Alexander Technique Help for Computer Users – Part 4: Legs and Feet!
So far in this series we’ve considered awareness, which is actually a theme running throughout, balance, our sit bones, and what we do with our head and neck – all while we sit at the computer. But let’s not forget about our legs and feet.
Take a moment right now and notice where your legs are, and where your feet are. Were you, in fact, aware of them, before I drew them to your attention? Are your legs crossed perhaps, or do you have one or both of them tucked under you? Maybe just your toes are touching the floor, rather than your whole feet, or maybe you’ve wrapped your leg around the leg of your chair.
Or maybe you’re wondering, “What have my legs and feet got to do with the way I work at the computer anyway?”
In my opinion, and it’s a basic premise of the Alexander Technique, our body operates as a whole – and what we do with one part affects the rest, however remote it is from the perceived activity in hand.
I would also like to make it clear that there is no one right position to be in, even at the computer! Our body is is at its best when it’s not being fixed or held in any way. When we think of the position we’re in as movable, breathable, flexible and flowing it can go a long way to changing the quality of whatever position we might be in.
That said, there are some positions that are not as likely to cause problems.
Try sitting with your legs uncrossed and both feet just resting lightly on the floor. You can think of the legs releasing out of the hip joint away from the torso as you balance on your sit bones. Notice the contact of your feet with the floor beneath them.
In fact, you may have noticed that by sitting on your sit bones this may have just happened as a knock-on effect.
In the same way that imbalances and tensions in the body in one area cause compensatory imbalances and tensions in another, coordinating factors like resting on your sit bones, and allowing your head to balance at the top of your spine (rather than jutting out toward the screen) may have indirectly caused a better situation for your legs and feet.
And conversely, uncrossing your legs or unwrapping them from the chair legs so that your feet rest flat on the floor, may have indirectly lead you to rest on your sit bones… Learning to let go of tension in the legs can also be of great benefit to anyone with back problems.
In some ways the legs and feet can be perhaps the hardest to stay aware of as we work at the computer – maybe because they are the most “remote” from where the action is! What habits do you have with your legs and feet while you work? Do you think the habits are helpful or not? As always, I’d love to hear from you in the comments below.
Great legs/feet advice! I just wanted to add that in my experience there’s a great deal to be gained by using a stool that’s about 1 1/2 times as high as a typical chair. Ideally the stool will have rungs between the legs where you can rest your feet at various angles. You can get nice “foot feedback” that way and the added height of the stool seems to encourage an easy upright posture.
I wish I could claim this as my own discovery, but it actually comes from the wonderful book “The Chair” by Galen Cranz, a professor of architecture at the University of California Berkeley – and a teacher of the Alexander Technique.
Robert – you are anticipating a future blog in this series where I’ll consider options on how we can set up our desk and chair to best support us!
I didn’t have quite the same experience with you using a stool like the one you describe. My main problem was that my keyboard became too far away from me (of course I could raise that up too) – but I definitely raise my chair to higher than normal. I will have to conduct some more experiments!
And I agree about Galen Cranz’s book (which I have too) – it is great!
Thanks Imogene. I think the only time I’m aware of my legs when I’m working at the computer is either because my foot is falling asleep or the sleeping cat in my lap has adjusted herself with her claws out. 🙂 I probably don’t have the best posture when I’m sitting at my desk. Thanks for the reminder. I’ll try to follow your advice.
Just becoming a bit more aware of the whole of your body (including legs and feet) as you work can go a long way in making positive changes. Perhaps your cat is actually providing you a useful service! 🙂
I am quite short in height, so getting the right furniture to let my feet sit naturally on the ground has been important. I feel much more balanced and less stressed when my legs are relaxed and my feet are on the ground. What do you think of those little stools you can buy that are meant to support your feet and reduce the stress on your back/body?
The Reflective Writer
Personal-Professional Balance Through Writing
Hi Judy. You question is perhaps not as straight forward as it sounds, and it might be the height of your chair that could be changed. Strangely, raising the height of the chair can often solve the problem (and making sure the seat of your chair is not tipping you backward), as your legs are able to drape down at a bit more of an angle allowing the feet to touch the floor more easily. I would definitely recommend that your hips are a little higher than higher than your knees, which makes it easier to stay on the sit bones, too. I’ll be going into more detail on this later in my series. However, if your feet still don’t touch the floor then a support under them is fine, but surprisingly most people don’t need this once they’ve sorted out the chair to better support them.
Thanks, Imogen. I’ll keep watching the series and in the meantime examine my different chairs.
The Alexander Procedure can be significantly useful to musicians and actors considering the fact that lots of of them unknowingly maintain far much too a great deal tension when taking part in their instrument or when playing a certain character. The musician, for instance, can be unconsciously gripping his or her instrument whilst the actor might also be using on the postural characteristics of a certain character even when they are off phase. Scores of of the leading music and drama faculties throughout the entire world hire Alexander Technique instructors to facilitate to fight these forms of issue.
You’re absolutely right, Jon, the Alexander Technique can be tremendously useful for musicians, and many top music schools, including Juilliard have it as part of their program.
Pingback:Alexander Technique Help for Computer Users – Part 7: Our Work Station | Body Intelligence