareness into your squats is here…with a bonus metaphor of Russian nesting dolls)
  • …Which helps my neutral spine be more actually neutral and less extended than before – much nicer on the low back!
  • Loading my left hip and left side wall better to stay symmetrical (and so less twisted than before, from the collarbones down to the base of the hips)
  • Using the right glute a bit more, for example when completing the ascent in my squats
  • And finally, remembering to protract the base of the left scapula (shoulder blade) especially, and to posteriorly tilt the top of the right scapula (which feels a bit like reverse of a “vroom vroom” while accelerating on a motorcycle, if that makes sense)

If You Don’t Feel Like That Much Thinking

One basic principle that doesn’t even need any particular background is to notice which side always does the same habitual action and change that up.

For example, when my boxing career was winding down, I started doing my bag work at least in a southpaw stance rather than a conventional one.

Current examples are things like when getting up from the floor, I’m aiming to plant my left foot now when stepping up. When sitting down onto a chair, I aim to draw myself down symmetrically instead of sinking automatically onto the right side of my pelvis, and to maintain at least an even pressure, hopefully even biasing the left side, on the pelvis and feet.

I occasionally even throw in some Ground Control-type time throwing a cross (punch) from a southpaw boxing stance.

What About in the Gym?

If you want to see how this fits in with the big 3, powerlifting-type strength stuff, here is a great place to start:

Squats

Bench press

Deadlift

Keep in Touch

While I can only help you dip a toe into this system in particular, it has produced positive effects for the majority of people I’ve introduced it to.

(Hint: as with most of what I do, it involves my beloved FMS  principle of “test, test, and re-test” to decide if it’s useful for you or a complete waste of time.)

(Hint number two: As always, it ties in with good breathing: please see the video and/or written versions.)

And as always, please stay in touch if you want some input on how to bring this – or other aspects of physical ability – into your life.