Wednesday, June 26, 2013

How do you sit - when driving? – part 2

How you sit is the focus of this blog. The principles and tips are relevant for any seat, not just a car seat.

Let’s look at how to be more comfortable when sitting and reduce the likelihood of pain.

Our aim is to be able to move our limbs freely, without affecting the naturally free uprightness and width of our body.

Seat design
Sitting in car seats is not straightforward:
  • they slope backwards, affecting how we sit,

  • support for the lumbar spine or head is often poor, and

  • adjusting them for different people can be tricky
Car seats like all chairs involve compromises in design. Design of car seats is like chair design – manufacturing a standard product that doesn’t suit everyone. Moreover, it has to deal with the fact that sitting is not a natural position for humans, and designers invariably find only partial solutions (Cranz 2000).

Sitting squarely on your sitting bones
The shape of the car seat makes it too easy for us to sit on our tailbone (coccyx). Our spine is not designed for this. The weight of our upper body should ideally be transmitted directly to the large and strong pelvic bones – think of these bones forming a cradle or basin.

Under the basin are the sitting bones, which should carry most of our weight when sitting in the car. Of course, a little weight will be transmitted to the car seat via our back, our fleshy buttocks and our thighs. But nearly all goes through the sitting bones.


Tip : while standing and then sitting, use your hands to feel your sitting bones – find the large and bony prominences at the base of the pelvis.
Lengthening up to the head

Do you tend to slump over the wheel, or hold yourself rigidly back against the back rest?

These tips may help you find a more natural posture.
  • Imagine lengthening up from your tailbone to your ear lobes - yes, between them is where your spine connects to the skull. Imagine this length along both the front of your body, and then along the back.

  • Imagine the head really moving freely forward and up – towards the front of the car roof. 

  • Give yourself permission to occupy or ‘own’ the air space above your head, as well as behind it and to the sides (idea from a Robert Rickover podcast).

In this picture, the driver looks relaxed. But notice the curve in his lower spine. How should his sitting bones be involved?
Overall driving posture

I really like this description:

“This fully upright mobile posture balancing on the sit bones, gives the shoulders and arms of the driver a balanced torso to float on, so that the driver can effortlessly turn the steering wheel with free arms and shoulders” (blog by Ethan Kind, accessed 23 May 2013).

Other resources on sitting and driving
I have looked at sitting in several blog posts, including Towards a better way to sit and Why the hip joint matters while sitting.

In a previous blog, I introduced driving and gave you practical tips that focus on hands, arms and breathing. In that post, I cited a survey that found most drivers experience pain while driving (here is a link to a different report about it -
accessed 23 June 2013).

In his blogs and an e-book, Ethan Kind explores driving in great detail from the perspective of Alexander Technique.

Cranz, G. (2000) The Alexander Technique in the world of design: posture and the common chair Part I: the chair as health hazard. Journal of Bodywork and Movement Therapies. Vol 4, Part 2, pp.90-98.


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