Human position

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A standing position.

Human position refers to a position of a human body.

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

Types of human positions

While not moving, a human can be in one of the following main positions, distinguished by the type of support.


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.


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Paul Cézanne. A sitting position

Sitting requires 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.


This is intermediate between standing and sitting, a posture with both feet flat on the ground but with knees and hips fully flexed so that the buttocks are near the heels. 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.


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A lying woman

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

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

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.


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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.


Humans can hang in various positions. "Hanging" means a position when the support is above the center of gravity. Hanging may be both voluntary and involuntary.

Atypical positions

Template:Expand-section Atypical positions include standing on the arms, standing on the head, being "on all fours", and more.

See also


  1. ["position." Unabridged (v 1.1). Random House, Inc. 24 Oct. 2007. <>.]
  2. Fritz Wittels, "Freud and the Child Woman: The Memoirs of Fritz Wittels", SBN 0300064853, p.49
  3. abstract Kinematic and kinetic validity of the inverted pendulum model in quiet standing

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