Two things we have done VERY well in western society is made life both lazy and overly comfortable. We hear the messages everyday about how we are sitting more, not moving, not taking enough steps, and quite simply living to find ways to move less. Now recently there has been a new trend in modern health that I think really needs to catch on with the general populous a lot more, and that’s furniture free, movement inspired living, along with being in less relaxed and harsh 90 degree sitting positions.
This is Not in Anyway a Novel Idea, in Fact it's Pretty Much Ancient
Eastern cultures have for centuries been focused on living with less sitting. Japan, China and Hong Kong are known to take the most amount of steps in a day. And when you travel through many traditional Asian cultures like Thailand, Cambodia, and Laos you will often see nearly everyone relaxing by sitting in a deep squat. This is something that they do quite naturally, unlike westerners who only report a 13.5% chance of being able to do one on demand.
Traditional South East Asians also rarely have a dining room table, and in fact any chairs at all. To eat, they more than often sit on the floor, cross-legged, sharing, prepping and enjoying food with family, neighbors and friends (I will touch on this in another blog). I have to admit, I found it a bit odd at first when I visited a Canadian friend living in Thailand who had a western dining room, yet all the Thais preferred to sit or lie on the floors, never touching a seat or couch. But look at their seniors, 50, 60, 70’s, they could get down and get up from the floor with vey little to no pain issues, while in the food courts at the local mall in the suburbia West you see this same population leaning onto the tables, or back of chairs, and groaning while rising, and even people in their early to mid 60’s have trouble just bending over to pick up something off the floor.
A Thai family eating on the floor. Very common throughout Asia.
You can also look at their temples and religions. Nearly all that I visited across Asia were either kneeling or standing based. There were no seats, no stools, definitely no couches in a lobby, and people giving worship, from the monks to the general public, were always in one of those 2 positions.
Another Asian culture I like to look at for lifestyle inspiration is traditional Japanese homes. Their dining tables are only about 14 inches (35cm) high, and you sit either cross-legged or on your knees. They also have beds that just lie on the ground, meaning you have to get very low to get into bed, and rise out from a low position.
Below, my Japanese inspired dining area.
So How do we get Moving More in & around our Homes?
Well you’re in luck. Having just recently moved back to Vancouver Canada after spending 7 years deep into Asia lifestyle and culture, I have decided to bring their movement culture back with me, and my home is going to be the perfect showroom for this slowly growing trend.
1. Get Japanese! My first two furnishings are a Japanese inspired dining table (a Chabudai), only about 16 inches off the floor (I am 6’4) and using small cushions for your knees. For the bed, I’m simply using an Ikea mattress placed on 2 shipping HT Canadian made treated (no toxins as treated by heat not chemicals) pallets (FYI, I got the idea from Pinterest, so yes, it will look nice, not trashy once painted). This bed is darn low, and I need to get low to get in and basically crawl out.
Below, my Japanese (Pinterest) inspired low bed. Only 15cm off the ground. Still needs to get painted white.
2. Work Time. For my desk, I have ordered a standing desk, but this alone isn’t good enough, I have written about this error before, standing is not the answer, but moving is. So I also use a step so I can change positions, as well as a river rock foot mat to allow my feet to be free. I also keep both a Yoga ball, and a Thai Coconut foot massage mat by be to roll my feet on. Besides this I often take many small walks and simple exercises like lunges, twists, stretches and squats. However, I also bought deep shag rug that I can lie on which is a great idea I got from a co-work in Bangkok, and also I will be ordering a “meditation seat” and a small Swiss ball for when I do want to be in a more seated position. Coincidentally even now as I am writing this, I am at a Waves coffee shop, using their high tables as a standing desk. However there are a lot of others using the same tables as me, and yet all sitting on the bar chairs.
The only person using the bar height tables as a standing desk at the local coffee shop.
3. Relax Time. For times when I want to relax or watch a movie, I have ordered a Big Joe bean bag chair. This will force me to be in different positions, and I can also shape the bag many ways for a number of seating or lying positions.
(Pictured right) Same bean bag seat I recently ordered as my only soft spot.
4. Eating Time. When it's time for breakfast, coffee, lunch or dinner, it’s standing time again. For the kitchen I bought an adjustable round bar table along with 2 bar stools (I like to go between sitting and standing).
Bar height kitchen table
5. Poopin’ Time! When you are in Asia, or even may parts of old Europe westerners often get surprised when they go to use the toilet to only find a hole in the ground. So to simulate this squatting position we would need, you can order the Squatty Potty. The Squatty Potty sets us up in a much better physiological position for better poopin’. It’s small, comes in basic white plastic or higher end wood, for that hi-so toilet look.
6. Mindful Time. In my home I have also started to set up an India inspired Vaastu ‘Zen Zone’ with only my traditional Mysore India yoga mat to sit on, but you can also get a number of meditation seats including the cross-legged styles seen often in Buddhist or Hindu temples, and which can also be used for the living room in non-meditative times. You can also use another form or meditation seat that forces you to balance while in a kneeling position.
Below, the start of my Zen Zone
7. Stretchin’ Time. For this we have 2 options. You can create a small area in your home to stretch, think of a simple home gym. Maybe a yoga mat, block and scarf/strap, or you can also just create a simple 5 – 10 minute morning stretching routine (see my YouTube page for my 7 minute Morning MŪV video).
8. Money Savin' Time. Finally we can do this last step with NO costs! Walk more. Simple. Start every morning with a 10 – 30 minute walk. Walk to work. Walk for lunches. Take walking meetings. Use the stairs. Just figure out ways to move your feet more. You can also look into doing a little home gardening to get you down on your hands and knees a bit more often.
There you have it. I hope that you can take at least one, if not many of these ideas to improve your health and wellbeing. Any of these I can promise will start to help you with those aches and pains, and put you in a much better position going into the future.