For the past three and a half years I have been studying and applying the theories, concepts, and exercises from the Postural Restoration Institute (PRI). Often I am asked what PRI is as it is relatively unknown in Canada. I took my first course in Montreal in September of 2014, and they had been hosting courses for a few years by then. And in the last couple of years Burnaby’s Fortius has been hosting a course per year. Other than that, other therapists and trainers may have heard about PRI, but haven’t done much studying of PRI.
I have often been asked to explain what PRI is, or how it works, or what it’s all about. My first inclination is to share a link to their website (www.posturalrestoration.com). The website is really where I first started learning about the science of PRI, the techniques, and some of the exercises they have created. I started reading some articles by the founder, Ron Hruska, and was totally blown away by the content. I wanted to find something I could study to further my abilities as a kinesiologist, without having to go back to school for 2 years. What will ensue is my current understanding and usage of PRI in my work as a strength coach and kinesiologist.
When I was first taking on clients - the time when a trainer never says “no” to any type of client - I ended up taking more of the rehab clients that were coming our way. I found that over a little bit of time I was suited to these clients as I think my disposition was appropriate for what their needs were. There was often a lot of fear from the client about having to lift super heavy weights, or to go ridiculously hard, but that is not what training is. Training is adapting the required exercises, load, volume, intensity to what the client’s needs are. But as I took on these clients, I found that I was wanting a better way to assess why they had pain where they had pain. I knew there was something behind why their knee hurt, or why their shoulder hurt, or why their back hurt.
Thus, as I read about PRI, I found that with being a kinesiologist and having my Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS), I was able to take the primary PRI courses. So, I headed to Montreal and had an information bomb dropped on me. The material was fascinating and quite in depth, but what really had me hooked was after coming home, I started applying the testing and repositioning exercises and it all proved to be true! I was sold! I took the next two primary courses as soon as I could, then took the first of the secondary courses. During my time studying the primary courses materials, I decided that I would fully commit to PRI and apply for their credentialing certification. I completed my application, had two PRI professionals review it to see if I was an eligible candidate, which then allowed me to go to Lincoln, Nebraska: the home of Ron Hruska and PRI. I achieved one of my dreams of meeting Ron: he was amazing. If you look on my Facebook page, I have a picture with him, and I’m pretty sure my smile goes from ear to ear. The second dream achieved was received the designation of Postural Restoration Trained. This made me the first PRI credentialed individual in all of Canada. I didn’t choose to be credentialed just to be the first; I chose to become a PRT because I fully believe in PRIs testing, repositioning, and abilities to correct the imbalances in human posture.
Thus we come to my interpretation of PRI. PRI is based on the fact that we are anatomically asymmetrical. There is nothing new about that. Ron didn’t invent that, and he will be the first to tell you that much of the ground work for PRI was nothing new. Other than our internal organs being asymmetrical, one of the largest contributors to our asymmetry is our diaphragm. It is not equal from right to left. This asymmetry in our diaphragm leads us to want to favour one side, which is our right side. We are programmed neurologically to function on our right side, which explained to me why so many people are right handed. We as human beings are programmed for our right side, and being right sided, we exist in a more comfortable and easier state on that side, and thus, our breathing and our movement patterns will gravitate to that one side. This is totally normal, and most of us will go about our daily lives and not really feel that we are more one sided. Where we start to “feel it” is when our repeated patterns drive us outside our functional asymmetry. Repeated patterns can be our work, whether sitting at a desk or up on our feet; our athletic needs of specificity; injury; surgery. Any of these can drive us into dysfunctional asymmetry, which then we feel as pain, tightness, or discomfort.
PRI offers a way to test for skeletal position; to test where we might have impingement; to test our fundamental movement capabilities in basic systems like respiration, stance, and gait. It also provides non-manual techniques to reposition our skeleton to relieve those areas of impingement, to allow for fluidity of motion from side to side. It deals with the multi-system chain of muscles that is so important for us as human beings and movement, all linked through our ability to breathe in unfamiliar or weak positions.
PRI has permeated every aspect of my programming and training philosophy. Even if clients don’t need a significant amount of PRI work, the philosophy behind their science leads me to use those anatomical principles in my approach to setting up, cueing, and executing exercises. And as I continue to learn and peel back the layers upon layers of depth in their biomechanical understanding of the human body and its position and movement, so I also continue to apply those principles to my training. Rowe Strength is built upon PRI principles.
This only feels like the beginning. It’s been nearly 4 years, but it still feels like I have so much to learn. I have more secondary courses to take, and some affiliate courses, too. I do hope I can make my way back to Lincoln to spend more time learning from Ron and the staff at The Institute. I hope this blog helps you to understand just the tip of the iceberg that is the Postural Restoration Institute.