I was excited to hear that Balance/Spinefulness was covered in another NPR health story! The story, “To Fix That Pain in Your Back, You Might Have to Change the Way You Sit” aired on 8/13/18 on “Morning Edition”. The reporter, Michaeleen Doucleff, had experienced a lot of back pain, but got relief from learning Spinefulness posture from Jenn Sherer (http://www.spinefulness.com/), formerly Jean Couch’s business partner at the Balance Center in Palo Alto.
Is Sitting “The New Smoking”?
The idea that “sitting is the new smoking” was discredited in this story. Doucleff interviewed anthropologist David Raichlen, who has found that modern hunter-gatherers also sit a lot, but don’t have the amount of back pain that we have in the US. So while sitting all the time without exercising is obviously not good for your health, if you sit in healthy alignment and exercise a reasonable amount, you’re not in danger.
Doucleff mentions trying a kneeling chair, and then a standing desk, as well as various therapeutic methods, yet still being in pain. I often wonder how many companies have spent thousands of dollars for “ergonomic” stand up desks, without their employees getting relief from pain. If they just switch from one unhealthy position to another one, it won’t make that much difference, since the real cause of the pain is not being addressed.
How You Sit is Really Important
As Dr. Nomi Khan, spine surgeon at Sutter Health in Palo Alto, says in the story, sitting with a rounded spine can damage your intervertebral discs. Also, as I’ve mentioned in a previous article (https://sonomabodybalance.com/2017/08/can-yoga-help-osteoporosis/), when the upper back (thoracic spine) is excessively kyphotic (curved in a forward bend), that can lead to fractures of the vertebrae (the bones in your spine) if you have osteoporosis. Nerves can be compressed as well when we sit like a “cashew” or a “C”.
So, it’s essential when you sit to not tuck your pelvis. And how you bend is key to sitting in alignment, since you have to bend to sit down. The key is to bend from the hip joints (where your legs meet your pelvis) and not from your waist. The previous NPR story discussed this healthy type of bending – “hip hinging”: https://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2018/02/26/587735283/lost-art-of-bending-over-how-other-cultures-spare-their-spines
Here’s the link to the more recent story: https://www.npr.org/sections/goatsandsoda/2018/08/13/636025077/to-fix-that-pain-in-your-back-you-might-have-to-change-the-way-you-sit
Check out the amazing photo of the man from Rajasthan, India! If we sit in Balance/Spinefulness, we can be elegantly pain-free like this man as we sit to do our work.
How Did We Get So Misaligned?
The story mentions that posture has changed in the US over the past century, but doesn’t really go into why the change happened. We’ve seen that the change in fashion around the 1920s seems to be connected to a change in posture as well. Models started to thrust the pelvis forward in photographs. People then saw these images, and began to imitate them. We don’t know exactly why this happened, but it can be seen if you look at historical images and compare them with modern ones.
I saw this when I found some old newspapers from 1918-1919 that belonged to my grandmother (“The Atascadero Review”, see image above of healthy sitting). In the center was a spread showing women’s fashion, and I saw that half of the models were standing with traditional, healthy alignment, and half were standing with the “modern” posture – out of alignment. This has only gotten worse in our time.
But, as Doucleff shares, you can change! Balanced/Spinefulness posture is the posture you had as a child, and you can relearn it.
To get started, you can watch my 5-minute video to learn pain-free sitting. Here’s the link: https://sonomabodybalance.com/pain-free-sitting-video/. And check out the 2 NPR stories for more on healthy sitting and bending. How you sit and move shapes you, affects your level of pain and tension, and even changes your height. Shift into a healthier alignment, and you’ll be set to age gracefully like the weaver in Rajasthan!