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Main article: Posture

Human positions refers to the different positions that the human body can take.

There are several synonyms that refer to the human position, often used interchangeably, but having specific flavors.[1]

  • Position is a general term for a configuration of the human body
  • Posture means the intentionally or habitually assumed position
  • Pose implies artistic or aesthetic intention of the position
  • Attitude refers to postures assumed for purpose of imitation, intentional or not, as well as in some standard collocations in reference to some distinguished types of posture: "Freud never assumed a fencer's attitude, yet almost all took him for a swordsman."[2]
  • Bearing refers to the manner, of the posture, as well as of gestures and other aspects of the conduct taking place

Basic positions[]

While not moving, a human is usually in one of the following basic positions:


Main article: Standing
File:ModernEgypt, Khedive Tawfiq, DHP13401-1-1 01.jpg

Standing couple, January 1873

Although quiet standing appears to be static, modern instrumentation shows it to be a process of rocking from the ankle in the sagittal plane. The sway of quiet standing is often likened to the motion of an inverted pendulum.[3] There are many mechanisms in the body that are suggested to control this movement, e.g. a spring action in muscles, higher control from the nervous system or core muscles.

Although standing per se isn't dangerous, there are pathologies associated with it. One short term condition is orthostatic hypotension, and long term conditions are sore feet, stiff legs and low back pain.


Main article: Sitting
File:Paul Cézanne 161.jpg

Paul Cézanne. A sitting position

Sitting requires the buttocks resting on a more or less horizontal structure, like a chair or the ground. Special ways of sitting are with the legs horizontal, and in an inclined seat. While on a chair the shins are usually vertical, on the ground the shins may be crossed in the lotus position or be placed horizontally under the thigh in a seiza.


Main article: Squatting position
File:Michael Votter.jpg

Squatting on the ground as a resting position.

Squatting is a posture where the weight of the body is on the feet (as with standing) but the knees are bent either fully (full or deep squat) or partially (partial, half, semi, parallel or monkey squat). It may be used as a posture for resting or working at ground level when the ground is too dirty to sit or kneel; for defecation (the normal such posture in the many parts of the world that use squat toilets); or as a temporary position during lower body squat exercises.


Main article: Lying (position)
File:Watteau Jupiter und Antiope Detail.jpg

"Jupiter et Antiope", by Antoine Watteau

When in lying position, the body may assume a great variety of shapes and positions. The following are the basic recognized positions.

  • Supine position: lying on the back with the face up.
  • Prone position: lying (or laying) on the chest with the face down ("lying down", "laying down", or "going prone").

Lying on either side, with the body straight or bent/curled forward or backward. The fetal position is lying or sitting curled, with limbs close to the torso and the head close to the knees.


Main article: Kneeling
File:Cheselden t36 prayer.jpg

A kneeling skeleton

Kneeling is standing not on the feet, but on one or both knees or shins approximately parallel to the ground, possibly raised to an angle depending on the position of the feet. The torso is usually upright but can be considered kneeling at other angles not touching the ground.


File:Crouching Aphrodite Louvre Ma5.jpg

Crouching Aphrodite, Louvre

To crouch means "to bend down; to stoop low; to lie close to the ground with legs bent, as an animal when waiting for prey or in fear."[4]

Crouching may involve squatting or kneeling.


See also: The Gaskin Maneuver

This is the static form of crawling which is instinctive form of locomotion for very young children. It is a commonly used childbirth position in non-Western cultures.[5]

Atypical positions[]

File:Statue von David Černý.jpg

Hanging man by David Černý

Atypical positions include:

  • standing on one leg
  • handstand
  • head stand
  • spreadeagle
  • crab position
  • Humans can hang in various positions. It is a position where the support is above the center of gravity. It may be voluntary or involuntary.

Such positions are common to break dancing, gymnastics and yoga.

Stress positions[]

Main article: Stress positions

A Viet Cong prisoner captured in 1967 by the U.S Army awaits interrogation. He has been placed in a stress position by tying a board between his arms.

Stress positions place the human body in such a way that a great amount of weight is placed on just one or two muscles. Forcing prisoners to adopt such positions is a method of ill-treatment used for extracting information or as a punishment, possibly amounting to torture. Such positions also are sometimes used as a punishment for children.

Bondage positions[]

Main article: List of bondage positions

A bondage position is a body position created by physical restraints which restricts locomotion, use of the limbs or general freedom of movement.

