So far in this series, I’ve considered many things, all to do with awareness and the way we use ourselves – our bodies, our minds, our breath – but I’ve not yet looked at the arrangement of our work station. For me this is absolutely secondary to the way we use ourselves. Even the best ergonomic set up won’t help us, if we don’t use our body appropriately within it! And with the good body awareness and understanding that the Alexander Technique brings we can even cope well with poor arrangements.
Having said that, we can set up our work station, and especially our chair, to encourage better use of our bodies.
Most desk chairs are not very helpful in encouraging healthy posture. They are the wrong height, often tip us back (inviting us to slump), have arms that get in the way of free arm movement, not to mention a curved back, uncomfortable “lumbar support,” and a head rest that pushes your head forward…
I suggest you raise the height of your chair so your hips are a little higher than your knees, making sure the seat is level or possibly slightly sloped forward. This not only helps you rest on your sit bones, but allows the legs to drape down so the feet can rest easily on the floor. Making this change made a huge difference to one of my students with hip problems.
You don’t have to have a special chair to do this, you can use a couple of phone books,
or cushions (here I’m using a special wedge type cushion, which can be especially effective if you have a chair that tips you back).
Recently I’ve been experimenting with this “sitting disc” – which raises the height of the seat, while giving a bit of movement similar to sitting on a posture ball (which I found to be too low and too mobile for working at the computer).
Or you can even get rid of your chair completely, as my colleague, Robert Rickover has done. He now uses a stool about 1 1/2 times as high as a regular chair!
The Computer Screen:
Arrange the height of screen so the top of it is more or less level with your eyes. Often our screen is much lower, so if we don’t pay attention we’ll likely to be curling up our back and jutting out our head to look at it. Of course with laptops this is not possible – look out for my next blog, in which I’ll discuss more specifically how to cope best with your laptop!
Also, please make sure your screen is directly in front of you. There’s nothing worse than having to constantly twist just to look at the screen.
Keyboard and Mouse:
Make sure your keyboard and mouse are within comfortable reach for your arms and hands – not so far away that you have to stretch out just to type, but not so close that you end up curling yourself inwards to reach it. And, like the screen, these should be directly in front of you for ease of use.
Anything you use frequently should be within easy reach, so you don’t have to stretch or twist awkwardly just to pick up your phone, for instance.
Sometimes very simple adjustments can big difference. What challenges do you have with your work station?