I often tend to correct my students when I see them in the W sitting position, and yesterday I thought to myself, is it really bad for you or is it an old wives tale, as for as long as I can remember teachers have corrected me doing the same thing.
I see people in a yoga class sitting like that too, so is it so bad for you?
I can’t do this anymore at my age, but looking at children sitting like that makes me cringe, as it just doesn’t look normal to me.
W Sitting Position
So what is a w sitting position?
The W sitting position is a sitting position in which children (or adults) sit with knees bent, feet tucked under, bottom resting on the floor between their legs, and legs out to either side.
The knees may be close to touching or maybe splayed apart. Parents and therapists usually notice children in the W sitting position between ages 3 to 6, but you may also observe it with younger or older children.
Does The W Sitting Position Cause Long-Term Defects?
While many children find it more comfortable to sit in a W, over time, undeveloped bones and joints are affected by the routine stress on the hip and legs. Generally, you don’t need to worry about adjusting the W-sit pattern until about age 2 to 2.5 due to increased flexibility and malleability of bones and joints in infancy.
The W sitting position is often favored by children as it is a stable sitting position, as they don’t need to use their core muscles to hold them up but rather press on the legs, and it has a wider base to balance on. Low muscle tone children usually love sitting like this.
This wide base also limits a child’s need to weight shift on their bottom from side to side during play, resulting in decreased use of balance responses. This lack of activation causes a cycle of muscle weakness, resulting in difficulty integrating the left and right sides of the body, leading to decreased coordination. These impairments can lead to decreased play involving crossing over the body’s midline and poor progress with high-level fine motor tasks using two hands.
Twisting inward of the thighbone (which is called “femoral anteversion”) is fairly typical at a young age and tends to decrease after age 8. However, it is important to note that therapists see better results the earlier the problem is addressed. Age 8, or even 6 or 7, are considered advanced stages to discover issues with coordination and strength that could have been addressed or avoided altogether.
Additionally, this pattern is also seen in kids who have other underlying issues, such as low tone, generalized muscle weakness, sensory concerns, and decreased fine and gross motor coordination.
According to Rebecca Cohen, DPT, PT, increasing the inward rotation of the hip while decreasing the outward range of motion can contribute to a pigeon-toed gait pattern. This walking pattern is correlated with excessive tripping, clumsiness, instability when walking and running, and decreased balance and body awareness.
Another joint abnormality that occurs is called tibial torsion, which is the outward rotation of the lower leg. While standing, this type of torsion causes the foot to turn outward and the knee to turn inward.
It also influences walking and running mechanics. With the foot facing outward, the last point of contact when walking becomes the outside ridge of the foot, which leads to abnormal gait mechanics. Walking can become tiring, slower, and painful.
Children may also experience foot pain because of flattening arches. If untreated, adults can experience tight iliotibial (IT) bands, knee arthritis, and/or hip and back pain.
So in a nutshell, yes the W sitting position, if done too often can cause many problems like:
- Structural abnormalities of the hips
- Core weakness
- Poor balance
- Poor posture
- Pigeon Toes
- Delayed or impaired fine motor development
- Stress on joints
- Back and hip pain as an adult
- Shortening of the hip abductors
So for a dancing teacher, having your students sitting in this position will not help them to progress. Discourage the W sitting position when you see them doing it.
Here are some tips to break the W sitting habit if you think your child has a problem
The truth is that W Sitting by itself is not always a problem. In fact, when children use this position only rarely and don’t depend on it for support, it can often be no cause for alarm.