Get Rid of Your Couch

Move it or lose it. I’m sure you’ve heard this before. But is it true? If so, are there limits to this mantra? This article will explore the pursuit of incorporating more daily movement into your life by doing something relatively easy, but exceedingly unconventional: getting rid of your couch.

Have you ever tried to get up off the floor without assistance? Try it. Get on the floor and stand up without the help of another human being or a coffee table. Did you “cheat” and use your hand(s) pressing down on your thigh?

When attempting a similar movement at a MovNat® training, I recall our trainer, Danny Clark, inquiring, “how much does your body want to work around the task you’re asking it to do?”

I remember hearing this and thinking, Busted. My body (or perhaps, my mind) was searching for ways to help me get up as opposed to just doing the action with simple efficiency. Clark added, “To be able to read the feedback your body gives you is a skill.”

I had heard the phrase “listen to your body” at least a thousand times at this point in my yoga journey and I realized that this repetition had diluted the teaching for me. I had taken body-listening for granted. Embarrassingly, I had just assumed that since I was an avid yoga practitioner, body awareness was happening, with no real need for me to get more involved.

I had considered body-awareness in more of a yin mind-set: listening was about receiving information from the body in a passive manner. Clark taught me that I could take a more yang approach and actively pursue body-listening as a skill.

Danny moved about the room like a jungle cat, without a trace of arrogance, jumping off boxes silently and climbing stairs as if his feet barely touched the steps. He seemed incredibly aware of how his physical body could interact in harmony with his surroundings and by having this awareness, he emanated a self-assurance that was heartening.

Danny acknowledged that his competence was a learned skill. I could feel the inspiration swell in the room when Clark assured us that he had practiced to get to this level of comfort and capability in his body and that he still practiced daily to maintain it. Danny made us see that physical proficiency would require effort, but it was available to all of us. I left the training positive that I could become more comfortable and adept in my body with consistency and patience and by prioritizing movement in my daily life.

Getting up off the floor without the use of my arms became my own personal measure of physical adeptness. This relatively simple task requires a multitude of movements that can strengthen hips, glutes, legs, and core. As well, the task challenges balance and encourages healthy joint mobility in the knee, hip, and spine. Doing this movement multiple times throughout the day strengthens and stretches the body in small doses. These doses add up.

How do you find time to practice such a movement multiple times a day? Get rid of the temptation -- your couch – and sit on the floor.

Katy Bowman, a biomechanist and author of Move Your DNA: Restore Your Health With Natural Movement, defines movement as “any physical change in shape”. When you sit on the floor, you will stretch your body and stimulate joints and tissues in ways you can’t even imagine. You will shift and change positions and create a variety of shapes with your body. Let’s face it, couches do not encourage this mélange of movement.

Bowman has a video where she takes the viewer on a tour of her home, pointing out all the ways her family has transformed their house into a movement-rich abode. The first time I saw it, I found the tour both inspiring and daunting. Katy’s home offered simple solutions to encouraging movement and stretching throughout each day, but her house certainly didn’t emulate the typical American home.

On her tour, Katy points to a bench off to the side. This wooden, cushion-less bench is the only raised seating apparatus in her entire house. She explains the bench is for guests that come over who are unable to sit on the floor and adds the bench is “not super comfy because we don’t want to encourage sitting.”

The couches, arm chairs, and settees we have scattered throughout our homes are little cozy pitfalls, tempting us at all times to “take a load off”. The issue is, “taking a load off” translates literally: by taking a load off we are taking away the load-bearing pursuit of standing or sitting without support. We succumb to gravity’s downward tug and we plop down in a sea of pillows, removing all strain from the body. But stress is necessary in appropriate doses – this is how our bones and muscles stay strong.

Sitting on the floor is not comfortable, but this is actually the point. While couches allow us to nestle into a cushiony time warp, sitting on the floor does not; which means we bend and stretch and shift and look out the window and pay attention and stay more attuned to our breath.

I promise the mantra is not to keep moving and never stop. Quite the opposite, incorporating more movement in small doses throughout the day will grant you immense appreciation for stillness. You will know stillness at its true depth because you are intimately aware of its opposite. You will also come to inhabit a more relaxed physical nature as you learn to sense the slightest tension in your tissues, giving you a corporeal gauge to monitor your stress levels.

Erwan Le Corre, founder of MovNat® and author of the book The Practice of Natural Movement, says that “moving more doesn’t always allow you to move better, but moving better always allows you to move more.”

Like nutritional variety, it’s important to keep regular and diversified movement in our lives - what Katy Bowman calls “nutritious movement” - but we also want to make sure that through our regular movement we are actually accomplishing better movement and becoming more competent in our bodies.

The better it feels to move, the more inclined we are to do it. When you become more skilled at a task, the action becomes more enjoyable and you will do it more often. By doing the action more often, you will become more skilled. It is a cycle of competency.

Carefully experiment with your body by sitting on the floor more often and see if after a week or so you feel different. Give yourself a goal of achieving less aches in your spine or less crackling sounds in your knees – something simple – and test whether sitting on the floor accomplishes this goal.

I can tell you, I have been couch-less for nearly two years and I can only report good news. When friends describe aches or pains and ask for guidance, I gently offer the solution of avoiding the couch for a bit and sitting on the floor. They usually look at me like I’m crazy and most of them dismiss my recommendation with cynicism.

But a few have heeded my advice. And those who have, report back that it helped. Do I think that they, like me, will be so convinced that they will get rid of their couch? I don’t.

But maybe you will.

Kate Smith
About the Author

Kate Smith

Kate Smith never seems to be satiated by the study of yoga. Kate founded her own yoga studio twice and has been a certified teacher for 20 years. She self-published her novel, Brine, about a mermaid named Ishmael. She lives outside of her hometown of Charleston, SC with her husband, daughter, and their two dogs — all of whom graciously love the ocean as much as she does.


Christel B
3 people like this.
I so agree!
4 people like this.
I agree 100%! And I sure hope that there are new classes  on Yoga Anytime with you in the pipeline  Kate Smith
Ted J
4 people like this.
I actually gave away the couch in my office area recently to make more room for yoga and other exercise.
Kate Smith
1 person likes this.
Christel B, I am glad to know you agree! my husband and I sometimes feel like we are KRAZY for doing living like this but then we FEEL how much it helps -- and that spurs us on. Thanks for reaching out! Love to you, Sweet Sister
Kate Smith
1 person likes this.
Hey there, Katrin !! Warms my heart to know you are out there! Thanks for the comment! I hope to practice with you cosmically soon! love love and more LOVE
Kate Smith
1 person likes this.
Wow Ted J !! Great idea to clear space in your office. I am the same way....I have a nice space in my office so that I am encouraged to squat and move and bend !! Grateful to know such a like-minded soul is out there. Thanks for the comment!
David G-
1 person likes this.
When I had my "come to yoga moment" last March, I knew movement was my key to having a more fulfilling life. You wrote this article a day later than when I found my first teacher. How cool is that? I would add this: figure out a way to shrink your television so that the people in the house are bigger than those on the screen, and life isn't about your next purchase. Looking forward to sitting on the floor with my two dogs and three cats. 

You need to be a subscriber to post a comment.

Please Log In or Create an Account to start your free trial.

Footer Yoga Anytime Logo

Just Show Up

Over 2,900 yoga and meditation practices to bring you Home.

15-Day Free Trial