Sitting Can Kill You

Recently, I’ve seen a flurry of articles, and discussions, about the newfound revelation that, by God, sitting a lot can be fatal!

Inevitably, somewhere in the comments section for these articles, someone will say: well then, so much for meditation! The progression of thought seems to be: if sitting can kill you, it follows that meditation must be equally lethal.

I would love to see studies done on this. My personal hypothesis on this, is that not all sitting is equal. In early yoga texts, there were only a handful of poses, mostly sitting poses. Over time, more poses came about, and my guess is that people figured out that it’s frigging hard to sit with your legs crossed and maintain a certain posture for a long time.

Let’s look at what needs to happen in “Easy” Pose, or Sukasana:

  • The knees need to be below the hips, so your hips need to be adequately open. Otherwise, you need some padding under your butt so that when you sit, your spine can be long and straight and your torso can be vertical.
  • That brings us to the hamstrings, which, if too tight, can pull your pelvis down and out, making it hard for the lumbar spine to come to its neutral position, which curves inward, not poking out.
  • Now we travel up the spine to the midback. If the chest is hunched over, the shoulder blades can’t settle down, the shoulders don’t line up with the hips, the neck gets sore carrying a head that’s not aligned over the spine.
  • Etc, etc.

And I’m not even talking about that crazy sitting posture of Lotus Pose here.

So, in case Fear of Death by Sitting is holding you back from meditation, you can now relax into a comfortable cross-legged position, and see how your mind runs, and flips, and flies. The mind is anything but a couch potato.

“The motions of the average mind… are about as purposeful and orderly as those of a crazed monkey cavorting about his cage. Nay, more; like the prancing of a drunk, crazed monkey. Even so we have not conveyed its full restlessness; The mind is like a drunk, crazed monkey that has St. Vitus’ dance. If we are to be truly accurate as to its frenzy we must go a final step; it is like a drunk, crazed monkey with St. Vitus’ dance who has just been stung by a wasp.” – Huston Smith, The Religions of Man