Sitting on the Floor:
Sitting on the floor is very underrated. As kids we sat on the floor all the time in a variety of different wacky positions, but as we got older, went to school, then got jobs, we substituted our multitude of resting positions for one; sitting on a chair.
It’s no wonder our bodies are so dysfunctional across the board. People from sedentary western cultures often have very similar postural and movement disfunctions, most of which can be tied to sitting in a chair for almost their entire lives! (Sit to eat breakfast, sit in a car to drive to work, sit in a chair in an office for 8 hours, sit in the car to get home, sit at the sofa and watch TV, sleep, repeat)
Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not starting a crusade against chair sitting. I don’t think any resting position is bad, cos if you’re chillin and you are comfy, then you do you. However, I AM starting a crusade against a lack of variation.
If you sat cross legged for 15 hours a day, every day, it would result in most likely just as many problems as chair sitting does in different ways. The body is not meant to stay in one position for so long without moving day after day year after year.
As such, the purpose of this tutorial is not to get you to look through this list of sitting positions, pick the one you like the most and then say ‘this is how I will sit from now on’. No siree, bob. You are meant to learn these positions, then regularly do any and all of them in any circumstances you can. (e.g playing with your kids, playing with your parents, watching tv, reading, eating, doing homework, working at home, painting, resting between sets in a workout, etc).
On top of de-chairing you, these resting positions also act as time efficient ways to improve your mobility, which will help you be more pain-free and active in your life. (And if you are into fitness of any kind; more able to do things you couldn’t before, due to bad mobility!)
It’s all about injecting some variation into how you rest. Don’t switch one extreme out for another!
Notes on Posture:
For all of these positions, you will want to make sure you are sitting with proper posture for the best benefits.
When sitting, make sure you are resting on your ‘sit-bones’ (read: ischial tuberosity! Cool word, right?) and not your tailbone (read: coccyx. Less cool word). This will allow you to sit up straight and not put any uncomfortable pressure on your lumbar spine.
This is probably the most common way of sitting on the floor.
If you can’t get your knees to comfortably touch the ground while sitting like this, then sitting like this is a great way to improve your hip external rotation passively, while just chilling out. No stretching needed!
This is not a very common sitting position, and for good reason. This should only be attemped once you can sit cross legged on the ground with your knees comortably on the floor (a good tutorial for other pre-requisites to achieve before the lotus can be found HERE)
This position will further improve your external hip rotation once cross legged becomes super easy for you. (Be warned, if you don’t have enough external rotation in the hips to begin with, then the torque of this position will go through your knees instead, which is bad. Take caution here and don’t be a dummy).
This position will be one of the less accessible for the less mobile to sit in comfortably, but do not let that scare you off. It can be easily scaled with a pillow, much like the rest (explained below) and will be one of the more bang for your buck resting positions for passively improving your mobility, especially if you are into gymnastics or calisthenics.
The is a nice way to chill, and surely you’ve seen many people sit like this in the park or other relaxing, soft grounded atmospheres.
It’s also a good way to gently improve your ability to keep a straight spine with higher and higher degrees of hip flexion (which is useful for the squat). However, this like every other sitting position, should not be forced to feel like a stretch. Some like the straddle sit may feel super stretchy because you are not used to the position and your muscles (adductors and hamstrings in that case) are tight. However, this position is a lot like chair sitting, but with your legs a lot closer to your torso, so dont expect to feel much of a stretch.
Half Cross/Half Knees Up
This position is just comfy. That’s mostly it.
This position, in my opinion is the one that you should be spending most of your time in. It’s the most versatile. You can do it on any type of surface, where things like the knees up sit will only be doable on soft ground.
This is also the best for your mobility because it works on your thoracic extension, hip flexion and ankle dorsiflexion moreso than any other position. With this one, its not do or die that you keep a straight spine. That will come with time and a lot more mobility. It’s not a bad thing if your spine is rounded to begin with, or if you can’t get your butt right to heels.
Just squat as deep as you can, the best you can. Squatting is also good for blood vessel integrity in your lower body, and digestion! Squats are really great. (Check out more info at the 30/30 Squat Challenge Facebook Page)
Sitting like this will be a fantastic test of your internal hip rotation. If you can’t sit like this comfortably, apart from modifying it with a pillow as explained below, you can also slide your front foot (the one positioned like you are cross legged) under the knee of your back leg (the one awkwardly positioned back to your side) to relieve some of the internal rotation pressure on that hip, and make it more comfy.
For those of you finding this uncomfortable, you may be thinking that this is a stupid way to sit and it will never be comfortable. Trust me, once your internal hip rotation improves and you get used to it, it’s actually really comfy. This is perhaps my second most common sitting position behind the squat (AND the Chair! I’m not perfect either!).
This is also a very good progression towards the universally hated W-Sit. In case you are curious. Not giving my opinion on that one, but say hypothetically you WERE Working towards that in a knee-safe way. Just saying. Hint hint.
Seiza sitting is a traditional way to sit in Japan, but also a good way to improve your knee integrity and health, and improve your quad flexibility a bit.
BONUS ROUND: You can also curl your toes under you in a seiza sit to stretch out your feet, which feels awesome.
Transitioning from the Chair:
For many of us, sitting in all those positions for a long time may seem very daunting. Perhaps we don’t have the mobility to sit in those positions comfortably (double for things like the lotus) or MAYBE our squishy butts just simply can’t find it comfortable to sit on the hard floor. Fear not!
All of these positions can be scaled both mobility and comfort wise with the addition of my patented Plush Floor Sitting Comfort Enhancer™ (read: a pillow or bolster, or rolled up towel). This will decrease the ‘stretch’ on some of the positions and also give your sit bones a break from grinding into the floor when they just aren’t quite ready.
Now get sitting, and have fun!