Travel Tip #1 explained how to “lead with your butt” in order to take your seat in way that is back-friendly. And what you do once you get into that seat is equally important to arriving at your destination with a happy back. Travel Tip #2 explains how to correctly position yourself for sitting for long periods of time in comfort. While this positioning will enable you to sit for longer periods of time in comfort, I do recommend that you take frequent breaks when travelling.
Correctly positioning your bottom for a lengthy period of sitting involves arranging your pelvis to act as a solid foundation for your spine. It is simple and, if you have correctly taken your seat, your pelvis may already be in the correct position. To check, or to reposition yourself if necessary, first find your sitz bones. Anatomically, this refers to your ischial tuberosities. In layman’s terms, these are simply the bones upon which you (should) sit. To find your sitz bones while sitting, separate your feet hip-width apart and bend forward at the hips letting your belly relax. (Separating the feet creates space for the belly.) With your arm at your side and with palm facing up, slide your hand under your buttock, feeling for the bones that protrude down into the seat cushion. (It may help if you first grab the butt cheek and pull the flesh out towards your side. This moves the padding so it will be easier to locate the bony protrusions.) With both hands on your sitz bones, slowly straighten the torso to 90° in an upright position* and release your hands. In this position, the pelvis is anteverted, allowing the back muscles to relax while the abdominal muscles contract to hold the pelvis in position. This promotes good circulation, improved breathing, strengthened abdominals and a healthier back. At first, you may quickly forget your positioning and go back to your usual way of sitting (slumping). If so, simply find your sitz bones and straighten the torso to 90° again.
Many modern seats are not designed to support the pelvis correctly. Often the seat bottom is lower at the back than the front of the seat. This forces the pelvis into retroversion or a tailbone tucked under position. Or the seatback is too curved or too slanted to offer any support. For seats that are too low in back, place a rolled up towel or hoodie at the low end. This helps level out the seat and may even form a wedge (being now slightly higher at the back) that helps to correctly tip your pelvis. You may choose to use a wedge with all chairs or seats in order to help position your pelvis. Simply place the wedge at the back of your butt slightly under the sitz bones. Do not make the wedge too thick as you can over-tip the pelvis, creating a sway back.
For chairs where the seatback is too curved or too slanted, place a rolled up towel or hoodie behind your back at the mid back level. For women, this is at bra-strap level. Many people place a pillow or support in the lower back area, but that, too, may force the back into a sway.
Another way to check your seated position is to imagine that you have a long tail, like a horse. This tail joins your butt approximately at the top end of your natal cleft (aka butt crack). If your pelvis is correctly positioned, you will be able to swish your tail. However, if your tailbone is tucked under, you will be sitting on your tail. Whinny, nicker, neigh, neigh!
So far, you’ve learned how to take your seat and remain seated. In my next article, I will tell you about a simple exercise for your travels, one that augments the correct seated position while relieving back tension!
*Can’t Do This? (straighten the torso to 90° in an upright position) – The psoas muscle is located deep in the pelvis. It is a prime hip flexor and major postural muscle. Bowen Psoas Procedure is beneficial for people who spend a lot of time seated or bending forward at the hips, or whose backs go out suddenly. ie. “I just bent over to pick up a book and my back went out.”