I am bad at sitting in chairs. I can’t sit with my feet on the floor to save my life. It’s partly because my legs are short, so I often have to sit on the edge of the chair to be able to put my feet on the floor, but it’s mostly because I prefer sitting cross-legged, or with my legs folded underneath me. This gets to be a problem when I have to sit in a chair at a desk all day. For one thing, my legs aren’t as young as they used to be, and my knees often hurt after being bent and squished all day. But even worse, cramming all of my legs into an office chair that is only made to hold thighs puts me into some weird and bad postures. This leads to debilitating tension headaches.
For a while, I thought that the solution to this was going to be a Japanese-style floor desk. I thought I might get a really low table, and then just sit on a pillow or meditation cushion, maybe with a little Japanese-style chair for back support. In theory, that’s a great idea, but the logistics are complicated. It would mean getting a new desk and completely rearranging the office. You can get desks that adjust from chair height to standing height, but not desks that adjust from floor height to chair height, so if I got a floor desk, I would be stuck with it. (Actually, there is a desk that adjusts from floor height all the way up to standing height, but you have to manually lift the desktop to do that, and with an external monitor, that’s just not practical.)
I have been really surprised how little information there is on the internet about sitting on the floor or using a floor desk, and how few products there are to make this possible. I was really excited when I finally discovered the Soul Seat, a funky-looking chair that is designed to make it possible to sit cross-legged and in a variety of other positions. This looked like the solution to my problem – instead of bringing the desk down to the level of the floor, this chair essentially brings the floor up to the level of the desk, by creating a platform that you can sit on in all the same positions you would sit in on the floor with a cushion.
I took some inspiration from this and lowered the height of my desk chair, and then put my meditation pillow on the chair, which made it a lot easier to sit with my legs under me.
My back definitely needed to strengthen to sit this way, but the transition wasn’t difficult and I found that my neck was a lot less painful than usual almost immediately. So that was proof of concept for me, and I was ready to buy a Soul Seat. Then I looked at the cost of the Soul Seat, plus the shipping charges… and it seemed like an awful lot of money for what is essentially a raised flat surface.
So I decided to make my own.
I went to Goodwill and found an office chair for $8.
Then I took it apart.
Then I took a chunk of wood, and sat on it to see how much sitting room I needed, and measured and cut it to size.
Next, I screwed the chunk of wood to the office chair legs. This was a little complicated because the office chair seat wasn’t quite level, so I had to put some shims in to get everything level (or close enough, anyway).
I cut a piece of foam to the same size as the chunk of wood, and used a glue gun to attach the foam to the wood.
I stapled some upholstery fabric to the chair, and voila!
For around $70, I have a chair that I can sit on like the floor, but at my desk.
It’s surprisingly sturdy and stable, even with my weight on the front edge. I have room to sit cross-legged, hero style (with my legs folded under me), or squatting. The meditation cushion gives me some height so my hips and knees don’t hurt, and the coccyx pillow helps keep my pelvis at a good angle so that I keep my back straight. I have lots of room to wiggle and squirm so I don’t sit still all day. The height is adjustable. My knees, hip, back, and neck will be happy now!
Update – July 2020
I’ve been using this chair for 2 years now, and it is still awesome! It works great – it hasn’t required any repairs or maintenance. It balances just fine – when I first started using it I was afraid it would tip if I sat too close to the edge, but it’s actually really stable. I have to put all of my weight on a corner to get it to tip. I sit on it 40 hours a week, and it’s totally comfortable. My hips and knees are happy, and my core is a lot stronger. I kept the back of the original chair because I thought I might want to have a back to lean against, but I haven’t wanted it at all. I have been totally happy with this chair.