I am now going to recommend something to you as a daily practice. It is simple suggestion, but so valuable that I am going to give it the hard sell.
Even if you have never done any Feldenkrais before, even if you never visit my blog again, if you follow this suggestion you will improve the mobility of your spine and hip joints in all your activities, not just when sitting on chairs, but standing will become easier, for longer periods, and walking will be more fluid and more enjoyable, particularly when you are going downhill. I cannot guarantee that it will ease your back pain–although that is quite likely–but it is certainly a good way to bring relief to hip and sciatic pain–and it will certainly extend the functional life of your hip joints enormously.
Sit on the floor.
For a minimum of half an hour.
Actually, no it isn’t. In the very unlikely case that you are 12 years old, you may be thinking, “of course I sit on the floor, of course I do it everyday, why are you making such a fuss?”
It is much more likely that you are older, and that your days of sitting on the floor are pretty much behind you, except in unusual circumstances (picnics, the beach, Feldenkrais / Yoga / Pilates classes) and that you are not particularly comfortable on the floor. That is sort of the point. This is not just Awareness Through Movement, this is Awareness Through Fidgeting!
When we sit on the floor we tend to move about more than when we sit on a chair or a sofa; one position becomes uncomfortable, a foot starts to feel tingly and numb, a sore spot develops on one part of our buttocks, and we shift about. Some positions are more challenging and therefore less popular. A good strategy is to try them all out, changing position often, legs crossed, kneeling, both legs to one side (your legs can be together or apart for this side-saddle position), legs straight out in front of you. As you get used to it you will notice how easy it is to move about on the floor and how natural and easy it is to spontaneously change position once you are there. Garet Newell, my first Feldenkrais teacher, likes to minimise the furniture in her home to encourage daily use of the floor, whether working or playing. I have not found a way to comfortably use my laptop on the floor, but it is an easy place from which to make phone calls, read books, watch TV, listen to music, hang out with friends, and as your comfort improves, eat your meals.
Try it out, let me know how you get on.
Since I wrote my original post in 2013 there has been some interesting evidence that the ease with which you can get up from the floor can be an indicator of your likelihood of living longer with fewer health issues. Now correlation is not causation, and I cannot help but think that it is exactly those people who are interested in staying mobile, and who are therefore committed to their yoga, Pilates, or Feldenkrais practice, who are probably also the people cutting down on their alcohol and their carbs, and thus are keen to stay well in other ways too.
If you check out this short film below you will discover that the doctor who designed the test was interested to discover that our concept of fitness did not predict better health the way this kind of mobility does. I think the research is interesting and the test is an interesting challenge. Personally I am also aware that for hypermobile people the pressure on the ankles in this manoeuvre may feel like too much to tolerate–I am happy to score 8 and factor one knee into the equation, and other loose-jointed folk out there may feel the same way!
Here are some noisy babies fighting on the floor for you to enjoy, and this is a video of the way we explore these transitions–lying, to sitting, to standing–in a Feldenkrais group class:
I have been told more than once that citizens of cultures that sit on the floor into old age are less likely to suffer from hip injuries in later life, but the evidence is hard to unearth. I will keep searching. I did however find an interesting blog on this theme from a very eloquent woman who is sharing her strategies for dealing with her spinal cord injury––she has turned her lounge into an affordable low-tech gym, so do check her blog out.
photo: Christian Kipp © The Feldenkrais Guild UK 2018