Well, hello there Internet! I’m Brittany, James’ wife. Today I’m going to be talking about all this posture and alignment stuff and how to bring it into your home, namely how you should be incorporating it into your relaxation activities like watching TV., playing on your laptop, or reading a book.
I’m a stay at home mom and as such, I spend a large amount of my time chasing after tiny humans. It’s great for constant movement and position changes but in between the child chasing, I found I was sitting on the couch. A lot. My back, hips and knees could tell you loudly that I was sitting too much but it wasn’t until a few months ago that I started recognizing the symptoms and doing something about it.
My goal was to not sit on the couch ever because it was impossible to have proper posture and I defaulted into this position:
(Side note: there are a surprising amount of photos when you Google “dog sitting on couch”, just in case you were wondering.)
This position, with the one knee up and curled against the arm of the couch, actually caused me a lot of problems in my last pregnancy because it shortened the shit out of my psoas. Shortened psoas + growing fetus = a bad time for all involved. I still find myself in this position, because I haven’t fully learned my lesson, but I’ve made a conscious effort to move off the furniture and sit on the floor.
“But sitting on the floor is soooo uncomfortable!”
Yes, I know. Trust me, I know! The first few days I started this I sat on the floor almost exclusively. No one told me that my lower back would kill me or that it would feel “wrong” because I’d sat on furniture my entire life. Over time the pain went away as my body adapted (and I learned how to sit – tips below!) and sitting on the floor no longer felt awkward. But I won’t lie and say it was easy. I just knew what sitting on the couch, or any chair, was doing to my body and I knew for optimum health I needed to be moving often and if I was sitting, the floor was my best option.
Anyway, so, my goal was to not sit on the couch (or any chair/seat), so that left me with the floor as my only option. Since you obviously can’t figure out how to sit on the floor on your own (joke!), here’s my FIVE tips on successful floor sitting:
- Sit properly. Sit on the floor right now. Assess your body. Chances are you’re doing something that, while it feels comfortable right now, will end up hurting you in the long run (or not so long run if you can only sit on the floor for a few minutes at a time).
When sitting on the ground, your pelvis should be untucked and your weight should rest on your sitz bones. It is soooo easy to roll back onto your tailbone but let me tell you a tidbit about your tailbone, or more technically, your coccyx. It is a remnant of a lost tail at the very bottom of your spine and is an attachment point for many ligaments. It supports the position of the anus and serves as the attachment point for many of the muscles that support pelvic floor function. It is not fixed, so when you sit incorrectly on your coccyx, it’s moving, taking all those connections and ligaments with it. Pushing your coccyx into your body by sitting on it (the bottom of your coccyx, the tip, should be farther outside the pelvis than the upper) causes a short, weak and tight pelvic floor over time.
Here’s a diagram of your coccyx and your sitz bones, for visual reference. The purple circle is your coccyx.
An easy way, I find, to sit properly is to lean forward slightly while scooting only your hips backward. This naturally untucks the pelvis and when you sit back straight, your weight should be resting on your sitz bones. Don’t overcorrect, cause that won’t feel great either, but rather sit comfortably on your sitz bones, paying attention to keeping your spine in a S shape versus the C shape you probably do automatically.
- Squat. Aim to spend most of your time on the ground squatting but maybe just start off with 30 minutes a day combines. Can’t squat and wanna blow this part off? Hear me out…The squat is considered by many to be the default resting position of humans. Just look at a toddler, or various cultures around the world. In places where chairs are rare and squatting is the norm the occurrence of back pain is almost nonexistent and even the elderly are limber and can squat with ease.
Why is the squat so magnificent? Well, it’s a functional movement, meaning it’ll just make the things you do in your life easier as you do them. It’s also an ideal position for the proper length of our muscles and needed to maintain flexibility in our joints.
In Western cultures, squatting is rare and children are conditioned out of squatting at an early age which is unfortunate. The habitual use of chairs and shoes with positive heels has shortened the Achilles tendon, and posterior leg muscles, to the point that squatting is not only rare, but HARD to do.
So to start off, don’t be too hard on yourself if you can’t perform the perfect squat. I can’t do it, either, at least not for any length of time. But I still try and I still spend a good amount of time in a squat position (I’m typing this while squatting!). One trick I’ve found that helps is to use a rolled up yoga mat under my heels. This allows me to spend much longer in a squat. Over time you unroll the yoga mat a little bit until your heels rest comfortably on the ground. You can also squat holding onto door handles or something on that level to stabilize you until you’ve lengthened your muscles enough to squat solo.
She doesn’t look like she’s having too much fun, but eventually we can all aim to be this guy:
- Change positions. Don’t remain static in one position because that will most certainly cause you to get stiff and want to go sit back on the couch. Here’s a lovely chart of a variety of seated positions you can try. Aim to move every minute or two, even if it’s just a shift of a leg or transfer of weight.
- Be productive. Don’t just sit there! Stretch, foam roll, or use some lacrosse balls. During those position changes, incorporate a few stretches. Maybe do them during commercials. Stand and do some forward bends. Put your fingers between your toes and stretch out those adductors. Practice some easy yoga moves to stretch your hip flexors and hamstrings.
Here’s a few of my favorite quick yoga-ish stretches:
Wide Leg Forward Bend:
One Leg Seated Spinal Twist:
(I often do a version of this with my upper body upright when I’m on my computer on the floor… like right now!)
(This stretch/yoga move is a little more intense but it really makes my body feel *ahhh* when I do it so I make it a habit of just incorporating it randomly for a minute hold a few times a day)
- Get up and walk. What?! That’s not sitting! No, no it’s not. But position changes are important and taking a walk around your house for a few minutes every hour will keep your blood flowing and your body from getting stiff.
So, tonight when you go home, go ahead and turn on the TV. or power up the laptop, but instead of veg’ing on the couch, sit on the floor! Yes, it’s uncomfortable initially. But you will see the benefits, I promise.
Want a success story?
During my last pregnancy, my right knee developed a click to it when I’d climb stairs or change positions. It hurt occasionally but for the most part, the only thing that bothered me was the clicking noise. I knew it couldn’t be good but fell into the thinking that “I just have bad knees!”. Well, after a few months of sitting on the floor, I was heading upstairs to bed and realized that my knee wasn’t clicking. It had happened so gradually that I didn’t even notice. I did a few squats and still, no clicking. It’s been awhile now and the clicking is gone completely. Now, there are naysayers who will claim me sitting on the floor had nothing to do with the stoppage of clicking, and they may be right. But because I was spending so much time on the floor, I was stretching more, and moving more, and getting up and down pretty often, and utilizing the joint in a way that I never really had before when I would just plop on the sofa.
So there ya go! Get off the couch and go sit on the floor!