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Let me introduce myself. My name is Mark Sisson. I’m 63 years young. I live and work in Malibu, California. In a past life I was a professional marathoner and triathlete. Now my life goal is to help 100 million people get healthy. I started this blog in 2006 to empower people to take full responsibility for their own health and enjoyment of life by investigating, discussing, and critically rethinking everything we’ve assumed to be true about health and wellness...

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March 05 2013

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

By Mark Sisson
149 Comments

Floor LivingSeveral 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?

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149 thoughts on “Floor Living: Do You Spend Enough Time on the Ground?”

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  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

      1. Cube seats and ottomans are great for squatting too. Not as hard and cold as the floor, and they have the right height to squat or sit in a seiza or Lotus position at a computer desk.

  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!

    1. 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.)

      1. 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!

      2. 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.

      3. 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

  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…

    1. 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 😀

    2. 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.

      1. 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.

    3. 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.

  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! 🙂

  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.

  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!

  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.

  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.

  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…

  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.

      1. 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.

    1. just out of curiosity.. any back pain? I’ve read some mixed things about people who sleep on hard surfaces and improved back issues.

      1. 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.

        1. 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.

        2. 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 ?)

    2. 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.

      1. 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.

        1. Your wife sews on the ground(ish) with a machine with a baby in a sling? I. am. impressed.

        2. 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!

    3. 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!

    1. Lots of activities can be done on the floor. Some involve more rug burn than others.

      1. 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.

  11. I get my floor time in during jiu-jitsu. Lots of squatting, rolling, sitting in circles on the ground, 4-5 hours a week.

  12. 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.

  13. 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.

    1. 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.

  14. 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.

  15. 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.

    1. Ah that sounds awesome!! Now I’m mentally designing my own apartment…I’d love to see pictures of how you created your levels.

  16. 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.

  17. 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…

  18. 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 :).

  19. 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.
    =)

    1. 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. 😉

  20. 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!

  21. 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.

    1. 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.

  22. 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.

  23. 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??

    1. 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.

    2. 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.

    3. Yup… me too. My legs pass out really quick haha. Wonder if it’s lack of ankle flexibility that improves over time?

  24. 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.

  25. 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.)

  26. 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.

  27. 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…

  28. 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?

    1. Not off the top of my head, but I’ll definitely experiment with it over the next week.

    2. 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.

    3. 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.

    4. You could also put a clipboard on your lap/leg/whatever is handy.

  29. 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.

  30. 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! 😉

  31. 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.

  32. 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.

  33. 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!

  34. 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.

  35. 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…

  36. My husband background is Indian and although he lived in Australia all his life he was a natural squatter. Often we will be having a snack/conversation in the kitchen and while I stand he squats on the floor. I have been telling him off about it..Looks so third world to me (sorry to say) but now I think about it, all my sitting all day at work has given me the shortest tightest hamstring muscles in the world..going to take a leaf out of hubbys book I think 🙂

  37. Just recently I realized that being on the floor can be more comfortable than being in a chair for my lower back injury. I sit like a girl in a skirt has to sit, both legs off to one side, and then change sides as I have to. Sometimes I sit seiza style or the toes down version. I spend way too much time sitting in chairs though.

  38. I found this article very interesting because I spend most of my time on the floor! We no longer own a couch, although we do have some fold out chairs for guests and putting our laundry on. Since I started sleeping on the floor and watching TV, eating, spending time with my significant other on the floor I feel I have gotten stronger. It is no longer a pain to get up from the floor, it’s easy 🙂

  39. I am printing this and waving it in front of my mum. Her and my extended family have made fun of me all my life for always sitting on the floor. HA! I loved this post.

  40. YES! I’m a big advocate of floor living as a yoga teacher AND someone who spent a year living in East Asia…getting on the ground not only has preserved my body (I move like an eight year old although I’m in my late 20’s), but I also feel like living this way, sans chairs, for a year made my body more sensitive to it’s “primal” intuition..

