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It Isn’t Sitting – It’s the Chair

by Jay Armstrong - October 2015

We have all heard about the bad things that happen to our bodies as a result of sitting in a chair – slumped shoulders, collapsed ribcages, tight hip flexors, weak abs, etc. Yet, if you want to improve your flexibility, I recommend you sit down. However, instead of sitting on your soft, comfy couch with a remote in one hand your assignment is to sit on the floor.

The typical armchair encourages you to pour yourself into the seat, completely disengaging your glutes and abs. And, there is a pair of armrests that are begging you to round your shoulders forward and flare your elbows outward while collapsing your ribcage. With your ribcage collapse your breathing will be compromised. In this position, your head will also be in front of your shoulders causing stress to creep into your neck muscles. Nothing about this armchair-seated-position resembles quality postural alignment.


Prior to the invention of these cushy, posture-destroying chairs human beings were forced to sit differently. If, after miles of walking, you decide to rest on the side of the trail you will probably find a rock upon which you will put your buns. In this position, you must still maintain some control so that you don’t fall off the rock. You will probably sit with a relatively erect posture with your head over your shoulders. You are, after all, resting your legs and not your entire body. The only time you are supposed to be completely relaxed is when you are lying down.

In our every-more-convenient westernized lifestyle, we attempt to stay further and further away from the ground. We don’t lie down on the ground and we don’t sit on the ground. However, if you sit on the ground you will find that this activity will potentially improve flexibility for many movements.


When we sit in the cross-legged position, our upper legs (or femurs) are moved into external rotation. You may also be encouraged to open your chest and properly align your spine.



Sitting on Your Heels

When we sit on our heels, we obviously put our knees into maximum flexion. Simultaneously, our feet are usually moving into complete plantar flexion. Once again we will be encouraged to sit with an erect posture. Therefore, the muscles that stabilize the spine are activated.



Sitting with Internal Leg Rotation

Most people have a tough time moving their upper legs into significant internal rotation. However, if you can flex your knees, move your knees apart and sit between them you will greatly improve your ability to internally rotate your hip joints. The little guy in the picture has a rather extreme range of motion and therefore prefers to sit in this position.



Sitting with Your Arms Behind You

The soft, cushy armchair combined with computer work constantly place our shoulders in front of our chest (or sternum) and encourage the shoulder joint to be internally rotated. When we sit on the floor and place one or both of our arms behind us, we externally rotate the upper arm and open the chest. This is an excellent corrective position.



Sitting with One or Both Legs Straight

If you want to improve hamstring flexibility or you have a desire to do the splits, sitting with one or both legs straight is the ticket. Any way you find to sit with one or both legs straight will provide some stretching or lengthening sensation in the straight leg. So, “stretching” doesn’t need to be an activity you do as a part of your workout. You can just sit on the floor and work or watch television. Time spent in these positions will make them feel more natural.



If you watch television (and I encourage you find something else to do with your valuable time), start off by sitting on the floor from one commercial break to the next. Increase your awareness of the position of your ribcage, head and spine. You may be surprised by the amount of “stretching” you feel by just spending time close to the earth.









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