I’m of the opinion that alignment is as important to health as good nutrition. The way the body moves effects absolutely everything and consequently, it’s virtually impossible to out-diet, out-medicate, (and out-smart) a tight, sedentary frame.
Unfortunately, it’s no surprise to anyone that most of us spend an outrageous part of our lives in about 3 or 4 different positions. (I’m counting sitting in a chair-type-thing, laying down, and standing.) Not only is this a kind of travesty when you consider what awe-inspiring and diverse feats the human body is capable of, but it doesn’t take a big stretch of the imagination to consider that this limited state is the basis of a great number of modern-day diseases.
The diseases of immobility are so common that they’ve become considered part of the normal aging process. Tension headaches, chronic back pain, and poor digestion are just a few such examples. (We could get crazy and consider that artherosclerosis, bladder dysfunction, and central nervous system disorders also fall into this category…but that’ll be a discussion for another day.)
This is all the case because the human body needs movement for the proper functioning of cell signaling and turnover, tissue mobility, and maintenence of fluid dynamics. (Just like you wouldn’t walk around blind-folded, with earplugs, and your hands tied, all the components of the body rely on signals from outward forces, other cells, and traveling molecules to let them know what’s going on.) Without these movement inputs, it’s like tying to sail a boat that’s tied to the dock; the bottom rusts, the sails tear, and it gets harder and harder to actually use. (Ok, so I’m no boat expert. But the general idea is still valid.)
When I created DigPrimal though, I swore to myself that I wouldn’t write the health equivalents of Boogie Man posts. (Who isn’t sick of headlines like “The ONE Thing You’re Doing That’s Killing Your Entire Family!”??). So since I think I need no more words to stress the importance of consistent natural movement in our everyday lives, I think it’s time to start talking about the positive changes we can make to be more active, mobile, and healthy.
I love focusing on the changes I can make in my life that get naturally built into my day. Making changes like this make it much more likely that they’ll stick around for the long term and won’t cause extra stress in the process of trying to get healthy!
For this reason, I’ve really enjoyed and noticed a big difference after doing an overhaul on my at-home and at-work work stations. I say work station(s) not only because I have setups both at home and at the hospital, but because I set up multiple mini-stations within my work stations in a way that maximizes my mobility.
The photo below is just a part of where I get my work done at home but you can see that it is made up several different parts. I break it all down in detail below!
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I normally make camp at a sturdy and low-set coffee table. It’s where I put my computer, reading materials, and any snacks I want to keep on hand. I picked this coffee table because I can sit in many different positions and still type/write comfortably without hiking up my shoulders or straining my neck.
It’s hard for me to give dimensions because each person will need a different height depending on their torso and body size. I played around with several different side tables, chairs, and even a chest before deciding on our coffee table. I certainly don’t think it’s necessary to go out and buy something for this purpose!
I’m a huge proponent of the squat. The squat is pretty much a power move for the entire body and doing one with proper alignment works muscles, takes pressure off the lower back, and strengthens the pelvic floor. (I hear a lot of you saying, “Pelvic floor? Who cares about that?” To that, I say, “Anyone who doesn’t feel like having urinary, fecal incontinence and pain with sex.” Sound pretty bad? It is.)
The thing is, the part of “proper alignment” is a tricky one. That’s where the supported squat with a bosu ball comes in. Most people don’t have the hip or the calf flexibility to get into a properly aligned squat without it and the bosu ball is a great height for most people to make up for their tightness.
For tons for info on subject of squats and alignment in general, I love the blog Katy Says and especially this post. Or you can read this book. Or this one. Or this one!
Similar to the bosu ball, I like using the yoga block to support proper alignment in my back and joints in a variety of different sitting positions. This includes a lower squat, cross legged, wide leg sit, and kneeling.
It’s small enough that I can play around with using it, removing it, and then using it again without much hassle at all.
The rest of the time I just spend sitting on the ground whichever way feels good at the moment and a yoga mat or folded up blanket makes it comfortable. It takes a little while to get used to at first but it’s virtually impossible to sit on the floor and slouch, so I love it from that alignment perspective. I’ve noticed significantly fewer tension headaches since starting to sit in the ground, probably because of this. (It also comes down to changing how I sleep, but more on that in a future post.) At this point, I’ve gotten so used to it that I actually prefer it to sitting on the couch.
If I’m going to do some reading, I can use the yoga mat and blanket to plop over on my belly. It’s not only nice to switch up my posture but I like that it changes proximity of my head to my reading material so that I’m craning my neck but virtually looking straight ahead. (I like to prop my reading materials against the bosu ball so that I don’t even have to hold it and look down.)
Not pictured here is my standing desk set up. You can buy sweet premade and adjustable versions like this but I prefer to rig up my own stations with things I already own. I place a piano bench on my desk and place my monitor on that; then I put my attachable keyboard on a box that’s the perfect height for my arms. It’s not fancy but my point is that you can make your set up extremely affordable and customized perfectly for you. On other occasions, I’ll just put my laptop on my kitchen counter to take a break from sitting.
I’m personally not a big fan of treadmill desks for anyone with hip/pelvic floor problems. However, I generally think that if it comes down to using them or not walking at all, I always err on the side of more movement. When I work at home, I build in walks around the block every so often to get a similar result. I like that this forces me outside in nature as well.
Heater plus Cat
Optional and not necessary for proper alignment…but very nice 🙂