Ground Game: Why Sitting More On the Ground Can Transform Your Life

Human beings have been around for a long time. I am fond of saying that we look remarkably similar to the way we did even just ten-thousand years ago. Our femurs are probably a little longer now, and we’re all a little fatter. But, we would easily recognize ourselves in our proto-modern family members. So what? Well, it turns out that there are some pretty specific human behaviors that were normal to everyone on the planet not that long ago. Living, sleeping, eating, resting, and working out the ground is one of the big ones. That’s right. We used to do a lot more sitting (and sleeping) on the ground.

Why Is Sitting On the Ground Important?

It turns out sitting on the ground is still important. A recent study demonstrated that an excellent predictor of your overall mortality was the ease in which you can get up from a seated position without using your arms. The image here illustrates how to perform this task and see how you fare. 

Source: Discover Magazine

The Role of the Chair…

Since when did getting up off the ground becomes a marker of health and longevity? It all started with the chair. Believe it or not, the chair is a pretty recent invention that began to shape our modern behavior says University of California Berkeley Professor Dr. Galen Cranz in her 2013 book “The Chair: Rethinking Culture, Body, and Design.” 

Children get up off the ground over 100 times a day

What we have come to understand about modern human physiology is that it’s “use it or lose it.”  When it comes to being on the floor comfortably, it is a clear issue of losing it. Think about how much time we spend on the ground learning to overcome gravity as babies and children. Our entire physical structures relate to managing to get up and down off the ground. Children 12-19 months have been well documented getting up off of the ground over 100 times a day!

Sleeping On The Ground Is Good, Too

What’s good for the development of the goose is also good for the gander.  World Health Organization research has demonstrated that fall risk in the elderly that sleep on the ground is almost 20% lower than their western (raised bed sleeping) cohorts.

W.T.F. Japan: Top 5 reasons sleeping on the floor Japanese-style is awesome

One of the proposed mechanisms for this difference is the strength and mobility required to get up off the ground.

There Are TONS Of Ways To Sit On The Ground

Sitting on the ground doesn’t have to mean only cross-legged. In fact, according to best selling author and educator Katy Bowman, there is basically no wrong way to ground sit. You can find her wonderful reference poster here that shows a variety of chair-free postures you can try. 

Chair-free postures around the world

Here at The Ready State, we have long believed and advocated for the most straightforward solution to complex problems. If you aren’t sitting on the ground yet, the best place to start is…to sit on the floor. You’ll probably find that in the evening after dinner is the easiest time to do a little ground sitting. For example, instead of sitting on your couch, sit in front of your couch—in any shape that feels good. Shoot for just five minutes to start and when your body tells you to move, move! Fidget. Change. It doesn’t matter.  

You Can Even Work on the Ground

As a matter of human performance, we found years ago that sitting and even working on the ground for short periods during the day was built-in hip and leg tissue mobilization. I even found an inexpensive “laptop tray” made by our friends at Varidesk that made working on the floor almost “easy.” You can see how I use it in the video below.  

Sitting on the floor may not only be a short-cut to better squat mechanics. Physician and author Phillip Beach’s wonderful book, “Muscles and Meridians” postulates that one of the ways the complex human body tunes itself is though ground-based resting postures. What he is suggesting is that our bodies have long used ground-based sitting, working, and resting shapes and positions to restore our native mechanics and abilities to move freely. 

You can see a talk he gave about this here:

What I like most about spending time on the ground is that it’s easy, portable, and very inexpensive. Let us know how much time you spend on the floor and what impact it has made in the comments!

And, if you want to better prepare your body for ground sitting, we have tons of content that can help you get there. Sign up for a free 14-day trial now to learn more.

-Kelly

12 thoughts on “Ground Game: Why Sitting More On the Ground Can Transform Your Life

  1. Avatar
    Melissa P says:

    Fantastic article and it makes me feel a tad more “normal!” I’ve been sitting on the ground for years and my family thinks its weird. As they are lounging on the couch, I am on the floor. They always tell me “you can sit on the couch!” My response usually has something to do with the carpet being comfortable. I’ve always felt better on the floor. Guess its not weird. 🙂

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    jason stern says:

    I cannot sit on the ground cross legged (criss cross apple sauce as my kids say) or even with my legs in front of me with good posture without pain. I have a disc bulge injury that I’m recovering from (main reason I signed up for TRS was to help with pain and remobilizing after several months of PT and healing). What is a good “program” I could follow using the mobilizations on TRS to help get me to sitting comfortably on the ground like that?

    • Avatar
      Pat Claffey says:

      Have you tried sitting Japanese style on the floor? I started ground sitting earlier this year – and love it. In my experience I started with the Japanese sitting posture. After a few months I progressed sitting “side saddle” and then to cross legged. The great thing about ground sitting is there are multiple options for healthy ground sitting (unlike a chair where every option is unhealthy). So my advice is to start with Japanese style, and consider cross-legged a progression. Are you in pain sitting Japanese style?

