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      1 <h1>chairs and chair alternatives</h1>
      3 <p>In 2020, I read Galen Cranz's book <a
      4   href="">The Chair: Rethinking
      5   Culture, Body and Design</a>, and it had a strong effect on me. Galen Cranz
      6 argues that sitting in a 90-degree angle chair is fundamentally unstable and at odds with the human body.
      7 "Good" posture is essentially impossible to maintain in a
      8 chair, which throws the body out of balance. She studies chairs through an
      9 anthropological and historical lens. For example, during British colonial rule
     10 in India, workers in a factory would squat on the ground while working, and
     11 chairs and stools were forced upon them. Prior to colonization, it would be
     12 normal for, say, a teacher to lead a classroom seated on the floor, adding
     13 chairs to a classroom became a way of bringing it and the colonial subjects
     14 closer in line with Western ideals.</p>
     16 <p>Chairs are associated with Western modernity and "development". We would
     17 consider it odd, to, for example, sit on the ground on the train, or a subway
     18 platform, in an office, or in a university lecture. Chair sitting is associated
     19 with being dignified, clean, professional, etc. Galen Cranz challenges these
     20 assumptions, encourages us to see them as dependent on a specific cultural
     21 context, and explore other ways of interacting with our environment through out
     22 bodies. I've tried to challenge chair-sitting and experiment with different
     23 ways of relating to my environment with my body in my work and recreation in my
     24 home.</p>
     25 <p>
     26 Some context: I am 5'11, able-bodied, male, cisgender, 155-165 pounds. These is
     27 in many ways, a highly normative body, and the physical environment of the
     28 world is rarely not designed for me. These experiments may, for whatever
     29 reason, not apply to you, they only reflect my experience, but I encourage your
     30 own exploration and experimentation in the context of your body. I would
     31 contend that this exploration would be only more valuable for people whose
     32 bodies deviate from the norm in some way. I am not a yoga practitioner,
     33 ergonomics expert, or anything -- this is not a prescriptive guide, but an
     34 invitation to exploration.</p>
     36 <p>A lot of this guide will be biased towards thinking about being at a
     37 computer, which is, unfortunately, where I find myself much of the time.</p>
     39 <h2>sitting</h2> 
     40 <p>Chair sitting's inherent instability generally leads to people
     41 hunching over, putting strain on and weakening their necks and putting them
     42 into a posture that is difficult to maintain comfortably over time. This is
     43 because in a chair, the Pelvis is tilted upwards, forcing the spine to curve
     44 forward, pushing the neck forward.</p>
     46 <p><a href=",q_glossy,ret_img,w_800/">"Good"
     47   ergonomics</a> tells you that the solution is to sit up straight, with a natural
     48 curve in the spine. However -- have you ever seen someone sit stably like this
     49 for a long period of time? Have you ever been able to? Galen Cranz argues that
     50 the 90 degree angle of the chair necessarily pushes the pelvis forward on the
     51 chair, making it almost impossible to maintain this posture without strain.
     52 When I sit in a chair such as the $2000 Herman Miller Aeron chair depicted in this
     53 image, I generally have some sort of dynamic, fidgety, twisted posture, and no
     54 matter how hard I try, I find myself hunched forward, and I'm sure anyone
     55 observing an open plan office will observe something similar.</p>
     57 <p>Alternative, more 'stable' seating generally involves something that puts your
     58 pelvis at an angle other than 90 degrees. Something like, sitting on a <a
     59   href="">kneeling chair</a>, the
     60 edge of a stool (I have a rocking stool with a cushion on it) or the lip of a
     61 sloped chair. However, this requires strength and flexibility that you may not
     62 have. I myself have been able to maintain a "pelvis-forward" sitting
     63 posture for only a relatively short period of time. I'd be interested to see
     64 whether practice and strength training changes this. Still, this posture
     65 does feel constructive to me, it feels like it's something I could get better with in
     66 time. </p>
     68 <p>I also sometimes sit in a reclined chair. Currently, I'm in <a
     69   href="">this
     70   chair</a> writing this. In this position, I'm very relaxed and leaning back,
     71 with my laptop or a book on a pillow on my lap. I type on my laptop in this
     72 position, but it's difficult to take professional calls seated like this, given
     73 the position of the camera relative to my face. However, I've found a laptop
     74 keyboard that is comfortable to type on for long periods of time, so this works
     75 quite well for me. I never, ever work on side or personal projects at a desk or in an
