Sitting: is your uterus locked in sitting prison?
Scientists are saying sitting is the new smoking. What do they mean specifically? They mean sitting is causing diseases up the wahoo and, like smoking was, it’s totally societally accepted.
The problem is, sitting really isn’t the problem — humans have been sitting for, like, ever. The root of the problem is really that sitting is now a major human activity (taking up 50-90% of our waking hours), and that the time spent sitting is in one position. Chair sitting.
Barbara Loomis of Alignment Monkey, restorative exercise specialist, asks “is your desk job a uterine prison?”. Why? Because sitting all day leads to pelvic congestion (lack of blood flow to the pelvis). “Pelvic congestion can lead to varicosities within the uterine ligaments, fallopian tubes, or veins of the prostate and scrotum (varicocele). Pelvic congestion is often found in both sexes when no other obvious pathologic cause of pelvic pain can be found. In one study, 91% of women with chronic pelvic pain who had no other pathology on laparoscopy had dilated veins and vascular congestion in the broad ligaments and ovarian plexus as seen on venography. Varicosities of the thigh were an indication of this pelvic congestion,”Chronic Pelvic Pain by Steege, Metzger and Levy
If that was too much jargon here’s a quick summary: in this study 91% of women with pelvic pain had atrophied blood vessels in their pelvis … meaning no circulation, meaning pain.
Since chair sitting is really, really rough on the pelvis I will continue throughout this site to bring awareness to sitting alternatives, but for now let’s focus on those times you have to sit and how to sit better.
Sit Better in a Chair
There’s chair sitting then there’s turning into a pile of chair goo. Yes that sounds gross, but haven’t you ever been sitting in front of a computer so long you realize your whole body has somewhat grotesquely slumped into the shape of the chair as if your bones were made of gack (like me in college)? That’s what we’re fighting here, the I’ve fallen-on-a-chair-and-I-can’t-get-up posture that accompanies long days of chair sitting.
1) Sit on your sits bones — not your tail bone.
Biomechanist Katy Bowman reminds us that “one of the main supporting ligaments of the uterus is the uterosacral ligament (USL). If it isn’t loaded correctly because you’re sitting on your tailbone (post tilted pelvis) the ligaments lose their strength and resiliency. Ligaments need a proper direction of load to stimulate the correct balance of collagen production. How can the USL suspend the uterus and be loaded correctly if the uterus is sitting on the USL? It can’t!
So tune in (I’m assuming you’re reading this sitting), where is your weight on the chair? Is it on the bottom of your booty (sits bones) with your uterus supported, or is your lower back rounded as you sit on your tale bone and squish your uterus? To correct, tip your pelvis forward until you feel your sits bones. If you have a well endowed booty comme moi, it helps if you grab your beautiful butt cheeks and pull them upwards to “reveal” your sits bones. **Note, this has nothing to do with your back, don’t feel like you have to arch it.
2) Don’t let the chair steal your strength!
Sit strong by scooting yourself forward on the chair seat and forcing your core to hold your upper body upright. You don’t need a fancy yoga ball, just scootch forward and maintain your posture (ribs down!) for as long as you can. Try to remember not to lean forward on the desk as a cheat.
3) Let your legs go.
Try for a second not to cross them, not to hold them together in a “ladylike” fashion. If you’re chronically holding them like this, your muscles will thank you by staying like this, and that’s no favor to your hip/pelvis/uteral health. Keep them neutral. If you terribly need to cross them (patterns are so hard to break!), try crossing them at the ankles.
Sit better on a toilet
Chairs are “new” in evolution, toilets are even newer. What humans do to eliminate is squat. This ancient and natural form of elimination with help many of your GI issues, and especially any pelvic floor issue you may have. “But I have a toilet”, you say, “not a hole in the ground”. Have no fear, there’s a solution. There’s nothing more I can say that this unicorn can’t, so please heed his advice. Happy squatting!
Sit Better in General
When you’re ready to take your sitting practice a step further, consider floor sitting.
Have you been to a yoga hip-opening class? If so you know it’s more or less a series of sitting poses that help loosen, stretch, and open your hips. You can go to yoga an hour a day, a few days a week, and then combat all the progress by sitting in a chair for hours on end, or you could trade in your chair for the floor and make these hips openers your daily standard.
Floor sitting is what humans have always done in between standing/walking/running/climbing (not chair sitting) and there’s a wide variety of positions that will bring circulation into every last bit of your pelvis rather than crimping it (like chair sitting).
Here’s an awesome poster by Nutritious Movement showing the many different ways you can sit. If you sit on the floor and flow through some of these postures you’ll immediately feel the stretch and activation of these vital connectors. Imagine switching out your chair for the good ol’ floor and sitting in these positions everyday, positions that were beneficial instead of detrimental.
To show it’s not hard or expensive to switch, here’s an example of what I did. I bought the simple shelving hardware at home depot and screwed a piece of nice plywood on top. Total cost, maybe $20? Now I can sit on the floor while I work on the computer and switch my positions up continuously. This opens my hips and also forces me to use my core strength rather than relying on a chair back. If you’re new to floor sitting you can use a pillow to bolster yourself as your hamstrings leeeeengthen.
Prescription for the well-sat woman
Maybe you deserve an olympic medal for sitting, maybe not, but either way chances are you have sat your whole life and are paying for it. Sitting equals really tight hip flexors and psoas, so it’s really good to start release these poor friends of ours. Here's 2 correctives to start the process of unfurling:
Here's the key, shins are vertical, and pelvis is neutral. To understand what "neutral" is, imagine your pelvis as a bowl filled with water, and your hip bones the edge you want to keep level (so basically don't tip your pelvis forward, which stop the effectiveness of this stretch). If you're trying to prove you can lunge way further forward and don't really feel it, back up. You should be able to feel this quite intensely without "pushing" yourself further at all.
Table Top Release
Laying on a table (or porch, or staircase, or whatever), hold your legs to your chest so you feel the weight on your sacrum --the bony-back of your pelvis. Basically, your lower back is flat against the table. Now release one leg while you hold the other leg still, not allowing your pelvis to tip with it. Back arching and feel like your resting on your tailbone? Pull your legs to your chest again to put the weight back on your sacrum and try releasing your leg again. Breath deep as you feel the release in your hip flexors. Your leg will probably start by hovering above the table, and eventually will relaxxxxx downward bit by bit with gravity.