You’ve probably heard that “sitting is the new smoking.” Not only does it lead to aches and pains, edema, varicose veins, sciatica and more — according to a new study, too much sitting can actually kill you.
Unlike smoking, however, we can’t just quit sitting.
It’s a lifestyle reality that even the most athletic among us can’t avoid.
My professional athlete clientele are plagued by prolonged sitting as they travel from game to game. They also end up sitting a lot during downtime at hotels and in the off-season.
Sitting will kill you
So, how can we limit our death-by-sitting risk? Sit smarter with yoga.
Just as yoga is a practice based on mindfulness, so is sitting smarter. That’s why I coach my clients to become more mindful of their sitting habits.
Notice your posture. Be aware of your breath. And know when it’s time to move.
Of course, awareness is only the first step. Here are some quick, easy yoga-based tips to give your sitting a healthy overhaul:
Practice a five-point posture check
1. Feet and knees: Place your feet hip-distance apart, with your knees at hip level. Keeping an even pressure through the inside arches and outside heels of your feet helps maintain neutral knee and hip position. Avoid crossing your legs or ankles, which can stifle blood flow and cause swelling.
2. Hips and pelvis: Evenly distribute your weight through your “sitting bones,” the bony parts of your pelvis you can feel making contacting with your seat. Our feet and knees indicate and affect our hip position, so avoid letting a foot or knee drift forward, taking the hips out of balance.
3. Back and spine: Maintain the natural curves of your spine — don’t try to straighten it. Your mid-back curve is naturally kyphotic, which means “hump” in Greek. Your low back is lordotic, so it curves into some extension. Keep spinal curves soft, not exaggerated.
4. Shoulders and chest: Your chest should be open with your shoulders sitting evenly. Concentrate on pulling the bottom points of your shoulder blades downward rather than inward. It’s a common mistake to squeeze your shoulder blades together and puff your chest out, which lifts your rib cage, arches your mid-back and decreases your ability to breathe deeply.
5. Head and neck: Align your head and neck between your shoulders rather than lurching into “text neck.” The action of engaging muscles to draw the shoulder blades down in point No. 4, helps position your head properly by initiating a muscular action called “reciprocal inhibition,” which turns off (inhibits) the overactive neck, upper back and chest muscles that tend to pull your neck forward.
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Jeffrey R. Ungvary President