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Ergonomics is the study of people's efficiency in their working environment. More specifically: how they use their body.
It is concerned with good alignment, comfort, strain, exertion, range and reach.
Ergonomics applies to any form of work. This may literally refer to being at work or it may be working at home or in a leisure activity.
Whenever the human body is employed in some activity, we should consider the ergonomics involved.
The most common target for concern when looking at the human body is how people use themselves when operating a computer. Invariably people stoop.
They lean. They twist. They reach. They sit for too long. The feet are badly placed or the chair is unsuitable. Laptops and smart phones are almost impossible to use ergonomically.
People use their bodies badly because they are bored, distracted and listless. Or they are so focussed on their work that everything else becomes marginalised.
This tendency towards boredom starts in school where children are forced to maintain unnaturally immobile positions for hours on end.
Sofas are often designed for slouching. TV screens may be wall mounted, requiring the viewer to lean back in order to see the screen. This does not encourage good posture.
Everyday chores such as cooking, gardening, brushing your teeth or washing the dishes may be seen from an ergonomic perspective. Have objects within reach.
Consider whether or not you are leaning, slouching or imbalanced. Standing up from a chair involves a complex set of biomechanical factors.
Picking up a heavy item or squatting to tie shoe laces all can be examined in terms of comfort, healthy body use and efficiency.
Many forms of exercise are goal-oriented. Sport is usually about winning. Gym, running and body building are often concerned with vanity and appearance.
Good body use may be considered but is seldom adhered to.
As a martial art tai chi prioritises economy and efficiency. There is no point using a martial art in combat if the very act of doing so harms your own body. Healthy body use is paramount.
Tai chi for health
Tai chi for health encourages mindful body use at all times. Each movement must be performed carefully.
The student is taught to feel the difference between powerful, balanced movement and careless habits of misuse.
By working with a partner we can explore how well we are using our bodies. Our usage may feel fine when training solo.
However, when partnered, there are usually mistakes that diminish the value of the tai chi. Optimal body use at all times is cultivated.
18 March 1997
Last updated 16 June 2023