Chairs are a rather recent invention, the use of which has become part and parcel of daily life for people across the globe. Not just while working, people nowadays are accustomed to sitting around the dining room table or even on the couch for their meals.
But in the past, people sat or squatted on the floor while eating. Though not a common practice in Western countries, it continues even today in some cultures.
This ancient tradition has its roots in yoga and Ayurveda, and comes with science-backed health benefits, too.
If you are not very comfortable sitting on the floor, bring out some comfortable, rugs, pillows or cushions for sitting.
Here are some of the health benefits of sitting on the floor while eating.
1. Offers Benefits of Seated Yoga Poses
When you’re sitting on the floor eating your food, you are actually doing a kind of yoga pose. It might be Sukhasana, Swastikasana or Siddhasana.
Although these seated postures look simple and easy, practicing these poses with a clear intention offers many health benefits.
In Sukhasana (Easy, Cross-Legged Pose), you sit with your legs relaxed while lifting your spine and opening your chest. Your shins are kept virtually parallel, and your feet are underneath the opposite knees. This is a very stable pose for doing upper body work, such as shoulder rolls and neck stretches.
In fact, a well-aligned Sukhasana pose creates the conditions for a relaxed yet alert state in both the body and mind. As this pose takes a surprising amount of core strength, doing it repeatedly tones the entire circumference of your torso—front, sides and back.
Also, it helps ease muscle tension and open your root chakra.
To sum it up, when you sit in a Sukhasana pose and eat, you are multitasking – eating your food and doing yoga at the same time.
2. Improves Digestion
Sitting on the floor in a cross-legged position and eating your food is good for your digestive system.
The back-and-forth movement of bending forward to eat and returning to your natural sitting position helps abdominal muscles secrete digestive juices, which are needed for quick and proper digestion.
Plus, this sitting position allows the mind to calm down and applies pressure to the lower spine, which facilitates relaxation. Also, muscular tension releases and high blood pressure comes down.
According to Ayurveda, all these things work together to ensure proper digestion of the food you eat. Optimal digestion of food is the key to a healthy body.
3. Increases Life Span
Regularly standing up from a seated position on the floor without needing a hand can also help you live longer.
A 2012 study published in the European Journal of Backentive Cardiology reports that the ability to stand up from a seated position on the floor without using any support correlates with a longer life expectancy.
According to the study, getting up from sitting position requires considerable flexibility and body strength, which are needed to avoid common accidents, injuries and falls.
If a person has difficulty standing up from a sitting position, he or she is 6.5 times more likely to die within the next six years. Study participants ranged in age from 51 to 80 years.
4. Improves Strength and Flexibility
Sitting on the floor in a cross-legged position also makes your body stronger and more flexible.
This sitting position stretches the hips, knees and ankles. It also increases flexibility throughout the spine, shoulders and chest, thus making you more flexible and able to ward off certain diseases.
This strength and flexibility helps you stand upright without slouching, as well as pick up heavy objects without hurting your back.
On the other hand, sitting in a chair for hours leads to weak, tight and sore lower back; weak abdominal muscles; and stiff, inflexible and aching hips, to name only a few.
5. Supports Correct Body Posture
Good posture is important for reducing excessive strain on certain muscles and joints, especially the back and neck.
By sitting cross-legged on the floor for eating, you are automatically correcting your posture.
When you sit on the floor in the Sukhasana pose, you need to keep your back straight, expanding your spine and pushing the shoulders back. This posture helps prevent all kinds of aches and pains that are caused by bad posture.
On the other hand, sitting on a chair or couch and hunching over your desk and computer for most of the day can lead to poor posture and a weak lower back.
6. Improves Blood Circulation
Sitting cross-legged to eat your food is also beneficial for your circulatory system.
When sitting on the floor, blood pumps more easily through the heart to other parts of the body, as opposed to sitting on a chair with your feet further below your heart level. Also, sitting on the floor leads to a healthier heart by reducing the excess pressure on it while eating.
Good blood circulation ensures that all the body’s organs get the essential nutrients to function properly. For people with circulatory problems, sitting on the floor while eating is highly recommended.
7. Aids Weight Loss
When you sit down and eat, it has a calming effect on your mind and body. A calm body is better able to focus on the food you’re eating, which in turn prevents overeating.
This happens because the vagus nerve performs better and transmits signals more efficiently in this position. It is the vagus nerve that transmits signals from the stomach to the brain as you eat, telling your brain whether or not your stomach is full.
Moreover, this sitting position makes you eat slower. This gives your stomach and brain enough time to recognize when you are full.
Plus, the act of sitting and standing up from the floor is good exercise. All these factors together aid in managing your body weight.
8. Promotes Family Bonding
Last but not least, sitting on the floor to eat your dinner or lunch with family can give you a brand new way to connect with your family members.
Also, when you are sitting at the same level with your children, it is simply easier to connect with them and learn about their feelings and emotions.
You can make sitting on the floor to eat a family ritual to improve family bonds. Also, the posture relaxes the body and mind, which is important to lead a stress-free life.