Marks Daily Apple
Serving up health and fitness insights (daily, of course) with a side of irreverence.
5 Mar

Floor Living: Do You Spend Enough Time on the Ground?

floorlivingSeveral weeks ago, I asked readers how much floor living they did and linked to an interesting blog post from Chris Highcock discussing the “archetypal postures” of ground-based sitting, squatting, and kneeling. My interest persisted, and I thought a full-on post about the potential benefits and logistics of spending more time on the floor would be fun and helpful.

I’ve found that there aren’t very many studies examining the effects of floor sitting/kneeling/squatting on health, posture, or pain. You’ve got the “stability ball literature” (long story short: sitting on a stability ball tends to “increase the level of discomfort”), but sitting on an inflated unstable sphere is more physiologically novel than a regular chair. I’m not sure there’s much benefit and it looks pretty silly. (But if it works for you…) There’s also a brief study that showed sitting in a backless chair improved levels of consciousness in patients with prolonged consciousness disturbance. For the most part, though, it’s a pretty barren landscape of research.

I think that’s okay. I’m not entirely convinced we always need research to confirm what we already (should) implicitly know.

Sometimes hard data isn’t really needed, especially when you consider two unassailable facts about our relationship with the floor. First, individually, we all start out on the floor. As babies, we lie there, essentially kicking things off as eating, pooping sacks of wiggling, basically immobile flesh. Then, we graduate to flipping over onto our stomachs, lolling our heads around (once we develop sufficient neck strength), crawling toward vacant electrical sockets, hesitantly standing, and finally walking. It’s on the floor that we learn to move. We may not be doing terribly complex or impressive stuff down there, but that first year or two is incredibly formative for the rest of our movement lives. We’re building a foundation made primarily of contralateral crawling and “tummy time.” Graduating beyond the floor to full on bipedalism doesn’t mean we should totally ignore where we came from.

Second, chairs are a recent invention. Folks as early as the ancient Egyptians had them, but they were a luxury item reserved for the upper classes. Your average Neolithic human sat on chests or benches until chairs became a mass-produced staple that everyone could afford. Earlier than that, for most of human history, formal-sitting furniture simply didn’t exist. Paleolithic posteriors surely rested upon rocks and logs and stumps when the opportunity arose, but those aren’t the same as having permanent fixtures that allow you to take a load off whenever you want. Human bodies were not designed with chairs in mind. We did do a lot of lounging around – I’m not arguing we never stopped moving or anything – but we did so on the ground, rather than on a bunch of folding chairs.

Sitting down in a chair does funny things to our bodies. It stretches out our glutes, making them inactive, loose, and weak. People by and large no longer know how to activate their butt muscles due to excessive amounts of chair sitting. Sitting in a chair also keeps the hip flexors in a short, tight, contracted position for extended amounts of time, which can inhibit full hip extension and lead to that hunched over position you often see older folks shuffling around with. And that’s not even mentioning the extensive (and growing) literature showing how sitting for too long increases mortality and degenerative disease, which I’ve covered in plenty of posts and Weekend Link Loves. This post isn’t really about that, anyway.

What might be most important, though, is what sitting in a chair doesn’t do. It doesn’t allow us to rest in the full squat position, an ability we’re born with but quickly forget how to do. It doesn’t let us do much of anything. Sitting becomes a totally passive act, where we’re slumped over, shoulders rounded, feet twisted up and resting on the chair legs, totally dependent on the structure of the chair to support our weight – rather than using our musculature and arranging our skeletal system in such a way that we support ourselves. Doesn’t it seem inconceivable that an animal – any animal – would evolve to require furniture in order to rest comfortably without incurring a disability?

That’s partly why it makes some sense to hang out on the floor more. We need the “stress” of supporting our own body weight and making sure our structures are in alignment. Here are a few positions to try out:

The squat – The default resting position of humans. Kids can do this easily, but once they start going to school and sitting in a chair for six hours a day, they lose it. The goal here is to get your heels on the ground. Resting on the balls of your feet is easier, but it’s harder on your knees and thighs. The heels-down squat, which requires more flexibility but distributes the pressure across your hips, is far more sustainable. Check out the ease with which these Hadza Bushmen are able to rest in the full squat, as well as their ability to move in every direction from that position. If you’re having trouble, here are some nice tips from Todd Hargrove.

