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Course Recap: PRI Advanced Integration Day 4

This is part IV of a four part series. All parts have all been published, so here is part I, part II, part III, and part IV.

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Day 4: Curvature of the Spine

“We’re learning how to get up into space because we can’t handle space down here.”
-Ron Hruska

We started Day 4 talking about swimmers and penguins and people and helices.


“There’s not a swimmer in the world that appreciates the ground.”
-Ron Hruska

Swimmers are not land animals.

To clarify, I’m talking about human swimmers. Not fish, dolphins, or sperm.


Photo credit: trackplc

Swimmers have PENGUIN-ITIS.

“There’s nothing worse than a dripping wet penguin walking into your clinic.”
-Ron Hruska

And for those who know Ethan Grossman, you missed a fantastic joke about a jacked penguin named Ethan.

Ethan Grossman = jacked penguin

Dude is yoked.

Swimmers are sagittal monsters with extra lordosis in their low back and kyphosis in their upper back.

But it’s not REALLY a kyphosis or a lordosis. It’s a neurological handicap.

Swimmers cannot appreciate the frontal plane, the ground, or space around them. Hence, neurological handicap. They throw their heads forward so that they can feel their back because that’s the only way they know how to deal with gravity, but now they have no helix.

What in the world do you mean they have no helix?

Children with a helix on a helix

Photo credit: James Gentry

A helix alternates and reciprocates. The joint-by-joint approach to training is a helix, assuming everything is working correctly. The most obvious helix is DNA. Or maybe that’s just obvious to me because I’m a nerd.

But extrapolate this to anything that has rhythm: music, respiration, sleep-wake cycle, or the gastrointestinal system. As I said, this rabbit hole is DEEP.

Remember the talk on the thorax from Day 3? Swimmers use their arms for life instead of using them to create things.

Probably the weirdest line of the weekend, and, hence, my favorite: These guys are eating a Life cereal called LATISSIMUS.

They want to be compressed and they’re going to do it the only way they know how. They don’t have frontal plane, so they’re going to try to find more sagittal plane. How about instead of letting them compress themselves with their lats, you compress them with a hug?

Then, put them in sidelying and WATCH THEM SWEAT. If they truly have frontal plane, then they have sagittal plane. Maybe then they will be able to find the floor. How do you know when they’ve found the floor? They shake. Make them stronger by making them look weaker.

I know I’m bringing the weird in this post. There are a few bullets that I want to include for the two people who will understand their meaning:

  • New PT students will see a kyphosis and a lordosis, NOT a neurological handicap. Keep that in mind. Skepticism is a good thing.
  • Breathing is a frontal plane activity.
  • I may want to examine you in your swimsuit, because that psychologically prepares you. It will change your mindset and perception, which may change your test results.

Non-patho Compensatory Scoliosis

There are two main types of idiopathic scoliosis discussed during AI: non-patho compensatory and patho compensatory.

Non-patho is a C curve with the lumbar spine oriented to the right. There is a thoracic curve that is convex to the right (meaning the middle of the C is on the right side). A right rib hump is present.

Everyone has this curve underlying due to asymmetry in the human body and the way the spinal joints are shaped. When the top and bottom vertebrae of the curve make an angle greater than 35 degrees, you can start to have organ problems.

It is important to realize that this curve is not just frontal plane, but it’s also a twist.

The non-patho scoliosis clients will present like a L AIC and R BC patterned person, have trouble getting into their left hip, and trouble getting their center of gravity over to the left. Normally, we expect to see a lowered right shoulder, but this may not be quite as pronounced in these cases.

Worth noting is that kids with this curve will have restlessness and fatigue easily.

These people need to secure the pelvis with R AIC myokinematics, then maximize right apical chest wall expansion. Remember, this is frontal plane. Following that comes integration of a left zone of apposition (abs opposing left hemidiaphragm) with left thoracic abduction (thorax to the left) with a right low trap and triceps (helps with inhalation on right side).

Patho Compensatory Scoliosis

Patho is an S curve. The lower lumbar spine is oriented to the left and right trunk rotation may be increased, both evidencing compromised right iliolumbar ligaments. There is still a right thoracic curve, but there is also a left lumbar curve. Therefore, there may be a right upper thorax posterior rib hump with a left lower thorax rib hump.

