When I tell you that I sleep on a piece of thin foam mattress on the floor, or that I recently got rid of my couch, you probably think I'm eccentric and maybe even a little crazy. You're not too wrong in that regard, but let me share with you why I live this way, and lay out some of the benefits you could gain from trying out your own version of floor living.
Sitting in chairs is a relatively new way to live, and it alters the length of our muscles. Hamstrings and hip flexors tighten and glutes weaken, contributing to reduced mobility. Over time, sitting on the floor or even getting down onto the floor become impossible. When I lived in Korea, floor living was pretty standard. People squatted to use the bathroom, even though toilets were also available in most places. People squatted when they were tired of standing. On ferry rides to visit nearby islands, everyone sat on the floor to play games or brought mats and took naps. Many traditional restaurants served meals on low tables with mats to sit on. Most older people could get into many seemingly uncomfortable and awkward positions while on the floor. Of course this is all changing very quickly, and soon the younger generation is going to have a hard time sitting on the floor to eat dinner with elderly parents.
Being on the floor allows for more daily movement. When I sit in a chair or on a couch, I don't have to change my position very often. Sitting on the floor forces me to change my position in order to avoid discomfort and gives me the freedom to move easily from working, to stretching to strengthening, and then back to working. I hope that by living this way, I'll avoid some of the normal pains and muscle stiffness that lead to reduced mobility as we age.
My lifestyle may sound extreme, but there are ways to increase your mobility without giving up your couch completely.
1. Try sitting in a heels-down squat. This is very difficult for most people, but you can improve. See how long you can sit and then just slowly increase the time. Learn more here.
2. Eat dinner with the family sitting on the floor around the coffee table. It's not too weird and could turn into a fun tradition.
3. Watch TV while sitting or reclining on the floor.
4. Get a dog or have a baby! If neither option is in the cards, find a friend with a dog or a baby and spend time with them. Babies and dogs spend lots of time on the floor, and in order to interact you may want to get down on the floor to play.
5. If all these options are just too bizarre for your lifestyle, you can just incorporate floor work into your gym routine. Crawling patterns are great. If you've ever trained with me, you know exactly what I'm talking about. If you haven't, just check out this video I made last year.
If nothing else, simply practice getting down onto the floor and then getting back up. Whatever your lifestyle, just try to move every hour. Good luck!