When I work with people live 1-1 (online) or in movement classes.

Everyone gets to lie down on their back at some point.  Unless of course. An injury or special circumstance prevents that person in that moment.

How we go about arranging ourself on the floor can tell a trained eye possibilities of how we hold our muscles.  Or how we compensate.

That’s what we as practitioners look at (and make notes).  This helps us understand how or what the body is doing in the absence of gravity.

See, we may do something else while standing (in the field of gravity).

This way we get to see our clients standing on the ground, if you will.  Without all the gravity and anti-gravity muscles which come into play as we stand.  

Thus, there is less resistance. And usually less (neuromuscular) work to lie down straight rather stand up straight.

Lower Body

So for instance, some people will choose to lie with their legs straight.

Others will lie down with their knees bent.

If we have some type of lower back discomfort where our hips or pelvis tilt forwards. Or we have a slight forwards lean…

We’ll tend to lie on our back with knees bent since that rotates the hips backwards.

And generally that will be more comfortable than having the legs extended.

Plus, you might already have figured out to lie on your back with the knees bent in this manner to get some relief.

This passive position can help when it is needed.

Of course, some will have one leg extended. And the other leg bent on account of all of us lying in a preferred manner of comfort or habit.

Upper Body – What Many People Do

Here’s what I generally see for the upper body.

Hands resting on the belly. Or the palms are facing into the surface.

In both cases.  The palms are facing backwards relative to our body position.

Nothing wrong with either position but… if these types of positioning are a habit.  

Then it could be a sign we are compensating or have become used to the habit of having our palms facing backwards.

See when we stand.  We don’t normally stand with our palms facing forwards…

Such as this anatomical chart.  Where you see the palms facing forwards.

That is done so we can see certain muscles.


Go into any grocery store.  See people standing in line.  And no doubt, you’ll see plenty of people with their palms facing backwards as they stand.

Or someone who is exhausted from the work they have been doing.

That’s a compensation.  Or habit of using our lower arms in certain ways such as typing on a keyboard.

If you are typing, then your palms are facing down to the surface. In that moment, we are turning our palms backwards from their neutral position.

But it’s the way to type.  Until someone makes an upside down keyboard ; ).  Then we would be type with palms facing forwards (anatomically).  Even though they’ll appear upwards to the eye.

So anything such as driving a car while holding the hands on top of the steering wheel.  Rather than from the bottom or along both sides.  Is once again having the palms face backwards.

So you can see that the things we do in life. Can cause us to develop a (physical) habit which when seen on the surface appears normal.

This habit can become a go-to (lower) brain program so we go on autopilot.  Where we may continue to hold the wheel the same way day in day out.

So when I ask people to lie down on their backs.  This begins to let me know what habits or compensations present themselves.

Let’s say you’re someone who did that, i.e. having the palms face backwards.  So, I’ll guide people to turn their palms up towards the ceiling (palm up).  Or anatomically speaking, forwards.

And many times I’ll see how people pinch in their arms towards their sides. (Another potential compensation).

This type of compensation happens when people are so used to having the palms face backwards.  That when they open up or move the palms forwards. 

They’ll keep the arms to the sides on account of the shoulder having tension.  Or being held forwards.

So I’ll coach people to let the arms move a little further away from their sides. Where they naturally feel the palms facing up towards the ceiling.

For some people.  This can initially feel odd on account of the compensation.

Most people will say this feels more comfortable.

Unless of course, raising the arms up that high. Causes discomfort due to other compensations or (past) injury.

So you can fiddle with where the palm naturally faces the ceiling by moving it in towards the arms or away.

When you find a comfortable resting place.  There you go.


The neutral position happens when the palms face each other.

Or when both palms face one’s thigh. That’s the midway point between the palm facing backwards and forwards.

The Majority

So when I observe standing postures with my clients.  Most no longer have their palms facing each other.  The majority face backwards.  

Everyone once in awhile someone’s palms faces forwards.

Or I’ll see one palm forwards, the other side more or less in neutral.  Or any number of combinations where both palms do not entirely face in the same direction.

So a lot of this depends upon. How much arm/shoulder internal rotation physical activities we are doing.   And how our hips and spine are positioned.

Or injuries (past or present) we are dealing with.

Thus, it is either habit or compensation or both.

Quick Move

Internal Lower Arm Rotation – 1

While lying on your back, have the palms already facing into the surface.  Then move them further into the surface by pressing them lightly into the floor.

Where you do feel the tension building?

If you don’t feel any tension.  Then give it a little oomph to feel as well as you can where tension happens.

So for instance, did you feel tension in the chest?  

If you didn’t.  Place the other hand on the chest of the arm that is pressing into the surface.

Did you feel or notice any tension happening in the belly?

Again, you can use the other hand while pressing into the floor to see/feel if the belly tenses a little. 

Then from the position of the palms into the surface. Allow the palms to roll away from the floor so they end up facing the ceiling.

For some people, this will feel good.  This is where you may feel the chest opening on account of the external rotation.

For others this can feel odd. Especially if we’ve accustomed ourselves to the palms facing backwards.

Internal Arm Rotation – 2

So now place both hands on the belly.  That way the palms are facing backwards (relative to your position).

See, when this is done.  The shoulders tend to hunch slightly forwards.

Now go ahead and move the arms so the palms face up towards the ceiling.  Now the shoulders generally fall back towards the surface.

Normally this will feel good.

If it doesn’t.  Then check to see or feel if the arms are too close to your sides.

The Sweet Spot

You can move them away or near yours sides to feel when tension happens.  And when it gives so you can find the sweet spot.

Then move the lower arms in a way where both palms comfortably face each other.  Now you’re in the neutral position.

If it feels a little strange or weird.  Welcome back to neutral : ).

Subtle clues, feelings and sensations help provide us the ability to self-adjust.  Or become familiar with holding (tension) patterns which can change for the good.

That way we don’t wear out the muscles through compensations or habit.  They are comfortable and ready to Do Life Comfortably.

Go deep into the 17 layers of muscles.  And 17 layers of fascia.  Learn and Feel from the Inside Out.


Edward Barrera
Edward Barrera

Hi I'm Ed Barrera, founder of Gravity Werks and Hanna Somatic Educator. I teach people how to overcome physical pain, reduce muscular stress & tension, and recover quickly from injury using safe, simple, natural tools known as somatics exercises where we use the brain to change our muscles back to comfort so we can confidently do what we want again with our body. As someone who lived in chronic pain (diagnosed with fibromyalgia) in my 20's & 30's, it's my pleasure to offer simple tools which allow us to remain pain free, be less stiff, have mobile & healthy joints and give us the ability to be comfortable as we age. Each week I offer live and recorded online (audio) classes to compliment the full online programs where people can overcome back, neck, shoulder, knee, hip, leg, arm, jaw, etc. pain. When we change our brain, we change our body so we can live pain-free and move easily at any age.

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