Seiza – The formal way to sit in Japan, resting on the lower legs, butt on heels. Placing a small pillow or rolled up towel under your knees can make the transition easier, especially if you have a bad knee or two.

Half kneel – Like seiza, except one of your feet is on the ground, heel down, in front of you in a squat position. Like these guys.

Crossed legs – For many people, this is the most comfortable, natural way to sit on the floor. You can place your feet flat against each other, cross at the ankles, or place your calves against each other. You can even go full lotus. There are many variations, but here’s the most basic way.

Crossed leg variation – This is one my favorite ways to sit. From the basic crossed leg position, place one hand flat on the floor and lean on it. Bring the opposite leg up and place the foot flat on the floor. Your opposite leg will be in a squat position. Switch hands and legs if it gets uncomfortable. It looks like this (except without the creepy eyes) or this. Or this (even better).

Make up your own – Human limbs are funny, bendy things. We can contort ourselves into lots of positions, and as long as you’re on the floor, supporting your own weight and feel comfortable doing it, it’s difficult to hurt yourself. Our bodies are good at giving feedback before things go really wrong. If your arm starts to go numb or your toes get tingly, switch it up! Try coming up with some of your own variations for sitting on the ground and report back.

CrawlContralateral crawling is one of the most fundamental ways to move. It’s a strong developer of shoulder and hip mobility and strength, and it’s simply a fun way to see and experience the world.

Now that you have some idea of what to do when you’re on the ground, I’d like you to spend the next week doing as much floor living as possible. I don’t expect you to ditch the office chair and roll around the ground while at work, but I do expect you to get in some quality floor time when you’re at home.

Watch TV on the floor. There’s nothing inherently wrong with TV. Sure, it can be taken to the extreme and crowd out active living, but it’s arguably a golden age of television as far as quality goes. The couch sitting, though, is what gets you.

Eat dinner on the floor. This isn’t something I created out of thin air; plenty of cultures eat dinner on the ground.

Try different positions. You’ll probably find that floor living is a constantly shifting existence, where instead of remaining in the same position for hours at a time, you’re moving around all the time without even trying. You’re switching from the right arm to the left arm to the right elbow to the full lotus position to the half kneel to the full kneel to the full squat just in the first two hours.

Practice moving between positions. Go from standing to a half kneel to a kneel to a seiza to a kneel to a half kneel to standing.

Practice standing up. We can’t live on the floor all the time. Sometimes, we need to stand up and get on with our lives. A smooth transition between floor living and standing is key to health and mobility. For an example transition, check out one of my buddy Erwan’s (of MovNat) methods.

Spend at least an hour a day sitting on the ground and another fifteen minutes practicing different ways to move between positions and another fifteen practicing how to stand up and sit back down. Shoot for ten minutes of crawling, too. You can do most of these things while doing other things, like watching TV or reading or talking, so it’s not like you’re wasting time. My guess is that you’ll take to this like a fish to water.

Why is this so important? The way we sit, and where we do it, changes the function of our bodies. It even alters the length of musculature. In countries where squatting and other forms of floor living are seamlessly weaved into everyday life, people still retain the mobility to do all that stuff into old age. I’ve got a buddy from Thailand who moved over to Hollywood as a teenager in the late sixties and still retains the ability to sit in a full squat, painlessly and effortlessly. This guy is an avid user of chairs and everything Western; not a gymgoer at all, and he’s never even heard of a foam roller or Mobility WOD, but because he got the right floor living experience during the formative years, he can still squat and move around on the floor. Unfortunately, for many of us in Western countries who stopped floor living right around age four or five, we may never quite get there – but we can certainly do a lot better than we are now.

Let’s hear from you guys. How do you handle yourselves on the floor? What’s your favorite go-to position?

You want comments? We got comments:

Imagine you’re George Clooney. Take a moment to admire your grooming and wit. Okay, now imagine someone walks up to you and asks, “What’s your name?” You say, “I’m George Clooney.” Or maybe you say, “I’m the Clooninator!” You don’t say “I’m George of George Clooney Sells Movies Blog” and you certainly don’t say, “I’m Clooney Weight Loss Plan”. So while spam is technically meat, it ain’t anywhere near Primal. Please nickname yourself something your friends would call you.

