Sitting - the illusion of rest
For most of my students, they sit at a desk for many hours per day. Some don’t even sit at a desk – they look down at their pad or laptop from the couch or their bed. It’s often thought that sitting gives your body a rest from standing. In reality, sitting can be, and usually is, much worse for you than standing. I want to show you how we have conditioned ourselves to “rest” by not engaging necessary postural muscles. I then want to show you through using knowledge of anatomy and the Pilates method, how you can save your body and rid yourself of pain.
The anatomy of sitting is tricky because we have all developed our “comfortable” positions. We cross our
ankles, we lean forward, we tuck one foot under the other thigh, all in the pursuit of comfort while we are forced to sit and work for hours on end. The best way to imagine what position you should be in when you sit is to think of imitating how it is when you stand. (We’ll get into standing posture in the next blog :-) Let me start by saying your spine should be shaped like a letter “S”; it should have curves. Your ear should be lined up with your shoulder and your shoulders should be set over your hip bones. So let’s talk about where those hips/pelvis should be.
We have two bones that we “sit” on, sitzbones for short. (it’s really your iscium, bones in your pelvis, but most people don’t know it by that name). If you put your fingers under your buns when sitting, you can feel a bone under each cheek. First and foremost, get your body on top
of those bones - not behind them. If you’re rolling your tailbone underneath you when sitting, you’re setting yourself behind the sitzbones. Once you’re on the bones, you’ll automatically notice a huge change in your posture! Now align your shoulders over your hips, then keep your head over your shoulders – not in front of them. The head already weighs between 10-12 lbs. If your head is leaning forward over your thighs and not aligned over your shoulders, you add another 14 lbs to the weight of your head. That will pull on your shoulder & neck muscles (trapezius & rhomboids) causing strain and also it tightens up your chest because you slouch. Slouching shortens your chest muscles. Constant shortening of the pectoral (chest) muscles will start to pull your spine forward. Have you seen those people with a mighty hump on their back? That’s where you’re headed!
So how do we fix these things? Start simple. GET UP! You MUST get up from your desk and stand up out of your chair. Become aware of your body position and how long it’s been stuck in that one position. I know, especially during meetings, that’s not always an option. So try this –
Place one hand on top of your head, place the other hand on your navel. Feel your stomach pull away from your hand and your spine pull up into the hand that’s on the top of your head. You have now activated your transverse abdominals.
These are the main powerhouse muscles of your core – your true center. They surround your waist like a corset
or a really thick belt. They will hug your spine, pulling in from the front, sides, and the back to support your spine and take the pressure off of your disks. This is the main core muscle group that is focused on when doing the Pilates method.
Learning how to use my true core (not the 6 pack abs – that’s a different muscle group) is what relieved me of constant lower back pain. You can be pain-free as well! Come in for a free session at my West Seattle studio OR come to my Friday morning Pilates Mat class, also in West Seattle. I promise you be so glad you did.