These people will also present like a L AIC, and may or may not have typical R BC test results.

The nature of the S curve offsets itself. This person’s center of gravity may be over to the left, even if they can’t get IR’d into the left hip. They may still be able to balance well on the left leg. These people will be harder to fix because they don’t “need” to change to get themselves to feel balanced.

People with a patho curve need to get secured into their left hip (left AF IR) while integrating the left IOs/TAs and inhibiting the right adductor. As you can tell, these people also have a huge emphasis on the frontal plane. Following this, they should learn how to abduct their right hip while laying on their left side with their left hip IR’d.

PAUSE: that’s basically the same thing as the first step, just in sidelying.

After left sidelying comes right sidelying left hip abduction. Then you go upright and learn to secure in the left hip while rotating the trunk to the right on one leg.

Learning anecdote: PRI includes treatment sequences like this for all types of diagnoses. I’ve always glossed over them in lieu of learning the basics. It has always just seemed, superficially, that the course of treatment is the same: fix what they need. As I reviewed the treatment for these two scoliosis patterns, I actually found it very helpful. Laying it down on a notecard was worthwhile. I will do more of this in the future.


Dr. Heidi Wise came up to talk to us about vision. Though this was my first real PRI exposure to visual integration, I took away some things I can use in the gym with my people.

“Do you feel like you use one eye or both?” Don’t put their left side next to a wall if they already feel like they aren’t using their left eye because that removes peripheral space to be noticed.

SIDE NOTE: While writing that, I realized my sweatshirt hood was on and was blocking my ability to perceive space. Took it off and it’s like a weight had been lifted off of my face.

If they stare at the ground a lot, maybe I need them to face out through a window while pushing into it. In initial development, the gross motor and vestibular systems drive vision. Later on, it switches. There needs to be integration of the gross motor mechanical and visual systems.

We need to integrate sight, sound, space, and ground.

Heidi gave us some things we could ask our eye doctors to make sure we aren’t overprescribed:

  • “Can you please make sure my eyes aren’t overworking and my vision isn’t overcorrected?”
  • “Can you balance my eyes so that they can work the best that they can together?”

Go to to find an eye doc who is interested in vision for function.

Go to to find an eye doc for someone with brain injury.

Day 4 Conclusion

The scoliosis section has two pages of references. I wanted to review them all, but I don’t have time for that at this moment. Maybe in the future that will become a write up, but for now, you will lie in wait.

One more thing to note which we talked about briefly in Day 1: between the ages of 7-19, you have more power in terms of advanced integration. The way you inhibit younger individuals is through alternating activity. At 21 years old, however, you need to think more about inhibiting.

You also missed Emily Soiney teaching Ron and I some yoga.

ron yoga

me yoga gif

Advanced Integration 2014 Conclusion

Advanced Integration: the monster of the PRI courses.

I leave the fundamental, two-day courses absolutely exhausted. This one is twice as long. As you can imagine, my brain was on vacation after this.

Though this course was heavily theoretical, there were plenty of takeaways. I left with a shift in mindset, a less myopic view of PRI, and plenty of great cues to use on my clients.

As this course was four days long, there is a ton of information I have left out. I highly recommend taking this course, as it helps you understand the more overarching concepts of PRI.

Here’s to a fun weekend with a great group of people! Thank you so much for reading this.

good peeps


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Weekend Reads: Z-Cup Visits Ron and Liz Fights AIDS

This week I’m calling upon my friends to make the world a better place. You guys are doing great.

Initial Evaluation at the Hruska Clinic

Since I know a lot of you readers are into the PRI, I should share a post from my boy Zac Cupples. He went to the Hruska clinic and talks about his initial evaluation with Ron.

Do YOU produce enough saliva?

Can’t wait for part II.


Lizzie-Mess Fights AIDS

AIDS is still in existence. Help my good friend, Liz Messina, fight it.

And check out the gym she works at if you’re in New York because they are good people.

Postural Respiration Recap

This was my third time through the Postural Restoration Institute’s (PRI) Postural Respiration course (1 home study + 2 live courses). I’ve been super busy since this course, and frankly a little overwhelmed at how incredible it was. This marked the first PRI course hosted by our gym (IFAST), but you know I have to talk about the whole weekend and not just the course.



