By Renee’ Fulkerson
Resting at a right-angle on a climbing route affects the human body differently than resting/ sitting in a chair at a right-angle.
I recently spent some time in Joshua Tree National Park camping, hiking and, rock climbing with friends. While we sat and stood on big beautiful boulders waiting for the next climber on the rope the topic of sitting kept coming up. Complaints of knee, hip, and back pain came up several times all with the same comment ” I am not used to sitting so much”. Of course, as a YogAlign posture educator, my ears perked up when I heard these statements. Mind you these experiences were coming from very fit and active human beings however, since the pandemic they have not been so active.
Ironically two of my gal pals (pictured above climbing and on belay) are both teachers one a second-grade teacher and the other a P.E. (physical education) teacher to high school students. The second-grade teacher is in her middle fifties and extremely fit in every sense of the word. When she is not in the classroom you can find her engaged in a plethora of activities. Hiking, backcountry skiing, scuba diving, kayaking, swimming, and teaching/ practicing yoga. She is also very active in her classroom with her students keeping their little bodies moving. The high school P.E. teacher is in her early forties healthy, active, and always on the move. After school, you can find her rock climbing in Joshua Tree National Park or training in her fully outfitted home Crossfit Gym. Both complained about the negative impacts that sitting was having on their entire body. Their teaching has transformed from various movements into sitting in front of a computer for extended periods.
I began to explain to them sitting in chairs puts your trunk and legs into a right angle position. This position causes sagging in the sacrum, spinal compression, and weakens our core muscles.
Sitting: is a basic human action and resting position in which the body weight is supported primarily by the buttocks in contact with the ground or a horizontal object such as a chair seat. The torso is more or less upright. Wikipedia
Ironically so many things are happening (good, bad, and ugly) and not happening while sitting.
One of the complaints was the IT (iliotibial) band feeling dense to the touch and pain in the knees. The IT band is a long piece of connective tissue, or fascia, that runs along the outside of your leg from the hip to the knee and shinbone. The IT band helps to extend, abduct, and rotate your hip. Excessive sitting or repetitive flexion of the knees (from sitting) keeps the IT band stretched and sedentary. Which can cause instability in the hips, knees, and pelvis referring to hip pain or Iliotibial band syndrome. Iliotibial band syndrome is an injury often caused by activities where you bend your knee repeatedly, in this case sitting who knew?
What are some solutions?
In this case, I explained tightening what is already tight to get more out of the resting length of the muscle, fascia, and connective tissue. Think of when you laugh hard and you can’t breathe because your stomach muscles are so tight. When you stop your stomach is spacious and relaxed.
Creating length in the It band
- lay on your back, with arms stretched out to both sides at shoulder height
- palms facing up and fingers spread
- with your left knee bent, and right leg straight roll onto your right side
- placing your right hand onto the IT band of the left leg
- while keeping your left shoulder connected to the floor (palm facing up towards your ear)
- begin your SIP breath (like breathing through a straw) feeling your diaphragm expand
- make a fist with your left hand and hold the breath for a few seconds
- begin to resist by abducting your left leg towards the left (against your open-palmed hand)
- while keeping the left shoulder on the floor and toes pointed
- open the fist of the left hand
- begin to S-hale like a snake (with a smile) feeling the diaphragm contract
- releasing the tension (wrestle) from the hand against the IT band
- drawing your left knee, a bit closer to the floor
- massage vigorously the IT band and muscles around it creating healing circulation
- repeat 3X on each side of the body
- starting with the knee up and away from the floor and not open further than a right angle towards you
Next, I suggested to both my gal pals when sitting getting your hips above your knees which is not easy with a standard desk. Fortunately, one has a desk that adjusts to standing or sitting. She could stack a few sets of yoga blocks on her standard chair as pictured below or get more of a bar stool type chair to again to get her hips above her knees. This is not going to work with a standard desk because when you lift your hips above your knees the desk is going to be lower and you would then haft to slouch over. Some would think having a standing desk would solve the problem of excessive sitting however, that is not the case. Especially if when standing you are not in proper alignment and are starting to slouch after a period of excessive standing. In my opinion, it all comes back to balance. Balance in the body and balance between sitting, standing, and activity. I try to stand or be active equally to the amount of time I need to sit. In other words, if I sit for 30 minutes I then stand/ move my body for 30 minutes. Switching between sitting and moving my body throughout the day helps to keep me in balance.