  1. There’s a great book — Muscles And Meridians – by Osteopath Phillip Beach, who is remedying all sorts of physical problems simply by embracing the floor as a place to live from. He introduces archetypal postures of repose from different cultural contexts as essential self tuning mechanisms that our modern lifestyle neglects. In other words, sit like our ancestors did.
    http://youtu.be/Z9g_EGbnfxo

    Michael wrote on March 5th, 2013
  2. My favourite position is cross-legged, but I also like to sit in what I now (thanks to your post!) know is the seiza position. I’ve never liked sitting in a chair for relaxation (it drives my mother mad), and since I broke my back in a car crash 28 years ago, it’s simply too uncomfortable to sit for a long time in a chair. If I watch TV, it’s from the floor!

    oliviascotland wrote on March 5th, 2013
    • I’m the opposite. The only way for me to set comfortably on the floor in to slouch horribly, which kills my back after about 5 minutes. I can’t even meditate sitting on the floor — I have to lie back, or use a stool/bench.

      No floor for me. (I do use a standing dek, though, and often watch TV standing.)

      michael wrote on March 5th, 2013
      • How many typos can I fit in a single comment? A LOT!

        michael wrote on March 5th, 2013
      • Sam problem with me.. my hips are tight/immobile, and to keep myself up rigth cross legged, i have to round my back a lot!

        bjjcaveman wrote on March 5th, 2013
      • Might I suggest a Meditation bench for anyone having trouble sitting on the floor. Especially in Seiza position.

        It helps align your pelvis so that the weight is removed from your knees/ankles and helps your back from slouching. It’s very comfortable.

        I can do a meditation for 30 minutes in this position without a problem.

        I suggest the Ronnin Meditation bench.

        Kevin wrote on March 5th, 2013
      • Hey Michael —

        Yeah that’s pretty common for a lot of people, you start feeling the lower back pain right?

        Many people don’t have the hamstring flexibility (picture a baby sitting on the floor with straight legs, and still maintaining a lower back curve).

        What’s interesting is when you go to Asia – you see elderly Asians still sitting on the floor with perfect posture, since they’ve been raised since birth sitting that way.

        Have you tried doing the “legs open V stretch” or just manually stretching hamstrings – and when you sit, making sure to keep that lower back curve?

        — Alex

        Alexander wrote on March 5th, 2013
  3. I do quite a bit of floor living. The secret is to live in California where it’s expensive and you had a small apartment that doesn’t have room a table!

    On a more serious note, as a fitness trainer I see the negative affects of sitting all day in clients posture. If you work at a desk consider a stand up desk part time, take a few minutes every few hours and stretch your hips and pecs throughout the day…

    Luke DePron wrote on March 5th, 2013
    • LOL we have a small house in Cali too! I’m always telling the hubby I want a small table but now i’m thinking maybe a little floor area would be better… hmmmm… maybe some kind of setup like at those cool indian restaurants that I love to go to :D

      Jennapher wrote on March 5th, 2013
    • Traditionally and still in small apartments and homes in Korea and Japan, a main room is used as flex space – living room, dining room and bedroom. The floor is heated and you bring out pillows for sitting, low tables for eating, futons for sleeping. Large, fixed furniture takes a lot of space. Everyone having their own bedroom is still a luxury. If you watch Korean dramas you’ll catch the rich characters in large homes with their own rooms and western-style furniture, and the poorer folk in their shared room sitting, eating and sleeping on the floor.

      Throughout Korea you’ll see folks squatting – playing Korean chess, picnicking after hiking – the national pasttime. Squatting selling goods at open-air markets, etc.

      Thanks for the reminder Mark. Think I’ll pick up some Korean or Japanese thick, flat seating pillows for my house and maybe a low table, and try floor sitting while I am on the computer, putting on makeup or whatever.

      Pure Hapa wrote on March 5th, 2013
      • Pure Hapa —

        This is a really good point.