  41. This is very interesting and totally makes sense! Only problem I have is that we have wood floors. I feel like the circulation gets cut off when I try to sit with my legs underneath me or in a squatting position. Must be that my body’s just not conditioned to do that!

  42. This is a very interesting article, I definitely spend very little time on the floor other then doing yoga a couple times a week. I will be trying this the next couple days and see how it is!

  43. I started making a conscious effort to sit on the floor more often as a result of your last article on the subject. I didn’t realize the (positive) consequences at the time, but this has enabled me to spend more quality time with my 14-month old son. Normally from the couch I’m constantly trying to keep him from climbing up with me (because what goes up must come down, generally on the head/face area). On the floor he just quietly sits in my lap or plays “Climb Mommy Mountain”.

  44. I’ve been sleeping on the floor and in a large closet in between deployments. The near-total darkness and hard floor keep me in what feels like a more natural sleeping posture. I wake up on my back, but for the life of me I still haven’t figured out how to fall asleep that way. I’ve got to start out on my stomach but always end up in a mummyish position on my back. I’m 28 and CrossFit frequently, I didn’t have any back issues but figured what the hell, why not give it a shot. Between that and sleeping in my cave with the dog it feels pretty primal! I did notice though that in total darkness I rarely got up during the night which was great. I do dig floor living, it certainly helps out during hunting season too as spot-and-stalk is easier/more natural…less knees popping and legs falling asleep!

  45. Floor living isn’t feasible at my office, but I sure as heck have a makeshift standing desk! It is composed of boxes of catalogs with my laptop sitting and top…and my coworkers smiling at my craziness all day long 🙂

  46. My grandfather has always talked about this. In his age Indian toilets were just holes in the ground, you had to do a full squat to stay in the right position. My grandfather has always cited not being able to squat as one of the reasons that there are so many back/joint problems in the U.S. I see what he means. Personally I sleep on the floor during summers on top of a sleeping bag (during winter its too cold). I also prefer web browsing with the computer in my lap

  47. I’m currently sitting in the squat position on the floor after reading this article and am surprise that even at 25 this is so hard! I’m going to have to keep up this floor sitting instead of at the table! We don’t have any living room furniture yet simply because we won’t be living here long. I’d be totally up for not ever buying a couch – but am wondering if there is any good lounging floor furniture that is good for posture. Would I simply get a few zabutons? What are my options for living area, kitchen, and bedroom?

    1. We made some floor pillows: thin (1/2″) 2′ square pillows that we move around as wanted. We have a set for the kitchen, around the coffee table, and a set for the family room. You really don’t need anything else. Give yourself permission to change positions often (every 10-20 minutes at first) and 3+ months to shift completely (hips loosen, core strengthen, etc) and you’ll be amazed that you really don’t need the pillows unless you have a cold crawl space under wood floors. Enjoy!

      1. Thanks for the advice! Now I just have to convince my husband (not hard to do since he’s too frugal to buy a couch anyway). Looking forward to more floor time!

  48. As a muslim, I find it an amazing coincidence that our prayer (salah) postures encourage movement, stretching and activity. If you count, we’re encouraged to do 18 reps of squat and back stretch every day (minimum). Wonder what your thoughts are Mark.
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W89XielClL0

    1. Yes I find it amazing too, yet not too surprising..as science is slowly catching up with our Deen 🙂 I’m also a childbirth educator and the ruku’ and sujud positions are all important positions for pregnant women to assume and great positions that help ease labour and birth! Alhamdulillah.

  49. How about bean bags? Was thinking of getting a few for my place instead of normal furniture, sloping walls so need low seating

    1. Beanbags create slouching and pressure points cutting off circulation in spine. . Not too Paleo. The EcoBackrest™ allows straight back while lounging. http://www.zafu.net/ecobackrest
      Ecobackrest is actually totally paleo: the Native Americans used them in their tipis. They were “willow reed backrests” back then and they used them to sleep as well when laid flat at night.