  3. Avatar
    Monica says:

    When I stumbled upon your work 4 years ago (thanks to Dr. Mercola) I was literally working as a “sitter” patient monitor. Thanks to your passion for suppleness and your ability to share your boundless enthusiasm I can say I am a 55 year old woman that can gracefully move from ground to standing without the use of hands. I’ve fallen and I can get up. heehee

  4. Avatar
    Brian Pandji says:

    Yes! Ever since my baby daughter kicked us out of our own bedroom, we have been sleeping on the living room floor. And ever since, we are watching tv cross legged and now I enjoy being on the computer while sitting on the ground too. What I’ve realized now is that it is easier for me to be in the bottom of the squat. Not only while being under the barbell, but also when installing furniture, picking up toys and cleaning floor messes #dadlife

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    musicianperson says:

    Got “Becoming a Supple Leopard” 2 years ago because I’ve been alarmed for years about not being able to squat. In Japan I saw older women choose the Japanese style toilet stall even when there was a “Western-style” toilet available, and saw women of all ages squatting easily at the train station, etc. I was worried that I’d injure my knees working on the full squat, but the book emboldened me to “spend time in the position” and so far so good.. At the time, I made up a protocol where once a day I would have to: slide to the floor from bed, crawl to the bathroom as though through one of those play-tunnels, and then squat-pee in the shower (yes, thanks for not publishing this!) My incentive – a camping trip coming up. (have since let that habit fall by the wayside.) Now I’m interested in trying out having our mattress on the floor and maybe eating dinner on the floor – I like the idea of finding ways to make the environment challenging in a productive way – sort of the opposite of an old-folks house–so that, besides working out and mobilizing–just going on one’s daily path contributes to health without having to think or plan. (I wish the staircase could be some sort of fun ladder to climb!). I would love to hear any ideas about that type of “home design” — the simple and the extreme. And–how significant a benefit would having our bed to the floor would be? Should we go through the trouble of trying it? (One of the cons: no place for the cat to hide). In closing: the new subscription service is GREAT. Doing the daily maintenance video each night is getting us our only “floor time” currently. Thanks for the great instruction and outstanding information!

  6. Avatar
    dan woznicki says:

    I’ve made changes to sitting, squatting since BaSL came out. I do as much mobility work throughout my day that I can fit in. I brag about and promote your model, whenever someone will listen. In fact, if there is a lush lawn to slowly lower my butt to the earth, I try it..

  7. Avatar
    Lea Nocas says:

    Hi there I like sitting on the ground. I need to get used to it again and I will be limited on some of my positions because of a recent hip replacement. I hope to get back into a full range of motion as soon as the doctor releases me! Right now I can do it 90 to 115° flexion point. But I could still draw my other leg up or sit on it the difficulty is getting down on the ground safely and back up right now.

  8. Avatar
    Justin R says:

    Great read. I came across something like this a few years ago and have been looking for some specific movements to assist with improving my sit/stand. I can manage to get down but getting up is a no-go. Any advice on TRS would be welcome.

  9. Avatar
    Antoine Derecourt says:

    Thanks for sharing so much of your knowledges with the community. As a French PT, your logical way of considering human body made me totally rethink what i was taught. It litteraly changed the way i work. I was a devoted health provider who yook Care of is patients, now i’m more likely a coach who teach people how to take care of themselves. My office is nos full of people lying on the ground. And they all like it.

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  11. Avatar
    Pat Claffey says:

    Thanks to this blog I am reading Galen Cranz’s remarkable and timeless book. I say timeless because it was first published over 20 years ago in 1998 – and not in 2013 as stated in the blog. What is amazing about this book is that nothing has changed in Western culture regarding chair sitting. In our Western culture the chair has become invisible and fully integrated into every aspect of our built environment. Cranz states that Eastern cultures favor “autonomous sitting” – a beautiful phrase I had never heard before. As Cranz states what makes a chair a chair is the chair back. The chair back is the unnecessary assistance or prop that us Westerners crave – and the crutch that makes chair sitting “non-autonomous” – and so damaging to our health, especially our back and spinal health.

    Earlier this year I was listening to one of Kelly’s mobilization videos – Kelly said he was reading Phillip Beach’s great book. This spurred me to buy and read “Muscles and Meridians” by Beach. Chapter 11 of this book is all about ground or autonomous sitting which Beach calls “postures of repose”. As Kelly writes in the blog, Beach teaches ground sitting, and getting up and down from the ground, as the “self-tuning mechanism” for the human body. Without ground sitting our bodies become like musical instruments or cars that are out of tune. These “postures of repose” are the flip side of exercise, active restorative rest for body and mind.

    Beach enumerates and prescribes the following “postures of repose”: Full Squat; Toe Sitting; Drinking Posture; Japanese Sitting; Cowboy Posture; Long Sitting; Cross-Legged Posture; Half Lotus Cross-Legged; Side-Saddle; Taylor’s Posture. I integrate these postures into my home life – and use ground sitting as essential recovery after my (barefoot) marathon training. I believe Beach is the first medical doctor to prescribe autonomous (non chair based) sitting as medicine – a true pioneer in health care.

    As Cranz makes clear, sitting is not the problem – the problem is chair sitting (as per Cranz with chair backs). I believe Beach describes ground based (non chair) sitting prescriptions as medicine to heal. I started into ground sitting with Kelly’s teaching on spending time in end of range Full Squat – a posture Beach calls the “Middle C” of the human body. I agree 100% with the title of this blog , more ground sitting can utterly transform our lives.

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