The Key to Good Sitting Posture

The Key to Good Sitting Posture

Have you ever tried to sit up straight? How long did it last? I'm guessing it wasn't very long, because the way you do it probably takes a lot of effort. As soon as your attention shifts, your back returns to its customary posture.

Get a Baseline

To confirm this, try sitting up straight now. Go ahead, try it before reading any further. Get a baseline for how it feels to sit up straight now compared to how you sit after I share this particular insight.

I'll wait. ;-)

If you're like most of us, your attention went directly to your spine. Maybe your attention went to your upper back and straightened it up a bit. Maybe you pulled your shoulders back or lifted your chest. Maybe your mind went to your low back and straightened that out some.

While you're here with your straighter back, pay attention to the amount of effort it takes to maintain this posture.

The Foundation is Key

I'm going to let you in on a little secret. . . The key to good sitting posture is not in your back. It's counterintuitive, I know, but the key to sitting up straight is in your pelvis. Your spine is certainly involved, but the pelvis is more fundamental to spinal posture than the spine. 

Think about any building, particularly tall buildings. In order for any building to have a stable structure and remain standing, it must first have a strong foundation. Think of the leaning tower of Pisa.

Anyone who wants to straighten up the famous tower would need to start with the foundation. To start straightening the upper floors of the tower while ignoring the foundation would quickly be discarded as a strategy that doesn't make much sense. 

If we apply this reasoning to the spine, then we must expand our model of spinal posture to include the foundation of the spine, which is the pelvis. 

So often, when we sit, we allow our pelvis to roll backwards, which in turn causes the spine to pitch posteriorly. The rest of the spine is then forced to curve forward in compensation, leading to that familiar hunching forward of our upper backs.

The Trick

Try this.

Find a firm surface to sit on. The firmer the better. As you're sitting there, pay attention to how the bones in your pelvis contact the seat. If you're sitting like most people, you probably feel the bony part of your pelvis poking into the seat. 

Now, imagine that your pelvis is a bowl of water. Roll your pelvis so that the water spills forward until you feel the bones flatten out against the seat. You may need to explore until you find it, but you will have a definite sensation of the pelvis flattening against the seat of the chair. If your hips are particularly tight, you may need to lower your knees to allow the pelvis to roll forward enough.

Once you've found that stable, neutral point, bring your attention back to your spine. If you succeeded in finding that neutral balance point, you will notice that it is now nearly effortless to sit up straight. 

That's it! That's the trick! Now that you're here, also note how your low back has the same characteristic curve that it has when you are standing. This is because your pelvis is providing a stable, flat base for your spine to rest on. Also, now that your lumbar spine is able to maintain its natural curve, your upper back is no longer pitched forward. The same goes for your head and neck.

Of course, there's more to maintaining that posture this just rolling your pelvis forward once. Unfortunately, there is no "set it and forget it" method of maintaining good posture. Awareness is key. I recommend thinking of posture as a kind of meditative exercise. Check in with your posture throughout the day, particularly when your usual aches and pains crop up. 

Being aware of your alignment is the first step to long term improvement of your posture. Knowing how good posture feels, as shown by the simple trick you just learned, is the second. The third step is developing and maintaining a strong upper back and core, which consists of the low back, abdomen, and pelvis. 

About the Author

My name is Lovelace Linares. I have been practicing massage in Atlanta since 2001. I taught all aspects of massage for nine years, five of which I directed the massage program at the Atlanta School of Massage.

I'm a bit unconventional in my thinking. I believe that self discovery is the purpose of life. Through it, we can all achieve our greatest potentiontial, both individually and as a society.

To that end, i believe that true relaxation comes from two things: (1) Alleviating pain that you are aware of and (2) addressing tension you are not aware of. Self-awareness is the key.

My practice is located inside Urban Body Studios on the scenic Atlanta Beltline. Orthopedics, Deep tissue, Swedish massage, neuromuscular therapy, Thai massage, and stretching are some of the techniques that I use in my practice.

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