Our son Rivers is 3-years-old now, and for the first couple years of him learning to sit, his favorite position to sit in was the W-sit position. We would frequently pick Rivers up and reposition him, or we would remind him, “fix your legs!” He did not like to cross-legged, and we also noticed that already he preferred to slouch whenever he sat in the W-sit position. As neurologically-based chiropractors, we are very fortunate to use the skills and knowledge we have to apply to our own son, and we want to share what we’ve learned and experienced with you in this post all about the W-sit position!
What is the W-sit position?
When a child is in a W-sit position, they are sitting on their bottom with their knees bent and feet positioned outside of their hips.
If you're standing above your child, you will see their legs and body make the shape of a ‘W’. This position naturally creases a wider base of support, which increases trunk stability and strength--- especially if the trunk area is weak. This requires less postural control, and it becomes “easier” for the kiddo and allows them to put more energy into playing rather than focus on balance.
That position almost resembles a yoga pose called the Hero pose (Sanskrit name, Virasana.) Isn’t that supposed to be a beneficial pose? Absolutely! Practiced mindfully and purposefully, there are great benefits gained from this pose for adults to promote mobility. However, this is not the same as the W-sit position in the sense that it is an unconscious position that kids sit in. For kiddos, it is much easier for them to get in this position because their hips have a much greater range of motion. In the W-sitting position, their hips are positioned at extreme limits of internal rotation. Frequently sitting in this position, and/or for extended periods of time, along with the inability to grow out of this pattern is the concern.
What are concerns with frequent & prolonged W-sit position?
The W-sitting position is not the cause of your child’s issues. Rather it can be an outcome of unhealthy brain development. For example, it may an indicator that there are retained primitive reflexes. Primitive reflexes are automatic actions originating in the central nervous system that are exhibited by normal infants before 12 months of age. These reflexes should be suppressed by the development of the frontal lobes as a child transitions normally into child development. However, abnormal maturation of the brain may not properly inhibit these reflexes. Just like a light on the dashboard giving you a warning that something is running incorrectly in your car, the W-sit position is a warning light for you to start asking questions about the function of the brain. If ignored and not addressed, symptoms continue to layer on and the list continues to grow. A number of physical and cognitive concerns can include:
- Poor postural development, such as slouching
- Weakened core stabilization and strength
- Less range of rotational motion of trunk leading to deficits in eye-hand skills and crossing midline play
- Restlessness while sitting, and often have to hook feet around the chair in order to stabilize
- Affects balance and coordination development during childhood
- Limits exploration and movement to other positions
- Predisposition to hip dislocation, hip dysplasia, and abnormal muscle tone throughout the body
- May contribute to unhealthy compensatory issues affecting mobility patterns in adulthood. Adults may present with symptoms such as back pain, sciatica, headaches, knee pain.
In our next posts, we’ll continue the conversation and discuss:
- Primitive reflexes and brain dysfunction that result in W-sit position,
- How you can test if there is a presence of brain weaknesses and how you can proactively stop your child W-sitting (and preventing further concerns listed above.)