Summer Sales, bargains to be had in buy newer, better, and bigger sofas. Discounts and bargains and Pay Nothing til January 2020! They get softer, longer, fit in corners, change into a bed for guests, have levers for feet, raise up mechanically etc From one perspective they are amazing. If you’ve ever been sofa-shopping with someone else, you’ll know that one size doesn’t suit everyone and that’s before you think about the colour, texture or pattern of the material they are made of.
In my experience sofas:
- are low and not so easy to get up and down from
- have seat cushions much longer than thigh length (even my above averagely long femurs)
- are so squidgy and soft they offer very little support
- have a rim for a wooden/metal frame which bites into my legs
- take up a lot of floor space
- don’t easily enable people sitting next to each other to talk and have eye contact
- take root and stay static in one place defining the way I use my space and my body
- promise comfort, but in my experience give me a pain in my back, pelvis and neck.
What do I do on my sofa? Sit, slouch and slump.
Despite my best efforts to sit in balance, it has a way of softly coaxing me into its unstructured cushions and not supporting my spine. I slowly succumb to the numbing of my mind and muscles as moment by moment I ignore the discomfort of my reality, in the sure belief that I ‘should’ be comfortable as I am ‘relaxing’.
The truth is, I slump. The truth is I become unconscious of what I’m doing and how i’m doing it.
I want to live consciously and choice fully.
So I’m going to say goodbye to my sofa.
This summer I have made great use of my tents and been out 5 times so far. I love sitting on the same level as everyone else and don’t have ‘my chair’ or ‘my seat’. I love how much I shift position and move my body around, no one position is comfortable for long. My body thrives on the variety of shapes I make and ways I rest and transition. I love that my body gets to move/exercise in small and ongoing ways.
I spent a few happy afternoons in a glade on a picnic blanket with my 8 year old son enjoying our books recently. I lay this way, he lay that way, and yet we were always touching. His foot on my arm. My hand on his leg. I would shift this way, he would adjust that way. I found this closeness and contact delightful. There was plenty of space for us to shift and change and stay connected and have all the room we each needed individually. This doesn’t happen on a sofa, we tend to compete for the limited space, its not nearly so harmonious or comfortable.
I’ve been wondering how to make my living room more like a Yurt or tent for a while and my thinking kept come back to simplifying the walls and having a curtain canopy on the roof. Huh, it only just occurred to me coming back from a recent camping trip that the sofa itself is incongruent with my ideal.
The sofa with all its rigid rectangularness has no place in my tent-like living room.
A big comfy rug can take centre stage.
An array of cushions and blankets can add accents of texture and comfort.
When I was camping I moved from a bed mattress to sleeping on the floor. I admit that my bones groaned initially, but then I felt the suppleness and increased freedom and bigger range of movement that the firm floor brought forth. And all this without having to Do any Exercise. It just happens that my body wants a variety of resting poses, I have to move more to get up to stand, and have to move my whole self to get down those last 3 feet onto the floor. We could call this weight-lifting.
I’m enjoying that I get more movement exercise without really trying. This fits so well with my theory of getting more from less. I wonder that I didn’t see the sofa as part of the problem until so recently?
Its the same thing with our own thinking and movement patterns, it is often the things which we take so absolutely for granted, that we don’t even see or consider them in the equation of health and happiness. This is one of the great gifts that FM Alexander discovered when he noticed the on-going tension in the head-neck joint and its detrimental influence on the whole self. His solution wasn’t to add more gear or exercises, no correct positions are involved. It is the absence of this tension-pattern that reinstates the natural freedom. Its about saying No to the familiar and ‘comfortable’ in order to uncover more natural poise and freedom.
I could be tempted to think that a different sofa would be the answer. It would probably be bigger, have levers for raising and lowering a foot rest or sitting position, it might have extra padding for my head and be ergonomically shaped to fit the ‘standard British person’ with a lumbar roll in it, and no doubt a huge price tag to match. Or I could make adjustments to the existing sofa with different cushions to fill in the space behind me, to add a board under the cushions to make the seat firmer and more supportive (thanks for this idea Annie). That doesn’t answer my real dilemmas of its height and squidginess, the space it takes up and how it shapes me, and limits my body and my movement patterns.
I’m grateful to my alternative thinking which helped me figure out that less furniture in the form of this sofa is actually better for me and my body.
I have skirted around this issue for a while having read Katy Bowman, a Biomechanist, who wrote Move Your DNA where she extols the many benefits of being furniture frugal. I worried about how my visitors would react, what will my family say etc
I realise that I no longer want to set up my living room according to what is normal, what might suit people who come to my house as infrequent guests and what I think I ‘should’ do. I am the person who lives here everyday, it behoves me to make it suit me first. I call this Self-Care.
I know that Katy Says its better not to have a bed, or pillows, or chairs too…. watch this space! I’m not there yet.
This is part of my simplification and decluttering the stuff in my life. I’m looking at many of the things that have become invisible to me as they surround me daily. They create a fog between me and what I want in life and what I wish to create and offer.
As sofas go, its pretty good. The cushions are firm, its quite tall and yet too deep for my long thigh bones. I always have to compromise – either my feet are on the floor and my spine is C shaped, or my back rests on the sofa and my feet dangle in the air pulling on my lower back. Yes I can sit on an extra cushion to raise me up, or put more cushions behind me… it all gets squishy and precarious. (Here I go again, following my justification for trying to stay the same and achieve different results!)
No more, enough!
By the end of the month I will be sofa-free. I’ll let you know how I really get on.
Lucy Ascham is an Alexander Technique Teacher who lives in Sheffield and loves to camp, have naps outside and move freely whilst reading a book with her son.