somatics

reawakening the mind's control of movement, flexibility, and health
thomas hanna
director of the novato institute for somatic research and training
"Thomas Hanna has written a fantastic book answering
questions the experts are only beginning to ask. And he does
it in a way that lay people as well as health professionals
will find exciting reading, full of entertainment and
striking insights."
Dieter Kallinke, M.D.
leading Heidelberg pain specialist
"One of the most profound revolutions in our thinking
concerns the fundamental connections between body and mind.
Now that we begin to understand something of our inner
healing powers, along comes Somatics to give form and shape
to our new-found knowledge. We have been blessed by Tom
Hanna through the publication of this book."
Paul DuBois, Ph.D.
Executive Director, Association for Humanistic Psychology
"Somatic education is fortunate to have Thomas Hanna.
His newest book, Somatics, marks a new maturity and
sophistication in the field he named."
Michael Murphy
Director, Esalen Institute
"If I could, I would put Somatics in the hands of every
neurologist, internist, nurse, psychophysiologic therapist,
and clinical psychologist in the country."
Elmer E. Green, Ph.D
The Menninger Clinic
"Somatics should be translated into every Western
language, and it should be read by all parents and educators."
Gerda Alexander
founder of Eutony
"The missing link between many doctors and their
patients can be rediscovered if both parties understand what
Somatics is really about: how wisely and wonderfully we are
organized to live a better life than many of us do."
Mark Schmid-Neuhaus, M.D.
Chief Physician, Munich Health Park
ALSO BY THOMAS HANNA
The Body of Life (1980)
The End of Tyranny: An Essay on the Possibility of America (1976)
Bodies in Revolt: A Primer in Somatic Thinking (1970)
The Lyrical Existentialists (1963)
The Thought and Art of Albert Camus (1958)
BOOKS EDITED BY THOMAS HANNA
Explorers of Humankind (1979)
The Bergsonian Heritage (1963)
ontatics
Reawakening the Mind's
Control of Movement,
Flexibility, and Health
Thomas Hanna
Director of The Novato Institute
for Somatic Research
and Training
OaCapo
C\J
II FE
LONG
A Member of the Perseus Books Group
The two drawings on pp. 5 and 6 originally appeared in The Body of Life by Thomas Hanna,
published by Alfred A. Knopf, Inc. Copyright © 1980 by Thomas Hanna.
Many of the designations used by manufacturers and sellers to distinguish their products are
claimed as trademarks. Where those designations appear in this book and Da Capo Press was
aware of a trademark claim, those designations have been printed with initial capital letters.
This book is not intended, nor should it be regarded, as medical advice. For such advice you
should consult a medical doctor. If you experience serious or protracted pain during or after
Somatic Exercises, then you may have problems other than sensory-motor amnesia, and you
should consult your doctor immediately.
Copyright © 1988 by Thomas Hanna
All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval
system, or transmitted, in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying,
recording, or otherwise, without the prior written permission of the publisher. Printed in the
United States of America.
Set in 10-point Palatino by Compset, Inc.
Cataloging-in-Publication data for this book is available from the Library of Congress.
ISBN 0-7382-0957-0 ISBN-I3 978-0-7382-0957-9
Published by Da Capo Press
A Member of the Perseus Books Group
http://www.dacapopress.com
Da Capo Press books are available at special discounts for bulk purchases in the U.S. by
corporations, institutions, and other organizations. For more information, please contact the
Special Markets Department at the Perseus Books Group, 11 Cambridge Center, Cambridge,
MA 02142, or call (800) 255-1514 or (617) 252-5298, or email
special.markets@perseusbooks.com.
