By way of an example, have a look at this piece. It is a good article, it is mostly accurate, but it is also completely wrong – How To Sit Ergonomically At Work. The wrongness is not necessarily in the suggestions themselves – good chair, take breaks, don’t use a laptop – any one of these ideas might make a positive difference to your stamina for sitting at work, and two or three in combination could make so much difference that you might completely miss the opportunity to make a difference to yourself instead – a difference that might make so much difference that you become able to sit well and happily for long periods - anywhere.
My favourite examples of sitting mastery come from cats; dogs are more like us, fidgeting around until they feel comfortable enough to relax; cats don’t care – as long as the chosen spot is the right temperature they can relax in all sorts of ridiculous positions.
I can sit easily for quite a long time on most flat surfaces that are not too hard, including the floor. I am not boasting, I am not a perfect specimen, but as I write this I am not getting stiff, my neck and shoulders are not tightening up and I will not be getting up from my stool with a groan.
I don’t want to be unfair to the author here – no claim for postural improvement is made, however the whole tone makes it clear that you – and your amazing, highly sophisticated nervous system – cannot expect to sit easily for any protracted length of time, so your only option is to “correct” your environment instead. This is wrong because it makes it sound as though sitting well because you know how to sit well just isn’t possible – and of course you may remember that “making the impossible possible, the difficult easy, and the easy elegant” is the goal of every Feldenkrais teacher.
I do not mean to suggest that the right chair, or screen position will not be helpful, but by selling you a partial explanation of what the problem is, mainstream thinking lessens the likelihood that you will realise that you have the ability to solve your sitting problems in a way that will carry on benefitting you for the rest of your life. Indeed sitting with ease on the floor – which will naturally involve you getting down to, and up from, the floor on a regular basis – is so good for you it may even lengthen your life! If a chair wobbles sticking a wedge under one leg may be the only solution, a chair cannot learn or adapt, it can only be fixed – we humans can fix ourselves, we can even install new software and upgrade ourselves, sadly too many adults have completely forgotten how.
So Feldenkrais is a different way of thinking about sitting with ease, and it requires a different way of thinking about posture. Your posture is not something you have make an effort to do right – your posture is what you do when you are not consciously doing anything with yourself – probably what you are doing right now as you read this. So when you notice yourself slumping, shoulders hunched, chest caved in, head poked forward, stop for a moment and notice how truly effortless this posture is for you! You will have regained your own natural poise when a similar moment of self-observation reveals that you are sitting balanced on your sitting bones, shoulders dropped and wide, your breathing free and full, and your head and eyes available to look in any direction without your having to adjust yourself first by “sitting up straight”!
I have been looking around the internet for pictures of toddlers sitting –
catch a child in the few short years between learning to sit upright and being made to “sit still and pay attention” and you should see how easily a head can balance on a spine and how easy it can be to move from sitting to standing or sitting to lying effortlessly – as soon as a young child is taken out of the natural exploratory play process of learning and introduced to the look-at-teacher-and-pay-attention learning process, that ability to move – and pause between moving – with ease begins to slip away. These two films (one on YouTube, one on Vimeo) show a group of dancers developing a piece based on the movements of young children – the whole interaction is fascinating to watch…
Moshe Feldenkrais decided the solution was to remind adults that they always have access to the power of play; to explore the possibilities for new strategies and creative thinking within the everyday, to replace the authoritative voice of the teacher with the empowering tools of self-awareness, self-observation and mature self-confidence. I know that is a lot to achieve in one workshop, but as Lao Tzu said, “a journey of a thousand miles begins with one step” – and with Awareness Through Movement you will discover how much faster you can travel when you are skipping!
BodyMindfulness – Sitting in Ease & Awareness
…contact Maggy for upcoming workshop dates.
I am delighted that mindfulness has become so mainstream in the last couple of years, because the ability to focus your awareness and fine-tune your attention is exactly what Feldenkrais is designed to teach you as well. The most common difference between Feldenkrais lessons and Mindfulness meditation is that Dr Moshe Feldenkrais did not make any artificial separations between the “mind” and the “body” – in this understanding he was apparently still way ahead of his time.
Feldenkrais recognised the value of surrendering to gravity as a way to improve the functioning of those “muscle-chains” associated with stability, balance and posture, so our workshops usually involve a lot of lovely lying about on the floor – however Feldenkrais is for life, not just for class and we also teach people to sit well, and of course sitting well is a core element of mindfulness meditation.
This workshop combines sitting with effortless poise and Awareness-Through-Movement-style Open Focus meditation – to improve the practice of both. For most of us sitting in chairs for at least a part of the day is really hard to avoid, so how helpful might it be to discover that you can use sitting well as a way to actively undo many of the problems that sitting badly may have triggered in the first place, AND lower your stress levels via bodymindful meditation at the same time?
Moving with ease makes us light on our feet – come along and discover how to be light on your bottom!
*I am experimenting with headlines – do let me know how annoying you find this idea when presented as a statement!