Chairs - Are They Really So Useful?

I'd like to create a retreat at a place where there are no cars, no computers, and no chairs. When you sit on the ground you learn a lot about your body. Just like when you take your shoes off and walk you learn a lot about your own movement; walking without shoes can feel scary and threatening to some people. So can doing away with your chair and sitting on the floor.

Expensive does not mean effective

You may be familiar with the iconic Aeron chair by Herman Miller.

herman-miller-aeron-chair1This chair costs a whopping $963! Its description explains that thePostureFit® technology used in its construction "supports the way your pelvis tilts naturally forward, so that your spine stays aligned and you avoid back pain."

But here's the issue: A chair cannot teach you to sit naturally in such a way that you can prevent back pain!

Relying on an external force (the chair) to mold your body to a "correct" position in order to avoid pain is a misguided approach to sitting painlessly and effortlessly. It ignores a person's existing Sensory Motor Amnesia (SMA) which causes muscle pain, and forces the body into an unnatural position.

How should I sit to avoid back pain?

Read my Effortless Sitting article to learn in detail how to sit naturally and avoid back pain. Several clients have told me that after they learned to sit properly (through the techniques outlined in the article linked above) their back pain disappeared. Sitting with the pelvis tilted forward, as with the Aeron chair, teaches the back muscles to stay arched and overly contracted. This causes the back muscles to work harder than necessary and ultimately contributes to chronic back pain.

Use it or lose it

Here's the thing about sitting on the floor: if you never stopped getting up and down off the floor, you would never forget how to do it. Use it or lose it. I have many clients here in the United States who tell me that it is uncomfortable when they sit on the floor, and that, once seated, they struggle to stand up. We are a chair culture and it is hurting us in the long-run.

In Indian, African, and Japanese cultures (to name a few) it is still very common to sit on the floor or squat when eating, waiting, or using the toilet. When I was in India, I saw many elderly people squatting, then standing up with ease. It is clear that they never stopped squatting, and they never spent decades sitting with hips rigidly at 90 degrees and backs arched in a chair.

Sit on the floor more

So try something for a couple of hours every day: get some cushions and put them on the floor.

Sit down to eat, work on your computer, or read a book. Use your coffee table as a desk. Notice how you'll need to shift your position every so often (this is good - the muscles need to be able to move). Notice things about your body you didn't notice before. And let me know how it goes.