Healthcare and Medicine Reference
orthopedic seats, would be wonderful, but are unlikely
to arrive soon, given current school budgets. A
brief lesson in adjusting yourself to the chair and
desk - finding the comfortable seated posture, and
using the spine as a whole in moving in a chair - is a
cheaper alternative which might divert a lifetime of bad
In such a sedentary culture, so married to its comput-
ers and its cars, the lack of generalized training in sitting
lies somewhere between silly and sinful. The basis of the
exercise is that postural adjustments in sitting are best
thought of as adjustments of the entire spine, not any
single body segment. The exercise is intended to evoke
a spring-like, integrated motion of the spine for postural
adjustments in sitting, to correct the 'school desk'
Sit on a stool or forward on a chair, but do not touch
or lean into the back of the chair during this exercise. A
hard or lightly padded seat is better in order to feel
exactly where you are on the ischial tuberosities (ITs).
Sit tall, and rock your pelvis forward and back a bit to
center yourself so that you are at your tallest, and there
is a comfortable lumbar curve.
Very slowly let yourself roll back on your ITs, letting
your body respond to the change in posture. Your tail-
bone comes slowly toward the chair and the lumbar
curvature reduces and reverses. Keep the movement
slow and small; stay sensitive to your response. If you
let the rest of your body respond rather than holding a
postural position, you will feel the chest begin to lower
in the front as the pelvis tilts posteriorly.
Move back and forth, slowly and with small range of
movement, between these two positions, and notice the
relationship: rock the pelvis back, the chest falls or flexes
a little; rock the pelvis forward, the chest is lifted again
Continue the movement, turning your attention to
your neck: if you do not hold the head steady in relation
to the room, but let it go with the rest of the spine, the
head will start to incline forward as the neck naturally
begins to flex, and the line of sight falls toward the floor.
We are so inclined to separate the head from the rest of
the body that this is the most difficult connection for
most of us to get. We are accustomed to keeping our
head oriented to our right-angled rooms, not letting it
respond to the inner whispering of the rest of the spine.
Persist and the feeling will arise.
Move from upright sitting to full flexion of the spine.
At full flexion, the tailbone is close to the stool, your
sternum is closer to your pubic bone, and you are
looking into your lap (Fig. 10.17). Making sure you initi-
ate from the pelvis, reverse the movement, letting the
pelvis move the lumbars, which in turn move the thorax,
which in turn extends the neck and lifts the head. Move
through this sequence a few times until the spring of the
spine feels easy with this movement.
It is important that you not let the chest fall behind
the pelvis as you go into this movement (Fig. 10.18). The
center of gravity of the chest and head taken together
stay over the pelvis, even in full flexion. If, as you move
into flexion, your breathing and organs feel cramped for
space, you are perhaps letting the weight of the upper
body fall behind the pelvis. Check by doing the exercise
beside a mirror.
Now, continue the movement from flexion to upright,
and then through upright toward hyperextension, still
initiating from the pelvis. Now the pubic bone moves
toward the chair seat, the lumbar curve is exaggerated,
and the sternum lifts. Be careful to let the angle of the
head follow the dictates of the rest of the spine; do not
let it lead the movement as usual (Fig. 10.19). If you let
the head and neck coordinate with the rest of the spine,
the neck will not reach full hyperextension in this move-
ment; there will be some ability to hyperextend 'left
over' (Fig. 10.20).
Let the body return to upright, passing through
neutral toward flexion, and allow the spine to move
through its entire range from flexion to hyperextension
and back again, until the full movement is familiar.
Initiate the movement at all times from the pelvis, feeling
the slow shift of the weight from the back to the
front of the ITs, stopping and moving more slowly if the
head rebels and tries to take over the movement.
Although children and impatient adults will want to
run through the full range quickly, slower movement
is better in getting the initial completeness into the
spinal movement, and in integrating it into everyday
Once the integrated movement is familiar, come from
the hyperextended end of the movement with your eyes
open, and stop when the eyes reach horizontal (see Fig.
10.16). Feel the position the rest of your body has taken.
Feel the ease in your breathing. Perhaps you have found
a new sitting position for yourself. Check it by moving
on down into flexion, and then back up until your eyes
are level, being careful to let the eyes be passive, while
allowing the initiation to come from the pelvis. The
more you practice this exercise, the easier it becomes to
make this new position your own.
By these lights, we could hope that from here on in
any change of head position involves a change of the
whole integrated spring of the spine to support the head
in the new position. To look down at your desk, or this
book, or your knitting, let your pelvis roll back a bit to
automatically and coherently carry your chest and eyes
to the task. To look up, let the pelvis roll forward to
biomechanically support the lifting of the body and the
eyes up. To follow that bird above you, let the pelvis roll
forward even more.
It is quite easy to add rotation to this pure flexion and
extension by pushing on one foot and letting the body
follow. To look up and to the left, let the pelvis roll
forward as you increase the pressure on your right foot.
To look down and left, roll your pelvis back while press-
ing more on the left foot (and letting the hips respond).
Move in this way for a while and it will become reflex-
ive, and you will engender a habit that will delight your
spine for the rest of your life.
In this model, sitting up straight like a Victorian and
dropping your head to read is just as silly as flexing your
back and hyperextending your neck to look at the
teacher. Both of these movements involve 'breaking' the