Today we give a little attention to body positions.*
A Facebook friend inquired yesterday about the distinction between prone and supine. I explained that prone means lying face down—like the young people in the recent fad of “planking”**—and supine means lying on one’s back.
The distinction has blurred some. The New Oxford American Dictionary offers a weasely entry on prone: “lying flat, esp. face downward.” In the metaphoric sense, prone means to have a predisposition or to be liable to something. If one is prostrate—and please observe the second r—one is lying flat, face down, at full length, in submission or adoration.
Supine has variants. In the Trendelenburg position, one lies supine with the feet higher than the head. The reverse Trendelenburg is, as you have already guessed, the opposite. Supine also provides a metaphoric sense of behaving passively out of indolence or moral weakness.
Similarly blurred is the word akimbo, which describes a posture with hands on hips and the elbows extended. The phrase legs akimbo crops up, which I would have thought ill-advised for anyone not a yogi, but the NOAD tells me that with other limbs—and I presume they mean legs—akimbo means “flung out widely or haphazardly.”
If all the limbs are extended, one is spread-eagled.
In kneeling, one distributed the weight on one’s knees and feet. In church, the faux-kneeling crouch, with the behind on the edge of the chair or pew, is neither reverent nor aesthetically gratifying. Better just to sit.
In genuflection, one bends one knee to the ground, rising as gracefully as one can manage.
In the crab position, familiar from gymnastics and breakdancing, the torso is supinated (from supine, back parallel to the ground), the knees bent, the arms extended straight, and the weight borne on the hands and feet.
In bowing, one inclines the upper body, bending at the waist. In the more courtly bow and scrape, one bows deeply with the right leg drawn back, the left hand pressed across the abdomen and the right hand at one’s side. This is the male form of the curtsey, in a girl or woman one bends the knees outward, inclining forward slightly and sweeping one foot behind.
*Sorry to disappoint, but no sex positions or bondage positions will be described here. You can find the Kama Sutra and Krafft-Ebing elsewhere on the Net.
**I suppose they can’t stuff themselves into telephone booths, since cellphones have done away with telephone booths, but couldn’t they swallow live goldfish or something else traditional?