With Ty, our night trainer, on location in Florida, I was filling in Friday night coaching sessions when past interns and their friends started arriving. The one and only Grant Gardis, weightlifting coach extraordinaire, was present to get worked on for an ailing knee and coaching like an assembly line.

Friday night IFAST family dinner

The wrapping up of IFAST coaching led into a generous family dinner orchestrated by Bill Hartman and the woman behind the scenes, Kirsten Shaw. It was so great to catch up before a two-day intensive mind penetration. Even driving to and from the airport is fun when you have Connor Ryan and Eric Oetter.

If you didn’t notice above, I would like to point out Kyle O’Flaherty’s photo bomb.

Can this kid ever be serious?


After an early breakfast on Saturday with Eric, it was time for Ron Hruska, who was joined by his “third wife” Jennifer Gloystein. He began by asserting his dominance – no slides necessary – just riffing on what the big picture is, how this course is only a piece of the puzzle, and general PRI-isms. This serves well to get everyone on the same page. For me, this is a helpful brain warm up.

This course is about getting things to pump.

Pumping allows for exchange. The most basic example is respiration.

If you can’t oscillate, you’re dead.

Consider frequency, which is something you may remember from courses like physics. We all have “hertz” in our body. Respiration, mastication, circadian rhythm… it’s everywhere, and respiration is the slowest oscillation in the body.

Then, I start to wonder, “Why do we like music?” So I got the book Ron recommended (yes, it’s sitting on my desk already, thanks to Amazon Prime).

I’ve talked about a zone of apposition (ZOA) before, but it’s equally accurate to call it a zone of aspiration. You need the aspiration to breathe better so that you can use your appendages. You need a diaphragm that works for respiration instead of posture to have the aspiration to do things.


Asymmetry is Natural

There aren’t two sides that are even close to symmetrical.

This becomes more and more apparent as you read and explore. I was all up in the thorax of a cadaver a few months ago and the asymmetry is obvious. If you get the opportunity to do this, I encourage you to go explore.

They can’t walk into your clinic with symmetry because they wouldn’t walk into your clinic.

If you think in symmetry, you underestimate the system as a whole. Walking is impossible if you can’t get asymmetrical. Remember you have two lumbar spines – a left one and a right one. A left diaphragm works posturally to center you over a right side. Both the left and the right diaphragms are good at getting air into the left lung when you’re on your right leg. And you’re living with a brain that says, “Survive on the right side.”

You cannot be left dominant. I’ll show you the literature.

I need to read more. He also added that people who are left-handed will be ambidextrous.

Under every symmetrical movement is an asymmetrical challenge.

Understand that even when you’re squatting or deadlifting, you need to consider the underlying asymmetry. The brain wants the right leg because it’s more stable over there.


You Orthopedic-Minded Therapists!

Early on, Ron did the coolest thing to demonstrate how these concepts are not orthopedic, but neurologic. He stood on everyone’s left the whole time, but told us to freeze as he walked to the right side of the room.

With a rigid body, my eyes followed him to the right.

1 o’clock: doing okay
1:30: bad things are happening
2 o’clock: very dizzy
2:30: full-blown anxiety

He hung out at my 2:30 for a few seconds and asked us if we wanted him to move back.

God yes.

2 o’clock: so much pressure in my head
1 o’clock: sigh of relief
12 o’clock: melted into my seat

Ron always stands on the audience’s left when he speaks because he wants them to be able to learn. A brain cannot learn if it’s preoccupied (multi-tasking is a myth).

 Does the cortex you own understand inhalation?

A pectus, where the sternum area looks concave, is the first sign the cortex doesn’t understand inhalation. “You’ll get real smart if you start looking at pectuses.”

Pectus excavatum

“I can touch your breastbone and tell whether your neck is flat.” When you use a balloon, you aren’t working the mechanicoventilatory system, you’re working the cortex.

Today we’re going to  take a hand (or four) to guide neurology [not respiration].

The manual techniques are guiding the patient’s mind, not simply guiding sternums down. As he said after a sternal repositioning technique, “Those three bones all knew what was happening.” The sacrum, sternum, and sphenoid are linked by neurology.

