I will soon be on my way to Sri Lanka and India, and this morning two people sent me the same New York Time article: Is Sitting A Lethal Activity? Considering the fact that I'm not looking forward to sitting in a cramped coach seat for 19 hours, I didn't want to be reminded of what I will be experiencing. I'm thankful that I tend to move (even when I sit) because sitting and I have never really gotten along. I tend to do seated Somatic Movements - Arch & Curl, gently pushing of one knee and then the other forward (which releases the sacroiliac and back muscles to lengthen).
In an airplane, Somatic Exercises need to be modified – there's only so much room between you and the person in front of you. These movements will help you to prevent back, neck, shoulder and hip pain that can occur when sitting, cramped in an airplane. There are many helpful movements on my Pain-Free At Work DVD to help you stay moving, even in a tight space. You can apply this to your office or cubicle at work.
I have written before about sitting and the effect it has on our bodies, especially for an extended period of time, which teaches our muscles to stay frozen and tight, leading to the development of Sensory Motor Amnesia (SMA). The NY Times article was especially interesting, because it didn't deal with what most of us already know and feel as we sit - that sitting hurts the body. The study in the article was more about calories, weight gain and lack of exercise, and how some people in the study gained weight while not exercising and others didn't. Dr. Jensen, a Mayo Clinic researcher, explains,
“The people who didn’t gain weight were unconsciously moving around more,” Dr. Jensen says. They hadn’t started exercising more — that was prohibited by the study. Their bodies simply responded naturally by making more little movements than they had before the overfeeding began, like taking the stairs, trotting down the hall to the office water cooler, bustling about with chores at home or simply fidgeting. On average, the subjects who gained weight sat two hours more per day than those who hadn’t. "
The upshot of this study is that you can change your environment to encourage more activity, even if the bulk of your work requires that you work with a computer. The more you move, the healthier you'll be. It's just how it is.
While visiting India in 2008 I visited one of the Tibetan Children's Village schools. The children had no desks. They sat on the floor and were allowed to squirm around. They changed positions, sat cross legged or on their bellies. They incorporated movements into their English lessons as well. Apparently this kind of classroom environment is now being experimented with more in the United States. Not having to sit in the same position, with "hands on the desk, eyes straight ahead" could go a long way toward supporting good overall physiological health.
The need to sit and focus for long hours on external events (like a computer screen, cell phone, television, blackboard) not only has detrimental physiological effects on our bodies, but it also teaches us to stop paying attention to the sensations of our own bodies. Proprioception - your awareness of your body in space - begins to take a backseat. When you can't feel your body and movement, you learn to stay tight, to limit your muscular range of motion and your ability to move naturally. This "unlearning" of movement is what Thomas Hanna called a true public health crisis some 25 years ago. Not being aware of what you're not aware of is a dangerous place to be when it comes to your own body.
If you want to learn to move again - intelligently, effortlessly, efficiently - and without pain: attend a workshop, book a clinical Somatics session, or visit the Essential Somatics® store for instructional DVDs.
Life is movement, movement is life. Make the most of it!