What we do with our body 24 hours a day matter: What we eat, how we move, how we think. Not just when we’re training or competing—every second adds up to something bigger. In essence, you become what you do. Quite literally, our connective tissues adapt and respond to what we do the most often. And what do we do a lot these days? Sit.
I am a Proactive Lifestyle Specialist because I believe that to improve our quality of life, we need to look at our entire lifestyle. Ideally we should decrease the amount of time that we’re sitting and increase the variety of our movements throughout the day. This can be a difficult, yet necessary, transition as our social and professional culture is often centered around the act of sitting. We sit when we eat, meet with friends, drive, fly, work at the desk, go to school, just to name a few.
Yet even if you are literally chained to your desk, you still have freedom in how you sit. It’s time to self-check yourself before you wreck yourself.
Self-Check: How do you normally sit?
Have a friend snap a photo of you in your “this is how I usually sit at my desk” position. If you can, have them take it when you’re not even paying attention, as this might show a more honest image of your sitting habits. Do you notice any of the following?
- Head hinging forward so it’s in front of your shoulders.
- Your entire back rounded like a capital C (for mega-Curve).
- Your pelvis is tucked under.
- Your legs crossed at the thighs or ankles.
These are just a few examples of common postural habits when sitting. While we know it’s not ideal to pop-a-squat for hours at a time, if you’re going to sit, let’s at least bring awareness to how we are sitting.
Tips on how to sit better:
Here are a few simple adjustments to incorporate into your daily life. Remember, small changes can make a big difference.
The Pelvis Rocker with a towel
- Roll up a hand towel
- Place it on your chair
- Sit, with the sit bones (the bony points at the bottom of your pelvis–ischial tuberosities) on the towel
- Allow your pelvis to naturally rock forward without much effort. In other words, your pelvis is not in a tucked position. Hopefully this will help encourage the natural curvature of your spine. Think: head over shoulders, shoulders over pelvis, lower back curves in naturally (as opposed to being rounded out so your entire back looks like that capital C mentioned above)
Why sit on a towel?
This small adjustment reminds us to position our pelvis in a way that is more conducive to supporting our spine and skull. With the pelvis tucked, we can’t align the rest of our body as easily. If the head is hinging forward (are you craning your head forward to read this now? Go get a towel, pronto!) the tissues on the backside of the neck / back are being forced to elongate and work overtime to hold your heavy ol’ head up. Oh the forces of gravity! At the same time, the muscles in the front of the neck and chest area have to shorten to balance this support. Hello headaches and neck pain.
How you position your pelvis when doing, well, anything (not just sitting) influences your entire body in all sorts of curiously clever ways. Using a towel to sit on is just one way to recognize how we use our body and where we can create better balance and alignment.
Yoga Sequences to Stretch Out After Sitting
Now that you’ve improved that way that you sit, let’s stretch out your muscles. I’ve created two yoga sequences that help to loosen and lengthen your muscles after long periods of sitting—whether you’re working, writing, traveling, eating, or watching TV:
1. 10-minute Wall Sequence
Within this lengthening sequence, I guide you through five movements to mindfully awaken the body – perfect to incorporate before, during, or after work or even after a day on the road. Why use a wall?
- The wall provides feedback, keeping you in check. It reminds you where you are in relation to the rest of your body.
- Pressing into the wall allows us to create a type of resistance stretching and activation within the body.
- If you’re feeling a bit tuckered out and sluggish, the wall is your friendly support to keep you mindful in your movement.
2. Gentle Spine Warm Up
Our spine is a powerful, supple, fluid, dynamic masterpiece. At least it’s supposed to be. In this short sequence, I guide you through three movements, all while laying on the back, to mindfully awaken the muscles and connective tissue that move the spine. This sequence is ideal to practice when you wake up, before you even get out of bed, after a day at the office or on the road.
Note: Consult your health care provider before starting any exercise regimen.