        I lived in China for a while and it’s all squatting. It’s hilarious seeing business men squatting on the side of the road smoking a cig, but hey, it’s better than sitting by a long shot.

        The only thing that sucks is the lack of bed padding… haha.

        Alexander wrote on March 5th, 2013
    • Or to get an unfurnished apartment and have
      (1) a removable bed you can’t sit on (mattress without frame or boxspring, cot, sleeping mat, etc.) (2) a standing workstation and/or standing-height table or counter (3) optional cushions and low table (no more than 2 feet) (4) standard storage furniture (5) no chairs.

      Bill C wrote on March 6th, 2013
  4. My boyfriend has a large bed and a small room, so he leans his bed up against the wall during the day… So we spend a lot of time hanging out, catching up, playing with kitties, all while sitting on the floor. Good to know that’s a healthy activity! :)

    Crystal wrote on March 5th, 2013
  5. I realized last year while going to my daughter’s music class that I could no longer sit cross legged for more than a couple minutes. I started working on this on and off and now can do so quite comfortably for much longer periods. This sort of floor living is an ability that simply drifts away from us as we get older (and especially without kids). I’m excited to look at the links.

    Colleen wrote on March 5th, 2013
  6. You read my mind, Mark. As an older woman, I have been working on getting up and down off the floor. I love my recliner chair, but I know it’s not optimal for long-term sitting. Thirty years ago I could squat down to my heels, but two bad knees make it impossible now. Anyway, I don’t want to have to wear one of those “Help, I’ve fallen” necklaces later in life. Thanks for this post!

    Carol wrote on March 5th, 2013
  7. We do a lot of floor living in Hawaii. In school I didn’t sit at a desk and chair until middle school. It always seemed so natural. Aided by the fact that most Hawaii homes have carpets. When I went to college on the mainland, people always looked at me funny for sitting on the floor. I always thought it was practical and comfortable.

    Makana wrote on March 5th, 2013
  8. I was a huge floor sitter in youth. My husband & I recently started a semi-regular routine of playing a few games of backgammon in the evening (much better game for schmoozing than chess!), and I play on the floor – and am mindful about how I get down there and back up again. Feels great! I’m actually not certain which position I typically adopt during games.

    I have been meaning to try knitting while squatting, which is a comfortable position for me – but I’m rarely hanging out in a squat as long as I would if knitting.

    I have been experimenting with doing a lot of things in balance postures, too – I spend as much time on one foot as possible while dressing, brushing teeth, etc. It’s fun, it’s a small but cumulative challenge, and it’s gratifying to be better at something than I was 15 years ago (at my age!). I think the challenge has improved my to-the-floor-and-back skills, too.

    And lastly – love the half-kneel. I find it better than squatting for some garden chores (not all).

    When my late mother was losing mobility, she really missed sitting on the floor. I’m glad I’m back there now, before it’s too late.

    Sara in Brooklyn wrote on March 5th, 2013
  9. Many years ago I had a floor desk – it worked really well for me. I’m going to look for where I can fit that in again…

    Sara in Brooklyn wrote on March 5th, 2013
  10. We are a family of 6 (so far) and now live completely on the floor, including eating and sleeping. We gave away all our chairs (except the one for our sewing machine, which we couldn’t figure out how to work well on the floor).

    We are all much more limber and lithe, with stronger cores. We are also delighting in how much space our small home has and love our co-sleeping in our “bed” that is as big as it needs to be, sleeping all 6 of us.

    It is easy to be on the floor with our wee ones, at their level, doing whatever we are doing. It improves our natural relationships with each other. It also dramatically helps with my brain energy, focus, and balance (I have cognitive issues and vertigo from brain injury) because my body moves and functions properly, with nothing in the way, so doesn’t “leak” brain energy compensating for chairs or beds.

    When we travel, we camp, and always have a comfortable place to squat or sit. Floor living offers us amazing freedom.

    Deacon Patrick wrote on March 5th, 2013
    • Wow, that is amazing and hardcore. Blankets?

      Paleo Bon Rurgundy wrote on March 5th, 2013
      • Wood floors. A wool blanket for a pad, and blankets as needed on top. We live in the Colorado Rockies and keep our heat low (58), and the crawl space gets pretty cold and keeps the floor cold.

