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Lying Down in Semi-Supine - Frequently Asked Questions

 

Paradoxically, as we grow-up we tend slowly but surely to draw our bodies inwards making ourselves shorter and narrower. This can be remedied by releasing unnecessary tension and naturally restoring a quality of expansive spaciousness within ourselves.

 

What is semi-supine?

It’s a position in which you lie down on your back with your head supported and slighted raised, your knees bent pointing up towards the ceiling, your feet placed flat on the floor and your hands resting on your abdomen.

Most Alexander Technique lessons include lying down in the semi-supine position on an Alexander table. The support of the table removes the downward force of gravity on the spine making it easier for the teacher to gently work on you and easier for you to recognise and release unnecessary muscular tension.

You can also use the floor for support to practise on your own.

 

What do I need in order to practise it?

You need a firm flat comfortable surface to lie on and a firm support for your head. A carpeted floor or mat and a small pile of paperback books or magazines are ideal. Make sure you are warm and comfortable and try to minimise any risk of being disturbed.

 

What is the best way to get down on to the floor?

I suggest the following steps to get yourself on to the floor or do whatever works for you.

Kneel down first on one knee then on two.

  • Sit down and swing your legs round in front of you.
  • Put the books behind you in the position where you think your head will land.
  • With bent knees and feet flat on the floor, roll your spine and head back down onto the floor.
  • Point your knees up towards the ceiling and plant your feet flat on the floor.

Go through each step separately making sure you take your time. Use getting down on to the floor as an opportunity to observe your movements and practise saying no to your habitual reactions. Remember to pay attention first and foremost to what is happening with the relationship between your head neck and back.

 

How many books will I need to support my head?

The height of the books varies from person to person but is usually approximately 2”-4”. A good way to work out if the book height needs changing is to check if your head is tipping back in which case raise the height of the books or if it is pushed forward lower them. Make sure the books are not touching your neck.

 

Where’s the best place to put my feet when I‘m lying down?

The distance between your feet should be approximately the same as the distance between your hips. The distance between the back of your heels and your buttocks should be around 6”-18”. Removing shoes gives you more contact with the floor.

 

What should I do with my hands?

Rest your hands palms facing down on your abdomen allow them to spread out naturally. Keep your hands apart so they don’t touch.

 

What do I do when I’m lying down in semi-supine?

Keep your eyes open and stay alert. Try to become aware of what’s happening in your body - see if you can notice where you are contracting. Notice your thoughts.

 

The purpose of lying down isn’t for you to do anything but think and notice what’s happening.

Don’t force change - make no effort, let gravity and your body weight do the work.

 

Try thinking the following :

“Let my neck be free”

“Let my head go forward and up away from the top of my spine”

“Let my back lengthen and widen”

“Let my knees go out of my hip sockets and away from my back”

“Let my shoulders go out beyond my sides”

 

What is the best way to get back up off of the floor?

I suggest the following steps for getting up off of the floor or do whatever works for you. As with getting down on to the floor take your time, observe, and remember the head-neck-back relationship.

  • Roll over onto your side and bend your knees.
  • Continue on to your hands and knees and raise yourself into a crawling position.
  • Bring your weight back towards your heels and come up into a high kneeling position.
  • Place one foot in front of you whilst thinking of length through your spine and neck.
  • Send your head forward and up and return to a standing position allowing your body to follow your head.
  • Walk around a little thinking of your head releasing up and out of your spine.
  • See if you can retain this quality as you return to activity.

 

What should I avoid doing?

  • Avoid letting your knees touch each other - instead point your knees up towards the ceiling.
  • Avoid pushing your back into the floor - allow your back to fall into the floor.
  • Avoid moving and adjusting yourself to try and better your position - if you’re uncomfortable or want to move, sit up and roll back down again alternatively stop lying down and try again another time.
  • Avoid watching TV or listening to music - listen to and watch yourself instead.
  • Avoid making lists of things to do and distracting thoughts - when your mind wanders focus on your surroundings.
  • Avoid closing your eyes. You’re learning to become more conscious.

 

Why do we practise lying down in the semi-supine position ?

  • Lying down with raised knees encourages the back to gently spread out and increases contact with the table. Supporting the back in this way reduces unnecessary tension creating a sense of internal spaciousness allowing natural co-ordination of your postural muscles.
  • During the course of the day, the inter-vertebral discs in your spine which act as shock absorbers get squashed and lose fluid. Lying down in semi-supine re-hydrates and plumps-up the discs creating lift through the spine.
  • It’s the most beneficial way in which you can work on yourself and practise the Technique between lessons and it speeds up your learning process.
  • Quiet self-observation helps you to spot patterns and links between your thoughts, feelings and physical reactions and to let go of old habits and re-train your thinking to gain conscious control of how you use yourself.

 

What are the benefits?

It can bring many benefits both physical and psychological which are often apparent right from the start. Here are a few:

  • Restored natural alignment.
  • Highly effective Stress Management tool
  • Inner peace and a feeling of lightness.
  • Heightened self-awareness.

 

How often should I do it?

I recommend 20 minutes once, or ideally twice, a day.

The more you practise the easier it becomes to return to a quiet expansive state in any situation.