Chairs: The Bane of our Existence

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been asked for help with sitting in a chair.  Most chairs are poorly designed, especially  those deemed “office chairs.”  An Alexander teacher named Galen Cranz has written a book called “The Chair: Rethinking Culture, Body and Design.”  I watched a slide show she developed showing chairs over the centuries: how could so many designers get it so wrong for so long?

Yet, here we are stuck with curvy-backed office chairs that roll and overstuffed arm chairs and sofas that we sink into like golf balls in whipped cream.  What to do?

Theoretically, the best chair for sitting is a straight-backed wooden chair that has a flat surface for the seat and a 90-110 degree angle for the back of the chair.   Get two inexpensive foam pads and put one under you and one behind you. Sit all the way to the back of the chair. You will be wonderfully supported!  It also helps to put a couple of 1-2” tall wooden blocks under the back legs to give your pelvis some uplift. Sit as widely as possible.

The best chair for sitting is a straight-backed wooden variety
The best chair for sitting is a straight-backed wooden variety

Now, this may not be a familiar way of sitting, but once you get used to it (and of course the lessons get you used to it), you will feel great.

Refrain from crossing your legs or sitting pretzel-style (either one leg or both). This puts a torque in your pelvis and will prevent you from finding symmetry. However, I think it’s just fine to rotate one leg sideways and sling the outside of your leg over your other knee to rest. Both sitting bones can remain on the chair. Change legs to keep balanced.

If you are out at the movies or in an airplane, at a conference or in a meeting, a wallet or paperback book can be slipped behind you between your shoulder blades to add additional support (since we can assume most mass-produced chairs will entice you into a breath-destroying slump).

It’s best to stay off your “toxic couch” if it is too soft and cushy. You can actually replace the stuffing with firmer foam (at an upholstery store) or put boards under the cushions if you must sit on a couch or armchair.

If you must sit in an office chair,  make sure your feet touch the ground.  Sit as wide as possible. Alternate between the back of the chair and sitting all the way to the front. Some people are enjoying the use of tables that rise so that they can work standing up at times. If you do stand, be sure your knees are unlocked.

Alexander lessons will most assuredly help you understand and enjoy sitting and help you choose the chair that provides the most support for your situation.