20 19 18 17 16 15 14 13
Contents
Introduction The Myth of Aging xi
PART 1 The Stories of Sensory-Motor Amnesia 1
Chapter 1 Barney (42 Years): The Tower of Pisa 3
Interlude: Moving and Feeling-Two Sides of the Same Coin 5
Chapter 2 James (32 Years): The Nightmare Back 9
Interlude: Chronic Muscular Tension 13
Chapter 3 Louise (56 Years): The Frozen Shoulder 17
Interlude: What "Somatic" Means 19
Chapter 4 Harley (60 Years): The Retracted Landing Gear 23
Interlude: The Unconscious Levels of the Brain 26
Chapter 5 Alexander (81 Years): Los Viejitos 29
Summary: What These Five Case Histories Teach Us 32
PART 2 How Sensory-Motor Amnesia Occurs 37
Chapter 6 Atrophy: The Role of Gradual Surrender 39
Chapter 7 The Muscular Reflexes of Stress 45
Chapter 8 The Red Light Reflex 49
Chapter 9 The Green Light Reflex 61
Chapter 10 The Sum of Neuromuscular Stress: The Senile Posture
and the "Dark Vise" 67
Interlude: The Archer's Bow and Danger of a "Tight Gut" 75
Chapter 11 Trauma: The Role of Injury 79
Interlude: Staying Sexy and Smart 82
Chapter 12 Expectation: The Role of Mental Attitude 85
Interlude: Learning to Drink from the Well 88
ix
x Soma tics
PART 3 The Somatic Exercise Program 93
Chapter 13 How to Give Yourself the Maximum Benefit of Somatic
Exercises 95
Interlude: The Daily "Cat Stretch" 98
Chapter 14 The Somatic Exercises 101
Lesson 1: Controlling the Extensor Muscles of the Back 101
Lesson 2: Controlling the Flexor Muscles of the Stomach 106
Lesson 3: Controlling the Muscles of the Waist 112
Lesson 4: Controlling the Muscles Involving Trunk Rotation 116
Lesson 5: Controlling the Muscles of the Hip Joints and Legs 123
Lesson 6: Controlling the Muscles of the Neck and Shoulders 129
Lesson 7: Improving Breathing 137
Lesson 8: Improving Walking 145
References 155
Index 159
Introduction
The Myth of Aging
One of the most ancient and famous of riddles is that of the Sphinx: "What is it
that has one voice and yet becomes four-footed and two-footed and three-
footed?" In Greek mythology, Oedipus provided the correct answer: the human
being, who crawls on all fours in infancy, walks on two legs in adulthood, and
leans on a cane in old age.
This answers the riddle of the Sphinx. But it does not answer a second riddle
that lurks within the first: Why is it that humans, having learned to walk up-
right, may lose this ability and often end up walking with a cane? Clearly, the
presumption is that to grow older is to become crippled. This presumption was
accepted in the fifth century B.C. when Sophocles wrote about the Sphinx, but
oddly enough it continues to be accepted in the late twentieth century.
"It is obvious," we all declare. "Aging itself causes us to become stiff and
aching. From the fifth century B.C. to the twentieth century A.D., as humans
become older, they become crippled and infirm. How could it be any other
way?"
But there is another way. There is no denying the fact that, as we get older,
we usually become stiff, but this does not explain why this degeneration should
occur. The question remains: What happens during aging to account for this
decline? How can scientific medicine, which protects us from infections and
organic disorders, extending our life span to 80-odd years, fail to protect us from
simple bodily stiffness, aches, and pains? Why do we assume that beyond a
certain age-say, thirty-our bodies have already started to decay? We are not
even middle-aged yet!
Throughout the centuries the riddle within the riddle remains, just as inscru-
table to us today as it was to the Ancient Greeks. At the close of the twentieth
century, we are still haunted by the myth that aging means degeneration. We
may now live longer, but we do not live better. After so long a time something
should have improved. With all that we now know, some new information,
some new insight, should have made some sense out of why our bodies seem
to break down as they enter middle-age. If we could find out how this break-
down occurs, we might conceivably learn how to prevent it.
Twentieth-century science is slowly groping forward toward a better under-
standing of the body's deterioration. Hans Selye recognized that physiological
xi
xii Somatics
diseases could arise from psychological causes, such as stress. This is a "so-
matic" viewpoint: namely, that everything we experience in our lives is a bodily
experience. Moshe Feldenkrais put this viewpoint into action with his method
of bodily re-education, Functional Integration. I am pleased to say that my treat-
ment based on the work of both Selye and Feldenkrais has achieved some dra-
matic results in counteracting the aging process. Human beings, once they
advance from crawling on all fours to walking on two, no longer need regress
to a limping posture once they become older. That is to say, the bodily decrep-
itude presumed under the myth of aging is not inevitable. It is, by and large,
both avoidable and reversible.
I know this to be true, because I have seen it occur thousands of times. Clients
I have worked with during the past 12 years evince changes that are real and
lasting. Years later they happily confirm the fact. I confess that 20 years ago I
would not have believed possible what I see taking place in my office every day.
