Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Stokke chair

I bought this chair (Stokke Balans made in Norway. Designed by Peter Opsvik.) about twenty years ago (!), when I first had back problems. (Actually I think my back problems started when I was 15, but they were diagnosed as a lung collapse, if you can credit that.)

I'm proud that it looks almost as new. But less proud that the main reason for this is the little use it has had over the years.

I think I would be in better shape now, and would have avoided a ton of back troubles if only I had used it daily, instead of sitting slumped at the computer.

The problem is it almost forces you to sit up straight, and if you're lazy and your back muscles are already weak, that feels like work. But it's work you need.

It seems like kneeling chairs are disappearing from the landscape. I can't even find Stokke's once big selection on their site anymore! They seem to be living on selling baby chairs now. What a pity.

I think one problem is that most "kneeling chairs" are static. They can't move when you're sitting on them. This chair can. You can rock a little and you can vary your position as you're working. You can give yourself mini-workouts every couple minutes (or any time you're just reading on screen), rocking and twisting, perhaps to music. You don't even need to get up, just take your hands off the keyboard. Kewl.

I find it works even better with the inflatable seat I bought recently. It flexes under me as I rock and roll on the chair, and makes it more comfortable.

Update: it seems these simple, compact, and effective chairs are still produced, now under the brand name Variér. Sadly, now as then, their range are not cheap chairs. Frankly I suspect they may be a bit overpriced, but what do I know about making furniture. I do think though that nobody else makes anything quite like them. I'm considering upgrading to their Thatsit model, but it's like $1200, and I want to make sure there's a real difference from what I have.


Anonymous said...

I used a kneeling chair in a past workplace in the 1980s. It was a HÅG Balans, which I think was the first of this type of chair to enter the market.

It took a couple of weeks to get fully used to it. After the adjustment period, my feelings were somewhat mixed.

On the plus side, it does address the posture problem. This becomes very obvious if you temporarily have to sit on a regular chair even for one minute -- just feels awkward to try to reach the keyboard with your balance so far back.

The negative side has to do with the "knee" aspect of it. During the initial getting used to period I found that my shins (and knees) became quite irritated. And even after having gotten used to it my feet never felt fully comfortable. Part of it is that they are kind of "locked" in the same position for long periods of time. And the other is that there is a slight continuous weight on your knees. (This, by the way, also has an unsightly effect on your trousers in the front.)

So, while this sitting position clearly addressed the posture issue I did not find the solution ideal as a whole. And for this reason didn't feel like getting a chair of this type in my next workplace. Base on my experience, I can see why this never became popular and the buzz around it soon faded when we entered the 1990s.

It looks like what has come to replace the kneeling chair in workplaces today is the saddle chair. This seems to be what the inventors of the kneeling chair, HÅG, are also pushing. I have no experience with this type of chair.

Bruce M said...

You might want to look at the Hag Balans.
I use one and like it a lot.

Bashful said...

I have -- and rarely use -- a Global Ergonomic Kneeling Chair. It seems to help when I am having lower back pain, but does nothing to relieve my shoulders and neck.

It was only ~ $100 CDN, and I confess I bought it because it was different rather than because it was good for me. It's advantage is that it's adjustable - you can change the angle of the seat and it's relation to the cushions.

Now, when my sons sit down at the computer where it is, they put their feet on the kneeling pads, and cramp over like they are bent in half. It looks very uncomfortable, but they seem to prefer that to using it properly.

Eolake Stobblehouse said...

I've done that sometimes in the past. I suspect it's easier when you're already used to a bad posture, and have weak back muscles like I have.

It's a lot of work for me to keep an upright posture. But I'm determined to stick at it. I'm well frigged if I don't get a stronger back.

Anonymous said...

I wasn't sure what "frigged" meant so I used the urban dictionary. Definitely an interesting use for a kneeling chair and needing a strong back.;)
Now excuse me while I purge the image from my mind.:p

Cliff Prince said...

I do understand that these sorts of chairs are good for certain forms of back and posture problems. We have something quite similar in front of our computer at my parents' home; I hate the damn thing. There's really only one way to sit in it, so if you're there for a while, you can't move around and choose a different position. I always turn it around and use the butt-part as a non-kneeler's stool. If that makes sense.

Monsieur Beep! said...

We're made for gathering and hunting, see.

Anonymous said...

It looks like the Stokke has one crucial feature the HÅG Balans doesn't have: Legroom. On the HÅG Balans there's really only one way to put your legs with little space for natural movement.

On the other hand, what the Stokke appears to lack is height adjustment. And this is a pretty serious omission in a work chair in my opinion.

By the way, the best conventional (i.e. non-kneeling) chair I know of is Herman Miller's Aeron.

