Are you sitting comfortably? Part 2 - relieving lower back pressure

Are you sitting comfortably? Part 2 - relieving lower back pressure
Enterprise Nation
Enterprise NationEnterprise Nation

Posted: Tue 21st Feb 2012

Sitting comfortably illustration by Colin Shelbourn

Last week, Alexander Technique teacher Penny Ingham explained how to relax your head, neck and shoulders while sitting. this week, she looks at how you can relieve pressure on your lower back, with illustrations by Enterprise Nation member Colin Shelbourn.

Running a home business means you may need to be especially careful about how you sit at a desk. It's too easy to dive into work, without thinking about how long you're going to sit in the same position, with little movement. Last time we looked at how to keep the neck, head and shoulders free and relaxed. Today we'll look at relieving the pressure on the lower back. Sit at your desk, shoulders relaxed, crown of the head towards the ceiling and neck lengthening and relaxing back. Now place your hands, palm up, under your bottom. It's ok, no one is watching. Feel those sharp bones? They're your sit bones and provide the pivot point for your torso. When your head is balanced, its weight is directly transmitted through the sit bones to the chair.

Sitting - from behind illustration by Colin Shelbourn

Now place your hands on your spine and feel your tailbone. Relax the muscles around this area until you feel your tailbone drop. This will bring your sit bones into fuller contact the chair seat. It is the opposite of the old school room technique of tensing your back to sit bolt upright.

Sitting - from the side illustration by Colin Shelbourn

You may feel that you are slumping in your chair. You can counter this by continuing to allow your head to float upwards and neck to relax backwards; as your lower back loses tension, your back and neck lengthen.

Sitting straight illustration by Colin Shelbourn

When sitting, you are also supported by the floor. Your feet should be flat, about shoulder-width apart. If your legs are balanced and ankles relaxed, your knees will naturally drift outwards and be directly above your little toes. If your leg and ankle muscles are doing too much work, your knees will tend to pull together. This tension will transmit itself to your back. At first, sitting in a balanced posture can feel strange. And it requires concentration. Don't work at it too hard. Come back to it at points throughout the day and, with practice, it will become more natural. And then, with feet supported by the floor, your torso supported by the chair and your head balanced, you really will be sitting comfortably.

About the contributors

Penny Ingham has been teaching the Alexander Technique for 22 years. She is the author of The Well Tuned Body and regularly advises on posture in the workplace. Her posture tweets can be found at @welltunedbody and her website is Colin Shelbourn is a professional cartoonist, author and illustrator and you can see his work at his (and buy)  Radio Cartoonist website. Colin's also a regular chatter during during our daily 11am #WaterCoolerMoment on Twitter. You can follow him at @ColinShelbourn or simply join in the chat.

Enterprise Nation
Enterprise NationEnterprise Nation
Enterprise Nation has helped thousands of people start and grow their businesses. Led by founder, Emma Jones CBE, Enterprise Nation connects you to the resources and expertise to help you succeed.

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