Everything you need to know about choosing furniture you can learn from this article in the New York Times.

Here are some of the very smart things people said in this Sunday’s New York Times article "The Ergonomic Sofa" about selecting furniture for your home not only with style or visual aesthetic in mind but including the fact that it must support your body well:

“First, you want firm. “Not hard like a wooden bench,” said John Dunnigan, the head of the department of furniture design at the Rhode Island School of Design in Providence. “But firm cushioning that will support you over a range of compression,” because your body will have various contact points that exert more or less downward pressure. In addition to firm, you want furniture that holds you in an upright position, vertically aligning your ears over your shoulders over your hips, said Dr. David Rempel, a professor of medicine and bioengineering at the University of California, San Francisco and Berkeley. “Resting your back against the back support, you should be able to rest your feet flat on the floor,” he said, with your knees at a 90- to 110-degree angle to your hips. Moreover, there should be some space between the edge of the seat and the back of your knee, so you don’t have pressure on the veins and arteries there. Of course, the right height and depth vary from person to person, because we are all different statures and girths, so you need to try furniture in the showroom (sit for at least 20 minutes, experts suggest) or else be prepared to pay the charges to send it back if you choose to order online.”

This too:

“Twisting and craning also happen when people use mobile devices, torquing the spine to use a laptop beside them on the couch or curving the neck downward while texting on a mobile phone. “When you focus your eyes on your device, your body is going to follow, often into an unhealthy position,” said Mark Goetz, a furniture designer in Brooklyn who designed the supportive Goetz sofa for Herman Miller. “Think of your head as a heavy bowling ball. If it gets out of alignment looking at your cellphone, it’s going to cause tremendous tension and strain.” So make sure you sit without undue slouching or bodily torque, he said. And use armrests, pillows or other props to raise your devices to eye level.”

Oh, and this:

“Furniture is like any other kind of equipment: It’s most effective when you use it properly — and when you don’t overuse it. “Our bodies are not meant to watch television four hours straight,” said Ms. Johnson, the physical therapist. “Get up and move every once in a while.”

WOW - smart people! The Times did an amazing job of assembling a range of furniture designers and medical experts to all say the same thing – we can’t arrange ourselves to fit our furniture.  We must use furniture that supports how we function – so our feet can find the ground, our spines aren’t twisted, and our heads aren’t thrown back or dragged forward.  (And this was in the Real Estate section, not the Science Times!) 

In my own Alexander Technique teaching practice, I talked with a psychiatrist who said she sits in a terrible chair all day, every day. She sensed her arms were being held into a position where they couldn’t relax, and it was too padded in the back, and her feet weren’t meeting the ground.  One of the things I like to say is that “we can’t spend our lives searching for the perfect chair” in every instance.  We must learn to employ our #1 ergonomic tool – our body’s natural postural support system! We can use it our best advantage in any given situation by keeping mindful our “use” (in AT parlance) while we sit - because sometimes you do have to sit somewhere that’s not ideal!  That said, don’t remain in a bad chair for extended periods day after day. Start by scanning your primary working location, whether at home or office, to see if this chair and desk do meet the article's suggested guidelines.  You don’t need to have the uphill battle of trying to support yourself well when your furniture is working against you!

You are worth it. Read this article – it’s filled with sound advice to get your environment up to speed.  

© 2014 Eleanor Taylor. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.