Why is it so difficult to sit with “good posture?” We all know we ought to “sit up straight” and that slouching is “bad,” and yet time and again we find ourselves in that familiar hunched-forward position. We may even try really hard to sit up tall, resisting the forward lean our muscles are begging to slump into—only to fall into the rounded back and craned neck once again as soon as we turn our attention back onto what we were previously doing.
There are a few reasons for this endless struggle; among them is the shear amount of time we have trained our bodies to sit. Take a moment to think back on all the sitting you’ve done—at school, in the car, at the kitchen table, socializing with friends, at work, at concerts/ movies/ church/ community events, and on and on. Being honest, did you spend all that sitting time in “perfect posture?” Probably not. Everything you do, every moment of every day, is shaping your body. So no wonder it’s hard to sit up straight. You’ve been shaping your body to the activities you most frequently do, and not so much those you do every once in a while.
To start sitting better, you need to start actively training your body so it can adapt out of the common forward-slump. To do this you need to:
1. Know what “good posture” actually is.
2. Change the input you’re giving your body.
3. Adapt your environment to make it easier to sit differently.
Let’s start part 1 with a few definitions. Posture: a position of your body parts in one moment in time. Alignment: the appropriate or optimal positioning of your parts relative to each other that allows for the most efficient function. What this means is that there really is no “good” or “bad” posture. What makes a certain posture become bad is when we spend all our time in the same one, since this starts shaping the use of our body, which effects our alignment.
So the first thing to start changing is the frequency you spend in one particular arrangement of your body parts. If you always sit against the backrest of your chair, can you sit on the front of the chair and hold your torso up with your muscles? If you like crossing your left leg over your right, can you switch to putting your right leg over the left? Can you sit cross-legged? Or on your knees? Can you stand? All of these (and any variation you can think of, no matter how small) can be considered “good posture” because they change the amount of time you spend in any one position. The more variety your body gets to experience, the more ways you are training your parts to hang out comfortably. Did any of those new sitting postures feel a little weird or slightly uncomfortable? Those are the ones to practice more often.
I’ll keep writing about sitting better and how to do it, but I’ll let you sit on these ideas for now.