It used to hurt to sit on the ground. In 2013 I travelled to India and spent a month in Mysore doing a Hatha teacher training course. From day one we spent most of the 8 hours each day sitting on the ground.
I looked at my peers as they seamlessly sat and took notes during our yoga lectures. In my head I was thinking “why is nobody else in pain?”. Over the course of the month my ability to sit with less discomfort improved as my hips started to adjust. After that I spent a total of two years in Asia and a lot of time sitting on the ground.
I now find it much more comfortable than sitting in a chair. the key is finding a ground position that works for where you are currently at.
Below I’ve outlined some sitting variations that will help improve hip mobility, core stability and posture.
Straight legged Sitting
This is the easiest place to start. Most of you will be able to maintain this posture for a few minutes without pain. The hamstrings are what will cause the biggest restriction as it can make it difficult to straighten the legs if you are very stiff along the hamstrings.
Try and maintain a straight back. Propping a yoga block under the sitting bones will ease this. You can also use a wall to lean against at the beginning or if you plan on staying here for a prolonged period of time.
Half Kneeling Squat
This is a nice way of easing into a full squat and a full kneeling position. You can just switch legs when it feels uncomfortable and keep going back and forth. You can also put you hands on the ground or a chair in front of you to ease the amount of pressure you put on the kneeling foot.
This used to cause my pain around the ankle when I first started because my ankle was so restricted but over time it has become more mobile and it now stay comfortably on the ground.
This is also a good starting regression of the fulling kneeling position and the cross legged sitting position. It can be difficult to keep the hips on the ground initially so you can prop the hips with a cushion or yoga block for more stability.
This is so simple for so many people but it’s the position I struggled with the most. All of these positions are about practice. A lot of my friends used to sit like this at school so it makes sense that it feels easier for them. I found it much easier to start with a block underneath my sitting bones.
Once the hips are elevated it makes it much easier to stay upright and not hunch forward.
I try and use this position as often as I can as getting a full pancake (forehead on the ground) is one of my goals for 2017. If I’m watching a movie or talking to someone on the phone I try and hang out here. Again propping the hips up with will this movement much more accessible to you.
If there’s one movement I’d recommend working on it’s this. We should all be able to hang out and chill in the squat yet few of us (in the west) can. It improves ankle mobility hip mobility and core stability.
With this, start small. You may need to hold onto something in the beginning or have your back against the wall. The key is to take it slow and never stay in the position to the point of pain. Try adding a few more seconds to it each day.
Being able to hang out here for 10 minutes is a good long term goal.
Kneeling (Seiza) Position
This the a traditional way to sit in Japan and a lot of other Eastern countries. It can cause a lot of discomfort around the knees and ankles when you first attempt it so take it slow and use cushions between the hamstrings and calves to reduce the range of movement.
Once you are comfortable in a half sitting position, transitioning to the seiza should become comfortable in a short space of time.
Alternatives to Chair Sitting
All of the above can be use when you are working at a laptop. In the video below I outline them in more details.
All of these positions caused me discomfort a few years ago but once you work on them daily you’ll find them as simple alternatives to improving or maintaining your mobility around the hips and ankles.
Making these positions a part of my day has made it much easier to improve my mobility. The key is to substitute them into activities you already do each day like watching TV, making phone calls and working at your computer.