        Deacon Patrick wrote on March 5th, 2013
    • just out of curiosity.. any back pain? I’ve read some mixed things about people who sleep on hard surfaces and improved back issues.

      bjjcaveman wrote on March 5th, 2013
      • Like anything worth doing, there is some adjustment time. But we’ve been living this way fora few years and our backs feel great. Used to always have back pains with a mattress.

        Deacon Patrick wrote on March 5th, 2013
        • When I moved out on my own from home a year ago, I did not want to spend the 1500 dollars on a mattress I thought I needed to have. It is interesting to wonder why we think we need the things we think we need, but that is another story.

          I decided to but a three inch futon mattress that sits comfortably on the floor. I always had back pains sleeping on a mattress, but since I made the transition I feel way better and never wake up with back pain!

          There is merit in what you say. I don’t ever want a western style mattress again.

          Josh wrote on May 3rd, 2013
        • I had back pain, and could only sleep on my back on the floor. The pain has gone (through PB living, core building and trigger point therapy), but I got used to being on the floor, so thats where I stayed (like a scene out of the Count of Monte Cristo ?)

          Storm wrote on April 13th, 2014
    • I always have used the sewing machine on the floor. I sit in the “Half kneel” position, with my right big toe on the electric speed controller.

      Fifer wrote on March 5th, 2013
      • I hadn’t realized, but we gave that chair away too. Down to a low foot stool for a chair. My wife has tried the half kneel, but finds it hard with a wee one in the sling.

        Deacon Patrick wrote on March 5th, 2013
        • Your wife sews on the ground(ish) with a machine with a baby in a sling? I. am. impressed.

          Amy wrote on March 5th, 2013
        • I know, right! I hope you are leading the charge to end Women’s Suffrage too! The more barefoot the more primal!

          Paleo Bon Rurgundy wrote on March 5th, 2013
        • Great point on being barefoot — being so dramatically facilitates floor living. Shoes get in the way and hurt, as well as diminish the connection with the floor. I’ve been barefoot or moccasined for 4 years now. My wife had her easiest pregnancy yet with barefoot floor living on paleo diet. Great stuff!

          Deacon Patrick wrote on March 6th, 2013
    • I bought a sewing machine while living in Japan. I was surprised to find that it didn’t have a foot petal, just a button on the right side that you held down while guiding the material. At fist I was surprised, but then it made sense to me seeing as I didn’t have any Western style table and chairs anyways!

      Vicky wrote on March 5th, 2013
      • That is super cool!

        Ara wrote on March 6th, 2013
  11. It brings a new meaning to “floor it” :)

    Groktimus Primal wrote on March 5th, 2013
    • Lots of activities can be done on the floor. Some involve more rug burn than others.

      Amy wrote on March 5th, 2013
      • One extra tip – always take a blanket if you intend to do similar activities on a deserted beach, or you will learn where “sandpaper” gets its name from.

        Storm wrote on April 13th, 2014
  12. I get my floor time in during jiu-jitsu. Lots of squatting, rolling, sitting in circles on the ground, 4-5 hours a week.

    Brian wrote on March 5th, 2013
    • +1 here :-)

      Roberto wrote on March 7th, 2013
  13. I do my fair share of sitting, but I am really happy/lucky to have a job that requires me to be on my feet all day.

    Mike G wrote on March 5th, 2013
  14. I prefer sitting on the floor with my back to the couch and legs straight out. When I’m at a restaurant, I sit cross-legged in the booth. These things I have always done (I’ll be 44 in April). I talked the hubby into getting rid of the bed last year and now we sleep on an inch thick foam mattress topper on the floor (which makes it much easier for our two Dachshunds to go to bed with us). I guess I spend quite a bit of time on the floor…now if I could just force myself to go outside in the daytime…I’m not much of a sun fan, it hurts my eyes and I really dislike the burning feeling on my skin. No, I’m not a vampire! I think I would have been night security in a past Grok life.

    SusynK wrote on March 5th, 2013
    • Re: your eyes hurting in the sun,

      I work at a garden centre so you can expect I spend a lot of time outside when spring and summer comes. I noticed in the past my eyes would hurt for days, so I put on some shades for a few days. After that I slowly started to take them off for longer portions of the day till I did not have to wear them anymore. My eyes had adjusted.

