Basic Sitting

Do you sit? Chances are that if you’re an American (or any modern culture), sitting is an activity that people do more than they think. People use to squat a lot during work or other activities, but not much anymore. We live in an increasingly sedentary culture and sit for longer and longer periods of time.

How should we sit? That is a complicated question. Most people sit passively. Or in other words, they just plop into their chairs and stay however is comfortable. While it might feel good, it’s not the best for our structure. The easiest way to start sitting better without worry about mechanics is to sit actively–sense how your body feels and reacts as you sit and move around. Are you even moving around? Can you feel breath moving through your entire lungs and even through the rest of your body?

Most furniture isn’t designed for proper ergonomic sitting. It tends to encourage rounding of the back and rolling backwards off of our sit bones. This tends to make up sit on our tailbones. Have you ever seen an animal sit on their tail? Your seat should allow your hit joint to be at least slightly higher than your knee. If you can image a drop of water being able to roll down your thigh, you’ve found a good height. For non-adjustable chairs, you can think about sitting on a folded-up blanket or some other semi-firm material to get you higher. On stackable chairs, try stacking one atop the other to get a different height. If it is already too high, find something to place next to the chair so your feet are able to contact a firm surface.

Lumbar support if often counterproductive as well. Try putting some support behind your sacrum (the back part of the pelvis at the base of the spine), and see how that works for you. Chances are that it will help you feel more upright with less effort.

Finally, the sitz bones themselves are very important to place correctly. The sit bones (or ischial tuberosities) are the knobby bones you can feel where your legs merge with your butt. You should have one on each side. A good sitting position will have your pelvis rotated so that you are sitting just on the front edge of the sit bones, almost like you are sitting on top of the back of your thigh.

These are just a few tips on how to sit. Sitting can be a very involved activity, and there are a lot of places to focus on sitting to support your structure and prevent soreness and pain. Often, just trying different positions can help you narrow down what feels best for your own body. Remember, sitting should be active.