    2. I say skip the furniture entirely. Especially the beanbags. I use a kneeler on the floor as my desk chair. It’s the only things besides a cushion I sit on.

  50. Incidentally squatting (the correct type) is my favourite sitting position when I’m at the table. And yes, I squat on a chair. When I was a child my mom told me to stop it because I’m not a hen on a roost. Seems i got that one right 🙂

  51. Hey Mark,

    My name’s Josh Krouse and I am a
    Huge fan, and your site turned me on to Paleo in Thanksgiving of 2011. So I owe a lot to you and your dedication to the hunt!

    I have a brief question, what do you know of steak protein isolate, and do you plan on using it soon instead of whey? I would much rather buy it from you, than the Carnivor brand. Although the results have been amazing.

    Thanks for your work and dedication to paleo!

    – J Krouse

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

    It’s interesting that you mention this here. My background is from Iran and a major part of our culture is (was) to sit on the ground and eat. The family would all gather around a table cloth on the floor with food covering the table cloth and the family would all sit around it, sitting cross-legged, squatting, kneeling (whatever way they wanted) and often shifting between these. We would all eat together and share the food. I was very young when we left Iran but my parents continued this way of eating, even though we didn’t have the large dinner gatherings that we did back in Iran, we would all still sit together and eat the same way.

    Eventually my parents started sitting at the table to eat but would still leave us kids to sit on the floor and eat, I did this well into my teens but then it was all about becoming westernised and sitting at tables and on chairs to eat your food. Even now back in Iran most people have now taken to sitting at tables to eat, and the old custom of eating together on the floor has almost diminished.

    Squatting toilets were also the norm there and now most houses are fitted with what they call “Western toilets” and the squatting toilets are being removed from houses.

  53. In Kindergarden we everything on the floor, learned, napped, watched movies. Might as well do it now too!

  54. I Have to say, since i moved out from my parent’s and I Have to deal with a lack of diningtable, i Have started to sit on the floor too. It began with eating there, sitting on thefloor when friends come around and theres no more place on the couch, …
    Recently I was at a friends house and we talked and naturaly Sat on her couch. Then, amazed, i realised how uncomfotable I was sitting there. The whole time I had the urge to sit down on the floor. Thats also when I realized that I am barely using my own couch anymore. I havebecome flooradapted and its comfortable there 😉

  55. We have 2 toddlers at home so being on the floor, crawling, etc, is something I do every day. And since we became primal, we donated our sofa. We have a big carpet with tons of pillows and squatting or being crossed-legs in general is very natural for me (my wife is more stiff for some reason).
    At work, I work standing thanks to my adjustable desk. The only time I sit on a chair are when I have to drive a car or eat out.

  56. Practicing Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, I get to live on the floor for hours every week. Barefoot, on the ground, rolling around forwards and backwards and sideways for fun and sparring on the floor. I love it.

  57. I’m a police detective who recently.talked my supervisor into letting me use a standup desk. It’s been 10 weeks or so and I love it. Another detective also followed suit. But not an hour goes by where some cop walks by my cubicle and can’t help himself. It is so incredibly funny to cops that I stand at my desk . I can’t wait to hear the comments when I start eating my lunch on the floor!

  58. Your mentioning of chests, benches, and backless chairs interests me. I wonder if it is less the sitting in a chair, but the using of its back.

    I know that in the past (don’t remember the centuries, so wont try to list them) at least in Europe, it was considered going against etiquette to use the back of the chairs. Only low-class did that. The back was there for decoration, structure, etc but not for the person using the chair.

    This has me wondering about the physiological and anatomical differences between sitting in a chair and not using the back but sitting up straight, using a fallen tree or backless bench and sitting up straight, sitting crosslegged or squatted and sitting up straight, and sitting crosslegged or squatted and using a wall, tree truck, etc as back support….

