Human race has invested over half a decade on ergonomics and spends on an average, 72 hours selecting a chair to perch on. But did we know that humans in the first place were not designed and conditioned to sit on chairs?
This may sound like someone just pulled a chair from right under your buttocks as you were about to sit! Arching this analogy into reality, if this makes you land hard on your hips and you are to continue sitting on the floor with your legs crossed, would you survive for 1 hour without shifting your legs twenty times, cringing and cursing?
Cross-legged pose or the Sukhasana: the function is in the name! the easiest of all postures, sitting in which should give us a relaxed, calm and tempered feel. But surprisingly, 6 out of every 10 people we know around find it extremely arduous to sit cross-legged for a prolonged period and atleast 2 of them cannot sit in this posture at all!
Homo sapiens are born basic. Like any other animal, our bodies and instinctive traits are designed to sync with nature. To be able to sit cross legged comfortably, a) our pelvic muscles should be flexible and b) without exceptions, our spine should always be kept erect. Spine functions primarily to give an erect stable posture to the body and in partnership with our hips and legs, it braces our centre of gravity. And Sukhasana is the 2nd most gravitationally compliant asana, to say the least. (shavasana stays undefeated on the first place!)
The Seat of Wellness...
The 'Sukh' of Digestive wellness
One aspect, and largely the most important one, nobody cares for while eating is the focus and attention we give to the food on our plate. We are either engrossed in watching television or plain chit-chatting with family and friends while the hands mechanically thrust food down our alimentary canal . Little do we know that the way we focus on food at hand determines how it will be digested, metabolized, absorbed and excreted. Sitting on ground helps us focus more on the morsels and allows us to relish our food slowly. It is impossible to eat too fast sitting in this position. Try it to believe it! Additionally, the back and forth movement of your body activates abdominal muscles as you eat and signals the brain to induce secretion of digestive enzymes/juices. And all these processes together make you feel full quicker. Anybody habitual to this way of eating will have rarely overeaten or complained of gassy bloating and acid reflux!
The 'Sukh' of Postural wellness
Your spine. Again. Water cannot flow through a bent pipeline. So can’t your energy, through a flexed curled spine! Sukhasana is synonymous to good posture. You have to put it in practice to achieve an appropriate posture and after a while, sitting with an erect spine becomes as involuntary as breathing.
The 'Sukh' of Skeletomuscular wellness
Remember our grannies from the time when there were grinding slabstones and no dining tables? There were no gyms either. And they were fit as fiddle. Ever wondered why? Synced with nature, their bodies were self-reliant, and joints in full range of motion through the day. The problems start when we underuse our joints and make them rust. Cross-legged posture is perfect to keep the hip flexors moving and agile. The joints stay well lubricated and are less susceptible to degenerative diseases striking unwantedly early in life!
The 'Sukh' of Circulatory wellness
Resources. Supplies. Our body needs a lot of it in the form of food, and energy to metabolize that food adequately and ultimately provide us with energy. The 100,000km long chain of blood vessels are our body’s transport vehicles. And like any other system in the body, our digestive system needs energy to function. Sitting cross-legged activates our circulatory system to work harder, pumping in more blood to aid faster digestion.
The 'Sukh' of weight control
The very activity of sitting up and down is extremely beneficial for keeping your joints in full range of motion, muscles moving and fat getting burnt. Besides, the back and forth movement while eating also keeps your abdominal muscles in constant ambulation. Accompanying these dynamics, is our digestive system steadfast in boosting our metabolism. With an active body and a blessed metabolism at our service, what more can we ask for!
The 'Sukh' of Humility
We are born of nature. The most fundamental aspect of human life is its connect to the 5 elements of nature from the time it is born from water to the time it perishes into either the earth, fire or air. Sitting on the ground does exactly this. It makes our body and mind attuned with the earth below, the sky above and all the elements in between. Humility is nothing else but absolute acceptance of the spirit that it primarily belongs to nature and that the only way to a holistic attunement is submitting to it. Now we know, why eating, praying and spiritual practices have always been recommended sitting in Sukhasana (and very often vajrasana for the same reasons). Basic.
The 'Sukh' of longevity
Just the way a collective conscience of humans helps build better societies, the collective conscience of all the benefits of sukhasana mentioned above converge into comprehensive wellbeing and vivacity. A capable body and a dynamic mind directly influences longevity. So start sitting down to stay up for a long life!
Sitting cross-legged on the ground for activities like eating, household chores and even chat sessions with family and friends has been a way of life for ages and still prevails in many cultures and families. It is almost in our genes! So why are we not doing it more often?
There are many motivated ones out in the fields; the regular yoga doers, health conscious, sporty and active ones who still find it difficult to experience the pleasure of the sukh-asana. Don’t chase unrealistic goals. You cannot achieve a padmasana without being able to sit in sukhasana comfortably. Go slow and with the flow. Keep, this will tweak the difficulty level to the next notch by switching to vajrasana. And as you feel thunderbolt getting easier on your body, slide down to virasana, the hero pose. Padmasana stands on the highest pedestral. If you are able to execute these 4, you surely have a pelvic flexibility and agility to envy!
The little pleasures of sitting cross-legged are achieved with really big muscle! Concentrate on building upon their strength and agility. And once you are able to sit in sukhasana comfortably, just keep sitting! Try to work around stationary activites, eat, chat or relax sitting in this position or in thunderbolt consistently to reap the maximum benefits.
For, lies herein the wisdom: As you Sit, so you Rip!