As writers, we often sit in front of a laptop or a book to hone our craft. Whether its reading, writing, or something between, the art requires a significant amount of sitting. However, sitting for lengthy periods can strain the nervous system and thought process. Over the years, I’ve discovered several postures that have helped me endured long writing sessions.
Why not write, read, or scroll the internet while training the body? Is this possible?
The Problem with Chairs
When we look at the design of a chair, what it does to our bodies, whoever designed it was either a fool or a sadist. Chairs—and their cousins, throne toilets and car seats—put the body in an unnatural position.
Granted, the human body can sit fine in a chair…for brief amounts of time. Problems arise when we sit for long periods. The human body wasn’t designed to stagnate, but to move; to dance, sing, explore, and discover.
The Effects of Sitting
When we sit:
- muscles get weaker in the lower body
- metabolism slows, testosterone drops, and fat accumulates easier
- cardiovascular and cranial health deteriorates (think stroke, dementia, brain fog)
- the risk of disability skyrockets, and blood circulation grows sluggish
- the bowels constrict, leading to constipation, diverticulitis, colon cancer, and more
- childbirth is long and painful (what is considered normal in the West, but strange in third-world countries)
And that’s to name a few. Now, before we go swearing off the ritual of writing, art, sketching, reading, or whatever else we do; there is hope.
Solutions to the Chair
“You really don’t understand human bodies until you realize how important these postures are.”—Rosie Spinks
As mentioned above, there’s nothing wrong with sitting in a chair for, say, 20 minutes. But mixing in some varied resting postures will stimulate nerves, ligaments, blood vessels, lymph—that will strengthen both our bodies and minds.
After my previous post on creativity, I thought I’d elaborate on how best to optimize it. It’s hard to enjoy a sore back, or that feeling of stiffness from long periods of sitting. With biohacking as one of my passions next to writing, I’ve listed some of my favorite sitting postures. Feel free to add your own modifications to these.
1. Vajrasana, Rock Pose, Thunderbolt Pose
Vajrasana, otherwise known as thunderbolt or rock, stretches the lower body as you rest. You perform this pose by kneeling and sitting on your feet. This shifts the weight away from the back and onto the knees and ankles. This pose is excellent for concentration and creativity. You can make the pose easier by placing a cushion between your buttocks and your feet.
I’ve written several articles, stories, and blog posts while in this pose. It’s reliable and powerful.
2. Malasana, Garland Pose
Malasana, also known as garland squat or resting squat, is excellent for the hips and lower body. After long bouts of sitting, I usually do this pose to stretch any stiff joints. You come into a deep resting squat and allow your pelvic floor to relax towards the ground. Press your elbows between your knees. This can be a tricky pose for most people to do after decades of sitting in a chair. You can place a blanket under your heels to make it easier.
Many people in the world still sit, rest, play, and eat in this posture for hours. Definitely one of my favorites, as the benefits of this biohacking pose, or squatting in general, are numerous.
Inversions are incredible for the body, especially the brain. Headstands/handstands improve focus, balance hormones, boost creativity, among other things. I use a wall to support myself, but eventually I’ll progress to unassisted headstands. Headstands are best done during breaks during long sitting sessions; doing a headstand while typing wouldn’t be advised.
The awe and euphoria of a headstand cannot be expressed in words, and it’s led to some major boosts to creativity. Not to mention, it helps me problem solve plot and character issues in my stories and in real life.
A simple stretch that isn’t a yoga pose as much as it is a calisthenic exercise. Hanging from a bar, as if to do a pullup, has great benefits. For one, it decompresses the spine, good after long periods of sitting. A few seconds is enough to reap the benefits; my calisthenics mentor suggests at least 30 to 60 seconds.
When you were a kid, you probably played ‘merry-go-round’ with a partner. Spinning clockwise promotes vitality, and children know it all too well. It helps remove any stagnation that may have built up during long bouts of sitting. Begin slowly, maybe 8 revolutions a day. I do about 13, my palms facing downwards to ground myself, and will gradually progress to 33 revolutions.
6. Inclined Bed Rest
Even when I sleep, I stretch my body. Sleeping at an incline does wonders for the brain and spinal cord. It reduces pressure on the organs and improves sleep, while allowing the lymphatic system to drain. Elevate the pillow-side of the bed a few inches to get the benefits. Since adopting this practice, my creativity has seen tremendous improvements.
Jumping on a trampoline or rebounder is fun, and excellent for the lymphatic system. It comes as no surprise, as we all hopped on beds when we were children. Rebounding, along with headstands and spinning, should dramatically improve one’s spatial awareness and blood flow to the brain. A biohacking miracle. Better circulation means better creativity, more energy, and stronger ambitions to complete that creative project in mind.
A Final Word on Resting
There are many resting postures, and the above list isn’t exhaustive. It gives us a starting point to stretch our bodies and keep our muscles, joints, and circulation toned while in our offices.
The key is diverse, fluid motion. To feel human.
The human spine wasn’t designed to sit in front of a desk for hours each day. Nor were the eyes, or the shoulders and wrists. We evolved as hunters and gatherers moving from one location to another. Breathing fresh air, absorbing sunshine, and connecting with the earth. Sometimes we walked, otherwise we squatted, but our lymphatic system and blood require change and motion to function. The more blood flowing, the better we can think—and create.
Once we master the secrets of our ancestors, we’ll rediscover the gifts innate in us. The storytellers of old may return, and with it, captivating tales, strong minds, and healthy bodies.
Remember, have inspiration in all things, from taking a walk to writing a story, journaling, biohacking, or painting a canvas. After all, we are the authors of our own life stories. When we lie on our deathbed, let’s remember all the fun we had: the creation, the movement, and the joy that comes with it all.
For to train the mind, but neglect the body, leads to disaster.
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Aspectä rey’lief, fair reader, and thanks for reading!
—Ed R. White