  59. Deacon Pat,
    Try a pair of Five Fingers.
    I find my carpeting very slippery, so I wear my Five’s to do Yoga,great anti-skid. Not to mention they are extremely comfortable for ALL activities.
    Also, with the Five Fingers I am allowed in the supermarket.(No bare feet)

  60. So last night I ate my dinner on the floor, by an assemblage of candles, with all the lights off in my apartment.

    It was super pleasant, and felt very engaging. Sure I was a bit clumsy with my food, but the good news is when you are on the floor, it doesn’t fall off your dish very far! I’ll be doing this more often.

  61. I have always sat cross-legged (I know it as Indian style) all the time. I can’t sit with back straight and feet flat on floor (I’m short so it’s usually impossible to get my feet on the floor). I like the booths at restaurants because I sit like this. I’m still trying to make my man understand this. He sits/sleeps in a recliner and wonders why he always has some type of back pain. The mattress was bought because of his back injury (years ago) and he can’t use it because it makes his back worse. I love sleeping on the floor. Keeps me from hitting the snooze button

  62. You don’t have to be an African bushman to do the “heels down squat.” Anyone with an cantonese grandma has been yelled at to “mau dai!” and help pick the chives from the garden.

  63. Would sitting cross-legged in a chair (for example, while I am in school class) make a difference? I noticed that i tend to sit cross-legged in chairs without even thinking about it, and I don’t think it would be any different than being on the floor, since I’m not using the back of the chair for “support.”

  64. Me and my husband have been sleeping on the floor for over 15 years now. Our two children (8 & 2) sleep on the floor too! We sit around on the floor to do our daily chores & entertainment like chopping veggies, watching movies and folding laundry!

  65. We spend most of our time on the floor! We only remember it’s strange when guests come over. It started, in part, due to the cooler temps on the floor level since we spent so many years living in South Louisiana trying not to use our a.c. Now it’s just our most naturally comfortable state.

  66. For those who have trouble sitting crosslegged, I suggest sitting on a slight elevation (phonebook or more). In Iyengar yoga, no matter how advanced you are in other areas, if your knees are higher than your ilium, you sit on something.

    We use blocks for hero pose as well (kneeling)if necessary.

    Usually, the more often you do this, the less elevation you need.

  67. We looked after our 14 month old nice last weekend, and as a result spent a lot of time living on the floor.
    We played, sat, crawled, did yoga, knelled, layed down, got up, got back down, repeat. We played “see saw” with her too: I lay down, place her on my belly, alternate lifting legs & upper torso. Fun for her, and a work out for us 🙂

    Will have to do this consciously more often, even if our niece isn’t around.

  68. Great Article,
    After spending 4 yrs sitting on a low stool and a coffee table to study, I have now finished my degree and gone back to sitting on a sofa and chair… After just one month, my posture is terrible, I slouch and my back aches all the time…

    I realise that floor or low stool sitting tilts my pelvis forward, maintaining a better all round posture (for me at least), Ive gone back to floor sitting and I feel much better..

    I wont lie, I do struggle with the social implications and friends thinking im weird and I do at times find it a bit hard to get up off the floor, but the negatives still better than curved back on the sofa posture!

    London

  69. i just recently started sitting on the floor again when i watch tv! of course for me my problem is that my muscles have tightened so much that i realized it was actually probably the cause of my back pain–i’m ony 23–so i’ve taken to sitting on the ground and stretching my hamstrings while i do it. to make the transition easier i sit against my wall to help control my slouch–it’s really noticeable to slouch away from a wall! you realize how badly you’re slouching

  70. I love this post! So informative! I recently built my own floor desk because of the length of time I spend doing web work. I MUCH prefer floor-sitting to chair-sitting. I googled “health benefits of floor sitting” as part of my research for an upcoming blog post where I’ll share the tutorial on how to build your own floor desk. I will definitely be linking back to this article!! Thanks for this!

