Monks in Tibet have always thought that sitting in a kneeling position might improve comfort. They discovered this to be true when they started to use a seiza bunch to sit in this position during meditation. In the 1970s Christian Menshongel also thought of how to enhance comfort while sitting, he hired Peter Opsvik to design for him a furniture piece based on a concept he had thought of. The design they created had a lower leg support and high torso angle that kept someone sitting in a knee-down position. Although it was called a “kneel chair”, the actual seat kept users sitting in a squat position with support below the knees and shin to reduce stress on the calf muscles.
Redefining the Kneeling Chair
Dr. A.C Mandal, a Danish surgeon, later discovered that these products were causing lower back pain and muscular tension in some of his patients. After months of experimenting, he discovered that giving the seat a forward incline position could greatly reduce any lower back muscular pain and could also create room for the spine to curve naturally while sitting. This revelation came to him one day while he was watching children in class and he noticed how they would often lean forward on their seats to increase their comfort. After making the additional changes to the seat, his patients showed great improvement in their posture, making this the perfect sitting position.
Other notable attempts to improve on these ergonomic chairs include the “Buzzi 1970″ chairs that were used in Rome in the 1970s, the Vowles, and the Gillings Junior. The Vowles version is made to reduce posterior body pressure while sitting by transferring most of the body pressure towards the knees. Currently, the most popular chairs are those by Balans, these are: the Varier Chair, which has two wooden runners connecting the chair to the base; the Wing that has five wooden runners and an adjustable knee pad making it ideal for office use; Thatsit Balans Chair which also comes with an adjustable seat; the Gravity Balans which has an adjustable backrest making it ideal for both reading or napping; and the Multi Balans that has kneepads angled in the same direction as the seat and is also collapsible for easy transport or storage.
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