For the first time in our history as humans we’ve reached an era where sitting has become a position that we hold for long periods of time. Historically, we would stand and move around to work our fields, work in a factory, etc. Time spent sitting was much less was used for times of rest. Sitting was a space between long periods of movement.
Technology has changed all of that, sitting is now the new normal position. A reversal has occurred: movement is now the what occurs between long periods of sitting.
Let’s face it, we have to sit! It’s how we position ourselves in transportation, work, learning environments, etc.
Unfortunately, our anatomy hasn’t quite adapted to this new normal. Our bodies were designed to move, it’s how we’ve always operated and the past few decades of sitting hasn’t changed anything, just caused a lot of pain (especially in the low back and the neck).
So let’s be smart and mindful about how we sit. This will help mitigate the pain caused from this sedentary position, and also better our well-being in those times that we move between sitting place to sitting place.
If this Bear can learn how to properly sit, you can to 🙂
Energy Conservation: Sitting Like a Troll
When most people sit these days they round their shoulders and back forward and lean their neck in towards their screen. I call this the Troll posture, because in this internally rotated and hunched position, you look like a damn Troll.
Why do we assume this position? Because there’s a minimal amount of effort required to sustain it.
The default program of your body is energy conservation.
Back not even 100 years ago, starving was normal.
Because food was less abundant and not as energy dense as all the stuff we have today, our bodies were in a constant state of energy conservation. We would work on a minimum level of effort to conserve until our next meal when we would be able to replenish and conserve again.
The world is much different now, we live in a state of energy abundance. Starving is still a thing, and a tragic thing at that, but the average human is no longer starving. The average human has more options for food now than Kings and rich people of ancient human society ever had. Even the poor have more options for nutrient dense foods, vs the old moldy and stale bread option of the past.
That’s why we need to switch our programming. It’s no longer about saving energy, it’s about energy efficiency: getting the most out of the movement that you make.
It’s time to perk up to new potential
The Impact of Energy Efficiency
Back in the day hunching into a troll position may have saved you enough energy to work your field so that you can eat again. Nowadays, troll position imposes unnecessary stresses that end up compromising the structure of your body. We need to consciously expend energy to help maintain ourselves now.
An energy efficient body is about longevity and improving overall quality of life.
As you can see here, the curves of the spine are what begin to bear the brunt of your laziness. A moment of Troll posture is probably not harmful, but long periods of it (even 20 mins) can, over time, put a lot of stress and strain on your body.
We adapt to these stresses, by the way. Over time our body begins to mold itself into this Troll position to a point where that becomes the new normal.
Here’s an example of the Thoracic spinal curve becoming more pronounced.
Biomechanically, this begins to displace force across your body.
- Postural muscles that were supposed to keep you in a nice upright natural position become over stressed and unable to do their work.
- Muscles that transmit force when you walk and move around then shut off (the glute Max especially).
This is a common way how musculoskeletal pain develops. One area becomes overworked to the point of complaint (or pain), because other parts of your body are not doing their job. This all stems from your posture, or how you position yourself during the majority of your day.
If this continues without any intervention these can happen:
- Increase in rates of degeneration and arthritis
- Joints become inflamed due to an increase in stress and ultimately decrease their range of motion to help stabilize themselves
- Breathing becomes decreased
- A rounded position decreases the space in the chest cavity. This leads to a decrease in rib cage mobility, impaired diaphragm activity, and a wealth of other problems associated with not breathing properly
- Digestion & Elimination becomes impaired
- Digestion is aided by movement and breathing. Without a healthy amount of these two your digestive system is not working as efficiently as it can.
As you can see, sitting properly can benefit your whole body. All it takes a tiny amount of effort too.
How to Sit Efficiently
It’s actually quite simple.
If you look at the gears and the arrows on the person sitting on the right and imagine them in your own body; you’ll find your natural alignment quite easily. Allow me to help you:
- Foundation: Step your feet about hip width apart, knees above your ankles
- Legs Arrow: Roll your hips slightly forward
- You’ll feel a slight curve in your low back develop and maybe a gentle stretch/opening feeling where your hamstrings connect to your pelvis underneath you.
- Low Ribs Arrow: Keep the position of the legs above and now add a slight lift to your lower rib cage, while bringing the upper rib cage back.
- You’ll feel your chest broaden a little and your shoulders roll back slightly when you have the right spot. You may also notice that this naturally positions your shoulders in alignment above your hips.
- Neck Arrow: After all of the above slightly tuck your chin in, feel a lift in the very top center of your skull (as if you’re trying to lift the top of your skull away from the back part of your neck)
- It’s almost like giving yourself a double chin, you may even feel a slight stretch at the back of your head (where it meets your neck).
Congrats! You are now sitting properly. Breathe here for a few breaths and notice how much easier it is to do so.
In the beginning you’ll need to remind yourself of this position often. The nature of a healthy habit is that you have to keep doing it, or no change will occur.
Eventually you’ll naturally default to this position. I’ve been practicing the above steps for about a week now and I’ve noticed that I slouch way less. I’m also much more aware of when I start to slouch and I have a quick and simple way to return back to optimal sitting position.
Trust me it will take some time to get this established, but as you now know the benefits far outweigh the detriments of energy conservation slouched position.
If you’re doing this at work and notice that you need to slouch due to the positioning of your workstation, CHANGE IT! There is no excuse worthy enough to keep you away from good health!
Challenge yourself to sit like this for the rest of your day and simply notice how you feel by the end of it. Also, let me know if you need any help through contacting me on the contact page.
For more articles like this:
- Mindful Walking – Get the most out of the moments between chairs
- Yoga For Low Back Pain – More about sitting and exercises to help alleviate those stresses
- 3 Yoga Poses for Thoracic Spine Mobility – Reverse the hunch and restore mobility in your Thoracic Spine and rib cage.
- The Anatomy of Ujjayi Breath – Learn how to breath in your perfect posture seat
- Anatomy of a Modern Day Human: Troll Posture – More info about troll posture
Sit up nice and tall and get the most out of each breath you take and every movement you make 😉