Once you realize most of the furniture we humans have designed to sit on has nothing to do with promoting good function, you can begin to customize your sitting solutions. For example:
Sit on a jacket
Carry a wedge-shaped cushion
Use a short stool for your feet
Forget about ever using the back of the chair: designers created the shape of the back of most chairs without reference to the human spine and pelvis. Typically, chairs (plus car and airplane seats) invite users to collapse into the cashew shape I’ve referred to before. Recipe not only for back and neck pain, but also digestive problems!
When you’re improvising your solution, remember your goal is to create clear support for your sit bones and have your feet completely in contact with the floor. Your shoulders will be slightly forward of your sit bones. This position is new to many of us, so it won’t feel “natural” at first.
If you’re in my classes, you’ve heard me talk about how we humans are designed to move, not sit for hours on end.
Dr. James Levine, director of the Mayo Clinic-Arizona State University Obesity Solutions Initiative and inventor of the treadmill desk, is credited with coining the phrase “sitting is the new smoking.” Just Google the phrase and you’ll find a slew of recent articles invoking it. This Huffington Post blog sums up Dr. Levine’s findings nicely.
Check out the cool TED animation below making the same point. Murat Dalkilinç gives the lesson: the animation’s by Oxbow Creative.
What the video doesn’t mention: most chairs are designed to tilt us behind our sit bones. Check your own: is it pulling you back into a slump? Or encouraging you to sit erect? Is your pelvis free to tilt in any direction?
What can you do, if you have a desk job? One simple solution: set an alarm for every 30 min. or so. When it rings, stand up for a moment. Shift your weight from side to side, back to front. Compare how you feel when you come back to sitting: perhaps more alert?
Here’s an informative blog I discovered about the value of freeing your pelvis. It’s especially important to address pelvic health when you consider how much we sit in contemporary life. A sedentary lifestyle is antithetical to a freely moving pelvis.
Lise Wood of WHF
On the fundamental properties of good movement, Lise Wood of the Women’s Health Foundation writes: “If the body forms angles to the main line of action, some of the force generated by the pelvis will become absorbed in the tissues and fail to be transmitted toward the goal of the movement. The tissues that absorb this force may be the muscles, ligaments, tendons or the joint itself.”
In other words, when movement travels optimally through our skeletons, it follows the lines of our bones. The pelvic muscles—the biggest of the body—can do their job efficiently. If force is absorbed in the tissues, over time this can lead to inflammation and joint instability. This applies to both women and men.