Are You Sitting Down

The term asana means not only to simply sit, but also to abide. To take a stand against our mind's machinations. To hold a space of Grace. Yoga teaches us to take a firm seat in Self and abide to turn the tide. It's been said that sitting has become the new smoking. Health problems from tight hips and sore backs, to anxiety and depression, to heart disease and diabetes have been cited as the wages of immobility. So how do we get our butts in gear? Variety is the Spice of Sitting Morning workout, check. Free pass to be a couch tuber (or YouTuber) for the rest of the day? "Butt," the problem is, our butt can't work/won't work, while it's being sat upon. This very important major muscle group is the support that keeps our hips and pelvis in place when standing and walking. Our gluteal muscles, along with our core, are key components of our postural infrastructure. When our butt muscles are not working, other smaller muscles, not to mention joints and ligaments, become stressed as they get recruited to do the work this large muscle is meant to do. This is setting us up for various injuries down the road. Wall Chair Pose: with your back to the wall, slide down until your thighs are parallel, calves perpendicular. Draw your navel to your spine. Gaze straight ahead. Long Deep Breathing 1-3 min. Chair Lunge Here's an exercise to release chair-bound hip flexors. Sit in a chair with your knees level with your hips. Pivot to your right side so that you're balanced on your right sit bone. Draw your navel in and extend the heel of your back leg back until you feel a stretch in your left hip flexor. Long Deep Breathing. 1-3 min. Switch sides, repeat. We've been thinking about Mr. Miyagi from the Karate Kid lately for another reason (revealed later), but remember he would always say that balance is the most important thing? We can apply this principle to how we use our bodies during our waking hours. Motion and stillness. Do/not do. Translation: don't just sit there (for too long). Do something, often. When sitting, make an effort to find some variety in sitting. For example, sitting too long in the normal fashion tightens/shortens our hip flexors. And, if you're constantly sitting cross-legged you are weakening and tightening your hamstrings. So, regularly, put your heels up on a bolster or a coffee table, and unfurl your legs. Shoulder Stabilizer / Opener You can also sneak some posture perfecting into your couch excursions. While sitting, take the time to work on your upper back placement. One at a time, roll your shoulders back. Think of dropping them back rather than forcing the issue. Then engage the same side lat muscle (the one that holds your shoulder blade to your back). Do a light activation. No stress necessary. Then, while you are holding this, check that your ribs are relaxing downwards. Try to hold one side as you do the other shoulder placement. You will feel a stretch across the center of your chest. Draw your belly button towards your spine and lengthen through your neck. This is a great posture perfector and heart opener! Repeat as often as you need to feel the engagement. Past Perfect Inspiration Look for inspiration to move. People of previous generations—our parents, and especially our grandparents—moved more. They would sit for meals but in between, they would get up and do projects or activities. They may have watched TV in the evening but generally, their ratio was about 70% activity/ 30% sitting. Our generation flips it with more vegetating than moving. This is not entirely our fault. There is just so much more at our fingertips with our laptops, phones, and telly's! If looking to the past generations isn't inspiration enough, here is something to think about. Did you know that when we move, our muscles release molecules called lipoproteins that help us to digest fats and sugars? This is an important factor against heart disease. So, during the day, beyond your (hopefully) regular practice, do some activities that involve moving your body in the most basic ways: Stand when talking on the phone. Get up from your computer screen often, maybe every half hour or so. In the course of writing this, we took a break to do a workout. Then more writing. Then, a break to make do some food prep. Then writing. Then we rotated the mattress and made the bed. More writing. Then we sorted through clothes to take to Goodwill. Writing. Then some stretching. Writing. Outside for a short walk and to take some breaths. Now back to writing... It's a win/win. Stuff gets done and your bones get some much needed weight-bearing work. Your cells get circulated to and your fascia gets the movement it craves. More on fascia next! Get Unstuck Don't be concrete, on your feet! Another incentive: Fascia, aka, connective tissue, aka, the stuff that binds us— and holds every bone, organ, blood vessel, muscle, and nerve fiber in place—needs to be moved. Every day. If not, it freezes. You see there's a little thing called the proprioceptive system. Think of your smartphone that figures out which days you need the alarm set or when you usually drive to Whole Foods and sends you alerts/reminders. The proprioceptive system takes note of our habitual range of motion and says okey dokey fascia and muscles, this is our range and we will venture no further! The reason cement truck cylinders are in constant motion is that cement hardens when still. This cement analogy was inspired by the TV series Cobra Kai. This brings us to: Get Down to Rise Up Wanna sit? Ground down! That's right, get down on the floor! You can still watch TV (We highly recommend Cobra Kai, the modern sequel series to Karate Kid) and also get in some stretching and most importantly variety (balance). Sit in a straddle stretch for your inner thighs or Firelog Pose for your outer hips. You will find that one stretch will lead to another. Straddle Stretch might make you feel a need to do a quad stretch, so sit on the ground, bend one knee and place that foot next to your buttocks. Then slowly lean backward. Hold for 20-30 seconds. Do as many stretches as you want. Be creative and have fun. You can even just focus on releasing knots and tension by massaging with a foam roller or lacrosse ball. For some very sedentary people even getting down onto the floor and back up again is an amazing exercise. If you don't have space, rearrange your space. Get yourself a comfortable sticky mat. Do whatever it takes to make your floor space inviting. Your time on the floor is sacred.