Even though clients-most of them 30 and older-have heard good things about
my work, they first come to me with the same mix of hope and skepticism that
I once had. But once we finish working together, they typically tell me, "I had
no idea that this was really possible. Having had this problem for years, with
nothing to help it, I decided I had to learn to live with it." Then they often add
an intriguing remark: "You know, even though I didn't think this was possible,
somehow I always thought that it should be possible."
A similar thought was expressed by a group of physicians, osteopaths, chi-
ropractors, and physical therapists from Australia to whom I had taught some
of these procedures: "You have shown us what we thought we should learn
during our training but never did. It is the missing link in health care." One of
the physicians attending my class was a distinguished cardiologist, practicing in
Sydney. In an article he later wrote about his reactions to the class, he said that
what he had learned "has as much potential for understanding the mind-body
relationship as Einstein's theory of relativity had for physics."1
For 12 years now I have been hearing such statements of confirmation, and I
am convinced that everyone can avoid the loss of bodily function which is the
curse of growing older. We all know, and probably envy, some people who in
their later years seem to have avoided the aging process. There is no reason for
our bodies to suffer when most of our life is still before us.
Many people in every generation continue to function actively right up until
they die. This is a phenomenon gerontologists have finally recognized. They
call it "successful aging."2 We all know of examples. Some of the most famous
people in every epoch have lived to an extended age, still working, thinking,
and creating right up to the end. Even Sophocles, who gave us the riddle of the
Sphinx, wrote his last play when he was 90.
The fact is that, during the course of our lives, our sensory-motor systems
continually respond to daily stresses and traumas with specific muscular re-
flexes. These reflexes, repeatedly triggered, create habitual muscular contrac-
Introduction xiii
tions, which we cannot-voluntarily-relax. These muscular contractions have
become so deeply involuntary and unconscious that, eventually, we no longer
remember how to move about freely. The result is stiffness, soreness, and a
restricted range of movement.
This habituated state of forgetfulness is called sensory-motor amnesia (SMA). It
is a memory loss of how certain muscle groups feel and how to control them.
And, because this occurs within the central nervous system, we are not aware
of it, yet it affects us to our very core. Our image of who we are, what we can
experience, and what we can do is profoundly diminished by sensory-motor
amnesia. And it is primarily this event, and its secondary effects, that we falsely
think of as "growing older."
But sensory-motor amnesia has nothing whatsoever to do with age. It can,
and does, occur anytime-from childhood onward. Children who grow up in
disturbed family situations, or in other fearful environments such as war, show
symptoms of sensory-motor amnesia: sunken chests, permanently raised shoul-
ders, hyper-curved necks. Traumatic accidents or serious surgery in young peo-
ple can cause the same chronic muscular contractions which in older adults are
falsely attributed to aging: for example, scoliotic tilting of the trunk, a slight
limp, or chronic undiagnosable pain that never disappears during the remainder
of one's life.
The reflexes that cause sensory-motor amnesia are very specific. There are
three, and I have named them the Red Light reflex, the Green Light reflex, and the
Trauma reflex. They are a crucial part of SMA and round out the enormously
important discoveries of Hans Selye and Moshe Feldenkrais. Before discussing
the three reflexes, however, it is important that I point out the following facts:
(1) The effects of sensory-motor amnesia can begin at any age, but usually be-
come apparent in our thirties and forties; (2) SMA is an adaptive response of the
nervous system; and (3) because SMA is a learned adaptive response, it call be
unlearned.
This is my good news: Sensory-motor amnesia can be avoided, and it can be
reversed. You can escape it by making direct and practical use of two abilities
that are the unique properties of the human sensory-motor system: to unlearn
what has been learned; and to remember what has been forgotten. In Part 3 you
will find eight Somatic Exercises. These provide a direct and effective way to re-
program the sensory-motor system. These exercises are a major discovery. First
of all, they erase the primary effects of what is falsely attributed to growing
older. Moreover, they are particularly important for people in their thirties, who
begin to experience the accumulated effects of the Red Light reflex, the Green
Light reflex, and the Trauma reflex. In older people, they actually reverse the
process, which has caused so many people to feel stiff and aching.
The ultimate benefit of the Somatic Exercises may likely be found in their
application to the physical education of young people. I am convinced that a
program of early training in personal sensory awareness and motor control
xiv Soma tics
would cause, within the span of one generation, a reversal of the major public
health problems--cardiovascular disease, cancer, and mental illness. These
claims are far-reaching, but no more so than the false notions of the ill effects of
aging that have lasted for millennia. Somatic Exercises can change how we live
our lives, how we believe that our minds and bodies interrelate, how powerful
we think we are in controlling our lives, and how responsible we should be in
taking care of our total being. In fact, as these discoveries relate to our concep-
tion of what human beings are and can be, they have broad philosophical im-
plications for understanding the nature of our existence.
