kneeling n : supporting yourself on your knees [syn: kneel]
Kneeling is a human position in which the weight is distributed on the knees and feet on a surface close to horizontal.
The position of kneeling may be assumed for practical reasons and for reasons of social or religious custom.
Practical reasonsKneeling makes it easier to reach the ground. For example, during gardening, kneeling gives less strain to one's back than bending. Various knee pads and knee mats are sold to make kneeling during gardening more comfortable.
A kneeled person is less visible from the distance. For example, in an ambush, one may go from kneeling to sitting in a kind of seiza and back, e.g., to peek out.
Kneeling position also provides more stability due to lower center of gravity.
Some other positions may serve these particular goals; the actual choice of the position is determined by other factors: mobility, effort, amount of occupied space, etc.
People with certain disabilities can move only in the kneeling position.
It is also helpful in playing with children.
Kneeling can sometimes be useful when trying to get something out of a hole.
Social and religious customsSocially, kneeling, similarly to bowing, is associated with submission and obeisance, particularly if one kneels before a standing person: the kneeling position renders a person defenseless 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. 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 Roman Catholicism, it is traditional to kneel on the left knee 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 is exposed.
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 (on hands and knees with the forehead touching the ground) which accompany worship with much greater frequency than in the Western churches. 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.