Sitting for many of us is an inescapable feature of our daily activities and one which we struggle with. Maybe it even pains us. Especially when we’re sitting in front of a computer and our attention is focused on that screen.
Many books on ergonomics and posture propose a correct way of sitting, an ideal, which if we take seriously, we cannot help but fail to live up to. In this paradigm, any discomfort experienced while sitting is either our fault or the fault of our particular chair-desk combination.
The first costs us our sense of wellbeing while the second costs us money if we buy into the quest for the latest ergonomic furniture solution.
But searching for ease in sitting doesn’t have to be approached like this. There’s another more fun and intuitive way to engage with sitting. And the clue to how rests with the fact that somewhere in our past we have all embodied this ideal.
We have all experienced ideal sitting
We human beings are not designed to sit up straight. There’s not a single straight line in our bodies. Nor are we designed to sit still. If there is an ideal way to sit then it is one which nearly all of us has experienced but paradoxically few of us make use of in our daily lives.
My proposition is that ideal sitting, if such a thing existed, is most clearly demonstrated by a baby who has just newly acquired the ability. With a larger head in relation to body than that of the adult and the neuromuscular system unused to the position, a baby has no other option other than to balance its head above its pelvis making the best possible use of the bones of the spine and pelvis for support. And the motivation to sit is to orient to and engage with the environment.
Forget posture – comfortable sitting is more like dancing
As babies we certainly didn’t sit still for long. Sitting for babies is not a position that they hold, but one they move through. So, if we take baby-sitting as an ideal to inspire us then movement is a part of it too. In other words, sitting is like a bit like dancing.
By considering sitting as like dancing, then we can all benefit from the many gentle and playful somatically-oriented contemporary dance training techniques, in turn supported by the latest developments in neuroscience, to improve our experience of sitting.
Learning about sitting the BodySchool way
What you won’t be told in this work is how to sit correctly. Our bodies are not like those of babies. That ideal is simply an image to aspire towards. We are are all different shapes and sizes, with different histories, education and cultural backgrounds. Negotiating between these, and maybe also to mitigate injuries we might have picked up along life’s way, we’ve all devised our own habits of sitting, all perfectly valid even if far from ideal.
Instead we you’ll be invited to try out many different ways to play with sitting. The aim is not to erase your habits but instead to multiply your range of solutions to the physical puzzles presented by sitting. Playing with puzzles is fun in the sense of being deeply engaged with our physical selves than we have been since childhood.
The more variations you can teach yourself through play then the more choice you’ll have move through when you sit. And of course, if you discover something pleasurable about how you can move while engaged in a pleasurable act of playing then you are more likely to find yourself applying and using that spontaneously in daily life. It becomes part of your movement repertoire.
Working smarter not harder
We’ll look at some basic anatomical structures of ourselves and you’ll be guided to feel how your own personal anatomy (experiential anatomy) shapes you. We will examine how different ways of thinking of, or imagining, ourselves sitting effects how we actually sit (ideokinesis). And we’ll do some gentle Feldenkrais Awareness Through Movement classes to take us beyond our habitual use of ourselves.
We’ll also make use of some of the latest insights from the most up-to-date contemporary dance training practices where the emphasis, informed by neurological research, is to work smart not hard. All the movements we’ll do are easy, slow and relaxing and can be done by anyone.
And please don’t think you’ll be sitting all the time. We’ll also work in standing and walking, and we’ll spend a lot of time lying down. Working smart means working without suffering. Sitting is our focus and we’ll return to it again and again but many of the strategies we’ll explore to improve sitting won’t actually be done sitting!
The course structure
In the full three-weekend course, the first weekend looks primarily at how to sit comfortably and the part the legs have to play in the organisation of the torso; the second weekend explores how to integrate the arms and hands; and the third weekend brings in the use of the eyes and breath, and introduces ways to play with orientation in space to bring ease and awareness to working in front of the screen – above all the aim is not to get stuck!
Shorter introductory classes or workshops are also available– please email me if you are interested in organising an introduction at your workplace.
What you’ll leave with
Besides the experience itself and whatever tools, tips and tricks that you maybe have picked up an integrated into your lives already, I offer students a booklet with notes and illustrations as a reminder of everything that we’ve covered. I also record all the Feldenkrais Awareness Through Movement classes and make them available as downloadable mp3 files so you can repeat these longer and more complex sequences of guided movement explorations at home any time you like.
And finally, even if sitting ever more comfortably is our goal, since any improvements you feel will be the result of some reorganisation of your way of being with yourself physically, then you may notice positive changes in other realms of your life. As I say in the introduction to BodySchool: “The way we learn to orient to and move through the world sets the ground for all the other skills that we learn in life.” In other words, change how you move and everything changes.