Before you can take care of hyperinflation, you need to get air out.

You can’t fill a lung that’s already filled. Learn to exhale. Whitney Houston joke.


Why is Neutrality Important?

There are many ways to define neutrality, but for the respiration-minded, it means the diaphragm can contract without the expense of extension. This is specifically important in the spine, but the whole system extends.

I would pay you for your right lung because at least I can use it.

If you can’t use your right lung, you aren’t neutral. Until you figure out how to use it, you’re lifting weight even when you aren’t weightlifting.

We talk about these more abstract concepts a lot (Heidi Wise had a good piece on the PRI Vision blog). You can’t “feel” the floor. Your body feels heavy. You feel slow.

Picture someone who can’t find a reference. They grind their teeth at night. They like when their shoulder clicks. They can’t get off their right leg. These people use their extensors to pull their feet away from the floor and their heads down onto their thorax. These people can’t feel the floor. They feel heavy. They can’t laugh. They can’t enjoy music. Ron had a case study of a roofer who was having these problems.

There are a lot of roofers out there sitting behind keyboards. They’re called repetition.

Why would I help this person get their strength back if they can’t use it?

If you’re going to change a pattern with a pattern, you will fail.

It is the position that shuts off the the system; a position that isn’t threatening. You can’t restore neutrality without position, and that must come first.


A Cootie Bug Thorax

She is not a patellofemoral, shoulder, etc. patient. You treat that and you’ve failed.

Cootie Bug

Ron loves the cootie bug toy because in order to play with a cootie bug, you need a thorax first.

Pedestrian walking requires a cootie bug thorax.

Gait that isn’t alternating (i.e. you’re using a right leg and a left kickstand instead of two legs) leads to an overactive neck.

Create left cootie bugs.

You need left abs to oppose a left diaphragm and overcome the right diaphragm.



You need three things when treating a thorax:

  1. Maximize inhalation on the right.
  2. Maximize exhalation on the left.
  3. Alternate.

This is the biggest takeaway from the course. This is applicable immediately.

What’s the difference between a hand on a thorax and a wall? NADA.

The Postural Respiration course has a lot of manual techniques where the therapist helps the patient find neutrality. These aren’t always necessary to use. Always go to non-manual techniques first when treating someone because they are stronger teachers. This is just like how you remember more when you perform an activity as opposed to listening to a lecture.

In a non-manual technique, we can use something like a wall to give the patient a reference. With manual techniques, my hands become the reference. Now I’m asking myself, “How will I give you a reference?

One thing that I’ve been using with a lot more success lately is the cue “knees forward” instead of telling them to tilt their pelvis. This helps reduce abdominal tone for the repositioning techniques. I’ve also tried using more verbal cues so that they can make their own representations of the activity they are doing. It doesn’t work all the time, but it sticks better.

These runners. These SICKOS. Right and left doesn’t exist in their vocabulary, only extension.

This is hilarious, but it’s not limited to runners. I just taught at a USA Weightlifting course full of Crossfitters. They feel great when they work out, but they can’t come down. They can’t shut off. They can’t relax. So they just train more often. Again, why would I help you get your strength back if you can’t use it? In regards to alternating activity (#3 above), ask if you can rotate that vertebra to the right without coming off the left leg. Ask if you can rotate a central tendon to the right from the left side. Ask if your sacrum, sternum, and sphenoid are alternating – because that’s gait.

When I hear “dys-” and “shoulder”, I think lat.

The lat is a road bomb to your body. The Achille’s tendon may be the largest tendon in the body, but the lat tendon is the strongest. “You can never annihilate a lat enough.

I’m gonna get every single millimeter of my God-given mediastinum.

Left serratus anterior pulls the ribs back to open up that left posterior mediastinum. How am I going to give you a reference for your posterior mediastinum? Maybe I make sure you have the correct chair at work and ask you to feel your back in it every once and a while.


Saturday Night Dinner

I had the amazing opportunity to go to dinner with Ron, Jenn, Bill, Robert Lardner, and Richard Ulm. The knowledge at the table was overwhelming, and it wasn’t from me. If we mapped the concentration of knowledge like you would to should charge distribution of a molecular compound, the table would look very similar to the electrostatic potential map of lithium iodide.

