Tuesday 24 August 2010

Choose Your Restaurant Table Carefully

Last week, Cas and I spent a week on the River Thames on our boat "Ten Forward" named after the recreation area on the USS Enterprise (Star Trek for those of you living in a bubble!)
Ten Forward

On one of the nights, we ate at the Riverside Brasserie at our local marina. The food at the Brasserie is always excellent and their wine list is well selected. BUT... their dining tables represent one of my pet hates! They are square, single pedestal tables with four stabilising "feet" at the bottom off the central pedestal.

The way these feet are supposed to be arranged is that the they should point to the centre of the table edge and not the corner of the table. See the pictures below to see what I mean.

Good and bad table designs

I found myself sitting at a table where the feet were arranged diagonally relative to the table edge. That means I probably would not be able to enjoy my meal. Let me explain what I mean by this.

How many times have you sat in a restaurant and seen diners perched uncomfortably on the edge of their seat with their feet pulled back under the table - even sometmes wrapped around the front legs of their chair as if trying desparately not to fall of the chair? They can't possibly be comfortable! Sitting like this tightens the groin muscles and this in turn causes the pelvic floor and lower abdominal muscles to be held with too much tension.

What most people won't realise is that this unnnecessary lower body tension will induce the iliopsoas muscles to contract. The "psoas major" branch of these muscles runs up behind the intestines and stomach and connects into the spine in 5 places beginning immediately below the diaphragm. See the diagram below

When your psoas muscles are in tension below your diaphragm it will give you a tight feeling below your ribs and make your stomach feel a bit tense. There's no way you will be able to enjoy a relaxing meal in such a state!

We have very little sensory awareness of our psoas muscles and therefore we have to use indirect means to control them and prevent them coming under too much undue tension.

This is where the diagonal-footed pedestal table commits its crime! The diagonal feet prevent you from placing your feet flat on the floor under the table and, as a result, you either fold you feet under the chair, put them uncomfortably on top of the table feet, or move backward so you can no longer reach the table comfortably.

To reduce the possibility of the psoas muscles getting into this state, you should always sit at the dining table with your feet flat on the floor, forward of the lip of the chair seat, vertically below your knees. You should free-off the muscles in your groin and sit with your bottom well-back in the chair and your head vertically above it. You shouldn't be leaning forward or backward. If the chair-back is not vertical, but instead leans backward relative to the seat then don't use it!

Sitting vertically like this, you might be tempted to pull your shoulders forward or even to slump forward in order to reach the table. Don't! You will need to pull your chair closer to the table so you won't need to over-extend your arms or to slump.

So the moral of this story when entering a restaurant is to request a different table if its feet are in the wrong position. Don't forget to explain to the restauranteur the reason for your choice!

As to my meal at the Brasserie, I managed to spin the table-top round relative to the feet, so that I could put my feet in a comfortable postion. I explained to the waitress that this was the reason why I'd managed to spill the wine and water all over the cloth but I don't think she was too impressed :)

Finally, a tip about getting into and out of a restaurant chair.

Stand with your back to the side of the chair so you are looking along the edge of the table and not across it. Sit in the chair, remembering to free your neck, ankles knees and hips. Remember to think "up" as you go into sitting. When you are on the seat, rotate yourself so your feet are under the table. Getting out is the reverse operation. Rotate your feet to the side of the chair then lean forward from the hips, following your head up to standing while keeping your neck free.

By chance, Bill Plake, a fellow AT teacher published a blog the very next day which talks about sitting comfortably.


  1. There's a great new podcast at http://bodylearningcast.com that talks all about sitting comfortably using the Alexander Technique.

  2. Dear Jeff,
    I found your blog via the STAT forum - thanks for your posts!! Re having a meal in a restaurant: my experience has been with chairs: most chair seats tilt downwards towards the back, which makes sitting most uncomfortable, impossible to sit on sitting bones and sit close enough to the table to be able to eat without spilling the food into one's lap. I usually end up sitting on the very edge of the seat in order to sit on my sitting bones, release up, and place my feet flat on the floor. I often felt like writing to the owner of such restaurants to explain why they should invest in chairs that allow their customers to eat their meal in a comfortable way, without struggling with the chair/table. I have not written any such letter - I just don't go to those places any more.

  3. The cynic in me would guess that restraunteurs are more interested in the looks of their chairs than their fitness for purpose. Then again, it would be expensive to change all the chairs in a typical 50-cover restaurant.

  4. Top blog, I hadn't come across useoftheself.blogspot.com before in my searches!
    Keep up the wonderful work!

  5. Choosing a table is more valuable for the restaurants. It provides comfort to the customers and give a new look. Thanks..

    Restaurant Table Base

  6. Ya I agree Table plays very important role in Restaurants.They should be comfortable and attractive too.

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    Marvick John,
    Suncoast Furniture