Indian girl sitting on ground with back lengthened perfectly, next to white people showing rounded backs, not educated in ancestral movement.

Indian girl sitting on ground with back lengthened perfectly, next to Western tourists showing rounded backs, not educated in ancestral movement.

When I was in highschool I got rid of the furniture in my room and started sitting and sleeping on the floor.  I was exploring ways of arranging my space and using my body that felt more grounded and natural. Even now, I’m reluctant to sit on furniture. People say “there’s a couch”, as if they feel sorry for me, perhaps are thinking I’m depriving myself, or I somehow didn’t notice. Likewise, I will be out walking and people will offer me a ride or they will ask, “Don’t you have a car?” 

As a little boy growing up, in school I fidgeting in my chair, gazing out the window, daydreaming about all the fun things to do outside, running, climbing trees. It didn’t take decades of peer-reviewed research to tell me, sitting all day was killing me. And this was just the beginning–of basically a lifetime of being confined to a chair.

But as probably you did and every other child forced to sit in a chair during the years of compulsory education–while our bodies were learning uninformed and destructive movement patterns that we would carry with us the rest of our lives, we did everything we could to annoy the teachers. If you were allowing your healthy and natural instincts….you fidgeted, wiggled, giggled, and did whatever you could to disrupt the jail sentence.

There is a dominant paradigm orientation in western culture that believes it is better to drive than to walk, and it is better to sit on a couch than on the floor. Americans spend an average of 9.1 hours per day sitting. The fitness industry probably arose as a search for some way to remedy this sedentary lifestyle instigated by the Industrial Revolution that moved people from farming to sitting.  By making life so easy using technology to take physical work (healthy movement) out of the picture…we have destroyed a critical factor in health. 

Recent research from a variety of places has confirmed my own instinctual minimalist orientation. Dr. Verticos, NASA scientist and author of Sitting Kills, says, “Exercise is no remedy for chronic sitting. Our body needs perpetual motion….The key to lifelong health is to rediscover a lifestyle of constant, natural, low intensity, non-exercise movement that uses the gravity vector throughout the day.” 

What she means by the gravity vector is the act of going from the floor to standing, or from a chair to standing and back. This is extremely beneficial. The gravity vector is also used when walking up or down stairs or jumping or anything that is moving from up to down or back down. Her point is that when we sit in a chair for long periods we are in a similar state as astronauts in space who are away from the beneficial effects of gravity. One of the main reasons astronauts age rapidly is due to lack of gravity. Modern conveniences deliver  whatever we need with no work. Furniture which raises off the floor, like beds and chairs, deprives us of the opportunity to bend over or get up off the ground.

Another researcher, Katy Bowman has turned up startling research that further supports the “sitting is bad for you” hypothesis. Her book Move Your DNA, spells out in detail the catastrophe of the modern sit down lifestyle. She says movement is more important than exercise. And exercise is not movement. Exercise, the kind of thing you do once a day because it is good for you, does not replace what is more important, and is missing from our lives–constant movement in a variety of directions all day long. Without it the body breaks down on every level, including the DNA. You can’t get around it…the effects of sitting for hours per day cannot be undone by an exercise session at another time. Katy coined the term “Movement Nutrition” to describe her concept. Exercise is too much of too few movements.

Moving the same way over and over in the same way for too long as in treadmills, bicycles, and other exercise equipment actually causes its own problems. It is better than sedentary alone, but it does not lead to optimal health. The solution is to do a variety of movements such as squatting and kneeling on the floor, bending over to pick things up or gather berries, climbing trees, running and jumping on logs and rocks. The body has been shaped by years of using it in a way that leads to a progressive humping of the back and jutting forward of the head. This comes with several names such as “upper-crossed syndrome”, “front loading,” “c-shaped slump”. What starts out as an imperceptible reshaping of the body often leads to:

  • Chronic and debilitating pain  (80% of Americans will experience chair-related back pain in their lifetime.)
  • Herniated and bulging disks in the lower back
  • The muscles needed to do things like bend and sit are atrophied
  • The muscles which hold us in the right angled seated position are tight and locked into place.