      Josh wrote on May 3rd, 2013
  15. Does crawling home drunk from a bar count?

    Steve Gardner wrote on March 5th, 2013
    • YES… as long as you’re bear crawling… otherwise it’s too hard on the knees.

      bjjcaveman wrote on March 5th, 2013
  16. I’ve attended a few 10-day meditation retreats, where I’ve spent long hours on a zafu. I can’t do the entire 100 hours on the floor, but I do about a third of the time – then I go to a chair. Each time, I’ve been able to do more.

    My husband and I are planning on our next home (we are in process of moving) having a selection of zabutons & zafus in the “sitting” room, rather than any sort of standard furniture. Low tables for drinks, laptops, etc. We always have a few folding chairs for guests, anyway.

    We try to remember to squat daily.

    RaeVynn wrote on March 5th, 2013
  17. I remodeled my apartment so that it has several levels so even when I am at the highest level I am still on the floor, cause it’s all floor.

    No furniture, just levels.

    Steve wrote on March 5th, 2013
    • Ah that sounds awesome!! Now I’m mentally designing my own apartment…I’d love to see pictures of how you created your levels.

      Alyssa wrote on March 5th, 2013
  18. in contemporary dance, we spend a lot of time practicing graceful transitions up and down from the floor. It’s definitely a skill that needs to be relearned! When done well, it looks a lot like how a baby shifts his weight around.

    Tracy wrote on March 5th, 2013
  19. I haven’t tried sitting on the floor for an extended period of time since I went primal. I’ll have to try it again since I’ve lost weight. Prior to this, getting on and off the floor meant lots and lots of pain, and then ridicule from my kids as I looked like a giraffe trying to get up. I used to be one of those teens who could put my leg over my shoulder and lay down on my side just to get a stretch in my hip. Those days are long gone…

    Cindy wrote on March 5th, 2013
  20. About a month ago the back to my chair I used at my desk collapsed. Initially my first instinct was to replace it because not having the back was very uncomfortable. Then I realized it is probably because my back muscles are too weak…as I remember hearing similar advice on the benefits on the floor with correct posture. Now I am trying to more actively position myself upright to strengthen my back. It has gotten easier, but I cannot say that I still do not miss that chair back though :).

    Marc wrote on March 5th, 2013
  21. My room-mate and I refused to get “real” furniture when we moved into our apartment, and all of our friends thought we were crazy for turning down couches, chairs, and traditional tables. However, all of them have since come around to admitting that the floor is- lo and behold -comfortable!
    Another plus? When you spend that much time close to the floor, you’re more likely to clean it regularly.
    =)

    Alisa wrote on March 5th, 2013
    • We have a house with “real” furniture. The house is small (that’s the way we want it). We moved a short couch into storage after putting up the Christmas tree. We liked the space so much we left it in storage, to be replaced by a storage ottoman.

      I don’t really want to eat near the floor, but I loved sitting on the floor in the living room as a kid. We may continue our minimalism project in the living room by getting a shorter sofa and spend some dough on high quality cushions. (We do have very mainstream older family members and I know that DH would not be trilled with zero furniture in the living room.)

      Our dining room set is here to stay though. ;)

      Amy wrote on March 5th, 2013
    • +1

      Bryce wrote on March 9th, 2013
  22. I was just thinking about how much and often I sit on the floor this morning! I’ve always believed I was weird, because I sit on the floor a lot, and not just to play with my kitty. Good to know I should keep doing it!

    Rozska wrote on March 5th, 2013
  23. Cross legged with all variations is how I sit, even on chairs.

    Wafaa wrote on March 5th, 2013
  24. This days article floored me!

    Nocona wrote on March 5th, 2013
    • +1 LOL

      Ashly wrote on March 5th, 2013
  25. Having just visited Eyzies-de-Tayac Sireuil in France last year, I can assure you that at least some Paleolithic societies had carved seats and raised beds out of the rocks in their caves.

    Kate wrote on March 5th, 2013
    • Hmmm..to be totally skeptical — what evidence ties chairs and beds carved out rock to the Paleolithic era? I’d want to have much more than an “expert” saying so.

