Lying down – Semi-Supine – is one of the quickest and simplest ways of allowing our bodies to come back into shape. This procedure has beneficial effects. It allows the spine to de-rotate and lengthen, and brings the head into a more forward position relative to the neck. In the supine position with knees bent, the pelvis can tilt backwards and the lumbar curve flattens out. The spinal and abdominal muscles will release tension, allowing gravity to have a beneficial effect on the diaphragm and the ribcage to work more efficiently.
A deeper breathing pattern happens, and the whole system calms down. Fully supported by the floor, the inherent elasticity of the body has a chance to come back. If you lie down for up to twenty minutes each day, even more than once, it will make an appreciable difference.
Benefits of Semi-Supine
– Releases muscles and joints.
– Takes the pressure off the spine.
– Releases diaphragm giving more rib movement.Allows for more regular breathing.
– Gives digestive release.
– Frees neck muscles.
– Takes the pressure off eyes.
– Jaw releases.
– Unclenches the hands.
– Gives time to think and become more conscious.
How Semi-Supine Got Serious.
The semi-supine is one of the most interesting developments for the Alexander Technique. Though F.M Alexander did not develop it himself, he did agree that it was very beneficial. When he first started teaching the Alexander Technique to future teachers, he made them all work so hard they became extremely tired. One day some pupils decided to just lie down and rest on the floor. As they were experienced in the Alexander Technique they knew they could not just lie down flat as this would undermine their use. In other words, they would not continue to keep their spines lengthened. So they decided to put a book under the head to continue the lengthening and support the seven cervical in the neck. They also noticed that by bringing the knees into the air, as shown above, they would get a much better contact with the lumbar region. Also that the spine would gain better length. They decided that lying down in this way not only offered a good way to rest from Alexanders’ intense study and training but that it also generated the very thing he was trying to teach; greater length, better posture and calm in the body. Better use. It really was constructive rest.
They told him about their discovery and he was very impressed and the table work became an integral part of the teaching process. It has to be said that F.M Alexander did not take up the practice of lying down or teaching in this way himself. There are also many teachers, including Walter Carrington who would not use table work regularly. Though Walter did say he would lie down regularly. Some teachers still find it is not a part of their teaching practice. I would not use it myself, but my pupils enjoy it so much I cannot bring myself to stop. My lessons go on for 45minutes as a result. Whereas the lesson would be only half an hour without the table work.
Eyes Wide Shut
There is one more important aspect of semi-supine which has to be mentioned and that is whether or not to keep the eyes open. Walter Carrington would say that he would never feel like closing his eyes and the emphasis would be on remaining conscious throughout. However, in my personal experience, it is very important to have an element of deep relaxation in our lives. So I personally encourage half of the session with eyes closed and half with them open. It is a matter of personal choice and needs.
I think it is important to follow the above method of getting up and when we are standing to engage in the weight-bearing points and take a nice deep breath and walk around the room consciously directing before we get back to the days activities.
Nick Chapman 2009 Please feel free to use any of this in your own way. This is not copyright material
Semi-Supine Step by Step
Put a book or some other support under your head. This needs to be about 2 inches/15cm high on the floor. Sit on the floor in front of the book or other support and breathe out.
Allow your spine to roll down onto the floor until the back of your head is on the book. Be careful that your neck is free and your head is not jammed against the book. Too few books will reduce the natural curve of the neck and too many could push your chin onto your chest and restrict breathing.
Bend your knees and bring your feet near to your buttocks. You need to have your knees bent but not strained so your lower back is not arched but is in contact with the floor. Place your hands on your lower ribs, just above your waist.
As you lie in this semi-supine position allow your whole back to be in contact with the floor. Be aware of the nine weight-bearing parts of the back – the head, the shoulders the elbows, the hips (pelvic crests), and the feet. If you stop tightening your muscles unnecessarily, the ribs move more freely to allow the air to come in and out.
Let your arm lead your body so that you roll over onto your side. Stop and breathe out and check that you have not stiffened your neck or begun to over contract your stomach muscles.
After about ten minutes, you will often find that your breathing has changed. When you begin to think about getting up, remember to take your time. Slowly raise one arm above your body so your fingers are pointing directly upward and then look to one side.
Getting up from the Semi-Supine
Move onto your hands. Rock forward and backwards allowing your head to lead your body forward. Say “No” to the idea of starting up.
Bring one foot forward and put it in front of you.
Allow your head to nod forward and your weight to move forward from the hips until you begin to move diagonally upward until you are standing.