It is difficult to argue with the fact that the movement in modern times has been towards convenience and comfort. In the belief that our lives are somehow better if comfort is always present, there has been an obsession with making things easier to accomplish and more readily available. This has happened in the form of food, goods, transport etc. Humans have created environments where everything is on hand or easy to get. If we want to go somewhere, we jump in the car; if we want food, we buy ready meals or eat out. This comfort and ease has become ubiquitous, and, I believe, detrimental to health.
While it may be difficult to ignore or avoid all of these aspects, and in many ways whether we would even want to, in this blog I’m going to look at many of our day to day habits and whether it is time to question the way we carry ourselves and live our lives.
We spend, on average, around a third of our lives sleeping. Traditionally, people would sleep on firm surfaces, yet in the modern age, soft mattresses are now the norm. It may seem natural to want to sleep on a nice, spongy bed, but this is actually bad for our spines and overall posture in the long term. Sleeping on a soft mattress curves the spine, which can lead to back and neck problems and other issues including insomnia and lack of energy.
In my opinion, sleeping on a firm surface is best for overall health. Back and neck problems can be alleviated by switching to a firm mattress or sleeping on the floor on a futon mattress. This practice can take a while to get used to, and is not for absolutely everyone, but after a short time the body will usually adjust and you will sleep better and feel more energised. I sleep every night on a rollout futon mattress, and can vouch for its efficacy.
If sleeping on the floor is not an option, I recommend a firm bed and mattress, with lots of space to move.
Sofas are one of the great western conveniences. Who doesn’t love curling up on the sofa in front of the TV? It may seem like one of life’s necessities, yet sofas, and chairs in general are extremely bad for overall health. Sofas encourage poor postures and curvature of the neck and spine. They relax the lower back and lead to a loose middle, as the core doesn’t need to engage to keep the person upright. Chairs in general don’t allow the hips to open fully, which prevents good energy flow through the body. There is a reason why many westerners struggle to sit cross legged and have tight hips, and it is rooted in the use of chairs and sofas.
The alternative, and I believe best way to sit, is, when possible, on the floor. You can use thin cushions to create enough comfort, yet still get all the benefits. Sitting cross-legged has a multitude of benefits, and engagement of the core muscles leads to greater health and vitality and alleviates postural problems, especially when done in combination with conscious postural practice. It is also possible to change position when on the floor more easily, stretching out the legs etc.
There is also the added benefit of the extra space and versatility you create in your home environment when you don’t have large pieces of furniture cluttering up the space. The space can become more creative and energised, as you don’t have the stagnant energy of sitting in exactly the same spot all the time. It can create a freshness in your environment.
It can take time to get used to doing this, so begin by sitting cross-legged on the floor when possible and build up your strength and flexibility. Over time it will become easier as your core muscles strengthen and your hips become more flexible. Over time you may feel ready to let go of much of your seating furniture.
Standing & Walking
Walking is another area of our lives in which striving for comfort has potentially created or, at the least, exacerbated health issues. We spend a lot of our time walking or standing (although admittedly less than we used to). However, the way people walk, which includes using overly cushioned shoes or heals, and not engaging the core and ‘bandhas’ I.e. body locks, can lead to energetic and postural issues related to just about every part of the body. The prominent belly so often seen in the west is not just related to overeating and lack of exercise, but rather an issue of posture and lack of core engagement.
Correct walking and standing can usually be rectified over time, however, and the issues corrected.
It is also a good idea to wear shoes that have thin soles, or are, at the very least, completely flat. There have been books written about the benefits of ‘barefoot’ shoes, and earthing i.e. going barefoot and connecting with the earth. I do recommend walking barefoot on the earth when possible, even if it’s just a few minutes standing on the earth or grass. The benefits of this practice can be found in the article below.
These three areas are what we spend the majority of our lives doing, and it makes sense that if we can bring good alignment and attention to these aspects we can make great improvements to our health, vitality and state of being. Incorrect and habitual body shapes impair energetic flow and, along with stressful mental states and poor diet, are one of the primary causes of illness and disease in our culture
If you wish to learn more about these aspects of your life and how you can make postural and energetic improvements, please book a session.