An individual often cannot just suddenly make the transition to healthy movement without some guidance. The Footloose Method™ offers a number of positions that can gently awaken the innate wisdom of the body. It offers four distinct approaches to customize your own working environment. We encourage shifting your body position periodically so that movement and balance become the everyday norm of computer work. 

Just like transitioning from shoes to barefoot is best done with education and guidance–so too–basic movements like getting up and down to the floor and squatting and kneeling would be out of the question for many. 

Standing, or any position that you hold chronically with inactivity is just as bad as sitting.

************************************

This is why I have created The Footloose Method of Integrated Office Fitness™,

This method integrates movement into the actual act of ‘sitting’ and allows each person to tweak their own system to fit their needs and abilities and moods at any particular time. Most recommendations tell us to get up and take a break every so often and set a timer. In the Footloose Method™ you actually don’t need to get up and take a break because you are already at once taking a break (that is getting movement) as well as working (reading, computing, texting, etc.). AND, I had this idea, of doing unusual positions like I learned in yoga. They felt so soothing in yoga. How could I do them more, for longer periods? Why not put them into the routine of what happens during the day? 

The Footloose Method™ requires a rethinking of your built environment. Conventional furniture keeps us in limited body use patterns. What we need is an environment that encourages a wide range of movement from up to down. So you look at the day as a kinesthetic adventure in movement. You are going to the office to work, same as before, but the whole office is interactive. It is okay to kneel, squat, bend over, stand, dance, wiggle, fidget, and lounge. You can take what you have already learned in yoga class, pilates, physical therapy, cross-fit training, etc. and start applying this knowledge in places that before were literally unreachable. You can take your yoga practice to work with you–they call it ‘off the mat’.

There are a variety of stand up desks, active sitting chairs, and exercise equipment devices on the market. I have invented the Barefoot Office Kits™ which are a set of lightweight, multi-use props which move easily because they are portable. In an ideal situation, such as a enlightened office or a home office–anything goes. Sometimes the props support your body in a variety of constructive ways. Sometimes they support your laptop and keyboard to fit to where your body needs it for any one of the positions at any given time. 

Principles of the Footloose Method™

1–Barefoot (or minimalist shoes) There is no other way to start building natural alignment. It starts with the feet! Hence the term Barefoot Office Kits™ and Footloose Method™. Also, some foot therapy tools and classes would be recommended. Of course most offices are not going to allow barefoot working. So that is where minimalist shoes come in.

2–Four basic positions with infinite variety in-between

  1. Standing,
  2. Active Sitting at a desk (with a sloped sitting surface)
  3. Floor Sitting (perching, squatting, kneeling, cross-legged)
  4. Lounging and Laying down.

3–Constant movement

When you stand, you can wiggle, dance or whatever, sometimes even while typing. When you sit on the floor, you can stretch in different ways that the floor allows. I just go by instinct. I may stand 30 minutes, kneel/squat 30 minutes, stand again, or chill out in the EcoBackrest™. Or I may chill in the Ecobackrest™ an hour or even two, if I had a big adventure the day before. Or I may stand all day and do floor stretches and lift weights while I’m watching the screen. It depends on how I feel and what I’m doing. Sometimes talking on the phone, listening to a podcast or watching a video, allows for all kinds of movement treats.

4–Constructive Rest

Resting means taking the load (use) off of one part of the body that has become fatigued, while putting the body in an aligned spine neutral position. Some examples are: leaning against something like a wall or prop, laying down flat or against some kind of backrest or lounge chair, or using the wall. This supports the back in a spine neutral position so it can recover from all the new stress and strains–i.e.resistance–you have introduced it to. Resting while you work is new. We usually wait until we get home, and then the resting positions (like a couch) are often keeping us in our slumped posture. But optimally, resting should be incorporated intermitantly any time an individual feels they like it. Even Native people had backrests.

