Sit Up, Sit Down - or Just Sit

Sit Up, Sit Down - or Just Sit

Man and chair.  A match not always made in heaven; but there are people out there who seem to believe that chairs be the work of the very Devil. 

Oh yes, some chairs are apparently out to get you.  What’s needed, if you have back pain, is a Good Chair.  Some enterprising bods even create super-special chairs guaranteed to prevent or ‘cure’ back problems - yours for only £5,999.  I’d almost prefer a bad back… 

But the chair is not the problem.  Of course most of us these days spend way too many hours glued to chairs.  We kid ourselves that a quick wriggle will suffice, when we know it'd be much better to just get up and walk around a bit occasionally.

Some of us have rather particular ideas about how we ‘ought’ to sit, and may have been told that if only we ‘sat properly’ we wouldn’t have back trouble. 

So how ‘ought’ we to sit?  Is there an ‘ought’?

Experiment 1: “SIT UP! GO ON! Sit up straight!” You’ll likely ‘hold yourself up’ using every available muscle that is or isn’t designed for sitting, including all the wonderful little muscles up, down and all around the spine.  

The short muscles that attach each vertebra to the next are fabulous for the many micro-adjustments we need for flexible movement.   They’re not really designed to all remain fully contracted for long spells of time.  They’re only little; no wonder they get tired and sore.   End of experiment - at ease.

Experiment 2: sit gently on a stool or bench, or just perch on the edge of your chair so you can’t use the backrest.  Now how are you doing?  Is it an effort?

If your pelvis ‘rolls’ back, you may feel you want to counter by holding yourself up again, yanking on your hip-flexors.  If you’re a really high achiever you may ‘push forward’ with your lower back too.  What a lot of work just to sit there. 

What if your pelvis was neither rolled back nor pushed forward?  What if it was just like standing up, only with your legs folded and a chair to stop them folding any further?

The spine is part of a system that should just enable you to sit easily with minimal muscular effort.  You shouldn’t need shedloads of added hip or lower back effort.  We often lose touch with the natural, easy way our systems could be functioning.  We could seek solutions in snazzy, expensive, ergonomic, automatic, systematic, hydromatic chairs; but if we haven’t addressed the way we are sitting, they’re unlikely to help.

Painkillers address symptoms, not causes.  Exercises might help, but exercising with back pain might well further aggravate an already painful area; which is why Mr. Alexander said to “beware of so-called exercises”.  OR we could, as he also quipped, re-educate ourselves, rather than the furniture. 

So why not phone your nearest Alexander teacher, then sit back and relax...

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