What is Seiza?
Based on ancient Japanese standards, Seiza is considered the formal way of sitting. The term translates to “sitting with a correct posture.” The position is characterized by neatly folded legs, an erect spine, and feet neatly tucked underneath the body. Many traditional tea ceremonies and Japanese performances required its participants to practice Seiza in order to attend. This way of sitting has come to represent two of the most significant values in Japanese culture: courtesy and apology. It is believed by the Japanese that Seiza is an essential tool to portray these specific traits.
How to Sit in Seiza
- Remove your footwear.
- Without sitting fully, kneel on the floor, a cushion, or another preferred surface. Traditionally, a pillow known as the Zabuton would aid in this posture, but it is not necessary.
- Turn your ankles outwards, making a slight “V” shape with your feet so the tops of the feet are flat on the floor with the big toes overlapped. The right foot is always on top of the left.
- Sit down fully, resting your bottom on your heels.
- Fold your hands in your lap or place them palm down on the upper thighs with the fingers pressed close together.
- As you sit, keep your back straight, but not uncomfortably stiff. Women were taught to sit with their knees together and men, to separate them slightly, but the choice is yours.
Most people who are not used to sitting in Seiza find it very uncomfortable at first, but when done correctly and in moderation, it can provide health benefits.
Seiza is an excellent position for meditation. In Japanese culture, it is believed that it can help you feel calmer and more focused. It also allows the core to stretch properly, strengthening the abdominal and back muscles in the process.
Ergonomically, Seiza helps in maintaining proper vertebral alignment, aiding and even preventing back pain. Additionally, sitting in an upright position helps improve blood circulation, a vital part of general muscle, bone, and organ health.
Sitting in Seiza can be painful for beginners, therefore, it is important to listen to your body and practice in increments, gradually increasing your time. Once the posture feels natural to you, you may find that your muscles and joints have gained newfound flexibility and power.
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