Are you sitting comfortably? Most people would prefer to present an image of themselves as being relaxed and easy going and tend to adopt a ‘stress free’ sitting posture – to sit in a’ relaxed’ manner possibly with the feet up and probably with the back rounded out. But ‘relaxed’ invariably means collapsed – and this becomes a bad habit which can cause us problems (see picture 1).
When we ask our clients what they think is an ‘ideal’ sitting posture, most of them either have no idea or a vague notion of throwing their chests and rib cage forward by using a lot of unnecessary muscle tension (see picture 2).
The spine is a column, with 3 natural curves – curves forward in the neck and lower back and a reciprocal curve backwards in the mid-back. These curves should be fairly much preserved when we sit and stand and during most daily activities.
All column structures depend upon good foundations to support them – yours is in your pelvis.
So in order to sit properly, the starting point is in the pelvic girdle. To find your ‘sitting bones’, roll your pelvis forward and back until you are sitting on the top front part of your sitting bones and not on the cheeks of your bottom. Then try and bring them slightly apart so as to ‘fan your tail’. You should feel that your spine elongates up and away from the pelvis naturally – and that you breathe more easily!
Now check your breast bone – imagine 2 elastics both stretching from the centre of your breast bone to the front of each shoulder. Stretch these elastics to widen your chest, without throwing your ribcage forwards or pulling your elbows back (as in Picture 2).
Make sure you aren’t tense or rigid here – but see if you can get better at feeling the ’inner lift’ and doing little movements from your sit bones – where you are ‘up’ yet supple and it feels ‘easy’.
It is most important is that you stop the bad habit of crossing your thighs when you sit as this makes it more difficult to ‘sit properly’ – the spine risks being more stressed and developing pain and stiffness.
A good sitting posture not only makes you look better, it also makes you feel so much better because you are turning on your ‘core muscles’ naturally and using them as part of your everyday function (picture 3).
Initially, because of longstanding joint stiffness and muscle weakness it may be difficult for you to ‘sit properly’. You may need support from cushions or a lumbar roll to help you maintain this more ideal alignment
If you are still not sure what an ideal sitting posture is, make sure you check with your physiotherapist when you come into the clinic.