When was the last you actually sat on the floor? And if at all, you did so, was your spine neutral i.e. did it maintain its natural curves wherein the back muscles support the core muscles and vice versa? Most probably – ‘Not’
Today’s generation definitely has a tough time handling the basic movements which were the most natural in olden days. Using Indian toilets, eating while sitting on the floor, cooking food on the floor, sweeping & swabbing or socializing with family and friends were an everyday affair in those days and ‘Sitting or squatting on the floor’ was the only option. Perhaps, that’s the reason that majority of the middle age people can still do a better job of sitting on the floor with their spine upright when compared to today’s generation.
Urban Life, in these terms, has taken a turn for the worst. Sitting on the commode, sitting on the dining table, sitting on the sofa, sitting on the study chair etc. have taken away the muscle flexibility as well as the muscle strength that is otherwise ingrained in the muscle memory for the older generation. All the sittings are ‘On’ something now but ‘Off’ the floor. Due to this, by the time, they hit their teenage years; they are struggling to sit with a neutral spine. There are two basic reasons for this:
- Sitting with support for years, they have not been able to use the right muscles independently and hence their back muscles & the abdominal muscles are weak and collapse, the minute they are required to sit upright on the floor.
- There is restricted movement in the Sacrum, Sacro-iliac region & the gluteus.
The moment I give the instruction ‘Sit upright’, the first thing everyone does is: push the lower back forward, but this position stresses that area in isolation instead of neutralizing the whole spine. This could result in back pain.
How to sit upright?
- Sit on the floor comfortably
- Push your hips (ischial tuberosity to be very specific) firmly on the floor
- Lengthen your spine
- Push your abdominal (navel) region slightly into the spine & then push the region just below your chest to the spine as well (make sure you do not hold your breath). This will almost get your spine in a neutral position.
- Roll your shoulders & drop you shoulder blades down towards hips. This widens up your chest. Shoulder blades are flexed towards each other as you further lift your sternum bone up.
- This whole adjustment might create a slight pressure on the lower back; follow point no. 4 again to readjust your position.
- Maintaining the above positions intact, very slightly move your upper body weight to the back side. You will basically push the outer side of the hips more firmly on the floor.
- Sitting in this way will help maintain your spine in neutral position.
However, the above, alone will not work if there is stiffness in the sacrum, sacro-iliac area and the glutes. And it is a common scene to see many with their upper back collapsing at the back in sitting position even after making all the adjustments. In that case, you will need to practice asanas which will help release the stiffness and allow more flexibility to these areas specifically. Regular practice of asanas such as Adhomukha Svanasana (dog pose), Uttanasana, Prasarita Padottansana etc. will help opening up the tightness and gradually prepare your body to allow you to sit in a neutral, upright, erect posture not only on the floor but anywhere you choose to sit.
Not sitting upright can give birth to a host of problems. It misaligns your spine, makes your back & the abdominal region weak which fail to perform their jobs to their optimal capacity. This results in overuse of other muscle group which causes many injuries. Everything goes out of alignment leaving both your body & mind unbalanced.
I asked my niece who was sitting beside me when I was working on this – “Ranya, can you sit with your spine neutral?” She expressed that in writing and has really touched upon some important points in her own innocent way.
Shammi Gupta, founder of Shammi’s Yogalaya holds an MA in Yoga Shastra, is a certified Yogic Therapist and Naturopath, has completed an Advanced Yoga Course and holds a Diploma in Yoga Education from Mumbai University. She is a certified trainer from American College of Sports Medicine and holds an MBA in HR & MBA in Finance from The University of Akron, Ohio, USA. She conducts Health Awareness Workshops for Corporate, Yogasana Workshops for Athletes and Yoga Therapy Workshops on different medical issues for patients. Among the celebrities Shammi trains are eminent personalities from the film and television industry and corporate world.