4–Adaptable/evolvable. Your environment is not fixed–it changes as you change. You can constantly shape and reshape your set up. As you increase your flexibility, muscle tone, energy and alignment, you will find yourself using different positions and movements that feel right for where you are at. You will constantly discover new things you can do that feel good and bring out the best in your work.

The Footloose Method™ is a complete lifestyle reboot. This is a step by step process of relearning the natural ways of moving in the world.  You are changing what you are doing, the way you are doing it, and reshaping your body and your environment. You can take it as far as you want, with big changes or small. This is a multi-fauceted approach to optimal health and avoiding the problems with back pain and aging that are the norm in our society. You aren’t going to get there overnight. But the good news is, you can start right away. And the smallest changes make huge improvements.

The Footloose Method™ offers  a simple jumping off place for your new movement friendly journey. You tweak as you go. The Footloose Method™ is a platform where you can engage the movement teachings from other places and create a an integrated work habitat. You incorporate other movement techniques and fitness modalities with the simple props that provide interactive work stations in a variety of alternating positions.

 

 

Our culture ASSUMES we should not do work. We should use a machine to do what our body normally does.

And also, the assumption, we should not bend down to the floor or sit on the floor. Like fish don’t realize they are swimming in water.

Recent research from a variety of places has confirmed, exercise is no remedy for chronic sitting. Dr. Verticos, NASA scientist and author of Sitting Kills, says,

“Our body needs perpetual motion.”

“The key to lifelong health is to rediscover a lifestyle of constant, natural, low intensity, non-exercise movement that uses the gravity vector throughout the day.”

In the other direction–the realm of ancestral health–startling research has been turning up that further supports the new health and fitness revolution.

jeahcrawl

Jeah showing a crab crawl you can easily do to get some relief on the spine in between other floor sitting positions.

Katy Bowman’s recent book: Move Your DNA, spells out in detail the catastrophe of the modern sit down lifestyle. Some of her key points are:

Movement is more important than exercise. And exercise is not movement.

Exercise, the kind of thing you do once a day because it is good for you, does not replace what is more important, and is missing from our lives–constant movement in a variety of directions all day long. Without it the body breaks down on every level, including the DNA.

You can’t get around it…the effects of sitting for hours per day cannot be undone by an exercise session at another time.

Jeah Kessha showing the assisted squat position

Patrick Clark showing the assisted squat position

K

A "lumbar interbody fusion," an operation in which the surgeon builds a metal cage around the spine.

A “lumbar interbody fusion,” an operation in which the surgeon builds a metal cage around the spine. Very common injury and treatment which is easily avoided.

*******************************************

There is a world wide epidemic which can be described as “diseases of captivity”–and sometimes referred to as “sitting disease” and “metabolic syndrome”.

What we are captive to–is the sit down environment.

It is likened to an animal in a cage. We do not move. We sit at work, in the car, at home. We sit on average 9.1 hours per day, which is more than the 7.3 hours we sleep. Animals in captivity are notorious for compromised conditions and shorter lives.

The teenage look has become standard...a culture that grew up in captivity.

The teenage look has become standard…a culture that grew up in captivity. Slide from Esther Gokhale.

The conveniences of modern have taken away our need to move to survive. So without the natural impulse to move–we don’t. Walking, jogging, biking, etc. do not replace the same nutrient dense movement nutrition of our ancestors.  They were always on the move, walking miles per day barefoot or clad in moccasins, carrying babies, belongings, fresh game on their backs, bending, squatting, running, and resting a lot too.

Push button everything delivers  whatever we need with no work. And furniture raised off the floor, like beds and chairs, deprive us of the opportunity to bend over or get up off the ground.

 

hunchedatdeskWe don’t know we are surrounded by a cage.

We have trapped ourselves inside a cage and we do not see the bars of the cage. Our bodies have been shaped in a distorted fashion that we don’t notice, because everyone is that way…except native peoples. We are basically shaped the same as our cage–which is the chair. We have lost the ability to move effectively and so now, the floor is considered unhealthy.

Professional ergonomics researchers try to take away as much movement as possible.  

