Spending time on the ground adds strength, flexibility, and longevity.
In the large scheme of things, the chair is a relatively recent invention. Sitting in a chair stretches out our glutes and underutilizes them until they are inactive and weak. Sitting in a chair also puts the hip flexors into a contracted position for long periods of time which can inhibit full hip extension and lead to the hunched over position you often see older people have. According to Katy Bowman, the bio-mechanist who coined the term ‘nutritious movement’, Americans spend an average of 9.1 hours per day sitting.
Egyptians had the earliest chairs, but they were reserved for use only by the wealthy. Before that, sit-upon furniture didn’t exist and large rocks, stumps or logs were what people rested upon when they were available, but mostly people sat upon the ground.
I am seeing more and more studies that say that sitting in chairs or couches for long periods of time increases mortality and degenerative diseases. Trainers fret about bad body alignment for people who spend too much time sitting. It is good for our body to support its own body weight. Trainers and medical professionals advise getting up at regular intervals to move around if you spend lots of time sitting and if possible, work at a stand-up desk. Smart watches can be set to remind us to stand up when we have been sitting for an hour. Ideally, we should all spend at least one hour a day sitting on the ground, with an additional fifteen minutes standing up from the floor and returning to the floor (sitting-rising test). Our flexibility will improve, a great thing as we age, and we will build strength and coordination as well.
Here are some floor-sitting positions to help your body alignment:
Squat – This is the default resting position of humans. Kids do it naturally, but once they go to school and sit on chairs, they stop squatting. Keep your heels on the ground so that the pressure of your body weight is evenly distributed. This position increases the body’s flexibility and strengthens your quads.
Crossed Legs – This used to be my favorite way to sit. I find it comfortable if my hips aren’t tight. I realize now that if I did it more often, my hips would be more flexible. You can place your feet flat against each other or place your calves against each other.
Modified Crossed Legs – From the basic crossed leg position, bring one leg up and place the foot flat on the floor. Place opposite hand flat on the floor to support yourself if that’s more comfortable. Switch hands and/or legs if you get uncomfortable.
Note – A cushion is allowed during your body’s transition from tightness to being happy on the ground. This Ground Cushion is $219.00.
Activities to do on the floor:
Watch television. We watch a lot of TV in America and that’s a lot of couch-sitting. Move to the floor. Start by sitting in front of the couch. When your body isn’t comfortable, change to another sitting position that’s more comfortable, repeat as often as necessary.
Work – I often need to organize my research and my desktop is not large enough, so I move to the floor where I can spread out. I also do any present wrapping on the floor.
Practice the sitting-rising test – I have read many times that we all should be able to sit down on the floor and rise as a test of our strength, balance, and flexibility. The test was developed in the 1990s by Brazilian researchers as a prediction of mortality risk in the elderly and I’ve been trying for years to master it. It’s hard! Click here for how to score yourself.
I have a friend who routinely sits cross-legged on the floor whenever she can. If we are chatting with a group, she’s on the floor. Even if we are having an informal meeting in someone’s home, she’ll sit on the floor. She’s very flexible!
10 points for the above movements to stand
Here’s the bad news – we need to move more, and exercise does not equal movement. Moving the same way for too long and once a day, as in the Peleton or a treadmill “does not replace constant movement in a variety of directions all day long” according to Katy Bowman.
In conclusion, Ground or Floor Sitting gets you out of a chair and will increase your mobility as your body re-learns to be comfortable sitting on the ground. In addition, getting down on the ground and rising will increase strength and flexibility. Gandhi set a good example.
Click here to learn more about Katy Bowman and Nutritious Movement