Lithium iodide electrostatic map

Our server didn’t know what to do when Rich, Robert, and Ron all ordered the right rack of ribs.

The right rack of ribs. [From left]: Robert, Ron, Richard

And it’s not a PRI party if someone doesn’t start talking about right trunk rotation (ribs moving up on the right and down on the left).

Right trunk rotation. [From left: Robert, Ron, Richard]

Suffice to say this may have been the best dinner ever.


Sunday = Biobehavior

After an interesting discussion at dinner, Ron opened up Sunday a little closer to his home. He wrote a bunch of inputs into the system on the board: visual, vestibular, proprioceptive, etc. They were big words that I don’t remember.

The stuff in the manual is evidence-based.

If you’re worried about the evidence supporting PRI, buy a manual.

I do manual work to open up something behaviorally [not manually].

He told us to write down the above heading on our note paper. Ron is all about the vestibular system. This ties back to the cervical-cranio-mandibular course I took a few weeks back.

I’m not teaching you how to open up a chest wall, I’m teaching you how to teach them to open up a chest wall.

As I alluded to above, you’re guiding neurology, not adding sarcomeres in series. And “the sternum is the best thing we have for regulating.”

I like working with a patient with CVA because now when I do this stuff, suddenly it’s okay. “They have neglect!”

Those who don’t understand will criticize.

I’m never worried about physical trauma, I’m worried about psychological trauma.

More biobehavior. Repect psychology. See if your patient can articulate their thoughts into words. Talk to them. What worries them?

The number one things that scares me these days is Lasik surgery.

After Lasik, you’ll be taking in a lot more information than you normally do. How do you shut down such a huge input?

If I don’t pretest, I can’t understand pathology. If I get you neutral and don’t treat the pathology, I won’t be able to keep you there.

I’ve been picking up more assessments at IFAST lately, so I shadowed Bill one day to hone in my skills. This point was made to me then. Being neutral is only the tip of the iceberg. Make it stick.

Before I get that dental impression made, I’m going to free up the first rib.

Subclavius and scalenes on the right side can get really active to try to open up the closed right upper ribs. This is called Superior T4 Syndrome in PRI. I need to regulate everything I can before I get some sort of dental intervention that will hold me there because I don’t want it to hold me in the wrong position.

Similarly, if you have a left pec major that won’t shut off, you need to give it a reason to shut off. Stretching is not that reason. You need to restore position of an S bone called a sternum to regulate neurology, otherwise the brain will keep telling it to turn on so it can open up the right chest wall.

If I have someone who can’t feel what I’m trying to do, I probably need more hands.

These systems are locked up and will take some work to unlock. The manual techniques you use for these people will need more than just one set of hands. Find a mom or a co-worker.

Our room was full of jacked lifting bros, also known as extended bros. There were only a handful of women. Ron mentioned that this type of “clientele” is not normal, but it’s pretty common for the people I get to see in the gym. If non-manual techniques don’t work, these people are going to need more than two hands on them.

All in all, Ron was great again. The course wouldn’t have gone nearly as well if he hadn’t brought Jenn along with him, so hats off to her as well.


Post-Course Dinner

Not one to pass up a dinner, Bill invited everyone over to his place, catered by the lovely Mayor Lisa. The place was packed. So packed that I had to skip my hockey game to attend.

This was the largest family dinner I’ve ever been to. And the loudest.



Robert Lardner had a great point to make during the second day.

This stuff has been done for [hundreds of] years, but we’re just coming back to it because we’re just starting to affirm it.

Robert is a very smart man who is paying attention to what goes on around him. I don’t know the history of yoga, but apparently that’s been going on for quite some time.


Hope to see you at the next course!

IFAST group photo



Miscellaneous Quotes

Don’t get wet, drown with this stuff.

Learn more. And don’t stop.

…a major neuromuscular disease called a spouse.

Lost my mind when he said this.

We treat our cars better than our patients.

Get a tune up and pay attention to the system.


You need to attend this course.

If you liked this post, please share it with someone who would like it, subscribe so you don’t miss the next one, and leave a comment below telling me what course you’re going to next.

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