99% of adults I work with cannot sit upright without creating massive amounts of tension in their backs.
Since primary school age we’ve been told to “sit up straight” but never taught how it is achieveable without gripping the back muscles tightly.
This infographic built by The Washington Post explains all of the reasons why sitting is bad for us, but the answer isn’t to simply go out and spend thousands on a standing desk setup.
Balance is Key in Sitting
Forget core strength, it’s simply not a factor in sitting upright with ease. Perching on the sitting bones of your pelvis allows you to self-support in an upright position while at the same time releasing your back muscles so that breathing can flow down into your diaphragm. You’ll feel your stomach softening to allow the breath to descend deeper into your lungs.
I’ve found that the quickest and easiest way to teach an intelligent adult with reasonable flexibility (though many males have hamstrings so tight it’s not easy) to balance on their sit bones is to explain the process by way of the deep squat.
The kind of squat you do in a gym when doing a dead lift is the most obvious arrangement of body parts and engages core, hamstrings and glutes as you bend forward from the hip joints.
Sitting on the edge
When you arrive at the edge of the chair, don’t lean backward straight away. This is the point at which you normally roll off the back of your pelvis and sit down through the sacrum/lumbar spine.
Pause at this edge, relax the back of the legs, feel your body weight sink onto the chair (this is all still while you’re leaning quite far forward from the hip joints). Then slowly hinge your body upward taking care to keep your pelvis moving in conjunction with your back.
Once you’ve reached upright, you will be able to feel that your spine is holding you upright and there is no need to be gripping onto the back muscles.
This position will remove all of the load from your neck, shoulders and lower back. So long as you don’t now reach forward for your keyboard, you can maintain this upright perch for quite a while.
Any Gripping is Wrong
When you notice that you’re gripping in your back again…or a slump/slouch is starting to happen, stand up and do it all again. Initially you will get lots of practice as your postural system gets used to the new positioning… but it’s not a strength thing as you might think.
All of this practice is stretching your hamstrings, hip flexors, psoas, engaging your core and giving your body more time upright than it’s ever had before.
Let me know how you go and if it’s not working for you, ask. I’ll troubleshoot your process…because that’s all it is, a process. It’s not a strength problem.
This is how you would sit on the front of a chair… I’ll post some more on how to do it using a back rest… but don’t worry, you don’t need some fancy ergonomic device to achieve it.