When you were a kid, sitting criss-cross-applesauce for a long period of time meant that it was either show-and-tell day, or that your teacher was reading you a particularly compelling chapter from one of the Boxcar Kids books. As an adult, though, it likely means that you’re parked on your couch with your computer in your lap, trying to find a comfortable work from home position.
If this sounds familiar (#itme), you’ve likely realized that sitting with your legs perched under your body is decidedly not as comfortable as it used to be, and untwisting your body at the end of the day can leave your hips screaming. “When we stay in any one position for too long, we place increased stress on the tissues around the area,” says Ashley Speights O’Neill, PT. According to Jaclyn Fulop, PT, founder of Exchange Physical Therapy Group, sitting in any one position for more than 20 minutes can cause a trigger point or a knot (aka a taut in your muscle that becomes tender to touch), so it’s important to change the way you’re sitting every 20 minutes.
“When we sit cross-legged, we tend to put a lot of stress on our sciatic nerve, which is the area that branches from your lower back through your hips and glutes and down each leg,” says O’Neill. She explains that while you likely won’t wind up with any injuries from sitting in this position for too long, you may wind up with some irritation in your muscles.
The best way to deal? A few easy stretches. “You will want to stretch the posterior chain if you find yourself often sitting in this position, particularly the hamstrings and calf muscles,” says Fulop. “The hip flexors and IT bands are also shortened when sitting crisscrossed so stretching these large muscle groups also become important.” Here, the pros lay out the best way to unwind those muscles.
The best stretches for sitting cross-legged
1. Half kneel hip flexor stretch: Kneel on one leg, and plant your other foot out in front of you to create a 90-degree angle with your knee. Tuck your pelvis underneath you, and gently lean forward as you bend your front knee until you feel a stretch along the front of your hip. Hold for 30 seconds, and repeat twice on each leg.
2. Supine piriformis stretch: Lie on your back with your knees bent and feet planted on the floor. Bring one knee toward your chest, and rest your foot on your knee in a slight figure-four position. Pull your knee toward your opposite shoulder until you feel a stretch in your glute.
3. IT band stretch: Lying on one side of your body, bend your top knee so that your foot comes up toward your glutes, and lift that knee up as high toward the ceiling as you can. Place the knee on the ground, then place your other knee on top of it to push it into the floor. Hold for 30 seconds.
4. Short dog: To give your calves the stretch they need, steal some inspiration from yoga by way of the “short dog.” Start in a traditional down dog, then walk your feet in slightly closer to your face so that your heels touch the ground. Then, start peddling out your knees. When that starts to feel nice and juicy, walk your feet back to a regular down dog for a deeper stretch.
5. Waterfall: For a dynamic hamstring stretch, start standing up with one knee gently bent and the other leg extended slightly out in front of you. Point your toes of the front foot up toward the sky, and keep your heel planted. Stretch your arms down toward your front foot, folding your body over your front heel. Then, flow slowly back up to stand. Or, try one of these hamstring moves:
Working from home? Here’s how to stay on task, straight from productivity pros. Plus, the neck stretches you and your body need right now.
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