So even the people we look up to for advice on health are completely lost. This problem has been lurking behind our field of vision for so long, we are now trapped. Our neuro-pathways, our cultural norms, our body’s muscles, joints and ligaments and even cells and DNA are all shaped in a contorted, debilitating pattern.

So how do we get out?  The body has been shaped by years of using it in a way that leads to a progressive humping of the back and jutting forward of the head.

This comes with several names such as “upper-crossed syndrome”, “front loading,” “c-shaped slump”. What starts out as an imperceptible reshaping of the body often leads to:

  • Chronic and debilitating pain  (80% of Americans will experience chair-related back pain in their lifetime.)
  • Herniated and bulging disks in the lower back
  • The muscles needed to do things like bend and sit are atrophied
  • The muscles which hold us in the right angled seated position are tight and locked into place.

An individual often cannot just suddenly make the transition to healthy movement without some guidance.

Just like transitioning from shoes to barefoot is best done with education and guidance–so too–basic movements like getting up and down to the floor and squatting and kneeling would be out of the question for many.

Standing, or any position that you hold chronically with inactivity is just as bad as sitting.

Fortunately there are many resources available that can get you started right away. The  Gokhale Method offers a very well researched and presented system to achieve optimal posture, functioning, moving and prevention of back pain injuries. Here is a detailed introduction and demo of how to properly keep the back lengthened in various positions, which is the primary technique for many other healthy movements. Click here for a very detailed intro to the Gokhale Method presented by Esther Gokhale.

I have my own take on it as well. Let’s look at the office environment. Whether you are sitting at home, the local hot spot, school or the office, you are pretty much doing the same thing. You are looking at your screen and typing, reading a book, or shuffling papers. Some of these experts teach how to get up  from your chair or stand up desk every so often and do some sort of movement time out break. However, I have a solution that puts movement into the act of actually doing the work.

My idea is to integrate movement into the actual act of ‘sitting’. What we call ‘sitting’ that is. So you actually don’t need to get up and take a break because you are already at once taking a break (that is getting movement) as well as working (reading, computing, texting, etc.).

AND, I had this idea, of doing unusual positions like I learned in yoga. They felt so soothing in yoga. How could I do them more, for longer periods? Why not put them into the routine of what happens during the day?

Now when I am saying ‘movement’ I am referring to Katy Bowman’s definition. In this sense, movement is loading the body in a variety of balanced and constructive ways that simulates what our ancestors did. So movement is standing, shifting, fidgeting, wiggling, twisting, stretching, bending, dancing, changing. You can be sitting and there is movement as long as, the sitting is Active sitting and you wiggle or shift or switch positions ever so often.

Resting is one component the Footloose Method™ offers which is unique to other protocols. Resting is different than chronic inactivity. Resting means taking the load (use) off of one part of the body that has become fatigued, while putting the body in an aligned spine neutral position. While chronic long term inactivity is not the answer, neither is becoming fatigued. We are aiming for optimal vitality alignment and performance.

Native American girl with backrest and buckskin.

Native American girl with backrest and buckskin.

Some options are: leaning against something like a wall or prop, laying down flat or against some kind of backrest or lounge chair, or using the wall. This supports the back in a spine neutral position so it can recover from all the new stress and strains–i.e.resistance–you have introduced it to.

Resting while you work is new. We usually wait until we get home, and then the resting positions (like a couch) are often keeping us in our slumped posture. But optimally, resting should be incorporated intermitantly any time an individual feels they like it. Even Native people had backrests.

jeahecobacktypingbestIn the Rewilding wellness philosophy, rest and sleep are considered good things. So let’s put it inside the office. We need ways to move and not move, and to be able to use our instincts to create our own rhythms and routines. It is an individual process.

I was reluctant to introduce a new system since there are so many good ones out there. However, I saw some ways to integrate various principles from a variety of other methods that themselves were not connecting some of the dots. Thus was born: The Footloose Method of Integrated Office Fitness™.

