Sitting and Yoga

Over the last few years this phrase has been getting more and more public attention–Sitting is the new smoking. Everyone seems to be talking about this from CNN to Forbes and the American Heart Association. Studies are popping up all over about the negative effects that sitting has on one’s health.  A quick google search will bring up various studies and the results about sitting for prolonged periods of time.There is even a website called sittingissmoking.com.  This website features several statistics on the effects of sitting to much. Here are a few of those statistics:

Prolonged sitting is the #1 reason for chronic disease.
85% of America’s workforce is paid to sit at a desk all day
One hour of sitting is as unhealthy as smoking two cigarettes a day

Reference: http://sittingissmoking.com/sitting_is_the_new_smoking.pdf

Naturally many people who jumped on the bandwagon of “sitting is the new smoking” thought that they would just adjust their life to standing. Those who sit at a desk transitioned to standing workstations. It seems like standing would be the natural alternative to sitting, however, it is not. Standing in one place is just another example of sitting in one place.  The only difference is that you are upright when standing but in both scenarios the body is still not moving. Movement is the natural alternative to sitting. Our bodies were meant to move. Every system and every cell of our body functions better when we move.

Every week I teach several chair yoga classes. I just stated above that research is finding that sitting has many negative effects on one’s health. So why do I happily lead these classes each week? Some people cannot stand for long periods of time due to lack of strength, health reasons, or amputation. Others cannot easily get up and down from the floor due to health reasons, bad knees, or being overweight. If these people should reduce their sitting because of the negative side effects, but can’t stand for long periods of time or can’t get down on the floor, what options do they have? What can they do to be proactive about their health?

Again the problem is not the chair, it is the inactivity in the chair that is the problem. When I teach chair yoga, we are moving the entire body. It is active, not passive. Every cell and every system is being stimulated. The chair becomes a tool (prop) to help move the body just as a yoga block is used in a mat style class to bring the body into alignment.

I have always believed that every person can move their body regardless of age or ability.  I also believe that sitting too much has negative effects on our overall health. A chair may be the best means for some people to move their bodies well at certain stages of life. Let’s take the focus off sitting and chairs and refocus on moving more!

Christina Mroz, is Senior Trainer for Holy Yoga Global’s Chair/Senior Holy Yoga Training.  She has been leading chair classes for the past 15 years.