Imagine your ancestors: scouting the wide, open planes in search of their next food source, then squatting around a fire to cook together… And now imagine them doing it in an upright chair position.
The image is pretty unnatural, yet if we rest our gaze on any contemporary office environment today, a hunched seated posture is the norm – often for up to ten hours a day. This unconscious divergence is the result of losing touch with our bodies, and the current pervasiveness of conditions like sciatica is evidence of how disjointed we’ve become from our own physicality in the pursuit of productivity. Yet when we’re disconnected from our bodies, we’re losing out on more than good posture marks – we’re denying the nourishment of our other faculties.
So we want to know, how has this inclination to remain in a stagnant posture – and one that conflicts so wildly with our body’s natural state – become ubiquitous in working life? And how does this affect us beyond the workspace, impacting our mental, physical, and emotional spheres?
At work, we tend, or perhaps even aim, to switch off from all other stimuli and become laser-focused on the task at hand when operating in what’s seen as an ‘ideal’ state of efficiency, losing touch with those parts of ourselves that don’t believe to be directly involved in the process. But routinely practicing mindful movement is actually complimentary to overall productivity, adding steady longevity in place of the unsustainable peaks and troughs of rapid accomplishment.
To find that balance, we need to shift out of the sedentary, static position we’ve come to accept; the product of a state of automaticity.
In our Shoreditch coworking space, we move around a bunch of different seating options, from standing desks to cushioned seating, as well as bean bags, ergonomic office chairs, balancing stools, kneeling chairs, and – naturally – a set of monkey bars to stretch out your shoulders between positions. We’re doing this because we believe in the importance of avoiding stasis. But beyond the obvious health benefits, mindful movement is about reclaiming your prerogative to have fun, that childish curiosity and the impulse to play, to move, and to make a conscious connection with the practices of your day.
Ben Medder, our in-house movement coach, comes in every Monday to give our coworkers tips on movement, and alternative postures to take within a work environment. His main advice? To move like we did when we were kids, knowing it’s one of the best ways to stay grounded and keep our bodies healthy. So follow that natural urge to climb trees, play rough and tumble, and jump around.
‘Play is nature’s optimal state for learning. Play is being in ‘the zone’, highly engaged in whatever it is you are doing, for me the true meaning of ‘Flow’. Playing together encourages positive social engagements to grow and to learn together which is vital in a very narrowly socialised, touch deprived culture.’ – Ben Medder
When Ben walks in, the room fills with the sound of shuffling in chairs as we all subtly adjust our postures; repositioning ourselves onto some kind of ergonomic ball whilst sheepishly avoiding eye contact… The point being that it’s easy for all of us to slip into obliviousness within our bodies given our conditioning, but we can commit to continually rewilding ourselves whenever we can – even in the City.
The key is to make your workspace somewhere you want to be, somewhere that encourages you to be doing work you want to do. You’re more likely to feel personally invested in work if you’re acting from a place of abundance. Movement is a powerful tool to relax and recharge the mind and body; so far from being a waste of time, it will in fact help stimulate the brain and, in the end, enhance productivity.
Our top tips for improving movement in your office space:
• Start by improving on your posture whilst sitting at a desk. This can be done with computer stands or a meditation cushion to bring your computer up to eye level, as well as by using ergonomic chairs; designed to improve your posture and support your back.
• Your next position is your best position. The wider the variety you give to your body the better – try to change your setup every half an hour.
• Take regular work breaks. Stand up and stretch out. Sounds obvious, but we can forget to incorporate breaks into our routine so if it helps, set a ‘stretch out’ timer. Oftentimes trying to do something is easier than trying to stop doing something else, so add in an engaging midday activity like yoga, meditation, breathwork or dancing! Something that will leave you feeling revitalised when you get back to work.
The most important thing is to meet yourself where you’re at – do what you realistically can for now. Making a change can be small and begin simply, with minor alterations added into your immediate work environment. These can build naturally over time, and your body will thank you later.