The short answer is yes and no, depending on the duration. Sitting cross-legged in a chair can be a comfortable position but it can also be harmful to your body. When you sit cross-legged, you put pressure on your hips, lower back, and knees. This position can lead to pain, discomfort, and even long-term damage.
In this article, we will discuss the risks of sitting cross-legged in a chair and provide tips for how to sit in a more ergonomically friendly position.
The Truth about Sitting Cross-Legged: Is it Bad?
Sitting cross-legged is bad when you stay in that position for a long time. While sitting cross-legged is generally considered safe, it can lead to some discomfort and potential health risks if done for extended periods.
A group of researchers found out that sitting cross-legged is scientifically proven to be a healthier way to sit compared to chair sitting. This was concluded from their study entitled, The value of cross-legged sitting: Virtue or Vice for health – A review from sports medicine, physiology and yoga, Implications in Joint Arthroplasty, International Journal of Orthopaedics Sciences.
In another study conducted by a group researchers, sitting cross-legged for too long was found to cause pain and discomfort in the lower back. This is explained further in the Journal of Hunan University Natural Sciences entitled Risk Factors of Sitting Cross-Legged on Low Back Pain of Students at Islamic Boarding School
Furthermore, a cross sectional study at Cairo University concluded that a cross-legged position negatively affects lumbar proprioception compared to sitting in an erect position.
What is the Ideal Posture?
The ideal sitting posture is one that maintains the natural curvature of the spine and minimises strain on the muscles and joints. Here are some tips to achieve that:
- Sit upright with your back straight and shoulders relaxed. Avoid slouching or hunching over, as this can put strain on your neck and back muscles.
- Keep your feet flat on the floor or on a footrest. Your knees should be bent at a 90-degree angle and your thighs should be parallel to the floor.
- Adjust your chair height. See to it that your elbows are bent at a 90-degree angle when you are typing or using a mouse. Your wrists should be straight and your forearms should be parallel to the floor.
- Take breaks from sitting every 30-60 minutes to stand up and move around. This will improve your circulation and reduce muscle fatigue.
A traditional posture that is often seen in cultures around the world, cross-legged sitting can be a comfortable and stable way to sit, and it can help to open up the hips and improve flexibility. However, cross-legged sitting can also put pressure on the knees, ankles, and hip joints, which can lead to pain or discomfort. It can also restrict circulation in the legs and feet.
Sitting cross-legged may be a comfortable habit, but it’s not worth the risk of pain and injury. Switch to a healthier sitting position and your body will thank you for it. Here are better alternatives:
Active sitting involves using a chair or stool with a stable base and no backrest. This forces you to engage your core muscles to maintain balance and posture.
This can help to improve your posture, core strength, and reduce the risk of back pain. Active sitting can also increase your heart rate and calorie burn, which can be beneficial for weight management.
Reclined sitting is when you lean back in a chair with your back supported. This position relaxes the muscles in your back and neck, and improves circulation in your legs. However, if you recline too far back, you can put strain on your lower back.
Standing is a natural upright posture that engages various muscle groups, including the core, legs, and back. It promotes proper alignment of the spine, reducing strain on the neck and lower back.
Standing also enhances blood circulation, improves breathing, and increases calorie burn. The best way to benefit from standing at your workstation is to alternate it with your sitting position.
Should You Sit Cross-Legged?
You can always sit cross-legged. Just remember that the best way to avoid the risks of sitting cross-legged is to switch positions frequently and to choose a sitting position that is comfortable and supportive for your body.
Proper Ways to Sit Cross-Legged
Sitting cross-legged can be a comfortable and supportive way to sit as long as it is done correctly and in short periods.
Here are some tips for sitting cross-legged properly:
1. Pick a quiet, comfortable area.
Choose a quiet and distraction-free space where you can relax and focus on your breath.
2. Use a mat or cushion.
Sitting on a cushion or mat helps support your spine and hips and make it easier to sit for longer.
3. Sit on the edge.
Using the cushion’s edge will keep you from slouching or collapsing into your back.
4. Cross your legs.
Cross your legs in front of you, with your left leg on top of your right leg. You can also try crossing your legs the other way, with your right leg on top of your left leg.
5. Position your left leg.
Make sure that your left heel is close to your body and the side of your left foot is flat on the floor.
6. Align your spine.
Sit tall and straight, with your shoulders relaxed and your head lifted.
7. Relax your arms and shoulders.
Let your shoulders fall down away from your ears and relax your arms in your lap.
8. Find your balance.
Adjust your position until you feel stable, not tipping forward or backward.
9. Keep a relaxed posture
Don’t try to force yourself to sit in a position that is uncomfortable. Relax your body and let it find its natural alignment.
10. Practise breathing.
Focus on your breath and take slow, deep breaths to calm your mind and body.
Tips for Maintaining Comfort and Proper Alignment While Sitting Cross-legged
Sitting cross-legged can get uncomfortable and lead to pain when done incorrectly. Here are some tips to help you maintain comfort and proper alignment:
1. Find an item for support.
You can use props such as a yoga block or folded blankets to elevate your hips and thighs. This will help to open up your hips and reduce strain on your lower back.
2. Increase flexibility over time.
You may need to gradually increase your flexibility before you can sit cross-legged comfortably. There are many stretches you can do to improve hip flexibility, such as the butterfly stretch, pigeon pose, and piriformis stretch.
3. Cushion your knees.
You can place a cushion or folded blankets under your knees when you start to feel uncomfortable. The cushion or blanket will take pressure off of your knees and make it more comfortable to sit for longer periods.
4. Activate your core muscles.
Your core muscles help to support your spine and keep you upright. Engaging your core while sitting cross-legged will keep you from slouching or rounding your back.
5. Switch positions.
Take breaks every 20-30 minutes to stretch and move your body. This will help to prevent your muscles from getting stiff and sore.
6. Check your posture.
Sit tall and straight with your shoulders relaxed and your head lifted. Avoid slouching or rounding your back, as this can put strain on your spine and neck.
Sitting cross-legged is a common meditation posture. However, it’s important to recognize that individual flexibility and physical limitations may make it challenging or even uncomfortable for some people.
Upon any sign of discomfort or pain while sitting cross-legged, consider using additional support, such as a meditation bench or a chair, to facilitate your practice. With regular practice and patience, you may find it easier to maintain the cross-legged position for extended periods.