I used to ask my wife why she would sit on the floor to do things like eating or painting. In my European mindset, using a table and chair just made more sense – it's what progress looked like, right?
But then, something shifted my perspective. While watching a documentary on longevity, I saw this 87-year-old Japanese man sitting in a lotus position. And this is just your normal grandpa, not a yoga expert.
It hit me - I'm in my thirties and I’m less flexible than a Japanese grandpa!
The Japanese way
Japanese people sit and sleep on the floor. I knew sleeping on tatamis has some benefits, but I was only focusing on the destination (sleeping on hard surface) and not the journey (going from standing to laying down on the floor).
See, if you do everything on the floor, you're passively squatting the whole day without thinking about it.
Look at what that means for your body:
When you sit in a chair, your joints are barely challenged, but squatting engages your hip, knee, and ankle mobility.
So, how do we go from sitting from squatting? By removing the chair.
No chairs, no problems
Think about a typical day, especially if you do an office job. You're mostly either standing, sitting, or sleeping. Going from one position to another requires zero effort, at best you slightly bend your knees.
Your body's mobility is never challenged, and this is the main issue.
You can't improve much when sleeping or standing, but you can take inspiration from the Japanese to improve your sitting.
How to improve your mobility
Floor is the new chair
Every time you want to sit on a chair, try sitting on the floor. You should be comfortable sitting on the floor for long periods of time. There are many ways to sit, and most of them will help with mobility. Here's a short video that will help you get started.
Squat squat squat
When you need to pick something up, try squatting instead of bending your back. It’s a simple switch but does wonders for your hips, knees, and lower back. Plus, it’s a mini workout for your glutes.
When for whatever reasons you feel like sitting on something, try deep squatting instead. You will improve your lower body strength and flexibility with no extra work.
Say goodbye to your couch
This is my favorite hack: replace your couch with a yoga mat.
I know, this is a big ask but here's why it's great:
- You'll use the time spent watching TV to sit on the floor and passively stretching
- It will make you watch less TV
- When you do watch TV, you'll feel less guilty because you're still doing good for your body
If dumping your couch is too much, you can just start by sitting next to it on the floor.
Make time for mobility training
Look at how effortlessly a toddler moves on the floor – that's your target. Set aside 20 minutes a day just for your mobility. Work on those ankles, knees, hips, and shoulders. You’ll thank yourself later.
I've implemented these tips a few months ago and I can already feel like my hips and ankles are getting more flexible.
Most of those tips don't require dedicated time, so there are no reasons not to do them!