Tips4Teachers – Lying-down Work, #2 – Connecting the Legs and Back

Related to using lying-down work as a ‘horizontal monkey position‘, there is a simple procedure  through which the pupil can be taught to connect the action of the legs with the powerful anti-gravity muscles of the back.

The pupil being in semi-supine, the teacher takes one of his or her legs and firstly ensures that the hip and knee joints are free. Keeping the pupil’s leg bent at the hip and knee, the teacher then applies a gentle pressure to the pupil’s heel whilst the teacher stays ‘back and up’ in opposition to the applied force. In this way one can elicit a reflex response which will cause the pupil’s leg to straighten.

This response, however, is often overlaid with patterns of learnt movement and persistent, unnecessary tensions. Consequently it is necessary to patiently ‘look for’ and ‘cultivate’ this response. It is interesting to note that the overuse of certain muscles and some uncoordinated movement patterns are usually related to the inadequate use of the postural muscles.

In order to ‘wake up’ the reflex response, the pupil may be asked to push against the teacher’s hand in the direction which could be described as the ‘virtual continuation of the lower leg’, and ‘through the heel’.

Usually repeating this a few times is sufficient to be then able to elicit the reflex response to a rightly applied (i.e. applied as a consequence of the teacher him or herself ‘going up’) pressure against the heel. It should at this point be explained to the pupil that he or she is to try to catch the moment at which the leg seems to want to straighten of its own accord, and that he or she should not attempt to inhibit this activity in the leg. Indeed at the beginning he or she should be encouraged to ‘go with’ the leg movement even if they are not sure whether or not it is a reflex response or something they are doing. Once the response begins to be more active, it is practically invariably very easy for the pupil to recognise the difference between the two.

Needless to say, reminders should be given frequently, with words and hands, to the pupil’s head and neck.

The benefits of this procedure are:

  • It engages the right muscles in an effortless leg-straightening movement.
  • It connects this movement with a simultaneous, coordinated ‘spreading out’ (lengthening and widening) of the back muscles against the surface of the table.
  • The engagement of the postural muscles of the back and legs allows for a freedom in the hips and lower back which is otherwise difficult to bring about.
  • The postural muscles having been activated in this coordinated way makes them more ‘vital’ even at rest. Energy begins to flow.
  • It introduces to the pupil the action of the anti-gravity muscles in a secure position (i.e. lying down), thereby helping him or her to be able at an appropriate time to keep the back back in chair-work, walking etc. and – most importantly – to understand the ‘how’ and the ‘why’ of it.

© 2013 John S Hunter

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