Health & Wellness

Finding your sitz

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An interesting thing happens when you talk to physiotherapist Maureen Ryan about her work – you feel yourself sitting up straighter. 

Hearing her speak about the benefits of finding your sit or sitz bones – the ones at the bottom of the pelvis so beloved by yoga teachers – and anchoring your feet firmly on the floor, makes you all too aware that your posture could be affecting your wellbeing. 

That’s especially true for those who spend all day looking at a computer screen; something many of us now do at home since Covid-19 changed our working habits. 

Ms Ryan, who opened Myotherapy Centre in Hamilton in 1996, helped clients make the sudden change of environment work for their bodies during the early weeks of the pandemic. 

Her advice then was simple: “The set-up for everybody is pretty straightforward, as far as we just want to ensure that our spine is aligned, that the weight of our head is over our shoulders and the weight of our shoulders is over our pelvis. 

“So just like building a house with a foundation, you want to have a stable foundation. If you can find those sitz bones and rock on them, you are going to put your pelvis in a neutral posture. If you get that part right, everything else will fall in synch.” 

She tells clients that ideally, even if using a laptop, they should try to connect it to a raised monitor. 

Very important is “having eyes on the horizon to be able to look out at a monitor with about a two-inch clearance and having our monitor about an arm’s length away”. 

During the 2020 lockdown, many office dwellers found themselves sitting cross-legged on the floor, bed or couch to work, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing, believes Ms Ryan, so long as the principle of alignment is applied. 

“Many cultures sit cross-legged all day and it’s great for our hips,” she says. “It prevents, I believe, more hip replacements from happening, when we are not in that standard chair all day long. 

“Even if you want to sit cross-legged on the bed, awesome, but can you raise your laptop such that your wrists are a little bit lower than your elbows and can you then look out with your eyes to have a monitor that would be high enough, because a lot us can sit very easily in that posture, so go for it.” 

Ms Ryan thinks the shift to remote working may mean people are sitting at their desks for longer than before, as the boundaries between professional and personal lives blur. 

“They’re not getting up to go for a walk at lunchtime or going up to the third floor to go to the boardroom for a meeting,” she says. 

She suggests frequent breaks, however good your posture. 

“Move the body, even for 20 seconds every 20 minutes, or just every hour for about a minute, just getting yourself up,” she advises, adding that looking away from the screen and changing the focus of our eyes regularly is crucial. 

Ms Ryan sees white collar workers with neck and back problems caused by bad posture during prolonged periods of sitting. 

But after the first lockdown lifted, she also had an influx of patients with blue collar jobs. 

“Plumbers, carpenters, people who make a living very physically, within the first week or two were reaching out because they were physically having injuries they’d never had before,” she says. 

“People went from doing absolutely nothing and maybe enjoying themselves and relaxing to, boom, they weren’t just back at work, but they were back at work with this backlog. 

“That whole ‘form follows function’ is something that we know, and if our form has not been so active and then we jump into function, there’s going to be that adjustment.” 

The treatment she offered included myofascial release. 

“Myo is Latin for muscle and fascial is just a medical word for connective tissue,” explains Ms Ryan, who trained at Dalhousie University in Nova Scotia and has degrees in kinesiology and physiotherapy. “[It’s] this web of tissue that basically holds us together. 

“It can be released when we apply pressure to it. So as a myofascial release therapist, applying pressure to the body … allows the tension to unhook itself, to unwind itself, to release in a way that’s going to serve you best.” 

Many people stuck at home during the pandemic began following personal trainers on social media sites, suddenly launching into vigorous exercise routines. 

“The workouts I think for the most part were actually quite good and really helped lift the mind and body,” says Ms Ryan. 

“But then we also know that if we don’t stretch at the end of a workout, especially if it’s been intense, the muscle soreness later creeps in.” 

She advises always stretching after a workout and suggests that those continuing with online exercise classes seek an instructor who can actually see them, in order to give feedback and ensure good form. 

Ms Ryan ran her own free online therapeutic stretching sessions during 2020 to try to prevent people getting injured, as well as to help clients manage their stress. 

“It’s there in the science to show that if we go into a state of uneasiness … that’s going to put the physical tension in our body, so then we’re going to end up more tight,” she explains. 

“Even if we have the most awesome posture, if we’re not holding that posture with a bit of grace, with a bit of ease, then there’s not going to be that flow of life, that flow of energy, and that, in of itself, can cause issues.” 

The best exercise regime, according to Ms Ryan, is one we enjoy. 

“If you hate the gym, don’t join the gym,” she laughs. “Listen to your body, listen to what serves you. 

“We’re not going to continue the activity if we don’t like it. There’s got to be a joy factor.” 

Myotherapy Centre is at Suite 307, International Centre, 26 Bermudiana Road, Hamilton. Call 295-8003 or email myotherapycentre@gmail. com. 

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