Pre-conference Workshop (Thursday 23 June, 10:00am to 12Noon)

Sitting: does it belong to Utopia?
Galen Cranz
& Chelsea Rushton

Bodies are designed for movement; the best posture is the next posture. How, then, can we cope with a contemporary sedentary culture whose architecture (the classroom, the library, the conference hall, the office, the restaurant, the sanctuary, the car) requires us to sit in positions that do not support our bodies' individual alignments?

This workshop, informed by the Alexander Technique and traditions of classical and hatha yoga, offered techniques to activate and mobilize the spine when we must be seated, to remediate ill effects of sedentary behaviour on the body, and to find practical and sustainable alternatives to chair sitting.

Participants completed the workshop better able to find alert rest positions that offer both stability and ease in their own bodies. We thus expanedd a utopian social practice of sitting together beyond sitting, toward the vision of harmonious relationship between body, community, and culture.***

*** Francis Cape's We Sit Together: Utopian Benches from the Shakers to the Separatists of Zoar (Princeton Architectural Press, 2013) notes the importance of sitting communally for the intentional, "utopian" communities established during the early settlement of America

Galen Cranz is Professor of Architecture at the University of California at Berkeley, a Ph.D. sociologist from the University of Chicago, and a certified teacher of the Alexander Technique. She is author of The Politics of Park Design: A History of Urban Parks in America (MIT 1982), and The Chair: Rethinking Culture, Body and Design (W.W. Norton 1998), which received EDRA’s 2004 Achievement Award. In 2011 she also received the EDRA Career Award. Galen has taught “body conscious design” since 1989. She currently studies vision (EyeBody) with Peter Grunwald of New Zealand, and Body-Mind Centering with Bonnie Bainbridge Cohen in California. She swims and practices tai chi daily.

Chelsea Rushton, MFA, IRYT-500, is a visual artist whose creative research focuses on the intersections of art, ritual, and spirituality, and the ways in which art practice can document and facilitate personal and collective growth and evolution. She is the designer and instructor of Art of the Soul: Creative Process as Spiritual Practice, a combined lecture and seminar course offered at the University of Calgary. Chelsea began teaching yoga in 2010. Her practice holds as a primary goal the experience and alignment of the physical and energetic aspects of the self. Her teaching interests include the philosophy of yoga, yoga nidra, spinal health, and meeting pain from a yogic perspective.

NOTE: There was no charge for the workshop (as it was included in the symposium fee), but participants were asked to pre-register.