Let’s talk about . . . sitting on the floor.
In one of my earliest fitness challenge posts, I challenged you to practice getting down on the floor — and then getting back up — without using your hands or other support. When I first started that practice for myself, I was motivated for two reasons . . . First, as I watch(ed) my parents age and grow more frail, I got a firsthand look at how vital it is for us to be able to get UP when we go down. And, second, being able to get up and down from the floor unassisted is considered a sign of longevity (if you have the strength and mobility to do that, you are assumed to be in good physical shape), and I wanted to build that capability for myself.
Since then, though, I’ve learned that there is more to . . . floor time . . . than just being able to get down and then get back up!
Remember when you were a kid . . . and you used to sit on the floor all the time? Like it was no big deal. And even a comfortable option? As we get older, though, we tend to sit on the floor less often. Why? Because (duh) chairs are comfortable! They’re easier to get in and out of. You can sink in . . . and stay awhile! You don’t have to worry about getting your clothes dirty. Or wrinkled. Or . . . maybe the biggest obstacle is that you have trouble getting down to the floor (or getting up from the floor), so you’d rather just . . . not go there.
Alarm bells should be going off in your head about now, though. Because . . . remember a few months ago when we talked about use-it-or-lose-it? Sitting on the floor (on the regular) is something we don’t want to lose.
Because . . . as it turns out . . . there’s a lot to be said – mobility-wise – for hanging out on the floor!
There are many movement-benefits for our bodies when we’re sitting on the floor — and I’m talking about so much more than just the getting down — and the getting back up (which is beneficial in itself). Sitting on the floor encourages stretching, hip opening, knee bending, and ankle and toe flexing . . . for a start. And, with nothing to lean on, the muscles in our core and torso need to stay “switched on” to keep us upright and active. Plus, when we’re sitting on the floor our body “tells us” that it’s time to shift or change our position frequently — something that doesn’t happen very often when we’re in a comfortable chair, and something that brings even more beneficial movement to our lives.
A little over a year ago, I started incorporating more intentional, daily floor time into my life. While I’m not advocating giving up our comfortable chairs, I know it would serve all of us well to find opportunities to sit on the floor again. I found it helpful to link my floor time with other activities I do daily: meditating, scrolling on my phone, working the daily NYT crossword puzzle, and looking through cookbooks to figure out what I’m going to make for dinner. I recently got a “floor desk” so I can spend even more time on the floor. (I wrote this blog post while sitting on the floor.)
And . . . have I noticed any difference in my personal mobility?
I am seeing an amazing difference in how I move every day — and it’s been especially evident now that I’m back in the garden. In fact, this spring, I’m finding that I rely on my trusty garden cart – as a seat – less than I ever have in my gardening-life! This year, I’m squatting down, crawling around, and sitting in a number of different positions comfortably — and with very little effort! And I’m getting down and back up easily and smoothly, too — even with things in my hands. It’s amazing to me — and I attribute this completely to my commitment to floor time.
So. Here’s my challenge to you . . .
Build some “floor time” into your everyday life. Just get down on the floor – and sit for awhile. Every day.
If you’re not used to sitting on the floor, this might seem daunting. But try it! Just for a few minutes. And every day. Like any movement or exercise, the more you do it, the easier it will become. Some tips:
- Until you feel comfortable getting down and up from the floor, make sure you have furniture or other “props” nearby to help you get down on the ground — and then back up — safely.
- If it’s just too uncomfortable for you to sit all the way down on the floor, try raising your hips by sitting on a cushion or a yoga block. (That’s not cheating! That’s just beginning in a manageable way!) With time and daily practice, you will get more and more comfortable down on the floor — and eventually, you may not need a cushion at all.
- Experiment with various ways of sitting on the floor: cross-legged, “side saddle” (both knees pointing in the same direction with your feet tucked to one side), keep one leg straight out while the other leg is bent, both legs straight out in front — whatever feels good to you. Switch your position whenever you start to feel “twitchy.” (Shifting your position is actually one of the movement benefits you’ll get from sitting on the floor.)
See what happens!
(And – spoiler alert – next month we’ll focus on different ways of getting down and back up.)
2023 Monthly Fitness Challenges
#4 – Walk 10 Minutes Every Day
#3 – Discover how active you really are
#1 – Create your own fitness plan for 2023
Looking for Monthly Fitness Challenges from 2021-2022? I’ve moved them! Now you can find them in the Field Notes section of the blog (just click on Field Notes in the top menu) and look for Monthly Fitness Challenges 2021-2022.
As I was doing my PT homework exercises yesterday, it dawned on me that I haven’t spent much (if any) time on the floor. (I also realized that I should vacuum more often, but that’s another story.) I’m not sure I’m in the market for a floor desk, but I will be spending 15 minutes on the floor 3x/day, and it’s a new and interesting view down here!
I used to sit on the floor a lot. I *think* you are telling me I ought to start doing it again. 😉
I have been doing my yoga in the living room with my laptop on the coffee table. I often spend a few minutes sitting there on the floor afterward, scrolling or looking at emails. I think you just gave me permission to quit feeling guilty about “wasting time.” 😉
We have friends who are from the Karen people of Burma (it’s a tribe, not the negative meme). When we’re invited to an event, almost everyone sits on the floor. As white-haired guests, we are usually offered the one sofa or a chair. Or maybe just as a concession to our chair-sitting American-ness. May be time to join the folks on the floor!
Oh my aching hips and knees!! LOL BUT…this is great Kym. Thank you for this post. I’m thinking my yoga bolster would be a quite comfortable seat (or one of my blocks). (Once again I cannot wait to retire and have more “me” time during the day.) I love your new floor desk and I realize I have a rectangular stool that would be perfect for my laptop!
I love these suggestions!
Do you know about Katy Bowman: https://www.nutritiousmovement.com/ one of her books is called Move Your DNA. She is an advocate for building movement into every aspect of our lives. You might like her books.
This post is reminding me that I forgot to get down on the floor to do my stretches after my run because I got distracted by work emails; I’m going to make sure to do that when I get off the computer! I do sit on the floor from time to time but probably not as much as I should. It’s just not as comfortable on my bony butt! But I guess that’s kind of the point, so thanks for the challenge!
For some reason Feedly stopped picking up your blog. I was about to email you to be sure nothing was wrong, but I checked your site first. Yay! Still blogging! I deleted the old URL and added the current one — they were identical, but who knows. Let’s see if Dancing at the Edge starts showing up again!
I agree with everything you said…but it also occurred to me that children are much closer to the floor. Nevertheless I may start playing jacks on the floor. You may as well have fun while you’re down there.
One of the benefits of spending time with Jackie is floor time – because he’s always on the floor and if I’m playing with him then I am on the floor, too. It’s not an intentional practice right now but I could turn it into one.
I am really grateful after reading this that I have a dog… why? Because I spend a good amount of time on the floor with him… sometimes just sitting quietly together but mostly dog maintenance (i.e. brushing the ever shedding pug.) I noticed that I am getting up much easier (not hands free, mind you, but easier!) from the floor.
Having the boys and a puppy are really good for floor time! and I had no idea they made desks to use while sitting on the floor … that’s so cool!