I recently received a request to review optimal sitting posture, as one of our subscribers noted she sits quite a bit throughout her day. So let’s review…
To give your pelvic floor optimal support while sitting you want to sit on chairs that position your hips slightly higher than your knees. This takes the hamstring tension off your pelvis, allowing it to rock forward to a more neutral position with ease. In many chairs you can achieve this by sliding forward. Getting your buns to the front edge of the chair will help drop your knees down slightly below the level of your hips (this happens automatically on a Swiss ball!).
Then, you want to position your feet shoulder width apart or you can choose to stagger your feet with one foot forward and one foot back. You want to avoid crossing your legs because this will again increase hamstring tension that can roll your pelvis back. Once you have addressed chair height and we have positioned your feet appropriately, then simply roll forward on your pelvis until you feel pressure on your pubic bone. When you feel this pubic bone support, you are sitting on your sitting “tripod” which means you have achieved your natural balance point or neutral spine.
Our sitting tripod is composed of our two sit-bones on either side and our pubic bone up front. Note that when you have rolled forward onto your tripod, you actually alleviate all pressure from your tailbone or coccyx, and it is no longer in contact with the chair. Remember our tailbone is the back attachment site of our pelvic floor, so this slight lift puts our pelvic floor muscles at the perfect length/tension ratio for a stronger contraction and a more efficient reaction time.
When you are sitting on your “tripod,” you will also notice that you don’t have to work as hard to sit up straight. With your pelvis in this stable position, you have a natural concave curve to your lower back, which sets the table for our natural thoracic and cervical curves up the chain. You don’t have to work to “sit up straight” as you do when you are rolled back on your buns and your tail bone. To finish with optimal posture up the chain, work on resting you hands such that the are up while sitting. This engages the external rotators of your shoulders, rolling them back to a more open position. I always say, “where your shoulders go, your head will follow”.
Sitting posture…it all starts with the “tripod.”
It’s strange that you should call the pubic bone and sitting bones the tripod of sitting when every other site I have found refer to the tailbone and sitting bones as the tripos. I wonder if it should atually be called the diamond of sitting where front and back and side to side all play an equal role?
I would have a lot of questions for any site presenting the tail bone as a structure that we should sit upon. On this topic you can be your own best judge.
Go ahead and sit down rolled back on your buns and tailbone. Feel your lower back, how it is rounded out and also how your upper back and shoulders are rounded forward. This posture that wreaks havoc on our spine, our shoulders, and neck is all the result of us bearing weight on our tail bone.
Now go ahead and roll forward on your two sit bones until you have lifted pressure off of your tail bone and now feel pressure on your pubic bone. Did you notice that you just got taller? This simple action of rolling onto your sitting tripod has automatically put the natural, healthy, lordotic curve back in your lower back and lifted your entire spine.
It’s great to really think about your posture like this in sitting AND in standing. When you work back and forth between good and bad postural positioning in front of a mirror, you can see and feel the lift of your spine and chest when you hold the natural curves of your back. With every patient I have, I always begin by coaching posture from the ground up because it is our posture that can have a profound effect on every joint in our body. Good posture also allows for easier chest expansion for breathing and keeps neural and circulatory pathways open for distribution and return of neural signals and blood flow.
Try this out and let me know what you think.
Just to verify: Sitting pretzel style is not good, because crossing your legs is not good and puts more pressure on your tailbone, correct?
Also, you demonstrate in the DVD the difference between posture where your pelvis is leaned back as well as forward. How will we know if we’re leaning forward too much? I feel like when I sit on my sit bones and pubic bone, I feel like I’m leaning forward quite a bit (although that may be simply because I’m used to sitting on my tailbone…and/or because I’m quite large chested [34G])… I just want to make sure I’m standing and sitting appropriately for the best possible results.
I am assuming your pretzel style is the same as kids are taught to sit “criss cross applesauce” vs. sitting in a “W” position? If this assumption is correct, then go for it. I like the hip external rotation. I have a hard time sitting in this position because of tightness…tightness of my hamstrings and my internal rotator muscles. If you have the flexibility then fantastic. With good flexibility, you should feel your tail bone lifted off the ground when sitting in this position.
I love this question because I know I have done a good job of describing and demonstrating standing posture on the dvd and not sitting posture. To go back to standing posture, remember the second step – to draw your belly button up and in. For someone standing in the posture that your describe with more weight pulling from the front, whether this be a large chest or a pregnant belly, the key for you is to draw your belly button up and in to firmly engage your TA. This muscle tightens like a corset and helps to decompress your lower lumbar vertebrae and pulls your lumbar curve back from an extreme position to a neutral position with a gentle curve.
The same is true when sitting, but the bony structure of your tripod will assist. As you roll forward and feel pressure on your pubic bone, you have a stopping point that helps you not go too far. If you have significant flexibility, you should also engage your TA when sitting by pulling your belly button up and in.
Hope that helps!
Also, on the note of the recommendation not to cross your legs because of the risk of varicos veins. This is true when crossing your legs because of the compression of vascular structures with the extreme adduction of your hips and the compression of your lower thighs and lower legs from the position of one leg over the other knee.
This does not relate to sitting criss cross apple sauce which does the opposite by adducting and externally rotating your hips. There is no contra-indication to sitting this way as long as you have the flexibility. So go for it!