Article originally appeared in the Winnipeg Free Press (co-authored by Helen Maupin, Candace Propp, Stacy Schroder)
Although sitting with an erect and fluid spine is the goal for pranayama and meditation (two of the eight limbs of yoga), it is also vital for most people in the workforce who spend upwards of three to five hours each day seated in front of a computer. The unfortunate consequence — prolonged sedentary living results in poor posture from a weakening of the body’s structure (bones, muscles and tissue). Shortened lifespans have been attributed to staying seated for longer than three hours at a time. And it all comes down to how we sit and for how long.
As with all yoga practices, we start with awareness.
Becoming aware of your inner experience in a seated yoga posture informs you where tension or lack of ease are present in your body. These tensions have their source in potentially life-long holding patterns where emotion has been stored (suppressed) or injury has left scar tissue. Sitting in meditation can often allow you immediate access to these sensations, which you can then explore more fully. However, if the discomfort of the seated posture is too great, then you have lost the balance between stability and ease. When it comes to happy, healthy sitting, here is a simple formula to hold in your memory — E² — even and elevated.
What needs to be even and elevated? Your sit bones, which are what we balance on when we sit up straight.
The sit bones are protrusions located at the bottom of the pelvis. I encourage you to use your fingertips to feel through your buttock flesh for these protruding bones. Once you have located them in your own body, you will be more conscious of whether you are sitting on them evenly. Can you sense if your body weight is balanced between your two sit bones? When your body weight is evenly balanced on the points of the sit bones, the pelvis is in its upright position — neither rolling back and curving the lumbar outward nor tilting forward and excessively curving the lumbar inward. If your lumbar is not in its upright position, you may have to elevate the sit bones with a blanket or foam block (sometimes several are needed), particularly if you are seated in a cross-legged position on the floor.
Regularly moving off the couch and onto the floor in an E² seated posture increases your flexibility, stability and life. A useful practice during TV time.
To aid your happy healthy sitting, lean forward slightly and, with your hands, pull back the flesh from the underside of your buttocks. Feel how your sit bones make greater contact with the floor. If necessary, elevate the sit bones in order to sit slightly forward on their front edges. Feel a sense of ease as the natural curves come into your spine. Then complete the following action.
Action: Balance your body’s weight on your two sit bones. For more advanced practitioners, let your inner body weight rest down into the sit bones and simultaneously feel your spine lift upward.
Sukhasana (Easy Pose)
Sit with your legs stretched out in front of you. Use as much height under your sit bones as needed to easily maintain an upright spine. Cross one ankle over the other, bend your knees outward as you draw your lower legs in toward your pelvis. Your ankles are in line with your knees. Find the action. Repeat with the other ankle on top.
GOMUKHASANA legs only (Cow Face Pose)
Start in an all-fours position (tabletop). While keeping your left knee where it is, take your left foot to the right. Cross your right leg in front of your left leg and guide your right foot to the left. Keeping your knees one on top of the other, sit down between your feet. Note: You might need to place support under your sit bones in order to find the action. Repeat with the other leg on top.
BHARADVAJASANA (Bharadvaja’s Pose)
Start from an all-fours position. Keeping the knees where they are, take both feet to the right. Place support under your sit bones and sit down. Use enough height under your sit bones to level your pelvis. Place your right ankle over the arch of your left foot to form a cross. Find the action. Repeat with the feet to the left.
For more information, refer to Creating Space: Yoga Actions for Pelvis & Psoas.