Eolake Stobblehouse said...

I actually shelled out for a Herman Miller Aeron two years ago. It's good, but did no miracles for me.

I think the rocking capability is essential.

"I'm frigged" means "I'm fucked". I think it's British.

Alex said...

As in that old song "Friggin' in the Rigging"

Strange, the American equivalent for "friggin'" as in "effin" (for emphasis) is "freakin'". However the American for "frigged" as in worn out is not freaked, that is reserved for hysterical, in the modern sense of the word, and not the sort of hysteria that is related to "plumbing issues". I think in this context the American term screwed (without recourse, or hope of saving) comes closest.

I've never heard freakin' used to mean copulation.

I think I'd rather used fagged or shagged instead of frigged for worn out, or as Burgess put it "fagged and shagged". But for no hope I'd go for "up shit creek" with the implied lack of paddle.

Eolake Stobblehouse said...

I've always understood Friggin being like Freakin', being like Fuckin'. But I could be wrong.

Alex said...

Friggin' = Freakin' both a milder form of Fuckin', as in "You'd better friggin' watch your friggin' potty mouth you friggin' toe rag". Here it is simply a nonsense cuss-word, would you ever call someone a "copulating moron"? Unless they were performing the sex act and were being dim, then I guess you would.

I've never heard anyone say they were freakin' their girl friend. "We were in the middle of freakin' when the goddam rubber slipped".

However you can freak out your girl friend by driving your car straight at a wall and turning away at the last possible second.

I'd never seen "Friggin" used in the sense of urban dictionary's definition. Still, I have a limited knowledge of English, predominantly NW UK and N.Cal metropolitan variants thereof.

Anonymous said...

"I actually shelled out for a Herman Miller Aeron two years ago."

Cool. The Aeron is very popular in recording studios. Practically all high end studios have them.

"It's good, but did no miracles for me."

I am not sure we can expect miracles to come from chairs (!?!) but who knows ... maybe some mixing engineers attribute part of their magical sound to the seating. :-)

The Aeron is what I plan to get eventually. Right now I have a very cheap office chair from which I've removed the arm rests (this mod is crucial for me). But I only use it part of the time, when I'm not standing.

Eolake Stobblehouse said...

The Aeron could be more adjustable. Even though I got the Big model, the edge at the top of the back rest hits me in the shoulders. And the arm rests are two inches too low for me to use them.

Pascal [P-04referent] said...

Alex said...
"I've never heard freakin' used to mean copulation."

And I've never freakin' read a weirder conversation on this whole friggin' blog! Now my serenity's fragged like a Counter Strike-newbie fag.
Kronostar ain't the only dude who's gonna need sone frankin' therapy and a good brain purging. Mind washing. Whatever.

Would you ever call someone a "copulating moron"?

How about a "copulating Mormon"? That sounds insulting enough...

"I've never heard anyone say they were freakin' their girl friend."

Not even in Scary Movie?
"Damn it, Shawn, you totally freaked me out, you silly macho!"

TTL metaphysiquised...
"I am not sure we can expect miracles to come from chairs (!?!) but who knows ..."

Perhaps from praying chairs?...

"But I only use it part of the time, when I'm not standing."

That's very wise. Using an office chair when you're standing is a guaranteed way into a leg cast. Even swifter than skiing.

Anonymous said...

If Eolake is considering investing in another chair to assist his rehabilitation, discussion with his physio might be a good start. Yes, 'kneeler chairs' do assist 'lazy backs' and poor posture,BUT they will do nothing for - or may even exacerbate - his neck and spinal problems.

For work, he might choose a (customisable) version of a good office chair, e.g. the 'Opera' range from Advanced Seating Designs, but with a high back and - crucially - some neck/head support.

If he'd like a combination chair for both work and relaxation and has room for quite a large chair, the 'armchair' version of his Stokke chair is available as the 'Gravity' - . The four different seating positions offer a 'kneeling' working posture at the desk or computer, a 'seated upright' position (dining?), a slightly 'tipped-back' comfortable resting position and the full 'zero gravity' posture, offering a wholly reclined body, with legs, seat, back, neck and head all supported. (In this last position, many back sufferers (including me) say they have slept in this chair during acute episodes where nowhere else could provide comfort like it !!
Models appear on UK auction sites occasionally at about half the retail cost, usually after being found to be too large for the new flat.

Eolake Stobblehouse said...

But I *had* the gravity. Very big chair, very expensive.

eolake stokke duo
to find an article.

But it did not work well in kneeling position. Partly because I got it in leather, and I kept sliding forwards. Partly because the neck rest kept pushing on my head in that position, perhaps because I'm so tall.

Eolake Stobblehouse said...