The Footloose Method™ works like this: a set of props that act as training wheels for your body to adapt to more natural ancestral ways of moving. You actually interact with these props in creative and healthy ways. These props move easily because they are lightweight and small. So you look at the day as a kinesthetic adventure in movement. You are going to the office to work, same as before, but the whole office is interactive. It is okay to kneel, squat, bend over, stand, dance, wiggle, fidget.

Even corporate offices are looking at these kinds of solutions. The problem has gotten so bad, and in this case taken a toll on productivity, that new ideas are accepted far sooner than times past.

3039342-inline-chairless-office-inline-3A new concept is being tested by a Dutch design firm in Amsterdam. “We said, what if we could create a work environment which is not based on tables and chairs anymore?” “We wanted to create not just furniture, but new ways of working actively on the scale of the whole working environment.” says Ronald Rietveld, one of the founders of RAAAF, a Dutch design firm that worked on the project with artist Barbara Visser.

Throughout the day, people lean in different positions and keep moving around the room. “It’s the opposite of the office chair, which evolved to be a kind of monster over time, and is forcing you to sit eight hours in the same way every day,” Rietveld says.

In an ideal situation, such as a enlightened office or a home office–anything goes.  You play with all day, using props to put you and computer in all kinds of wild positions you never would have thought of. Sometimes the props support your body in a variety of constructive ways. Sometimes they support your laptop and keyboard to fit to where your body needs it for any one of the positions at any given time. You can take what you have already learned in yoga class, pilates, physical therapy, cross-fit training, etc. and start applying this knowledge in places that before were literally unreachable.You can take your yoga practice to work with you–they call it ‘off the mat’. I call it  the Integrated Office Workout..

1–Barefeet–(or minimalist shoes) There is no other way to start building natural alignment. It starts with the feet! That’s why I call it ‘footloose’. Also, some foot therapy tools and classes would be recommended. Click here to learn about foot fitness and body rolling–two amazing therapies to help re-shape your body into its native alignment.

lay down work station2–Four basic positions with infinite variety in-between

Standing, Active Sitting (perching squatting, kneeling, cross-legged) Lounging and Laying down.

3–Constant movement

When you stand, you can wiggle, dance or whatever, sometimes even while typing. When you sit on the floor, you can stretch in different ways that the floor allows. I just go by instinct. I may stand 30 minutes, kneel/squat 30 minutes, stand again, or chill out in the EcoBackrest™. Or I may chill in the Ecobackrest™ an hour or even two, if I had a big adventure the day before. Or I may stand all day and do floor stretches and lift weights while I’m watching the screen. It depends on how I feel and what I’m doing. Sometimes talking on the phone, listening to a podcast or watching a video, allows for all kinds of movement treats.

4–Adaptable/evolvable. Your environment is not fixed–it changes as you change. You can constantly shape and reshape your set up. As you increase your flexibility, muscle tone, energy and alignment, you will find yourself using different positions and movements that feel right for where you are at. You will constantly discover new things you can do that feel good and bring out the best in your work.

It’s like this. We’re talking about a lifestyle overhaul, a complete redesign. This is a step by step process of relearning the natural ways of moving in the world, and readapting.  You are changing what you are doing, the way you are doing it, and reshaping your body and your environment. You can take it as far as you want, with big changes or small. This is a multi-fauceted approach to optimal health and avoiding the problems with back pain and aging that are the norm in our society. You aren’t going to get there overnight. But the good news is, you can start right away. And the smallest changes make huge improvements.

The Footloose Method™ offers  a simple jumping off place for your new movement friendly journey. You tweak as you go. The Footloose Method™ is a platform where you can engage the movement teachings from other places and create a an integrated work habitat. You incorporate other movement techniques and fitness modalities with the simple props that provide interactive work stations in a variety of alternating positions.

Rewild Your Way To Wellness

Sign up for our mailing list so you can receive delicious paleo superfood recipes, connect to Earth, and bio-hack your environment with powerful tools and techniques based on Ancestral Health.

Thank you for subscribing to Paleo All The Way