Alexander Technique Help for Computer Users – Part 7: Our Work Station
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?
Thank you, Imogen! I will be reading this in much more detail later this morning, as I had decided yesterday that my work station is NOT conducive to freeing my body and following Alexander Technique awareness. (That thought was prompted by your post on Facebook yesterday.)
I’m looking forward to the laptop-specific comments — for now I’m going to clean off my desk (what a radical concept) and experiment with the laptop up higher and a separate keyboard linked to it.
Thanks for your comments, Beth. My husband docks his laptop at work (so the screen can be a bit higher) and uses a separate keyboard and I think it works quite well for him. Elevating your seat as described can be really helpful. Good luck with cleaning off your desk 🙂
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Great! Luckily, I don’t do too much computer work but when I do, I sit on the sofa and my head looks down to the screen which is for sure not a healthy posture for my reversed cervical spine…
Will have to get this figured out, it’s not so easy because when my body is in a good position, my hands usually aren’t (carpal tunnel, ouch).
Check out my next blog on using a laptop – I have a few suggestions for working on the couch that might be helpful. Experimenting, and not being stuck in just one position, is best! Thanks for your comments 🙂
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What about standing desks?
I haven’t investigated standing desks thoroughly, but I think they can be a great alternative, especially if using the Alexander Technique to help you stand in a natural, balanced way. I touch on standing to work in my next blog on using a laptop, and a colleague of mine in Virginia specializes in helping people move from sitting to standing. You might find her site interesting : http://theatupelo.com/
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I like the tip re raising oneself so hips are slightly above knees. Because Im short in most chairs both at a desk and other situations my feet dont reach the floor. What are some tips on how ones feet should be and how to compensate if one is too short or too tall for most chair/desk set-ups.
First, if you can raise the height of the chair, either by the simple addition of a cushion (or even a phone book or two), paradoxically your feet will be better able to rest on the ground, because the legs are angled downward. I wouldn’t get too focused on position, but be aware that you can just let the feet rest flat on the floor. When I have to sit on a chair that is not “perfect” if it is too high, I will sit on the front edge, more like I’m sitting on a stool, which allows the legs to drape down. If it’s too low, and I can’t find anything I can use to raise the height I might move my whole torso so my back rests on the back of the chair, with my sit bones pointing down. If I had to choose, I would choose the chair that is a bit too high…
I hope that helps.
Dear Imogen, I have just posted a question about the use of gym balls but please ignore it as I can see that you covered this point in this post. Thank you!