... If bad posture and weak back muscles caused the problems, then it seems counter-intuitive to say that a kneeling chair will not help.

Anonymous said...

I always thought these chairs were a big practical joke on us by the Norwegians. Do they actually use them themselves?

Anonymous said...

"I always thought these chairs were a big practical joke on us by the Norwegians. Do they actually use them themselves?"

I doubt it. But I doubt that very many people in general use them. This is one of those things that people write about in magazines and unanimously agree that it's a Good Thing. And yet you don't see people actually using them. Not even when they own one.

I used one daily for about two years. Yes, it helps in maintaining a better posture while sitting (kneeling). But in all other respects it is uncomfortable. That's why it is more popular in magazine reviews than in actual use.

I suppose if you have back problems, but have strong and healthy legs and are otherwise in good shape, then maybe the trade off is worth it. But even then, after my two year experiment, I would rather experiment with other solutions.

Anonymous said...

Two points, Eolake: on 'too tall' and 'counter intuitive'.

Too tall: I'm sure that size matters, but in my case at 185 cm., I found that the adjustment on my 'gravity' chair - NOT your 'duo' (different back/headrest arrangement!)- was more than adequate to rest my neck below the base of my skull - quite comfortable.

'Counter intuitive' - perhaps, but with you kneeling on that little 'stool' and gazing at the Mac's 30-inch screen, I'll bet that your chin is angled/jutted forward to view the screen - and that's puttiung more pressure on both your neck and cervical disks...... You do need some support as well as some exercise, perhaps, so alternating your position at the PC is one contribution you might try.

(The reason I hadn't seen your earlier report on Google is a complete lack of interest in the Mac side of your existence!)

Keep improving - and 'get well soon'.

Eolake Stobblehouse said...

"'Counter intuitive' - perhaps, but with you kneeling on that little 'stool' and gazing at the Mac's 30-inch screen, I'll bet that your chin is angled/jutted forward to view the screen"

I don't see why. It's like standing, basically.

Anonymous said...

Why not get off your ass and get some exercise. You doughboys out there will find that if you're in shape you can use a regular chair and not look like a complete tool.

Your ass probably looks like about 150 lbs. of chewed bubblegum.

Anonymous said...

I agree with anon. You can't build back muscles by sitting no matter what type of chair you have. You have to do other things.

And once the muscles in your mid-section are strong and balanced it doesn't matter much what type of chair you use.

What seems to be beneficial, though, is variation. The body is not designed to remain in one position for long. In this regard, I suppose having a kneeling chair as one alternative is not a bad thing.

Eolake Stobblehouse said...

Despite his tone, I agree with Anon too. Getting in shape is the ultimate solution, seemingly.

But that doesn't happen overnight.

Also it has to be the right shape. There are many well-trained people with back problems.

Anonymous said...

You could try this:

The one on the right is I think the better version.

It's old, having been developed in the 50s, but it still works.

Of course, you've got to combine it with a low-calorie diet - but then that's true of any exercise regimen. You can relax a bit once you've achieved your goal.

Anonymous said...

Joe's suggestion looks like the real deal. It says on the page:

"Some people say that some of the exercises are outdated and could be harmful ..."

They use to say the same thing about yoga practise (potentially very harmful and, being thousands of years old, clearly "outdated"). Yet it works fantastically well.

So it looks like this 5BX has all the right credentials.

On the other hand, I would be very suspicious about the recommendation of low calorie diet.

Eolake Stobblehouse said...

For real? Most people get way too many calories.

I've just changed my diet, I realize now how much I've been over-eating.

Anonymous said...

The low-calorie diet is not something that 5BX recommends, that was just me. It is a very good idea for a lot of people, but only for a while. It isn't something you'd want to do forever, but is a good idea when combined with exercise to get results.

5BX definitely is the real deal, it has a proven track record. I personally do not see how anyone could think any of the exercises in it are harmful. The only one might be the way they tell you to do situps, which is the old way. That's it. Everything else is cool. Do situps the modern way, work through the charts step by step, don't skip a day, and stick to a sensible diet and you'll see results.

Anonymous said...

"The low-calorie diet is not something that 5BX recommends"

I think it would have been highly ironic to suggest a change of diet to a military audience...

Anonymous said...

Man, bert, you are really fucked up. I wish you wouldn't drink so much, bert.

Anonymous said...

"Man, bert, you are really fucked up. I wish you wouldn't drink so much, bert."

???? 'Twas a joke, no more. The military don't cook, they eat at the mess. And so much has been said about the food that is served in the army... what was that famous quote of Julius Caesar about measuring the strength of an army by the food it serves (kept the men angry)?

If the food is so bad, it would seem to me that anyone suggesting a change in diet would sound ironic, no?

