I recently received my Amodrn newsletter in my inbox and loved the piece on sitting being the new smoking (you can read it here). Appropriately, I was actually standing up at my computer whilst reading.
We all know that our bodies are designed to move. We can literally feel it when we have not had the freedom to move – on a long flight, or perhaps when injured or unwell – we feel pain. Even in smaller instances, such as sitting in the same position for too long, we can feel our circulation being affected, and the natural, innate urge to move and stretch ourselves out. Admittedly, I have been really lucky that the essence of my work is movement. But since having my little one my day to day reality has changed. I found myself sitting – a lot – and with truly terrible posture. No matter how much I try to be aware of it and keep my posture in check, inevitably I ended up rounding over my baby, nursing him, soothing him, changing him, and sometimes even adoring him. Sure, in the beginning, I went out on walks with the baby in the buggy, but I was so tired that I didn’t go too far and I certainly wasn’t achieving any sort of quick pace.
What I’m trying to say here is, if you’re stuck sitting a lot, and feeling pain and discomfort in your body because of it – I get it. And it pretty much sucks.
The good news is, there are simple things you can do to counteract the negative impact sitting has on your body. The key with these simple things is to make them habits, so you’re doing them a lot, almost without needing to think about it. At first, you’ll have to be diligent, maybe even set timer reminders throughout your day, but once you get the movement patterns into your body, it will become second nature.
First things first, when you’re sitting in a chair, try to find ways to emulate sitting on the floor. The problem with chairs is that they unnaturally limit our range of motion. Our bodies are forced to fit into the structure of the chair, rather than moving freely to the extent of our mobility.
Instead of letting yourself be boxed in by your chair, try different positions:
1. Single Pigeon in your chair
Cross your right ankle over your left knee, flex your right toes to secure your knee joint. You should feel a release around your right hip / glute. Sit with a tall spine and try to hold the position for a good couple minutes. Switch sides.
2. Easy Pose in your chair
Sit in a simple cross legged position in your chair, as if you were sitting on the floor. Spend a couple minutes with your right shin in front, and then switch sides.
3. Shift your centre of gravity
Sometimes sit way back, legs at a 90 degree angle or so. Other times sit way forward and stretch your legs out as long as they’ll go.
4. Keep your spine moving
It’s important to keep your spine moving as well, so every now and then, take a twist in each direction. Hold for 5 really deep breaths, long spine, chest lifted, shoulders down and away from your ears.
5. Open up your shoulders
The shoulders are important to open up too, so interlace your fingers behind your back, broaden across your chest and collarbones, draw the shoulder blades down, and maybe even add some neck rolls.
When you get home, perhaps right before bed, take 5-10 minutes to stretch things out. Here are a few really easy poses anyone can do:
Stand with your feet at least hip width apart, knees soft and slightly bent, and hang your torso over your legs. If it feels good, sway a bit side to side. Check that you’re not holding onto anything in your neck and let that heavy head hang.
2. Low Squat
Separate your feet wider than your hips, with your toes pointing out, and come into a squat. See if you can keep your heels down but if they lift, it’s ok. Hands can stay on the ground to help support the pose, or try bringing your palms together at your chest. If you have more room to move, with your elbows inside your knees, squeeze the knees away from each other. Hips, low back, shoulders are all releasing down, but keep the chest, back of your neck, and head lifting up.
From kneeling, keep your big toes together but open your knees wide enough to fit your torso in between them. Aim to get your hips down onto your heels first, and then try to walk your hands and head forward towards the ground.
4. Reclining Pigeon
Lie on your back, cross your right ankle over your left thigh, flex your right toes, and hug your left knee in towards your chest. Try to keep your entire back from shoulders down to your low back flat on the ground. Switch sides.
5. Happy Baby
Hug both knees into your chest, separating them wider than your torso. Bend your knees, stacking your ankles over them, grab your feet or ankles, and gently draw your thighs down towards the floor. As above, try to keep your entire back on the ground. Rocking side to side usually feels pretty nice.
6. Reclining Butterfly
Release your legs to the floor, bend your knees out to the sides, and bring the soles of your feet together. This is a beautiful, passive release for your hips and low back, and not a bad way to fall asleep.