Thursday, September 5, 2013

Why we are living near the floor.

   For most of my life I have been a dancer, blessed with a mainly strong and healthy body but still I have had pain, tightness and recurring body ailments.  Mostly I have had lower back pain, sometimes extremely painful and even debilitating.   I have come to believe that most of that pain started from tightness, imbalances and poor movement patterns caused by my life style, the lifestyle I share with most of the rest of America.  According to the Mayo Clinic "Most people in the United States will experience low back pain at least once during their lives.  Back pain is one of the most common reasons people go to the doctor or miss work."    Studies show that the back pain we experience in developed western countries is not experienced in most "less" developed countries.   This is great to think about, if most of the pain is caused by lifestyle than that means if we are willing to change we can live healthier, happier and more productive lives!  
         Shortly after of high school I got my first of many jobs of being a waitress and started experiencing body pain for the first time in my life.  The next year I started training as a dancer.  Soon after I started a yoga practice that I kept on and off for the rest of my adult life,  but still I began a struggle with tight hips and lower back pain.  I never seemed to have the discipline in yoga to get beyond it or when I did push myself often the pain would act up and I would have to back off.  I tried the doctor, chiropractor and rolfing.  What seemed to help the most was not worrying to much about the pain when it came and going on with me life, and staying active but not pushing to hard.  The episodes of extreme back pain were aggravated with pregnancy but other wise lessened but never went away.  Shortly after my second son I realized I was getting stiffer and stiffer.  I was not dancing much or going to yoga and had little free time.   I used to play cards and board games sitting on the floor with my older son but with the new baby I realized the only time I ever sat down was to eat!  To help my hips, back and legs get at least some passive stretching by sitting on the floor everyday I decided to take the legs off our kitchen table and make new short legs for it.  (I saved the legs and still use them for holidays when the whole family comes over.)  This helped but still I had stiffness in my lower back and hips.  I wasn't getting stiffer but I was not getting looser either.  Then I went to an outdoor wilderness school and lived in the woods for 11 months with NO chairs (or cars or bikes or couches!)  Sitting on the ground was not always comfortable, sometimes it was very challenging. for most of the first 3/4 of the year I often used something under my but for elevation but by the end of the program I realized... It was gone! Whatever that stiffness that was in my back and hips was it was gone!  Now it is easy to sit on the ground and not have to hunch over.  I can sit up strait and tall with ease and even when I worked hard I don't have pain. Now I can go to a yoga class, really push myself and the next day I just feel good!
I still believe in yoga, pilates, going to the chiropractor and other alternatives but I see them as mostly reactive therapies that support us as we recover from the unhealthy life style modern western culture taught us.  To maintain healthy bodies we need to look at the rest of our lives too, but focusing on how we live in our homes is a great starting place.  Living on the floor (or ground) is the simplest, cheapest and easiest.  It works with our human nature.  you can be as lazy as you want to but if you want to sit down you are going to have to bend and stretch.  
         So now that I am back home living in a "civilized" home again I have moved beyond just having the kitchen table on the floor.  I got rid of our futon frame and put the futon on the floor.  I got rid of almost all the rest of our chairs.  I still have a standard desk for myself but I put a VERY large wood chair in front of it so I can sit cross legged on it as if I am on the floor. To support my husband, who has extremely tight hips and a long history of knee pain, we have a whole stack of blankets that can be arranged as he needs them when he sits.  I have extra pillows as well as folding chairs and a table that I can use for guests.  Sure our house looks like a hippy house. I have to sweep a lot.  Sometimes I miss the aesthetic of a couch and the cute chairs I collected, but it is worth it.  I am going to be able to keep my flexible body into my older years instead of losing it,  Our children can keep theirs and my husband is gaining flexibility.  Our home is wealthy in health and we are happy.  

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Here is my prescription for the vast majority of us: You need to be in a relatively safe place outside with others