I am arguing that sensory-motor amnesia describes a category of health prob-
lems that has not been recognized until now. Even so, this category probably
accounts for more than half of all human ailments. SMA is a pathology that is
neither medical nor surgical, and it cannot be diagnosed or treated within these
traditions. It is a somatic pathology, requiring not treatment but education. With
case histories and research evidence, this book serves as a practical introduction
to the new field of Soma tics, which holds that first-person human experience
must be considered of equal scientific and medical importance as outside, third-
person observation.
Soma tics provides us with a way to live under the stressful demands of an
urban-industrial environment and still remain healthy-physically and men-
tally. It helps us understand the tendency-of life in general and of technological
societies in particular-to wear down our well-being. There is no need to give
in to this blindly as the unavoidable effect of aging; rather, we will meet it with
open eyes and overcome it.
The message of this book is, in part, that Oedipus's answer to the riddle of
the Sphinx is false, a myth. But there is a larger message, which will become
obvious once you have learned about sensory-motor amnesia and its causes: As
we grow older, our bodies-and our lives-should continue to improve, right
up until the very end. I believe that all of us, in our hearts, feel that this is how
life really should be lived.
PARTl
The Stories of
Sensory-Motor Amnesia
The sensory-motor system is a mechanism fundamental to all human experience
and behavior. And to understand sensory-motor amnesia is to understand one
of the fundamental causes of the malfunctions we have falsely believed to be
the effects of aging.
In this section are five typical advanced cases of sensory-motor amnesia, in
which damage to the body has built up over the years. In my office I see such
cases in various forms every day. If you are observant, you will see them on
every street in every city and town in the United States. I estimate that at least
three-quarters of adult Americans suffer from sensory-motor amnesia, and al-
most no one knows what to do about it.
Chapter 1
Barney (42 Years):
The Tower of Pisa
Barney, an insurance executive, was in his forties. For several years he had felt
chronic pain in his right side. In addition, he would frequently lose his balance
and stumble. When his physician heard his complaint, she ordered X rays, but
she saw no obvious deformity. She concluded that 42 vigorous years of wear
and tear had caused arthritic deterioration of the hip joint. She told Barney, who
was a tall man, that he had arthritis, typical of the aging process, and that he
had to learn to live with it. She prescribed aspirin and bed rest on days when
the pain was extreme.
Not satisfied with this treatment, Barney went to a chiropractor, who told
him that the bones of his lower spine were out of alignment and needed ad-
justment. He adjusted Barney's spine, but the hip continued to hurt. Barney
then went to an acupuncturist, who determined which meridians were involved
and inserted needles in the appropriate spots. That relieved Barney's pain, but
four days later it came back.
So, with this history, which is typical, Barney presented himself to me. He
had heard that I do something unusual called "somatic education," which no
one quite understood but which nonetheless was said to be highly successful.
Having heard his story, I wanted to find out where the pain was. Barney
pointed to the back of his right pelvis in the area between the hip joint and the
sacrum. I felt the area. The line of pain was in the gluteus medius muscle, which
extends across the buttocks from the top of the thigh to the back center of the
pelvis. It is the muscle that we usually contract when standing on one leg. It
braces the leg against the pelvis to maintain stability while we lean over to one
side. Barney's hip joint was not painful either to the touch or during movement.
It was the gluteus medius muscle that was sore.
I informed Barney that he did not have arthritis, but had a painfully over-
worked muscle that was sore from constant contraction. "Why did my physician
tell me I had arthritis?" he asked. I told him I did not know. I knew that X rays
do not show muscle tissue, painful or not. And I knew that it was common for
physicians to tell patients suffering chronic and medically incurable pain that
they had arthritis and there was nothing to do for it. The ancient myth of aging
is firmly embedded in modern medicine.
3
4 Soma/ics
Now that I knew precisely where Barney's pain was, I asked him to stand
directly in front of me with his eyes closed. Barney's entire trunk was leaning
almost 15 degrees to the right. Because the bulk of his weight was thus always
on his right side, his gluteus medius muscle was always contracted.
