If you’ve been to my classes you will know that I encourage you to start the class in the semi-supine position rather than lying with your legs outstretched in savasana, or corpse pose. So what is it that’s so special about this position?
In semi-supine, also known as the constructive rest position, we lie down with the knees bent up and the soles of the feet on the floor. This position allows the spine to adopt its natural curves, which in turn allows the muscles around the spine to relax. As a result, the shoulders can broaden and the spine may feel longer. The ribcage is able to relax and breathing can become deeper and quieter. By adopting a horizontal position, we can begin to undo the compressive effect that gravity has had on the spine over the time since we got up and fluid can begin to be reabsorbed into the disks between the vertebrae.
A particular benefit of this position over savasana, however, is its effect on the hip flexors, or ilio-psoas muscles. These large muscles connect the thigh to the spine and pelvis and they tend to be both short and tense if we spend a lot of the day sitting down. Over time, this can lead to pain in the lower abdomen, hips or back. Having the knees bent up in semi-supine allows the hip flexors to soften in a way that is less likely to happen in savasana. As the hip flexors release their pull on the pelvis and on the spine, the pelvis may tilt back a little and the lumbar curve become flatter than it typically is when standing.
Spending time in semi-supine helps to counteract some of the negative effects of too much sitting and standing on the body and forms an important part of our preparation for the physical part of our yoga practice. As well as reducing the pull of the legs on the spine, by lying in this horizontal position we temporarily remove the compressive effect of gravity on the spine, and give this essential part of our body a well-earned rest before our physical practice begins.