Sit Move: a new approach to stillness
The idea came to me one day when I was sitting in my car for another long stretch driving myself from one gig to the next. I'd need to arrive at my show bright and ready to play songs and make a good impression. And as you probably know, sitting in a car and the stress of driving doesn't offer the best situation for remaining bright and energized. I began to wonder why, just because I was driving, I wasn't moving my body. So I found a way to keep at least my spine moving. I called it car yoga. And now that I'm writing books and sitting at my computer hour after hour, I'm finding those tricks to keep myself energized are coming in very handy. "Sitting Still" is a bad idea, let it go.
Remember being told to sit still? I do too. Someone was always telling me to ‘Sit still.’ It was a recurring command in school, which meant keep your eyes on the teacher and pay attention. It was the demand of the bossy person in your life who wanted you to stop moving and do what they wanted us to do. The two words 'sit' and 'still' are said together so often it's as if they actually do go hand in hand.
But they don't. They are not mutually dependent on one another. The fact these words have been joined at the hip is to the detriment of our entire body. We need to change it and start saying, at every opportunity, 'Sit and Move Around.' or maybe, 'Sit wiggly.' Those are the words we need to hear together from now on.
Sit and wiggle, because your sedentary lifestyle is killing you.
These days we are sitting still all the time - and it is wrecking our bodies. I love writing but the worst thing about it is all the sitting. I get focused on an idea and stop being aware of my body. Hours later I look up and find I'm in the same position, leaning over my computer. Sound familiar?
I, like you, have trained myself to think that in order to concentrate I need to sit still. WRONG!
Thankfully I studied yoga and the Alexander technique and love to dance. My body often reminds me to get up and stretch and move. And that is the key to keeping the body working - move. There, that's the phrase we have to now make ubiquitous, Sit move.
When your spine (that area from the base of your neck to your hips) is free, the whole body is free. Try it out for yourself. Hold your spine tight and see how far you get. Then move your spine around and notice the difference. Move the spine side to side and ripple it up, down and all around.
Car yoga came to me naturally, after many years of teaching ways to develop body awareness, as well as using many forms of movement and relaxation to improve my singing and performing. I wanted a way to keep energy flowing while I was hurrying up and waiting, and moving while driving seemed an obvious way to begin.
Yoga while driving? Sounds dangerous. It's allowed me to pull off many a late night-er and still find the way to function fully engaged the next day. I do yoga when sitting as a passenger in a car or train, plane, boat, bicycle. The movements are barely perceptible.
Always do Car Yoga with your eyes open- -at least when you’re operating your vehicle. Otherwise you can do it with eyes open or shut. After a few poses that get your spine moving, a calming energy will move through your body.
Movement is our natural state of being. I discovered the power of 'car yoga' on one particularly long drive home I remembered to do pranayama breathing and found my energy quickly restored. In my imagination I began to go through a series of yoga poses and noticed that I was moving, ever so slightly, in the direction of the poses I was imagining. All it took was thinking I was in forward fold, and back bend and side stretches and I felt more open and tension free. My spine felt fluid and I was breathing even more deeply.
Here are a few easy to translate to yoga poses you can do in your car or any other place you're sitting for a long time. The basic most important thing to remember is to get your spine moving.
I recommend practicing these exercises on a chair with a similar design to the seat in your car before you try them while driving.
Seated Cat - Cow
To do cat - keep looking forward and draw your navel towards your spine. (If you're driving hold your steering wheel with both hands.)
Let your tailbone drop towards the ground. Feel your back open, your spine getting longer.
To do cow - do the reverse. Move your hip bones forward and open the belly, reaching the navel away from the spine.
Lift your chest and spread your sitting bones away from one another.
Lift your chin and lengthen up through your head. Relax your face.
Move in rhythm with your breathing.
Exhale into cat, bring your navel to your spine and drop your pelvis, and curve your back. Inhale into cow, bring your hips forward, open your chest, and lift up through your neck and head. Repeat several times. Remember to smile.
Seated Side Stretch
Drop the right ear to your right shoulder. Keep your eyes on the road and drop your chin to chest. Roll your left ear to the left shoulder. Go back to centre. Roll your ears from side to side several times.
Drop the left ear to left shoulder and lean slightly into your right hip, Lift the right shoulder and feel a stretch through your ride side. Come back up to centre.
Drop the right ear to right shoulder. Lean into your left hip and lift the left shoulder. Feel the stretch in your left side. Bring your breath into the movement. Repeat from side to side at your own rhythm.
You can increase the side by lifting your opposite hip slightly. Breathe. Smile. Relax your face.
Upper body circles
Practice this one when you're not driving first. Lift your shoulders, pull your shoulder blades together, drop your shoulders, stretch your shoulder blades away from one another. Make wide circles with your shoulders, first in one direction and then the other.
Take your time, breathe, smile.
And here are a few more seated yoga ideas to help restore your energy.
Stretch the face wide, open, especially the mouth and eyes, and hold.
Relax your face.
Stick the chin forward and hold. Pull the chin into the chest and hold. Relax
Stick your tongue out. Pull your tongue in.
Lift the tip of the tongue up to the nose,t then to the right and to the left and down. Repeat.
Lift and drop the upper lip. Pull and let go of lower lip. Smile a big wide fake smile (not using your eyes.)
Fill cheeks with air, hold,
Purse your lips and blow “brrrrrrrr”.
Yogic Deep Breathing
Breathe in and fill below navel, then move up through middle
Fill up chest area last. Hold.
Breathe out and empty your chest first, then the middle, then the lower belly.
Feel how breathing in and out moves your spine.
Final note - Remember! sit and still do not go hand in hand. Sit and move, sit and wiggle, sit and move, those are much better ways to think of sitting. Also, I highly recommend adding lumbar support, a hard cushion or bolster at the small of your back to encourage your spine to remain upright and keep the natural curve in the small of your back.