When I was in my teens, I remember encouraging my younger brother to have “good posture.” We’d be in church and I would sit up tall, look at him, and make a “I’m sitting taller than you” look. He’d roll his eyes and then grumble something under his breath as he would sit up as tall as he could. Since he is over 6’ tall it wasn’t hard for him to “sit taller” than me. However, after maybe ten seconds of trying to be good, he’d sigh and then sink back into his slumped posture. (I’m happy to report that he cares a lot more these days about his posture.)
Does sitting “right” have to be so painful?
The truth is that if we are used to sitting poorly it can be really exhausting or uncomfortable to sit “right.” We have so many preconceived notions about what “good posture” really is.
So what does good posture “look” like? Well, I don’t know if this is the BEST example, but it’s the best I got:
Sitting properly happens when you are folding at the hip joint (rather than “tucking under”) so that your spine is free. The line of gravity (as marked by the red dots) lines up so that your ears are roughly over your shoulders and your shoulders should dissect your hips (again, thinking of the joint, not necessarily the “fleshy mass.”) Another great indicator is to consider your “sitz” bones on your pelvis. The two rounded protuberances are our natural “seat.”
Pretty basic, right?
The problem is: If we view posture as a static position, we start to bind our flow by contracting our muscles to “hold the shape.” We usually stop breathing, which among other things decreases our ability to find our core support. We start pulling our energy inward, which as it turns out, is really exhausting.
If we can view our alignment as dynamic (or changing) then we are in a whole new game. Here are some of the things that help me keep my posture alive instead of dead:
Find an image:
Whether it’s lines of energy, flowing streams of water, or whatever—finding an image that creates subtle motion is a great way to “let go.” Consider the downward release of energy into the earth and the buoyant spring back from the earth—creating a constant exchange of flow and energy.
Even if you practice good posture all the time, nobody should sit all day. Spiral the spine. Dance around. Get up, walk, bend over, arch the back, look at the ceiling. Here is a great 2 1/2 minute clip you can follow right now to feel more energized while at your computer.
Let it come to you.
If you are looking at a computer, reading a book, visiting with a friend, or just watching TV–rather than straining your eyes forward, imagine the image coming up to meet your gaze. Allow the back of your head to be aware of the space behind you from time to time.
Practice your best bobble head.
Making sure your neck isn’t “locked” into a strained position with your neck, try jostling the head around in tiny movements to encourage a free head/neck relationship.
What I love most about “proper” sitting is that it immediately makes me feel more energized, alert, and connected. My core is engaged instead of “hanging out.” And I am more aware of how my body works and recuperates.
I’d love to hear your tips, questions, or comments! What works for you? How do you deal with long periods of sitting?