Most of us have probably heard now that "sitting is the new smoking." Studies are showing that frequent sitters have a higher risk of developing cancer, obesity, heart disease, type 2 diabetes, depression (just for starters) according to an article published in The Active Times.
But what about those of us that enjoy sitting for daily meditations? Are we exposing ourselves to these same risk factors that couch potatoes and video gamers are running?
I argue that sitting with good posture does NOT put us at risk for developing health issues. If done with awareness and self respect, sitting can actually help us to find more health and joy in our lives.
1. Sitting with good posture can improve your overall health
Sitting with good posture creates intervertebral space, AKA axial extension. This is an important part of having good posture and is the way we counteract the never-ending battle with gravity.
Spinal length also allows for more energy to flow through us. Think about where our vital organs are (in between the heart and our belly)--that’s the main place that gets constricted when we lose spinal integrity. Fix your posture and the organs will have more room to breathe.
Axial extension also goes hand in hand with being able to breath deeper. The main muscle that moves the breath is the diaphragm, a hammock-like muscle that moves up on exhale and and down on inhale. The diaphragm is deeply connected to the spine as well as most of the other muscles in the torso. As we develop the diaphragmatic muscles and learn about how they move in relationship to the the spine and breath, we see that sitting up with good posture is the perfect position to feel the breath moving you. It’s hard to take deep breaths when slouching.
2. Sitting well is grounding
Connecting our feet and bum downward toward the Earth is a powerful practice in and of itself. In yogic terms, the first chakra of the energy system is our root chakra, or muladhara in Sanskrit. The root is located at the pelvic floor, where our PC and perennium are. Our roots extend down from there, through our legs and feet, to connect us with the Earth.
When we sit with good posture, whether on a chair or on the floor, our root is oriented down to the ground. This allows us to feel a sense of connection to the Earth, in addition to providing us with a stable seat upon which the rest of our chakras and body can align on top of with integrity. When you sit with poor posture, the curves of the spine get crunched, and blood and energy flow are constricted.
Sitting with good posture outdoors in nature is one of the most grounding and calming practices one can do. However, when there is no yard, park or mountain around, sitting on any flat surface can give us the same benefit. Just imagine you are sitting on the Earth and feel the amazingness of the connection in doing so.
3. Sitting with good posture leads to doing other things with good posture
As we develop our sitting postures, we may notice a change in our standing, supine and other postures as well. I notice that I walk differently since I started sitting and breathing every day. One of my students says she sleeps in a different, more ergonomic position, since she learned to sit well. It’s contagious!!
Not only that, but there is a relationship between good posture and “holding oneself well.” Being able to sit still in an upright and attentive way sends others the signal that you are really present and listening. Next time you meet someone, see if you can notice your standing posture as you introduce yourself. Chances are, they are also noticing.
4. Learning how to sit well will help you to have deeper meditations
From a yogic perspective, we do the asana, or poses, in order to improve our posture. This may come as a surprise, but all the movement and stretching is not about burning calories. Nor is it all about being able to touch your toes. All the moving and stretching is so that we can sit comfortably for an extended period of time so we can practice the deeper work of breathing and meditation. Breathwork (pranayama) and meditation are the pathways to prayer. In this simple and still place, where we simply be, rather than doing, we can see what we truly are. We are divine beings of light, holding our heads high and breathing in the magic of each unfolding moment.
Andrew Belinsky RYT-500 is a yogic counselor and music facilitator who's on a mission to inspire joy and wellness in individuals and communities across the globe. He leads online group programs and retreats that are designed to help people activate their inner healer using daily movement, breath and meditation practices. He is the creator of Chakra Metamporphosis, a 4-Month Online Group Program. Find more information at www.AndrewBelinsky.com He currently lives in San Diego with his wife Flow and daughter Eva.