      Carving rock is an enormous amount of work without iron age tools. (It is still with iron age tools – heck even modern power tools.) Hunter/gatherers need to follow the seasons and the herds. The thought that you’d spend thousands of hours carving out beds and chairs out of rock when leather and wood were much faster to work, more comfortable, and portable seems totally ludicrous.

      It sounds like a semi-modern prank to me. (Really.) If I had some spare time, I know I’d do it.

      Amy wrote on March 5th, 2013
  26. When I hiked the Pacific Crest Trail there was a planned barbecue on the trail for hikers that friends and I were looking forward to. As we rushed the miles to try to get there in time, it eventually became apparent we were going to miss the barbecue. We finally had no hope except maybe there would be chairs there. We had hiked more than 1000 miles and the thought of getting to sit in a chair was almost as good to look forward to as barbecue and beer.

    Diane wrote on March 5th, 2013
  27. As someone with back issues, I prefer sitting on the floor. It just feels more natural and comfortable, unless its a wood floor in which case I’ll have to switch from sitting to squatting. Funny though, my favorite position is seiza but my feet/legs always end up going numb after about 10 minutes. Wonder if its just me or if others experience that too??

    Ashly wrote on March 5th, 2013
    • Not just you. I’ve had problems with a slightly deformed spine my whole life. Squatting is one good way I’ve found to relieve the pain.

      Jim Haas wrote on March 5th, 2013
    • Yes, I get numbness (pins & needles sensation) whenever kneeling or sitting Japanese-style for just a minute or less ever since I was a little kid (always had poor circulation in my legs) and still do today.

      Hilda wrote on March 5th, 2013
    • Yup… me too. My legs pass out really quick haha. Wonder if it’s lack of ankle flexibility that improves over time?

      Alexander wrote on March 5th, 2013
  28. Yoga class made me realise how little time I spent on the ground. The original purpose of yoga asanas is to loosen your body up in preparation for long periods of sitting (lotus, crossed legs, seiza) for meditation.

    Madeleine wrote on March 5th, 2013
  29. My Aunt Bea is 83 years old and still squats like an Australian bushman when she’s outside talking to people. She claims it’s really comfortable, she’s done it all her life. She’s always been very lean, but otherwise she’s a pretty typical 83 year old. I don’t know how she does it. (She needs no help getting up, either.)

    Janice James wrote on March 5th, 2013
  30. This article was well-timed, as I just started sitting on the floor the other day in an effort to improve flexibility – it’s a lot easier to stretch when sitting on the floor. I basically sit in one or another of the common stretching positions.

    Accipitor wrote on March 5th, 2013
  31. Interesting… I have always preferred sitting on the floor, or when sitting on a chair than it would be in turkish sitting – as I do right now…

    Martin wrote on March 5th, 2013
  32. I like sitting on the floor while watching TV or playing a board game, but as a student, it becomes problematic to read, work on a computer, or write with a pen and paper while squatting (if I want my handwriting to be legible for later review). Does anybody have more sitting/object placement suggestions for those of us who spend extended times reading and writing?

    scagdaniel wrote on March 5th, 2013
    • Not off the top of my head, but I’ll definitely experiment with it over the next week.

      Aimee wrote on March 5th, 2013
    • Try a low table. If a coffee table isn’t the right height, try a big stack of books, or an ottoman, for laptop/etc. I’m cross-legged with laptop in lap at the moment, but will shift it to the ottoman and squat or half-kneel when this gets uncomfy.

      Sara wrote on March 5th, 2013
    • Some people find that it works to lie down. I am trying it now. A few minutes in, it is still comfortable, even with stuff in my pockets. My handwriting is quite legible, even while doing a plank. Spontaneous planks, leg-raises, and torso-raises interfere with reading, writing, and typing only minimally. You can also intersperse rolling, various (any and all) pushups, and mix everything up with twisting.
      You have to balance between pressure on your elbows and looking “up”. Neck muscles are used.
      I think it works for me.

      Bill C wrote on March 6th, 2013
    • You could also put a clipboard on your lap/leg/whatever is handy.