     76 office chair -- I would find this unbearably unpleasant, like an extension of
     77 work.</p>
     79 <h2>standing</h2>
     80 <p>Standing desks and sit-stand arrangements have become very popular in recent
     81 years. I do stand sometimes for work and find it nice to pace around while on
     82 meetings, etc. I used to have a standing-only desk, but I get tired quite
     83 easily. Standard for a while definitely takes practice and may require
     84 developing some strength. I stand on a yoga mat.</p>
     86 <h2>the floor</h2>
     87 <p>When is the last time you sat on the floor for an extended period of time? I
     88 recommend trying it and seeing where your body goes, what does it find
     89 comfortable, uncomfortable, etc? Here are some ideas for floor sitting and
     90 postures to experiment with.</p>
     92 <p>A <a href="">Zafu</a> is a round cushion that
     93 elevates the hips, similar to the 'sitting' postures discussed above. When I'm
     94 sitting on the floor for an extended period of time, I will generally sit on a Zafu, which allows for more stability rather than sitting directly on the floor. Sitting on
     95 it took me some practice, but now it is quite comfortable for me. For a while,
     96 this was the main position that I did work in, and I still work on my computer
     97 sometimes on the floor , but it is relatively static and non-relaxed, so it's
     98 difficult to maintain all day. You probably want to put your Zafu on some sort
     99 of soft mat, like a yoga mat or <a
    100 href="">Zabuton</a>.
    101 </p>
    102 <p>Some ways of sitting on the floor:</p>
    104 <ul>
    105   <li><a href="">Sukhasana</a>, aka "Criss-cross applesauce"</li>
    106   <li><a href="">Burmese posture</a></li>
    107   <li><a href="">Half Lotus</a></li>
    108   <li><a href="">Seiza</a> -- I generally do this with a pillow between my hips and feet.</li>
    109 </ul>
    111 <p>Learning to do a <a href="">full squat</a>, 
    112 where your full foot is on the ground, can be a valuable posture. Some people
    113 struggle with this, but it was never difficult for me. It may require
    114 developing some flexibility. In some cultures, this is a natural resting
    115 position people maintain for hours, I'm not able to do that, but I do sometimes
    116 do this squat when I'm waiting for a train/bus, extremely tired, and alone or in a mood
    117 where I'm unconcerned with people judging me.</p>
    119 <h2>lying down</h2>
    120 <p>I will often lie in bed or on a couch with my upper back elevated and neck supported
    121 and either have my legs straight or have my knees up and my laptop or a book on my knees.
    122 I have less to say about this, because most of us are used to lying down, but
    123 one comment I'd like to make is that I find lying down to be a very reasonable
    124 posture to work on things.  Most of the code for <a
    125 href=""></a>, I wrote supine. I often
    126 lie down while working at a laptop, and would encourage you to experiment with
    127 it.</p>
    129 <p><a href="">Constructive rest</a> is a good posture for relaxing and listening to a podcast or something.</p>
    131 <h2>mindset</h2>
    132 The placement of your body probably also affects your thinking. In some
    133 positions, you may find certain kind of activity more natural. For example,
    134 stool-sitting, chair-sitting and standing, I associate with work, as in, my
    135 professional job, and tend to affect in me feelings of industriousness,
    136 productivity, diligence, professionalism, as well as anxiety and annoyance. I
    137 encourage you both to explore these associations and challenge them -- is there
    138 any reason why one couldn't do serious, professional work while supine?
    139 Personally, I've done it before, but my reservations are less about what being
    140 supine does to my work, but rather what doing work does to being supine, ie,
    141 there is this tension between doing work (disciplining myself into being
    142 productive towards specific ends) and lying down. 
    144 <h2>conclusion</h2>
    145 Hopefully you found this interesting. I encourage you to try non-chair-sitting ways
    146 of moving your body when eating, reading, resting, working, etc. If you have
    147 input into designing a space, consider the ways in which it prioritizes chair
    148 sitting, and experiment with other forms of laying things out, e.g. more spaces
    149 for floor-sitting or lying down. If you have friends who are open to it, try
    150 setting up a nice space for hanging out or enjoying a meal on cushions on the
    151 floor. In my home, I have various spaces and vary between postures throughout
    152 the day, and I encourage you to do the same and find what works for you. If you
    153 search many of the topics discussed in this page, you'll find a lot of people
    154 exploring alternatives to chair-sitting. If you have any ideas or feedback,
    155 please email me at the link found in the footer, I may highlight comments here if you'd like
    156 as well.