Eolake Stobblehouse said...

I suspect it was a quote from Bert And Ernie. (Which I'm not really familiar with, though.)

Anonymous said...

It's from a Family Guy parody of Bert & Ernie.

Anonymous said...

I looked it up, and only found this quote attributed to Caesar:

"It is not these well-fed long-haired men that I fear, but the pale and the hungry-looking."

Same general idea, but not quite what I was trying to remember. As for that forgotten quote, it has to be older than the muppets, for it was already paraphrased by Goscinny in "Astérix légionnaire", circa 1966.

Pascal [P-04referent] said...

Eolake is a big artist. Emphasis on "BIG". ;-)

"if you're in shape you can use a regular chair and not look like a complete tool."

Shouldn't that be "a complete stool"? What a waste of a great pun opportunity on seats! :-)

"Your ass probably looks like about 150 lbs. of chewed bubblegum."

Mercifully, I for one never got to see 150 lbs. of chewed bubblegum!
Thank God for small blessings.

Eolake said...
"Despite his tone, I agree with Anon too."

So do I, to be honest. But be careful there, some people get offense from being agreed with.
My brother is one of them. If "somebody like me" agrees with him, he feels compelled to change opinions before he loses face.
Say, how did you know this Anon was toned? And why be jealous of him and his tone? ;-)

"what was that famous quote of Julius Caesar about measuring the strength of an army by the food it serves (kept the men angry)?"

Hey, I read that same one in Asterix too! :-)
"I had no idea the Roman army was so powerful!" LOL!

Anonymous said...

I just realized that Eolake's reference to Bert & Ernie related to the "Man, bert, you are [...]" comment, and not to the quote I was searching for.

Must be tired, going to bed. Good place to hide my shame, too.

Pascal [P-04referent] said...

Bert, I sure hope your bed doesn't come from the Roman Legion surplus.
Otherwise, you'll be a very good soldier, but poorly rested. ;-)

"Bert & Ernie"? Aren't those the stars of Sesame Street?

"Watch out for the Cookie Monster hiding under the bed!"

Alex said...


Dating yourself there. Elmo is a more recent "star" of Sesame Street in at least the US version. I don't remember a Bert and Ernie in Plaza Sésamo (the Mexican version, the only other one we get here) though.

Anonymous said...

They still have Bert & Ernie on though, don't they? Don't tell me all the old guard have been phased out or something!

Pascal [P-04referent] said...

Well, hey, dating myself guarantees that I'll spend a nice evening in pleasant company. ;-)

Anonymous said...

What do you do when, after the date, you invite yourself in for coffee?

Pascal [P-04referent] said...

That's between me, myself and I, thank you very much!

(Strictly confidentially, I make a very lousy coffe. But don't tell the paparazzi.)

Anonymous said...

But your coffee is very, um...big. Big coffee is good, even if the quality sucks.

Pascal [P-04referent] said...

G.A.S.P.! Grinning At Surprising Pleasure! :-)))

Thank you, Jean B. At long last, somebody who can appreciate the secret qualities of my coffee.

Sucking the big quality, now why did I never think of that before? Could be interesting...

Anonymous said...

Just stumbled on your blog. The Thasit model is almost identical to the Varier Balans. The knee rests are adjustable however and you can attach a back rest as well. They are quite expensive, true but they are unique. I just found a Thasit second hand for around 200 $. But then again, I live very close to Norway, where they are produced, so you see them quite often around here... hope your back improves (my problem too). By the way, that inflatable sitting pillow thing, where did you get that? Do you know the name of the manufacturer?

I leave you a link in case you need to explore more:

God bye and thanks :-)

Anonymous said...

By the way, the "Move" model is also incredibly comfortable but I found it to be a tiny bit too big for use at my relatively low desk (legs bend too much). But for use at higher tables or motorized lift tables it rocks!

Eolake Stobblehouse said...

Thank you very much.

I bought the inflatable from my physiotherapist here in England. There's no brand name on it, but I can investigate if you wish.

Anonymous said...

Ok thanks... I was just curious in case the chair doesn't fit me perfectly. I´ll get back to you if I need one ;-)

Eolake Stobblehouse said...

I also have a Tempur foam cushion. Not cheap, but pretty special.

Eolake Stobblehouse said...

My physio mailed me back, it's called:

"Sit Fit or wobble cushion"

Anonymous said...

I never gave much thought to kneeling chairs until I saw a coworker using one and tried it out for myself. Needless to say, I loved it and ended up buying my own. I bought the Boss Kneeling Stool and the price was right, shipping was free, and it was incredibly comfortable. A win-win-win!

Eolake Stobblehouse said...

Thanks, I'll have a look.