In just about every class I teach I tell my students that the best way for them to begin to open up there hips and back of legs is to sit on the floor. The practice of sitting in chairs day in and day out in our culture has led to the epidemic of back problems that is prevalent today. Our bodies were not meant to sit in chairs – all the time. You look at any culture that has the practice of foregoing furniture to sit on the floor and you will find a far fewer low back problems and a deeper sense of connection to the earth (another health benefit). To begin to restore that natural flexibility that we all experienced as children, when sitting and playing on the floor was effortless, take a seat… on the floor. In my home, my office chair is a pillow on the floor and I offer my guests bright colored pillows to sit on around the table as we share food. When we have our famous Compound gatherings, we pull out a huge rug and a bunch of big pillows for everyone to lounge on.
This doesn’t even have to be a formal part of your fitness routine, just hang out on the floor. For some, this may not be very comfortable, so start with just a few minutes each day. The muscles in the legs, hips and back have conformed to chair sitting over years and it will take them a while to open up. The dynamics of the muscle interaction with the pull of gravity as you sit, may be at first uncomfortable and tiring. You will find over time that this practice will get easier as is true with anything new, and soon you may find yourself choosing the floor over a chair whenever you can.
For a more formal seated posture, try Sukasana or easy pose, a basic cross-legged position. (sukah=comfortable, gentle, agreeable, asana=posture) This pose is a great foundation pose, opening the hips and offering a great position for meditation.
Begin by finding a comfortable cross-legged position (see my friend Nick from sv Namaste in photo #1). Now, this might in itself present a problem for some of us. Even getting down to the floor or the thought of getting back up from the floor may send our minds spinning. Just break it down one step at a time, as they say, “ you can eat an elephant, one bite at a time.” A couple of tricks for making this true to its name is too sit on a blanket with the hips higher than the knees (photo# 2), or using blankets under the outside of the thighs for support (photo #3). The more this posture is practiced the easier it will be for the hips to open.
Once the legs have been put into position, bring the shoulders back so they are over the hips by lifting the heart center, which lifts the ribcage creating space within the torso and aligning the spine. Imagine a string tied to the top of your head and is gently lifting upward, creating space in the spine and back.
Relax the shoulders, hips and facial muscles. Close your eyes and begin to pay attention to the sensations within the body, the thoughts and feelings that may arise and notice how the breath interacts with both the body and your thoughts. If you begin to think about pizza and that coldy waiting for you, that’s okay… just notice that and keep breathing.
(Thank you to Friend, Yogi and Captain Nick Martens aboard sv Namaste for allowing me to photograph him for this column. miamisailboatcharters.com )