The position itself is a useful one and practiced in conjunction with lessons it encourages the changes the Alexander Technique aims to promote.
Lie on your back on a firm surface – a carpeted floor is good – with your knees bent upwards so that your feet are as close to your body as is comfortable. Your feet should be far enough apart – about shoulder width – for the legs to balance with minimum effort, your knees neither falling apart nor pulling together.
Support your head on a pile of paperback books avoiding contact with your neck. The height of the pile will vary from person to person depending on a number of factors such as the length of their neck or the shape of their head. If the pile is too high your chin will press into your throat and if the pile is too low your head will tilt backwards hindering muscular release in your back. The optimum height for you will be somewhere in between these two extremes.
Let your arms rest on the floor with the palms of your hands on your midriff or by your sides.
The Weight Bearing Points
Be aware of your weight as it is distributed between these points: your feet, the back rim of your pelvis, your shoulder blades and the back of your head.
Directions (these need supervision from a qualified teacher)
You are now ready to begin the activity of directing – that combination of mentally asking it to happen and at the same time releasing any tension which is preventing it from happening.
First you need to release the muscles in your neck so that the top of your head tends to go away from your shoulders in the direction best described as “forward and out”. The forward element is necessary because of the strong tendency to over-contract the muscles of the neck that pull on the back of the head.
This direction to your head will allow the next step which is to let your whole back release and come into a more expansive contact with the floor. The tendency here is to tighten the muscles of the back – so to counteract this, direct your back to “lengthen and widen”.
Direct your knees to the ceiling by releasing and lengthening the muscles between your hips and knees and between your ankles and knees.
Direct your neck to be free, to allow your head to go forwards and away, to allow your back to lengthen and widen and your knees to go towards the ceiling.
Practice semi-supine at least once a day for 10-20 minutes at a time. The position is good for your back and even better when you apply the principles of the Alexander Technique. It gives your energy a boost and is the way to apply what you learn of the technique to your everyday life. Think of it as a good investment and a bit of a treat.
Practicing on a firm surface is better than on a sofa or in bed. The response from your body and the feedback you get are more useful.
If you find yourself day-dreaming just gently bring your attention back to your weight bearing points and begin directing again. If you persistently find yourself falling asleep try practicing at a different time of day or getting more sleep generally if you are over-tired.
The aim is NOT to sink into the heaviness of total relaxation, as in yoga or meditation exercises, but to promote redistribution in your muscle tone. It should be viewed as an ACTIVE lying down requiring mental alertness. In this way the practice can be of benefit to you in upright balance and movement.
Listening to the radio while practicing semi-supine is better than not practicing at all. However, watching the TV or reading is too distracting and will fix your eyes, neck and head in an immobile position.