One of the greatest causes of back pain in our Western societies is the amount of sitting we do every day, and the way we sit, out of alignment or slouching. I realise that sitting straight is not cool; it is less relaxing and may look uptight. However, there are so many negative side effects from slouching, that it is essential to include a good sitting posture in our self-care programme. Reducing slouching habits can have a positive effect on our breathing, digestion, mood, energy and back health!
When we slouch, we compress the front of the body, the lungs and diaphragm are constricted and this reduces the efficiency of the whole breathing mechanism. It is important to realise that this means there will be less oxygen circulating via the blood towards all the cells. This reduced circulation of oxygen weakens the functioning of almost every major system in the body. As a consequence, not only breathing is impaired, but we may get problems with our digestion, blood circulation, blood pressure, headaches, mood etc.
Apart from restricting our breathing, slouching also weakens the back muscles. The muscles along the spine are chronically lengthened and become easily fatigued. Holding the back upright requires more effort and the spinal muscles strain and tighten easily. On top of that, the unequal pressure on the intervertebral discs is problematic for back pain and a slipped disc in particular. If you already have a back condition, slouching will hinder the healing process. I like to be positive, but I am afraid I cannot be very optimistic when it comes to slouching. Click here to go to my other blog about slouching or read on to get some practical tips towards a great sitting posture.
Key pointers for a good sitting posture:
- As often as you can, choose a chair with a firm surface and straight back for sitting.
- Place two feet on the floor. Resist the urge to cross your legs as this will tilt the hips and may lead to imbalances in the hips and spine.
- Sit on the centre of both sitting bones. These are the lowest bony parts of the pelvis; you can feel them when sitting on a hard surface.
Exercise to find the centre of the sitting bones:
-Experiment for a moment sitting on one sitting bone, then the other.
-Rock back and forth on the sitting bones to get a sense of the centre: you slouch when the weight is behind the sitting bones, and when you rock forward you arch the lower back and may feel the middle back tighten. Try to find the neutral point between these two extremes.
-Feel how your pelvis is balanced and the spine can be straight (straight-ish, the spine of course has an S-like curve).
-Allow your hips to feel heavy, connect with the force of gravity weighing the hips down.
-While still connecting with the pull of gravity, also feel the crown of the head gently lifting upward, with the chin relaxing towards the throat.
- If you are reading or watching a screen, bring it level with your eyes so the neck can be straight too and the neck muscles don’t have to work so hard to hold the head.
- Finally, if you do a lot of sitting, take regular movement breaks. Standing up every hour and moving around for a few minutes will prevent the body from tightening and also help you to regain focus. Just set an alarm every hour and walk around for a few minutes.
I hope this blog can help you feel more energised and strong, simply by changing your sitting habits. If you need more help with posture and yoga for back pain, don’t hesitate to contact me!