As Barney stood there, I felt his left gluteus medius muscle. It was soft and
uncontracted. Then I felt the same muscle on the right side. It was hard and
contracted. When I felt the muscles of his back, they were similar: The left side
muscles were relatively soft and relaxed, whereas the right back muscl es were
tensed-especially those near the spinal column. The muscles on Barney's right
side were chronically contracted, pulling him into a scoliotic curve, so that the
added weight of his trunk caused his right gluteus medius muscle to contract
constantly-thus the chronic pain and fatigue in the muscle.
Barney could not voluntarily relax the muscles on
the right side of his back. They simply would not re-
spond. I had Barney stand in front of a full-length mir-
ror, so that he could see his IS-degree tilt. He had had
no idea that he was tilted. But he did remember his
physician telling him that his right leg was shorter
than his left. We measured his legs, and they were the
same length. I asked Barney to bring himself up to a
vertical position and then close his eyes. "How does
that feel?," I asked. "Are you balanced?"
"No," he said. "I feel tilted to the left." As soon as
he relaxed, his trunk immediately tilted back to the
right. Then I had him tilt far to the left with his eyes
closed and them come back to what he felt was verti-
cal. Without hesitating, he went right back to a 15-
degree tilt to the right. "Now I'm vertical," he said. But
he looked like the Tower of Pisa.
Not only was Barney's perception of his right side
muscles defective, but his perception of his body's po-
sition in space was defective as well. His sense of bal-
ance was distorted. At one time, earlier in his life,
Barney had normal motor control of his muscles on
both sides. His senses had been aware of what his
muscles were doing to change the posture of his body
Figure 1
Barney's Posture
in space. But he had since lost both his motor control and his sensory awareness.
What he once did, he could no longer do. What he once sensed, he could no
longer sense. That is the typical effect of sensory-motor amnesia.
I asked Barney if he had ever had any injuries of a serious nature. He said
yes, five years earlier he had broken his left thigh in an automobile accident. At
that point I knew why he had begun leaning to the right: It is common after
leg fractures to tilt one's body to the other side, putting its weight on the leg
Barney (42 Years): The Tower of Pisa 5
that is uninjured. During the long weeks of healing, Barney's right leaning be-
came habituated and totally unconscious. A traumatic accident had brought on
sensory-motor amnesia.
Once Barney was taught how to sense his muscular movements as he once
did, and once he relearned ways to control his muscles, three things occurred:
(1) He no longer had any pain in the pelvis, despite the "arthritis" of old age;
(2) he now stood vertical, with his weight equally balanced on each leg and with
his trunk muscles balanced left and right; and (3) his sense of balance was re-
stored, so that he knew when he was vertical and when he was tilted. He no
longer had the precarious posture that had caused him to stumble constantly.
In brief, Barney no longer had sensory-motor amnesia. And better still, he
now possessed the happy knowledge of how to prevent this from ever occurring
again. He was now self-maintaining, no longer needing my help, nor the help
of any other health professional, to control this problem.
Interlude: Moving and Feeling-Two Sides of the Same Coin
When he first came to me, Barney could not properly control the muscles of his
trunk and pelvis-which was a motor deficiency-and could not properly sense
what these muscles were doing with his body-which was a sensory deficiency.
Both problems relate to the central nervous system, that is, the brain and the
spinal cord, which is the overall system that controls the body.
When we look at the central nervous system, we see that the most funda-
mental aspect of it is that it has, both structurally and functionally, two divi-
sions: a sensory division and a motor division. From the brain down the spine
to the tailbone, the sensory nerves emerge from the back side of the spine and
the motor nerves emerge from the front (see Figure 2).
OORSALROOT
Ne.uron5 Relaying
':t/---'\---- Sensory InpUT
Ne-Ul"On5 Roe-laying Motor
and Au'tonomic Output"
Figure 2
The Sensory and Motor Tract
in the Spinal Cord
6 SOlllatics
Everything we sense in the world outside our bodies and everything we sense
inside our bodies comes into our brain by way of the sensory nerves. Everything
that we do in the world and every movement we make flows out from our brain
down the spine by way of the motor nerves. The sensory nerves control our
perceptions of the world and of ourselves. The motor nerves control our move-
ments in the world and inside ourselves by means of their attachments to the
muscles of the skeleton and the smooth muscles of the viscera.
These two fundamental divisions of the spinal cord reach upward into the
brain: The sensory nerve cells conti.nue to the rear of the central sulcus of the
brain, and the motor nerve cells continue to the front of the brain (see Figure 3).
