The kneeling chair was a game changer. Up until it was introduced in the 70’s the chair industry had stayed pretty much the same. It can easily be considered the most radical chair design of the 20th century...we’d go so far to say even since the invention of the throne itself...bow down.
The reason it is so radical is because like any good rebel it directly challenges the habits that have been in our culture for millennia. As a type of sitting it keeps us guessing because it places you somewhere between sitting and standing, and typically there is no back to lean against. It is not a stool but it’s also not a chair.
The kneeling chair was first exported to America in the 1980’s from Norway, and over the last number of decades it has slowly become more recognized in American culture. The operative word here being “slowly”.
The justification of the balance kneeling chairs (like the Austin and Amsterdam) lies in it having solved the problem of stressing the lower back (the flattening or even rounding of the natural lumbar curve) which is caused mainly from sitting in a conventional right angle chair. By dropping the legs our thighs are placed at an oblique angle in relation to our spines (somewhere between 120-125 degrees), the muscular work makes sitting upright feel almost effortless. This opens up the possibility of getting rid of the chair back.
The physiological observation that led to the kneeling chair is that muscular effort is most evenly balanced front to back and top to bottom of the torso when the legs are at an oblique, not a right angle to the spine.
Another radical form of sitting has been developed around perching that offers similar biochemical advantages. Many researchers agree that the lower back when seated needs to assume the position that naturally occurs when seated on a high stool or lying down on your side in bed. The 135 degree relationship between the spine and the legs is the one used in the martial arts for greatest stamina and flexibility. It’s called the ‘horse’ the position and it’s super difficult for your opponent to uproot you while at the same time, readies you to move in any direction. The king of good posture, F.M Alexander this specific posture “the position of mechanical advantage”. This is also the position the human body takes while floating through space in zero gravity. It’s quite literally effortless.
With a rocking kneeling chair you can rock the seat forward and tuck your feet behind your knees while also giving you the option of placing your feet on the ground in a conventional right angle way. The rockers also allow you to rock back and extend your feet as you might in a recliner. They offer the choice of sitting in a regular way or in a modified perch.
No chair is perfect, partly because no posture is perfect 100% of the time.
We’ve streamlined every other aspect of our daily lives and have been fast to adapt to new things in the last few decades, but yet the way we sit still remains mostly the same. We aren’t sure why it’s taken so long for us to focus on our physiological needs, but we think the time has finally come to make a change and we think the best solution is our radical friend, the kneeling chair.