Childbirth positions[]

Main article: Childbirth positions

In addition to the lithotomy position still commonly used by many obstetricians, childbirth positions that are successfully used by midwives and traditional birth-attendants the world over include squatting, standing, kneeling and on all-fours, often in a sequence.[6]

Dance positions[]

Main article: Dance positions

Dance position is a position of a dancer or a mutual position of a dance couple assumed during a dance. Describing and mastering proper dance positions is an important part of dance technique.

Defecation positions[]

Main article: Defecation positions

The two most common defecation positions are squatting and sitting. The squatting posture is used for Japanese toilets and squat toilets. It is also commonly used for defecation in the absence of toilets or other devices. The sitting defecation posture is used in Western toilets, with a lean-forward posture or a 90-degrees posture. In general, the posture chosen is a cultural decision although the case has been made that squatting provides health benefits over sitting.

Eating positions[]

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Heat escape lessening position[]

Main article: Heat escape lessening position

The heat escape lessening position (HELP), is a way to position oneself to reduce heat loss in cold water. It is taught as part of the curriculum in Australia, North America and Ireland for lifeguard and boating safety training. It involves essentially positioning one's knees together and hugging them close to the chest using one's arms.

Medical positions[]

The following positions are specifically used in medicine:[7]

  • anatomical position
  • Bozeman's position
  • decubitus position
  • Fowler's position
  • knee-chest position
  • knee-elbow position
  • lithotomy position
  • Mayer position
  • Rose's position
  • semi-Fowler position
  • Sims position
  • Trendelenburg position
  • verticosubmental position
  • Waters' position

Recovery position[]

Main article: Recovery position

The recovery position or coma position refers to one of a series of variations on a lateral recumbent or three-quarters prone position of the body, in to which an unconscious but breathing casualty can be placed as part of first aid treatment.

Resting positions[]

A large number of resting positions are possible, based on variations of sitting, squatting, kneeling or lying.[8]

Sex positions[]

Main article: Sex positions

Sex positions are positions which people may adopt during or for the purpose of sexual intercourse or other sexual activities. Sexual acts are generally described by the positions the participants adopt in order to perform those acts.

Shooting positions[]

  • Kneeling position
  • Prone position
  • Standing position
  • Three positions

Sleeping positions[]

Main article: Sleeping positions

The sleeping position is the body configuration assumed by a person during or prior to sleeping. Six basic sleeping positions have been identified:

  • Fetus (41%) – curling up in a fetal position. This was the most common position, and is especially popular with women.
  • Log (15%) – lying on one's side with the arms down the side.
  • Yearner (13%) – sleeping on one's side with the arms in front.
  • Soldier (8%) – on one's back with the arms pinned to the sides.
  • Freefall (7%) – on one's front with the arms around the pillow and the head tilted to one side.
  • Starfish (5%) – on one's back with the arms around

Submissive positions[]

  • Genuflection (or genuflexion) is bending at least one knee to the ground, was from early times a gesture of deep respect for a superior.
  • Kneeling is associated with reverence, submission and obeisance, particularly if one kneels before a person who is standing or sitting.
  • Kowtowing is the act of deep respect shown by kneeling and bowing so low as to have one's head touching the ground.
  • Prostration is the placement of the body in a reverentially or submissively prone position.

Urination positions[]

Main article: Urination

For males, because of the flexible and protruding nature of the penis, it is simple to control the direction of the urine stream. Most males urinate in a standing position although they could urinate sitting down or squatting.

For females, the urine does not exit at a distance from the body and is therefore harder to control. Females most commonly urinate sitting (on a toilet) or squatting. Many females are able to urinate standing, sometimes using a female urination device.

Yoga positions[]

Main article: List of yoga postures

Yoga positions are intended primarily to restore and maintain a practitioner's well-being, improve the body's flexibility and vitality, and promote the ability to remain in seated meditation for extended periods.

See also[]


  1. "Position.", Unabridged (v 1.1). Random House, Inc. 24 October 2007.
  2. Fritz Wittels, "Freud and the Child Woman: The Memoirs of Fritz Wittels", SBN 0300064853, Google Books, p.49
  3. Abstract Kinematic and kinetic validity of the inverted pendulum model in quiet standing, NIH
  5. Engelmann GJ Labor Among Primitive Peoples (1883)
  6. Engelmann GJ Labor Among Primitive Peoples (1883)
  8. Hewes GW: ' World distribution of certain postural habits' American Anthropologist, 57, (1955), 231-44

Further reading[]

  • Hewes GW: The anthropology of posture Scientific American, 196: 122-132 (1957)
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