Stand on your bottom, what?! The truth about sitting.

We started this series of blogs at the top and we're working our way down to the bottom, literally, that thing you sit on.


I don't like to teach from an overly anatomical view, too much detail to think about in day to day living. I'm much more interested in the way we think and react, rather than what we think about, but this is something really useful for you to consider.

The Anatomy

Look at how the bottom of the spine joins with the pelvis. What changes to that relationship when the weight bearing changes from going through your hips, and ultimately to the ground via your feet, to going through your sit bones into your chair? Not much! You'll notice that both the hip joints and the sit bones (also colloquially known as butt bones!) are below the sacral-iliac joint, that is, where the base of the spine, the sacrum, fuses with the pelvis.

Correct sitting posture with the Alexander Technique
Picture by Aron Cserveny and used with permission by Tim Soar MSTAT

As far as your spine is concerned sitting and standing is pretty much the same thingso why do you sit so differently to the way you stand? One reason is that you may simply not be aware that your sit bones are there to be sat on, or "stood" on as I like to say. It's common to see people using their coccyx, or tail-bone, to be the point of contact with the chair which causes the pelvis to tip backwards and rounding the lower back, hence the lower back pain many eventually suffer from sitting in this way.

The Chair

The surface that you sit on is also a huge contributing factor in how you sit, but as long as it is flat and firm it will do. My motto is "if you can stand on it, you can sit on it". Ignoring that most office chairs swivel, it is the support that the surface provides I'm interested in here, so I don't want you to have an accident at work now!


This is why sofas are so hard to sit on well. Try standing on your sofa and you'll soon find how hard it is to feel balanced. With your sit bones as your "feet" it is no wonder that sitting on a sofa is hard to do well, and you give up by collapsing into it. I'm going to leave out discussing ergonomic chairs for now as that will be the topic of my next blog. 


Another reason is that the act of sitting is incorrectly associated with relaxing. Sure, it's more relaxing for the legs and hips, but as far as your torso/spine is concerned, sitting is as equally dynamic as standing. Even the word "relax" seems to be misunderstood, I'm often heard saying during lessons "that's not relaxing, that's collapsing!"  It is perfectly possible to relax into a balanced posture, whether sitting or standing, so that our bones support our weight. Yes, the postural muscles will still be working, but think of them as having tone rather than tension. It is when poise and balance is lost in collapse that movement muscles as well as the deeper postural muscles become over-worked trying to support the collapse that tension arises; that's not relaxing at all!

Sitting or Reclining?

If your office chair tilts backwards allowing you to come to rest against the back support I prefer to differentiate that from sitting and refer to it as reclining. Reclining is perfectly valid, and probably desirable given the length of a working day at a computer, it provides an opportunity to rest. But if you can't sit in a well supported manner your reclining will be equally collapsed. The mistake most people make is to roll the pelvis backwards in a way that rounds the lower back. To recline well you need to start with good sitting form, i.e. standing on your bottom, then hinge your entire spine and pelvis backwards from the hip joints, keeping the integrity and length of your spine, and maintaining contact with the chair through the sit-bones. You could think of this as elegant repose in order to do it well.


Keeping the integrity of the torso, even in reclining, is important for your arms. Don't make the mistake of thinking your arms are simply attached to your shoulders, that may be true as far as the skeleton is concerned, but your arm muscles overlap and are embedded deep into your torso, all the way down your back to the top of your pelvis. So if you lose the integrity of your torso you will lose the support from the roots of your arms, and without that the use of your hands is compromised potentially contributing to RSI and Carpal Tunnel Syndrome. 

Your Thinking

As with many aspects of the Alexander Technique, there is also the way you think to consider. Like the association of relaxing being inert, the very phrase, sitting "down", encourages the thought that that is where you are wanting to go in your entirety. What you don't want to do is remedy that by doing the opposite, by "sitting up straight" as we were all no doubt told to do as children, as that encourages effort, and effort will lead to tension. That's why it is so tiring to "sit up straight" as it is commonly understood. Instead, just remain lightly standing, but on your bottom, being bright, alert, active and engaged. If you start to feel tired it's fine to use the back rest (still thinking of elegant repose!) and take time out for a few minutes, just don't use your computer like this. Better still, get up and walk around and get your blood pumping again.


Now that we've worked our way down, now would be a good time to go back and review how the head balances at the top, as the two work together to help you remain poised and at ease when sitting and standing.


In my next blog I'll be discussing the short falls of ergonomic chairs ...


 P.S. Here's a thought, if sitting is standing on your sit bones, how does it change your experience to consider standing as sitting on your stand bones?


Please feel free to contact me for a no obligation chat to see how the Alexander Technique can help you too. 

Write a comment

Comments: 12
  • #1

    Mark Josefsberg (Friday, 09 January 2015 03:21)

    Great, clear, simple explanations.
    I will be sending my students to your site, and this page.