    Tiffany

  71. I found this article when I decided to watch some videos on Coursera in my room and I remembered I didn’t have a table, and so went looking online for comfortable ways to sit on the floor. I must say that I rather enjoy sitting on the ground, although it’s kind of difficult to get around the pain on my ankles from the pressure against the hardwood floor.

    I don’t have any furniture in my room anymore, because I got myself an old wall bed which takes up all my room when it is down. Looking into this has renewed my interest in getting a tatami mat for sitting, but for now, I am using a small and thin camping pillow to protect my hips from the ground and an acoustic guitar case for as my desk. It’s not formal furniture, but I’m really enjoying this lifestyle change.

    I am a student of Chinese language and culture, and, having slept in a Chinese hotel room, I can say that whatever type of mattress common in use there is more comfortable than anything I’ve found in America; the mattresses tend to be very firm—like my camping pillow. I’d personally recommend it. (But, I’m still trying to figure out how to eliminate ankle and knee discomfort. Oh, well.)

  72. Thank you, great article! I am Malaysian and am very comfortable in a full-squat and other floor-living postures. I’m also a childbirth educator and I can’t stress the benefits of squatting, kneeling, the fetal position, etc.. on the floor to my pregnant mothers. It makes ALL the difference in childbirth – because mothers are so much more flexible and IN TOUCH with their bodies – which is important in labour and birth 🙂

  73. I enjoy sitting on the floor – it feels more natural. My legs ache sitting in conventional chairs and I fidget a lot! I meditate and use a Kindseat which is a cool piece of furniture to have and use even if you don’t meditate, as it can be adjusted in so many ways to help you sit or kneel comfortably while meditating or chatting or whatever. It’s such a great design it can stay out in the room and not be put away. It’s also light to carry. I wonder if this is perhaps the future for sitting in a room – it can also be more sociable. (www.kindseat.com)

  74. I work from home and after reading your post, I may just try floor-living.^^

  75. I can’t see the image no.4 Crossed leg variation picture can you fix it or can you send to me thks

  76. I’ve been a floor liver for about 5 years. I squat instead of bending and sit this way at the pc several tmes a day. When pins n needles i swap position, normally both knees in front of me lol, or I stretch one out, to the side or behind. I sit on a mat or a low cushion. I haven’t used a bed for a number of years, and swapped from mattress on the ground to covered cardboard on a rug and more recently a swag. I rarely use chairs, have only one in the house for visitors or when I need to stand on something. Three stools I use when visitors are over. Even at friends places I choose the floor where possible as I find chairs and couches uncomfortable, unless wide enough to treat like a sunbed.
    Definitely more flexible than most, and people comment on my posture a lot. I feel grounded and enjoy being close to Earth.

  77. Before I read this, I had just read another post about floor sitting, from someone from India, wherein they mentioned a study that linked ability to sit and rise from the floor, unaided, with mortality rate. I think it was a Brazilian study. It was very interesting, but, I only read it, quickly, and, the once, so far, so that’s as much as I remember.

    I bookmarked it and yours, to read again, later. Thank you for the information.

  78. “There’s nothing inherently wrong with TV…”

    That’s incredibly arguable! 🙂

  79. My thought:

    Humans have been sitting on floors for the last ~2.2 or ~13 (Pierolapithecus Catalaunicus). So we have evolved to sit, squad, lay on the hard ground.

    The chair is, I believe, a modern invention. Or, maybe in past times a luxury of the rich. Western culture has assimilated to using chairs as the status quo. I will make the assumption that our bodies have not evolved to use the chair effectively.

    I find it funny that we are creating so many “ergonomic” tools to help our back. Maybe it is as simple as learn to sit “indian” style, kneel, cross-legged, squatted….etc on the ground.

    My two-cents.

    Regards,
    Mike R.