      Bill C wrote on March 6th, 2013
  33. The Body Friendly Office is a set of mostly floor based furniture I have designed around these principles. Especially cool are the Zen Office™ for seiza sitting
    http://www.zafu.net/zenoffice.html
    and the EcoBackrest for leaning back.
    http://www.zafu.net/ecobackrest.html
    Enjoy!

    patrick wrote on March 5th, 2013
  34. I love this post! It brings to mind a little story…

    Once upon a time, everyone squatted. This was a good thing.

    But one day, some people, who felt they were stronger, smarter, better-looking, and generally superior than everybody else, decided to make a public show of their perceived superiority by sitting higher –MUCH higher– than everyone around them.

    These SNOBs (Sitting Nobly On Butt) ventured out and found stones and logs and sundry other flotsam and jetsam, which they fashioned into platforms of varying heights, each according to his or her means.

    And upon these platforms, they proceeded to sit on their butts, with legs dangling, pelvis tucking, and shoulders slumping. And all who saw them marveled, for who could deny the greatness of those who boldly defied Nature and its miracles of design?

    Many of the squatters desperately wanted to join the ranks of the SNOBs, but lacked the wherewithal to create sitting platforms. They were just too busy hunting and gathering and avoiding large, ravenous beasties. So they continued to squat on their haunches, while the SNOBs continued to build bigger, better, comfier, and more elaborately decorated butt-sitting platforms.

    In time, the two groups, the squatters and the SNOBs, found they had nothing much in common. Culturally, they grew further and further apart. The squatters were looked down on –both literally and figuratively– by the SNOBs, who lolled about on their platforms, delighting in the belief that, because they sat higher, they must also BE higher on the evolutionary scale.

    The SNOBs started putting on airs and ordering the squatters around and creating hereditary butt-sitting positions, and generally behaving rather badly.

    This was not a good thing, and was the direct cause of absolute monarchy, colonialism, and La-Z-Boy Heated Massage Recliners.

    In due time, agriculture was invented and the squatters had more free time to wander about looking for stuff with which to build sitting platforms. They, too, began to loll about and aspire to be just like the SNOBs.

    In time, a group’s level of civilisation and cultural refinement became directly proportional to its number of SNOBs. And the number of squatters dwindled until the few who remained were seen as, at best, odd, yet quaint; and at worst, backward, ignorant, and subservient.

    Although this was a bad thing, it did provide work for chiropractors.

    Helga wrote on March 5th, 2013
    • Hahaha SNOBs, I love it!

      Alyssa wrote on March 5th, 2013
  35. I love this post! I’m definitely inspired to spend more time on the floor now. And I wonder if eating on the floor might cause people to eat more slowly?? Creating a healthy distance between the food and the mouth! ;-)

    Jean wrote on March 5th, 2013
  36. As I was reading this, I was thinking about how much sitting I do, but I also realized I don’t sit on the couch like a “normal” person. I sit cross legged on the couch. Although the cushy bits probably make it easier to sit like that.

    Either way I’m gonna grab me some more floor.

    PirateJeni wrote on March 5th, 2013
  37. One of the reasons I love brazilian jiu jitsu is how ‘grounded’ it keeps me. We’re on the floor the entire time… rolling around, so I’m very comfortable and familiar with being on the floor.

    bjjcaveman wrote on March 5th, 2013
  38. I think this is one of the reasons gardening is so good for me– it gets me squatting & kneeling a whole lot more. Can’t wait for Spring!

    My absolute favorite floor move right now is one I learned from one of my hoop dance gurus, Brecken. Check out her Fire Drum tutorial 2013 on YouTube on hip twists. There is something so fun & satisfying about this move!

    Paleo-curious wrote on March 5th, 2013
  39. I grew up sitting on the floor mostly while growing up in India, we did also have chairs and sofa though, I am trying to incorporate it in my home in Virginia, USA. Partly inspired again by your earlier article. Thanks for always making us think outside the box.

    Asif wrote on March 5th, 2013
  40. Great article! We spend a great deal of time on the floor with our 5-year old son.. kneeling, laying, squatting, crouching down into our fort to hide from impending doom…

    mars wrote on March 5th, 2013

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