On a recent lengthy car ride, I had an opportunity to not only hum to myself, but also to give some thought to just how much we find ourselves in the “sitting” position. Whether its in our cars, at the workplace, or at home, we tend to sit far too much. Typically when we sit, the body forms the L shape position; a shape which disallows any stretch into the hamstrings. If we pile hours upon hours of sitting in this position, without allowing any length or stretch into the back of our legs, there is virtually no way to escape some impact to the back region.
When we keep our hamstrings open, we bring some health particularly into the lower back.You can think of it as a sort of chain reaction – each part of the body is connected, and when one part of the body is tight this tension moves up or down. (Although I am focussing on the hamstring and lower back connection, these are not the only victims of sitting: tight neck and shoulders and the list goes on are some of the effects of lengthy sitting).
So what can we do? It may be as simple as going “back” to the basics. If sitting for lengthy periods is a part of your workplace, whether that be driving or a desk/computer job, you can counteract the effects of sitting by taking standing “breaks” – making a conscious effort to break up the day by standing, and even possibly doing some stretches for the hamstrings during the day. A few minutes of stretch can do wonders for the body, and can help stave off tight muscles and rigidity. Your energy and productivity may actually increase and believe me, your back will thank you.
One of my favourite hamstring stretches is Suptapadangustasana A – in this asana we use a strap (a robe tie or scarf can also work). From the lying down position, take the “strap” underneath the sole of the foot and then stretch the leg in an upward direction, ensuring that the leg is completely straight. I would recommend holding for at least 8-10 breaths or longer if you have the time, and then repeating the pose on the other leg. This pose is a very effective way to bring some stretch into the hamstrings; you will feel the benefits almost instantly after doing the pose.
For many, sitting is not a workplace ‘hazard’ but rather just a habit we have gotten ourselves into. In these situations the solution may be to change the way we sit. Try sitting in different ways so that the body is not constantly in the “L” shape. Perhaps sitting with crossed legs on the floor rather than the couch for a change, or even sitting with our legs stretched out in front of us on a pillow. Explore what positions feel right for you and change it up!
When we change positions we keep our muscles happy, we allow for increased circulation, and maybe (just perhaps) we prevent the mind and body from becoming “stuck”.