Looking after ourselves – Constructive rest in semi-supine
Spending time each day lying down on a firm surface such as the floor, with a pile of books under the head and the feet on the floor, is an excellent way to look after our physical and mental wellbeing.
- becoming aware of and releasing excessive muscle tension and physical over work we may be doing
- allowing our deep postural muscles to release and lengthen
- increasing spine health and flexibility
- taking a break from mental activities to refresh our thoughts and rebalance alertness
How to do it:
The surface you lie on should be firm, such as the floor. Choose a place that is a pleasant temperature, with carpet or a blanket on the floor to make it comfortable. Use a pile of books to support your head. The height of the books will depend on your body, but should allow the front and back of your neck to lengthen and release. If you notice that the front of your throat is compressed, then the book height may be too high. If the back of your neck is curved or shortened, then the book height is too low.
Start by standing near your books. Become aware of your body, and choose to move with ease from standing to kneeling. Have a chair handy if this will help. Lower yourself gently down to the floor, resting the back of your head on the books. Aim for symmetry between both sides of your body as you come onto the floor. Place the soles of your feet on the floor about hip width apart from each other, a little way away from you buttocks, in a position that allows your knees to balance between hips and feet. Point your feet away from your head. Rest your hands gently on your stomach.
Stay lying down for 5-20 minutes. Remain awake and alert. Notice your body as it is supported by the floor and the books. Allow extra tension to release without doing anything.
To come out of the position, consciously decide which side you will roll to before you move. Starting with your eyes, look to that side, roll your head and then the rest of your body to the side. Support yourself with your hands as you come up to all fours. Move to standing, with support of a chair if needed, mindfully, and with ease. Look around and slowly move around with awareness to complete the practice, noticing any differences in your experience of your body.
What is happening in semi-supine?
Semi-supine creates a gentle traction on the spine. It gives the muscles around our spines an opportunity to have a rest from the effects of gravity.
Resting your head on books encourages your neck to be lengthened and free. If you did not use something to support your head, the back of your neck would have to shorten to allow your head to rest on the floor. Many people tend to shorten their necks when standing too, so lying down with a free and lengthened neck is a good practice.
Standing feet on the floor allows the lower back or lumbar region to release. Many people find that the curve of their lumbar region lengthens when lying down in this way. It is also possible to relieve lower back pain with this practice.
The spongy discs in between the spinal bones lose fluid throughout the day due to being compressed when we are upright. By lying down in a position which supports and lengthens the spine, fluid is allowed to re-enter the discs, improving their functioning as cushions between the bones and protecting us from wear and tear in our backs.
Shoulders and hip joints are allowed to widen and release with the support of the floor.
By stopping and paying attention, we may start to notice where we hold tension in our bodies, and gently allow this to release as we are supported by the floor. This process takes time and practice.
We don’t have to do anything, and can allow our thoughts to slow down. Taking time to observe your body is a valuable mindfulness practice. Semi supine gives us a respite from the need to constantly respond to our environment, which we often experience for most of our day.
This is up to you, but it is recommended to practice semi-supine at least daily. Many people benefit from short times spent lying down like this throughout the day to re-connect to their bodies and re focus their energies. There are important benefits to be gained from lying down for longer sessions (20 minutes) to allow deeper releasing to occur.