    Thanks Adrian!
    Mark Josefsberg-Alexander Technique NYC

  • #2

    adrianfarrell (Friday, 09 January 2015 12:22)

    Thanks Mark, I really appreciate that, especially coming from you! :)

  • #3

    Jill Freeman (Saturday, 10 January 2015 02:16)

    Thank you Adrian for the clarity. I love the concepts of 'standing on your sit bones' and 'sitting on your stand bones'.
    Jill Freeman,
    Mangonui, New Zealand

  • #4

    Sarah Warman (Monday, 19 January 2015 13:27)

    Nice one Adrian, I love it!

  • #5

    adrianfarrell (Monday, 19 January 2015 15:10)

    Thanks Sarah, much appreciated.

  • #6

    Paul Humes (Wednesday, 11 February 2015 07:10)

    clear and concise education. should we all
    stand up at work !!

  • #7

    Erin O'Leary (Wednesday, 15 April 2015 00:20)

    thanks for this, I would like to share on my blog if you don't mind.
    I'm a new teacher and this is a great, clear resource for my students.

  • #8

    Morgan (Sunday, 19 June 2016 21:01)

    This is so important for our health! Thank you for sharing. ... I'm curious what you think of sitting on exercise balls. I know I can't stand on it, so you probably wouldn't recommend it, but I have found the ball alleviates lower back pain if I sit on it.

  • #9

    Lina (Saturday, 18 March 2017 18:48)

    Thank you, it was very useful.

  • #10

    Irene (Saturday, 01 April 2017)

    Great video. I certainly was thinking wrong the whole time. Thinking a more cushioned chair would prevent me from getting sciatic nerve pain.

  • #11

    Bhagyashree Choudhary (Monday, 18 June 2018 21:03)

    Thank you so much for this information.
    I have been having severe pain in shoulder blades and neck radiating to head. My back muscles arent very strong either. I work in IT since couple of years and feel that it has degraded my spine.
    Off late I have been trying to search for a good ergonomic chair -going from store to store. Everytime I sit on a cushioned chair that collapses my back into the back of the chair- I feel uncomfortable -And it is exactly these uncomfortable chairs that are more expensive!
    I tried couple of stool-ish chairs and my spine felt quite free.
    Pretty much the way you have stated.

    Love from India

  • #12

    Jon (AbiliTV Live) (Saturday, 17 December 2022 04:36)

    I know I am late to post here, however I would like to present my situation.
    27 years ago now I was 25 and involved in a work accident that impacted my SI-Joint on the corner point of an upright tombstone. Here is an important part of this: My mass 220LBS - My walking speed 6.5MPH - The machine's weight I was pushing 258lbs. Why this matters is that speed, plus mass equal force, and the impact point was about the size of a BIC ballpoint pen cap tip. My best calculations came to about 13 tons of force per square inch. What seemed a simple bump has disabled me. It did something to my left SI Joint that left me eventually in constant chronic pain of level 8 out of ten, that fluctuates daily within this range. I respect and grasp the standing as you sit, this is 100% the correct way to describe sitting. It took me years to figure out my best sitting position. I realize the tilt forward seat pan works best for most people. I sit that way and the nerves in my SI-Joint area will spasm horribly after a short time. For me I have to sit with my back squarely against the seat back that is slightly tilted at 92-95 degrees. The seat pan 21 inches off the floor at the front, and 12 inches off the floor at the rear. My wheelchair employs a solid seat pan to help me prevent sliding down on to my coccyx as this reclined position also annoys my nerves in the SI-Joint area after a few minutes. The cushions used made of gel or foam, or even ROHO air cushions all fail to work for me. I came up with my own solution that allows me to sit on an air filled saddle more or less. I can fine tune the air amount, and then position it to help keep my sits bones and coccyx off of the solid surface supporting me, and also sit in a position that keeps my SI-Joint sable enough that I can be pretty independent. The pain is great enough that if I try walking with a cane, crutches, or a walker it is to dangerous. What happens is my left leg will retract and my torso will curl into the fetal position at the same time, and with great force. This is usually level 10 Pain out of ten, then if it doesn't pass quickly I pass or gray out, sounds get all muffled and then I am out... This can last moments if lucky. Or I may be out for over 8 hours. I like to tell people sitting is a lot harder than it looks. 14 years going on 15 2023 as a full time wheelchair user. Trying to locate a office chair or stool that allows the needed multi function tilt mechanism so I can achieve the what I call bucket position that I prefer is really difficult. And having it be affordable. Your article is very helpful and informative. My hope with my post is maybe I some information on the type of chair or stool that could help me be shared. I tried so many ways to describe what I am looking for in Google. Sadly it keeps showing the same few office chairs, and saddle stools, and those knee sit chairs. If my SI Joint was fine I could use any of those. Any help would be greatly appreciated. Thanks in advance, Jon