Sitting has been much maligned in the last decade. News sources love to dramatize the issue, and you can find many alarming headlines—such as, “Sitting will kill you, even if you exercise” from CNN in 2015. The debate about the various risks of sitting and possible ways to mitigate them is raging, and articles and research range from “sitting is the new smoking” to “sitting isn’t actually bad for you.”
In the last few years, some research has seemed to backtrack or qualify the fears of the past, making a distinction between sitting for work versus sitting in front of the TV; news articles have begun to note the higher risks of sitting for those who are obese or inactive and the potentially minimal risks of sitting for otherwise healthy adults. Just two years after telling us that sitting will kill us, CNN now claims, “Sitting might not be so bad for you after all.” There are also studies now suggesting that standing presents its own risks and problems including hospitalization due to varicose veins and increased risk of atherosclerosis. In any case, studies show that after one month, users of standing desks return to sitting.
So what are we to believe? Do we sit, or stand—or are both harmful? You have to earn your living some way, and if it’s not going to be sitting, it’s going to be standing. All the back-and-forth in the media might have you believe the trendy guideline “the best position is the next position.” To me, this is a rather defeatist take on the human body. I believe all positions are good for you—if done with good posture, and in moderation.
What is overlooked in all the studies and articles on the subject, are our sitting form and our furniture.
In my experience, a person’s posture, what the person is doing while sitting, and what they are sitting on makes a huge health difference, both through correlated factors and through causation. Sitting with poor posture, whether from habit or from bad furniture, has many negative side effects, from causing joint and muscle pain in the back (and as we know, chronic back pain can bring down your mood and keep you from, being active), to limiting lung capacity and circulation, which hinders the body’s ability to heal, remove toxins, and circulate oxygen.
Even just being able to breath more deeply can have wonderful effects on physical and mental health, boosting energy, digestion, and mood. All these processes are linked, and when one suffers, it is no surprise that other weak spots in a person’s system can take a big hit, even to the extent of increasing the risk of health issues like heart disease or diabetes.
So wave goodbye to your anxiety about whether your desk job or your 3-hour seminar are going to give you health woes. Work on your form, maintain healthy habits like daily exercise with your yoga wheel and limited TV-watching ;-)
AND THIS IS HOW WE ROLL. After years of experimenting with the Shakti Yoga Wheel, I decided to design a yoga wheel after my own back. Here’s what we’ve come up with:
- An ideal yoga wheel needs to have a strong, hard core but needs to be gentle on the spine. The yoga wheel’s job is to push back against my tight back and spine and not bend too much out of shape when I lie on it.
- It needs to be comfortable, which means having a soft padded exterior, this is why we put an extra eco-friendly, thick and soft mat on to the Shakti Yoga Wheel which makes a huge difference compared to other yoga wheels especially wooden yoga wheels. Pressure is good, but brutal pressure can bruise the back, pushing too hard on the vertebras and it feels painfully uncomfortable, especially if you don’t have a lot of built-in padding.
- It needs to be at least 6.5 inches wide to support the torso along the spine, but not so wide that your hands won’t be able to reach the floor on either side of the roller when you roll/massage towards your sacrum.
- I would prefer for the material to not skid on my wooden floor or on my body. We used ABS as the core material, and it is, compared to most foam rollers, NOT slippery.
- I would prefer the Shakti Yoga Wheel to be light for travel. This means the hard inner core needs to be made of ABS rather than PVC tubing (the more common cheaper heavy material that most yoga wheels are made from)
So there it is: Colorful ABS core (hard yet light), eco-friendly super soft and cushy yoga mat (soft but not slippery)!
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- Sit on the floor with your knees bent. Place the Shakti Yoga Wheel behind you, perpendicular to your torso. Lie back on the yoga wheel. Adjust it so that the roller is even in between your shoulder blades.
- Raise your butt up so that your weight is supported somewhat by your feet and mainly by the foam roller. Keep your elbows close together in front of your face. This gets your shoulder blades out of the way, exposing the tight muscles you really want to work. Move your hips up and down to roll along your upper back. You will notice that to maximize your weight on the roller, your hips need to be elevated when you are working high up in the spine; when you are rolling your back lower in the thoracic area, the hips descend almost to the ground.
- While rolling out your back, your arms want to elongate your neck gently. At no point do the neck and back distort significantly from their original shape.
Once you've had a chance to try it, join us in the comments for the challenge of the day. I'm curious to know…