One regular challenge you are likely to face in your posture journey is the battle against the oversized sofa. Here are some tips to help you maintain good form and stay pain-free when relaxing on a sofa.
Want to avoid the habitual curled, tucked position that most couches seem to encourage? Photo by NeONBRAND on Unsplash.
Your first line of defense against a deep, soft couch should be stretchsitting. This will make your seated time therapeutic as well as relaxing. Some couches, made of fabric with some degree of friction and having seats that aren’t too deep, may not be difficult to stretchsit on. If you’re lucky, you can simply hook yourself up against the back of the sofa. However, many couches are too deep to allow you to get your bottom up against the backrest while keeping your legs bent and feet on the ground. In this case, you will need to fill in the space behind your back with one or more pillows or cushions. For very soft pillows, you can squish them down behind you until they are compressed enough to provide some resistance to lengthen your back against. If the couch or the cushion you use behind your back is made of a slippery material, such as leather, and provides no friction for hooking your back, add a Stretchsit® cushion behind you. Even without anchoring the Stretchsit cushion, the rubber nubs will allow you to get a little length in your spine. If the back of the couch tilts you significantly backward and there is no support behind your head, it may be a strain to support your head and neck. You may need to build up some extra padding toward your shoulder blades so your spine is closer to vertical. If the seat angles back or is soft enough to rotate your legs inward, you may also want another cushion beneath your pelvis.
You don’t need to get a strong stretch while lounging on the sofa, the way you might want to while working at a desk. Even a subtle lengthening that prevents you from sinking into the couch and “melting,” as many of us tend to do, will be beneficial.
Place as many cushions behind your back as you need to prevent a rounded spine and create a firm enough surface to stretchsit against. Photo by Jacalyn Beales on Unsplash.
Stacksit on the edge
If you find it challenging to stretchsit on your couch, perhaps because the couch sucks you in and you can’t find cushions that give you firm support to stretch against, try perching on the edge of the couch and stacksitting instead. Although slightly less relaxing and somewhat more formal, stacksitting is an option on almost any sofa or surface. Simply scoot to the edge of the couch, make sure to antevert your pelvis, and find that perfectly balanced stack! Anchor your ribs as necessary to prevent a sway, and roll your shoulders back.
The man on the right has his bottom behind him and maintains an elongated spine while sitting on the front edge of the sofa. Photo by Aaron Thomas on Unsplash.
If you find your knees are up rather high and causing an uncomfortable stretch, you can extend them in front of you, or cross them at the ankles and let your knees roll open to each side. Crossing the legs at the ankle and letting the knees fall open is an elegant, comfortable way to slant the thighs downward and promote pelvic anteversion, rather than having the knees up above the hip joint. The softer the couch and the more the seat tilts back, the closer to the edge you will want to be. In the end, you may end up with only an inch or two of support against the very backs of your thighs. To get a little extra length in your spine while stacksitting, push your elbows against your knees to elongate your back.
This man lengthens his spine by pressing with his elbows against his thighs. Photo by Clem Onojeghuo on Unsplash.
Another great way to enjoy your couch time is to use the full length of the couch (if you don’t have to share) and recline up against an armrest. On most couches, however, the armrest creates too vertical of a support to lay directly against, and will round your spine.
Without filling in the corner of the couch with cushions, the armrest will force you to round your spine and provide little support. Photo from startupstockphotos.com.
Instead, you will need to create a gentle slope of cushions, filling in the corner of the couch and the space underneath your J-spine. This will create a nice soft spot for you to recline halfway on. To get the shape right, make sure there is a sufficient ledge to allow your bottom behind you, preserving the J, and that the slope you create supports your shoulders as well as your head so you aren’t rounded with your head pushed too far forward by the armrest.
In the classic painting (The Venus of Urbino, by Titian), Venus has enough cushions beneath her to maintain a neutral, supported spine, and could even relax her head back against the pillow. Photo from Wikimedia Commons.
You can also recline on your side, as long as you have enough support under your waist, shoulder, and head to keep your spine straight and relaxed.
What's your favorite lounge position on couches? Let us know in the comments!