Do you experience tension, discomfort, and a pervasive feeling of overall yuckiness while sitting in your chair staring at the computer hour after hour? Let's face it. You probably do.
And you probably know that the best solution to this problem is to get out of your chair as often as possible and get moving. Your body loves movement, especially variability in movement.
But if frequent movement breaks out of the chair are not an option, the next best solution is to get moving in your chair. One productive thing you can do in your chair is to work on expanding your sitting vocabulary - all the different ways you can organize your sitting posture with comfort.
Many of these different postural options are subtle, but we can discern differences if we move slowly, with precision and awareness. If you can learn more different ways to organize your posture in sitting, this can make sitting for an extended time more comfortable and less stressful.
Here is a very short and easy series of movements you can do in your chair to promote sitting with more awareness, variability and comfort.
Make sure to avoid pain during the movements and stay within a comfortable range of motion.
For each different part of the lesson, repeat the given movement five to ten times in a way that is very slow, mindful and curious.
This lesson is easier on a chair with a hard surface.
1. Sit at the front of your chair with your feet flat on the floor, hands on your knees. Take note of your overall level of comfort, the ease of your breathing, and your ability to turn to look right or left.
2. Feel the contact of your sit bones with the chair. (The sit bones are the bony projections at the bottom of your pelvis. You can use your hands to feel them.)
3. Roll your pelvis forward and back on the sit bones so you can sense their shape. Notice the parts that are round, pointy, narrow, thick, angled upward or downward. Sense the amount of weight on the left compared to the right. Equalize the weight.
4. Expand your range of motion, finding how far you can roll forward and back.
5. Continue to roll the pelvis forward and back and place one hand on the low back. Notice that as the pelvis rolls forward, the low back arches and the vertebrae come forward. As you roll backward, the low back rounds and the vertebrae push backward into your fingers. Which vertebrae move forward and backward the most? Adjust the placement of your fingers so you can feel the relative movements of the different segments of the low back.
7. Continue to roll and place your fingers on your navel. As the pelvis rolls forward, allow the belly to expand and the navel to move forward. As the pelvis rolls backward, allow the belly to contract and the navel to move backward.
8. Synchronize your breath with the movements of the belly so that you inhale as the belly expands and exhale as the belly contracts. How far can you move the navel forward and back? Does it move straight forward and back or does it deviate just a little bit right or left?
10. Continue to roll and place your fingers on the middle of your sternum. As the pelvis rolls forward, allow the chest to expand and the sternum to move forward and up. As the pelvis rolls back, allow the chest to slump and the sternum to move down and back. Breathe into the chest as it expands; exhale as it slumps.
11. Pause and place your hands on your knees.
12. Continue to roll. As the pelvis rolls back, move your head and eyes to look at your navel. As you roll the pelvis forward, move your head and eyes to look at the ceiling above you.
13. Continue to roll and notice your whole spine is arching and rounding. Which parts round the most? Which arch the most? Find the places where less movement is occurring and use your awareness to bring more movement that that area. Try to make the curves smooth and symmetrical so each part of the spine is contributing to the movement.
15. Place a hand on the crown of your head to monitor your height. Continue to roll and arch and round your spine while keeping your head level and looking toward the horizon.
16. Notice that your height changes as you roll forward and back. As you roll back, your pelvis will lose height and you will get shorter. As you roll forward, you will grow taller for a while until you roll off the sit bones onto the hamstrings and then you will start to get shorter again. (Note: getting shorter requires a large range of motion and is harder to notice.)
17. Reduce your range of motion until you are moving a smaller and smaller distance around either side of the tallest point on your sit bones. Stop at the tallest point and remove your hand from your head.
18. Remain in this position and assess your overall level of comfort, ease of breathing, and ability to look left and right. Feel the length of the spine and the height through the crown of the head. Are you sitting taller with more ease?
If so, repeat some of the movements from this lesson throughout the day to restore some intelligence and variability to your sitting. Make sure to stay mindful and curious about your movement.
If you want to try more similar lessons, check out my book: A Guide to Better Movement: The Science and Practice of Moving with More Skill and Less Pain. It features twenty-five movement lessons and an extensive discussion of the science related to movement, pain and performance.