  80. I sit on the floor for my job. I’m a well child nurse and work in a very high needs community. My decision to sit on the floor when visiting clients was not a health-based decision, but to remove some of the inequality between health professionals and clients that is sometimes such a barrier to effective health care. I work with lots of different cultures and I have had a lot of feedback that they find my sitting on the floor “very respectful”. I am researching the issue now, however, because I want better health and feel that “blobbing on the couch” when I get home is not healthy. p.s. I’m “paleo” with my diet so why not the rest of my lifestyle?

  81. I’ve moved my home office to the floor and have succesfully worked about four hours straight without any pain. After a few months, though, my lower back hurts.. So I am going to do some strengthening exercises and try different ways of sitting or squatting. Any tips for sciatic nerve pain from incorrect sitting would be greatly appreciated!

    1. You may find the standing workstation more appropriate, as it lengthens your spine taking pressure of the hip area. Your sciatic nerve leaves your lower spine and runs the back of your legs. Sitting cross-legged will likely aggravate.

      Stretching your legs out one or both (as in a v) would help to release pressure.

      I have two slight curves in my spine, and I swapped from floor to standing station (I work long hours on the pc mind), and this has definitely helped in terms much less frequent pain in upper back.

      Also, I am able to do leg and core strengthening exercises whilst working.
      Here is a link to another of Mark’s posts, which gives tips for creating a standing workstation https://www.marksdailyapple.com/standing-at-work/

  82. i have a large floor chair and i mostly passed time with my laptop while i work on my room. its really help me to relax and do spend some time for freelance work. i really enjoyed this time.

  83. i have a large floor chair and i mostly passed time with my laptop while i work on my room. its really help me to relax and do spend some time for freelance work. i really enjoyed this time.

  84. I work at my laptop on a small table, sitting on the ground at present – this is because my usual room and desk are getting cleared out and I’m in a different bedroom without a proper desk. Unfortunately, the need to lean forward for everything (reading books,sewing, using the computer) has lead to severe back pain and stiffness and my hip has gotten very sore, despite sitting in a relaxed cross-legged half-lotus position that we all used in primary school to no issue. Anything people can recommend to help with joint and muscle pains from this transition?

  85. I don’t really eat Paleo, but, floor sitting / sleeping for life! And if that’s not an option (on the bus, etc) I try to use the chair-back less, so my abs can still feel useful.

  86. I happened upon this site because after decades of semi-hidden to outright floor lounging, living, tv watching, dragging the mattress to the living room, allegedly “for the dogs” or a “long bout of pneumonia” while my hunchbacked mother visits and harummphs in shame and “the harra” of my “filthy” lifestyle, I finally decided to seek multi-level cushions, something moveable, rearrangeable, able to support laptop and work, and here I find this site! I am thinking “I hate all my furniture” I bet just 2 mats is all anyone needs like the cool 6 member family man who has reduced to a wool mat, which I have once had, and it was the best. I hate all furniture unless it emulates the floor. So I already have the floor, the mattress right in the middle of the room when you walk in, the cool ole’ dogs (yes, I share). All I really need to do is ditch the furniture and the harrumpher.

  87. I recently hurt my lower back pretty badly and it was uncomfortable to sit in traditional chairs, but when I sat “Indian style” on the floor I had no pain at all! I realized that traditional chairs compress the lower back whereas “Indian style” sitting stretches the lower back.

  88. Check out my floor sitting inventions: the Zen Office (Japanese style laptop work station), and EcoBackrest (From the Native American tipi chair), plus tons of other traditional floor seats from ancient cultures.

  89. We gave away our living room couch and by accident I found I loved having the empty room so much I haven’t replaced the furniture (we still have a family room). Instead of spreading out projects on a table I use the big empty floor. My mat, kettlebells and fascia tools live here too.
    We’ve hosted impromptu dance lessons, rounds of indoor putt-putt golf and sometimes I just enjoy the ‘no-clutter’ view. It’s a little eccentric but an empty room is turning into a serious luxury. Plus, it’s a breeze to clean!

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