I recently moved, and in the process decided to shed a lot of my possessions so that I might lead a more minimalist lifestyle. Among those possessions was a desk that was too large for my temp place, and a chair that wasn’t getting used since I’d been using a standing desk for the past couple years. Setting up another desk seemed like a hassle, so I decided to sit on the floor using my coffee table for the PC/monitor, and a tiny stand-up bench for my keyboard.
Turns out these happen to be perfect heights for what I’m told is good posture, but now I was dealing with zero back support.
No chair or conventional desk. What now? My standing mat became a sitting/kneeling mat. I switched between various cross-legged poses and what I later found out to be called seiza, a Japanese sitting form.
Several people told me not to do this; that it would be painful and unhealthy.
I quickly realized that slouching without back support results in immense pain1. This is where a lot of people say “I told you so”; after 3 days my back was hurting throughout the day. After a week, the pain vanished. I noticed I was sitting up straighter even in chairs with bad back support. I realized that the pain I was feeling wasn’t the kind that indicated something unhealthy. It was muscles being formed. The act of using my musculature to hold my skeleton in place was making my back stronger.
The pain experienced from slouching without back support is so much greater than the pain of forcing yourself to sit up straight with weak back muscles; you have no choice but to build those muscles.
Seiza is an interesting pose. For some reason it gets you to sit up straight whether you want to or not. It’s a little uncomfortable at first, but you get used to it. The Kanji for seiza (正座) literally translate to Correct Sitting. It’s how many Japanese people sit for at least part of their day. The Japanese people I know have commented on how many Americans appear to slouch in general. From a my (gaijin) perspective, the Japanese people I know sit up unusually straight. I think this is because they’ve spent more time sitting without chairs.
I’ve been doing this for about a month now, and am generally pleased with the results. I do everything like this. Gaming, watching videos, programming, web surfing, the works. I think it’d be ideal to have a setup that enables me to go from the floor to a chair to standing at my leisure. There currently aren’t any products that enable that, so I’ll likely need to build it myself.
So yeah, consider trying this experiment at home. I don’t do this at work, but it has still somewhat improved my posture there despite the crappy chair.
I do not exaggerate. I mean seriously immense pain. It feels like your back is about to collapse. ↩