If you’ve been anywhere near the internet this week, you’ve probably seen it: a photo of a woman sitting on the subway with her legs crossed, then crossed again, with one ankle neatly tucked under the other.
It started on Imgur, where someone shared the image with the caption: ‘Excuse me would you mind not sitting like that please? Thank you.’
Then news sites started covering it (including, where we asked: ‘why on Earth would anyone sit like this?‘). Writers overwhelmingly expressed confusion over how and why the anonymous woman would choose to sit like this. Buzzfeed asked where her bones are and questioned whether she was ‘possessed’.
And now, personally, I’d quite like all the memes and piss-taking to stop now.
Firstly because I’m not a fan of uploading photos of people in public places on the internet without their permission – especially when you’re planning to say unpleasant things about what they’re doing or how they look.
Just imagine being this woman, popping on to Twitter, and seeing a load of people questioning how you sit on public transport. It wouldn’t feel great.
But the bigger issue here is that the entirety of the internet are talking about this woman’s legs as if they’re a bizarre, ‘disgusting’ anomaly. Which, erm, they’re not.
Let me uncross my legs and stand up, loud and proud, to declare this on the internet: I sit like this, with my legs double or triple crossed, all the time. It feels significantly more comfortable than sitting with my feet flat on the floor and my legs straight.
And it’s not particularly nice to pop on to the internet and see my preferred sitting position described as ‘freaky’, or posts declaring that how I sit at work (yep, I’m doing it under my desk right now) makes people uncomfortable.
The good news? I’m not alone. There are other double or triple leg crossers among us. And there’s a reason some of us find this position so damn comfy.
We spoke to postural alignment specialist Ameet Bhakta, who toldthat while most people may find it uncomfortable to tuck their ankles the way the woman has in the photo, it’s nothing to worry about if you’re one of the few who find it super comfy – it just means that you have some degree of hypermobility, also known as hyperflexibility.
Being hypermobile or hyperflexible simply means that you’re more flexible in some areas (or all over the body). This means you’ll be able to arrange your body in positions that are impossible or very difficult for others. You may also be double-jointed, you lucky duck.
Hypermobility can – in rare cases – be a sign of Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome or Marfan Syndrome.
But don’t let alarmist comments fill you with terror (which is exactly what happened to me this week). Being hypermobile does not automatically mean you have these syndromes – they’re only present in a small number of people.
What hypermobile people do need to consider, however, are the potential health-related effects of hyperflexibility.
People with hypermobile joints can experience issues like joint and muscle pain, and a higher likelihood of injuries and dislocation.
While hypermobility may give you an advantage in activities like yoga and gymnastics, it’s even more important for hypermobile people to make sure they do exercises to strengthen and stabilise the body to reduce the risk of injury.
Ameet also notes that constantly sitting in this position can throw off the alignment of the body.
‘In general, when sitting we don’t want to cross our legs, as this puts the pelvis into an unbalanced, asymmetrical position, which makes the lower back and rest of the body have to work harder,’ he told.
‘Over the long-term continually crossing the same leg over the other can lead to imbalances within the pelvis which can increase the risk of future pain in the hips, lower back and other parts of the body.’
Our recommendation? Make sure to swap which leg is balanced on top, and couple this with strengthening exercises. If you’re experiencing any pain, speak to your GP and mention that you believe you’re hypermobile.
And anyone taking the p*ss or getting freaked out by our sitting positions: back off. It’s not our fault our legs are magically bendy (and it’s actually pretty cool).