Musicians' Health Collective

Musicians' Health Collective: Supporting the health of musicians

Working with Children On Sitting

See the naturally upright child on the left?  What about the slumpy one on the right?  Photo from "Happy dog, Sad dog." Happy Dog= natural spinal curves Sad Dog= tucked pelvis, C cruve in spine

See the naturally upright child on the left?  What about the slumpy one on the right?  Photo from "Happy dog, Sad dog." Happy Dog= natural spinal curves

Sad Dog= tucked pelvis, C cruve in spine

I recently had the chance to guest coach high school orchestra sectionals, and my first rant was...on how to sit better.  Teenagers and children are slumping in their seats more than ever now, thanks to hand held technology and computers, and that sitting posture doesn't help their music making.  As I've discussed before, the way you sit and stand affects the soft tissues of your whole body, as well as your long term movement abilities and bone development.  With children constantly sitting in rounding positions (think car seats and strollers!), and then moving to school chairs for 8 hours a day, no wonder no one can sit still or well for after school (or before school) orchestra!    

I loved Brooke Thomas' blog about this issue, which talked about getting children to sit better from a young age.  More importantly though, watch her hilarious and fun video on sitting on your sit (ischial tuberosities) bones rather than your sacrum.

Notice how strollers affect kids' alignment from a young age?  Photo from "Happy Dog, Sad Dog."

Notice how strollers affect kids' alignment from a young age?  Photo from "Happy Dog, Sad Dog."

I also recently read the book "Happy Dog, Sad Dog," by Kathleen Porter, which is an expansion of the concepts in Brooke's video.  What we're basically exploring is how pelvic tilt and pelvic tucking affects long term posture and development, which has been a discussion topic here for months, and most recently in conjunction with cycling.  Porter points out that we are born with good alignment once we learn how to sit, stand, and walk.  It's our external environments that limit our development, such as excess sitting in slumped positions, strollers, airplane seats, car seats, etc.  When a child develops with poor alignment, the body is in a state of constant collapse, with limited support from the bone structure, and spine not lengthened properly.  Viscera are slightly compressed (ouch!) and the diaphragm is not able to function to capacity, which means that respiration is impaired.  Let's repeat that with feeling- if someone (kid or adult) sits or stands with poor alignment for a long time, BREATH CAPACITY is affected.  Sounds important if you're teaching singing, band, or orchestral instruments, right?? 

Sad Dog vs. Over Corrected: We mostly see the collapsed spine in children, and that's the #1 thing we want to prevent as educators, especially with instruments that require sitting such as piano and cello.

Sad Dog vs. Over Corrected: We mostly see the collapsed spine in children, and that's the #1 thing we want to prevent as educators, especially with instruments that require sitting such as piano and cello.


I found this book very interesting, and useful for parents and teachers alike.  My only big frustration was the lack of discussion about how foot position, locked knees, and everything above the hips affects this happy dog sad dog posture in standing (which I've discussed before).  I also would've enjoyed a chat about chair height and how to make gauge appropriate height for growing kids.

My suggestions for working with children:

As a 5' 7" teenager, I remember HATING these chairs because they were way too low.  Imagine if you have a high school orchestra or band student who is 6 feet tall or more?  No wonder they can't sit comfortably!

As a 5' 7" teenager, I remember HATING these chairs because they were way too low.  Imagine if you have a high school orchestra or band student who is 6 feet tall or more?  No wonder they can't sit comfortably!

1.  Definitely teach some variation of "sit" bones, ischial tuberosities, happy dog sad dog, especially if you teach an ensemble.

2.  If you teach at the end of the day (or really early), make the first few minutes time to stretch.  I mean like 5 minutes tops.  If children sit for 8 hours at school, it's going to be hard to correct their suspect alignment unless there's a reset opportunity.

3.  Model good alignment in sitting as much as possible.  Those mirror neurons are going to copy whatever you do, so make sure it's good stuff!  I would definitely look at this book if you're wondering how to be a better model.

Ever sat or tried to play in these guys?  Super uncomfortable as an adult, and not much better when you were a kid.  You either fall into the back divot, or you're too short and your feet don't touch the ground.

Ever sat or tried to play in these guys?  Super uncomfortable as an adult, and not much better when you were a kid.  You either fall into the back divot, or you're too short and your feet don't touch the ground.

4.  Take a look at the chairs you have.  Are they too low?  Too high?  How are kids naturally sitting?  Many kids chairs are built to create that slump, such as this one on the right.  The back of the seat is much lower than the front, which is really uncomfortable.

5.  Consider having a guest movement, yoga, Alexander Technique or other teacher come to your studio, school, or lessons, and offer some guidance.  Just make sure they have some experience with kids, and that they can make things fun and informative. 

 

 

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