Alexander Technique Semi Supine Floor Practice
To begin the practice of SS find a quiet place to lie down such as a carpeted surface or yoga mat. Place a book (with a folded towel if you wish) at least 1/2 ” thick or more on the floor lower yourself onto your back so that your head rests on the book. Your head should neither be tossed backward, no pushed forward but be just the right height to allow for support without compression in the neck). If the books are too high, you will feel compression in the front of the neck and the shoulders will not be able to settle into the floor. If the books are too low or missing, your head will be tossed back, causing compression behind the neck or your neck may become over-straightened and lose its natural (bridge-like) curve. See photos below courtesy of “How You Sit, How You Stand, How You Move” (M.Vineyard)
Bend one leg up at a time so that your knees are pointing to the ceiling, the soles of your feet are against the floor about hip width apart and at a distance of 1 foot or more from your sits bones, so that your spine is not compressed, but has space to lengthen on its own.
If you need more support for your legs you can let your knees fall together, or place your feet further apart from each other. Another option for those with excessive low back tension is to use an ottoman or low table to support the legs. As your back let's go and you become accustomed to this posture your legs will be able to balance on their own.
Next, when you are ready, fold your arms in at the elbows and let your hands rest gently on your torso. They can rest at your hips, your belly, chest, or even at on your collar bones. There are no rules here. Just feel what allows more ease in the arms, neck, shoulders and back. It will be a bit different each day and it will change as we proceed. Notice any tendency to pull your arms in too close to the sides of your torso. Let there be a bit of space under your armpits. As you let go into gravity let your head be supported by the book and let go of any holding in your neck, shoulders, back and limbs as much as possible. The idea here is to let the weight of your body fall naturally towards the floor or earth. No pushing, nor trying to flatten your back. Just let go and let gravity do the rest.
If you wish. You can see for yourself how heavy your head is and why its so important to lie down daily, or several times a day. While resting and letting go into the floor, attempt to slowly lift your head off of the book--just a bit- less than an inch. Feel what happens to the neck and torso and how much tension quickly builds in your body. Then rest it back on the book and let go again into gravity.
Relax and Breathe Bring your awareness to your breath. Feel it moving in and out of your body. Let go of any trying to do anything with your breath. That will only produce muscular tension. The idea here is to allow the breath to move in and out on its own, so that the body can expand and free itself of any unnecessary holding and make room for the breath.
Thinking and Directing: As you let go into gravity, it may be helpful to think of your the top of your head releasing away from your spine, towards the wall behind you and your tail bone moving in the opposite direction towards the opposite wall. Also think of your elbows as moving away from the sides of your torso, and your knees releasing up towards the ceiling. Remember not to push or try to flatten your spine, which naturally curves away from the floor at the neck and low back. These kinds of thoughts help to redirect our muscles and bones into proper alignment without force, and is part of the Alexander Technique practice that one learns over time. Let the neck, back and shoulders and all the parts of your body that are touching the earth relax and be supported by the floor while you think of your body as lengthening and widening in many directions as described above.
Mindfulness of Body: from time to time let go of any discursive thoughts and bring your awareness back to your body and see if you can sense yourself letting go into of any effort to hold yourself up away from gravity. Come back to your breath and sense the subtle movement of your body allowing the breath to come in and to flow out.
Feel your feet against the floor. Notice other parts that are touching. Feel the spaces where your body is not touching. You may be aware of spaces under your feet, your hands, under your arms and so on. Think of allowing all of the bones of your hands and feet soften.. You may feel movement in the arms and the shoulders, as your breath comes in and out or your belly and chest.
Maintain a soft awareness of your whole self. Let go of trying to do it right.
Feel yourself being supported by the floor. Let gravity do its work.
Soft effortless awareness on your breathing body.
If your eyes have been closed, slowly open them and let the light and space become included in your body awareness.
Preparing to stand up: As you prepare to end this practice and come into standing, notice what happens in yourbody when you have the thought that you are going to get up. Where do you begin to tense? Let go again and take more time before you begin to move.
To get up, slowly let your eyes look to one side Continue to sense the ground beneath you. Take your time. Let your knees fall to that side and walk yourself up to sitting, letting your head come last, while thinking about how its is poised at the the top of the spine and leads the spine into movement. Think and feel how your spine and head move together, where you gaze with your eyes, the head moves and the spine follows. Come on to all fours, feeling the ground beneath your hands and feet. You can rock back and forth here if you wish, or do some cat and cows letting the eyes lead and the head and body follow as you sense the relationship of your head neck and back.
To stand upright; walk your hands back toward your feet, tucking in your toes as you gently roll up into standing, head comes up last and balances naturally at the top of the spine. Be careful not to lock your knees or hunch your shoulders. Feel the ground beneath the soles of your feet supporting you. Let you head hang with ease, let you arms relax as you unwind into standing.
Pause here for a moment and recall the imprint of the floor againstyour back, even the back of your head. See if you can let your head balance without tightening your neck. Stand a bit wider than you normally do and see if that helps you let go and not tighten anywhere in your body, especially your neck. Feel your length from head to toe. Up is still along the direction of the spine but that the direction has now changed from horizontal to vertical. Notice any tendency to try to pull yourself up away from the floor in some part of your body. Sense how the ground come up through your legs, up your front and back to the top of your head. You dont have to pull yourself up to stand. Notice if you start to push yourself away from the ground or lock your knees. Let gravity have some of your weight, let you knees release any locking, Soften and become buoyant as if your were dangling from a thick rope that had its home in the sky. Widen your stance and let your feet the bones of your feet relax. Let your arms hang naturally at your side and let the bones of your hands relax. Feel your back and front widening. Come back to your breath awareness. Bring your legs under you, and gently shift your weight from one leg to the next, thenand take a few small steps and proceed to walk around easily, pausing occasionally to sense your head, neck and back connected and your two legs supporting your whole spine from the ground, up. Try walking backwards with small steps and see what you notic
Return to this practice for 15-20 each day, as often as you can or need. You will definitely reap the benefits of the practice and see the results. You will notice an improvement in your alignment, breathing, your sense of balance and even a of lightness on your feet as you move about your day.
Please feel free take some time to record your thoughts if you are inspired.
c. Katie Back 2016