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A Winter Olympics athlete prepares to fire his .22-caliber rifle – vertical kneel with wide leg splay.

Kneeling is a basic human position where one or both knees touch the ground. It can be used:

While kneeling, the angle between the legs can vary from zero to widely splayed out, flexibility permitting. It is common to kneel with one leg and squat with the other leg.[1]

Variations are possible as to which part of the toes touch the ground for a kneeling leg:

  • the tip
  • the under part
  • the upper part.

While kneeling, the thighs and upper body can be at various angles in particular:

  • Sitting kneel: where the thighs are near horizontal and the buttocks sit back on the heels with the upper body typically vertical – for example as in Seiza and Vajrasana
  • Vertical kneel: where both the thighs and upper body are vertical – also known as "standing on one's knees".


Squat/kneel combinationEdit

Four jockeys kneeling in the grass. The outer two are using a squat/kneel combination. The inner two are vertical kneeling.

It is common for one leg to be kneeling, while the other leg is:

Genuflection typically requires the heel down version of the squat/kneel combination.

The heel up squat version of the squat/kneel combination is potentially a stage before both legs kneeling.

As expression of reverence and submissionEdit

A woodcut depicting Lutheran youth kneeling to receive the rite of confirmation – vertical kneel.
In many religions, kneeling is used as a position for prayer, as a position of submission to a deity – sitting kneel.

Socially, kneeling, similar to bowing, is associated with reverence, respect,[2]submission and obeisance, particularly if one kneels before a person who is standing or sitting: the kneeling position renders a person defenceless and unable to flee. For this reason, in some religions, in particular by Christians and Muslims, kneeling is used as a position for prayer, as a position of submission to God, although there were groups such as the Christian Agonoclites which said prayers standing and forbade kneeling. In north Indian Hindu temples, many Hindus kneel before the icon after saying a short personal prayer and usually touch the ground with their forehead. (This is a contrast to south Indian temples, where most people prostrate completely before the icon).

In many churches, pews are equipped with kneelers in front of the seating bench so members of the congregation can kneel on them instead of the floor. In a few other situations such as confessionals and areas in front of an altar, kneelers for kneeling during prayer or sacraments may also be used.

Within the Latin Rite of Roman Catholicism, it was formerly the custom to kneel on the left knee only (genuflect) for persons of distinction (such as kings, the pope, bishops, etc.), to kneel on the right knee for the Eucharist, when it is in the tabernacle, and to kneel on both knees when the Eucharist was exposed.

Since the publication of the Roman Missal in 1973, following the reforms of the Second Vatican Council, it is customary to genuflect to the Eucharist whether reserved in the tabernacle or exposed for adoration, although in many regions the "double genuflection" (i.e. kneeling briefly on both knees) is still practised before the exposed Eucharist. The practice of genuflecting before the Eucharist also occurs in the Anglican Church and the Lutheran Church.[3][4][5] Confirmation candidates sometimes kneel before a sitting bishop on both knees to receive the sacrament (or rite) of confirmation and a blessing. Candidates during Holy Orders will also kneel on both before a bishop or archbishop. Sometimes penitents will kneel during confession to a priest. It is still permissible to receive the Eucharist at Communion while kneeling, although in most places it is received while standing.

In the Wesleyan Methodist Church, the faithful kneel at communion rails when receiving Holy Communion, and also kneel in their pews during the part of the worship service, in which Intercessory Prayer occurs.

In the Eastern Orthodox Church the act of kneeling, in the sense of "standing on one's knees" is not traditionally performed. Instead, there are several types of bows and prostrations. However, at his ordination, a deacon will kneel on one knee to the side of the altar, while the bishop lays his hands on the deacon's head to read the Prayer of Cheirotonia over him. A priest will kneel in the same manner at his ordination, but on both knees; and a bishop kneels (on both knees) in front of the altar as the Gospel Book is laid over his head and the consecrating bishops read the prayer.

In childbirthEdit

The kneeling position (in combination with squatting, standing, and all fours) is successfully used by midwives and traditional birth-attendants during childbirth in cultures around the world.[6]

Sexual positionsEdit

The woman on top cowgirl sexual position may involve the woman kneeling over the man.[7] Also, the man is likely to be kneeling where the woman is in the doggy style position.

Image galleryEdit

One knee – heel down squat/kneel combinationEdit

One knee – heel up squat/kneel combinationEdit

Two knees – sitting kneelEdit

Two knees – vertical kneelEdit

Crawling by kneelingEdit

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Hewes GW: 'World distribution of certain postural habits' American Anthropologist, 57, (1955), 231-44
  2. ^ "Peach's Religious Discourses". The Monthly Review. R. Griffiths. 1828. p. 166. Retrieved 24 Mar 2019. As the person, who, out of respect and admiration, kneels before the statue of his beloved hero, without any charge of idolatry, so likewise may the Christian bow, and kneel before the image or statue of the object of his admiration, without any charge of the kind being brought against him.
  3. ^ Allen, John (1 September 2008). Desmond Tutu. Chicago Review Press. ISBN 1556527985. Retrieved 8 November 2012. Devout "high church" Anglicans genuflect as they pass the reserved sacrament.
  4. ^ Ingram, Kristen Johnson; Johnson, Kristin J (2004). Beyond Words. Church Publishing, Inc. p. 27. ISBN 0819219738. Retrieved 8 November 2012. Episcopalians, Roman Catholics, and Lutherans may already take their souls through the slow dance of the Eucharist, kneeling, standing, genuflecting, making the sign of the cross, walking forward to receive the body and blood, walking back to the pew, standing for the last hymn.
  5. ^ Armstrong, John H.; Eagle, Paul E. (26 May 2009). Understanding Four Views on the Lord's Supper. Zondervan. ISBN 0310542758. Lutherans worship Christ wherever he is, including the sacraments, and thus Luther genuflected before the baptismal font and the sacrament.
  6. ^ Engelmann GJ Labor among primitive peoples (1883)
  7. ^ "Discovery Health Sexual Positions". Retrieved 2010-10-22.

External linksEdit