Motor Spuc:h A.rM
(one., on left 5ideon'y)
Initiating ynhu"S
for Outgoing MUSDgC.$
R4!:cvvio9 UnUr"'S
for Infor-rnation
Figure 3
The Sensory and Motor Tract
in the Cerebral Cortex
This structural division is functionally integrated within a single neural system:
The sensory and motor functions are two sides of the same coin. In the spine
we see the division of the two systems, but in the brain we see their integration.
The sensory nerves carry to the brain information of what is happening in
the world as well as in our bodies. Provided with this information, the brain can
compute what to do and how to do it: that is, the brain integrates the incoming
sensory information with outgoing commands to the motor system. These in-
tegrated functions of the sensory and motor systems are so fundamental and so
familiar that, like the fish that does not notice the water, we do not notice their
ceaseless operation.
Barney (42 Years): The Tower of Pisa 7
We are rarely conscious of these two integrated functions when we do some-
thing as simple as turn the pages of a book. When one comes to the end of a
page, one's left hand lifts, goes to the right, finds the edge of the next page at
the right corner of the book, and turns it to the left. But for the left hand to "find
the edge of the next page" demands precise sensory information as to where
the hand is and where the book is. When your left hand lifts, it must know
where it is going, otherwise it might lift and flop to your side, or hit you in the
nose, or go over and touch your right shoulder. Luckily, it doesn't. You know
where your hand and book are, because during every instant that you move
your hand you are receiving a constant stream of sensory information about the
location, direction, contour, trajectory, and speed of the hand movement in re-
lation to the perceived location of the edge of the next page at the right corner
of the book.
In contemporary neurophysiological science, the ongoing interplay of sen-
sory information and motor guidance is referred to as a "feedback system" opi
erating in "loops": The sensory nerves "feed back" information to the motor
nerves, whose response "loops back" with movement commands along the mo-
tor nerves. As movement takes place, the motor nerves "feed back" new infor-
mation to the sensory nerves about the position of the hand. This feedback loop
continues its exchange of information until the hand and fingers touch the page
and turn it.
Once we reflect on it, it becomes obvious to us that we require a constant
stream of sensory information from the outside in order to maintain ongoing
control of our muscular movements from the inside out. We could not purpose-
fully do anything in this world if our sensory-motor system did not constantly
function.
To recognize how obviously fundamental the sensory-motor system is to the
way we live makes us aware of something else fundamental: If anything goes
wrong with the sensory-motor system, our lives will be fundamentally dimin-
ished. If something happens that dims our sensory perception, we will not
know how to control our bodies and our actions efficiently. If something hap-
pens that dulls our motor control, not only will we become limited and ineffi-
cient in our actions but our feedback will become confusing and imprecise as
well. Inasmuch as the sensory-motor functions are integrated into one system,
anything that goes wrong in one part automatically goes wrong with the other.
How we sense our world and feel ourselves to be is affected just as much as
how we act in the world and how well our bodies function.
Malfunctions of the sensory-motor system are serious matters, and when
they occur, they cause a fundamental deterioration in our lives. For thousands
of years they have been associated with the disorders of aging and were there-
fore thought to be unavoidable and irreversible. But, as we shall see, they can
be prevented and reversed.
Chapter 2
James (32 Years):
The Nightmare Back
Chronic pain in the lower back is as American as apple pie. It is so common and
so predictable that we are not surprised when it happens. But what physicians
call the "lower back syndrome" is also as British as beef, as French as Brie, as
German as beer, as Japanese as sake, and as Australian as Vegemite. Chronic
lower back pains are so endemic to the industrialized nations that surveys in
these countries suggest that up to three-quarters of the population over 45 suffer
from them. The British physician Wilfred Barlow estimates that half of all the
adult population of England suffers severe lower back pains and sciatica.
l
There is a direct relationship between chronic back pain and stressful, chal-
lenging situations. It is even part of our modern folklore. To be a salesperson,
to be a manager, to meet quotas, deadlines, and scheduled goals-all of which
are basic procedures of modern business practices-is to risk incurring chronic
back pain. We expect damage to occur to our bodies, even when we are not
doing physical labor.
As it occurred to James. James was a technician in a television studio, a job
he had held for more than 10 years. When he was in his mid-twenties, he no-
ticed occasional twinges in his lower back, but they always went away. By the
time he reached his late twenties, the pain was more common. He always had
the same ache when he woke up, and it stayed with him until he began to be
more active during the morning.
By the time he reached his early thirties, James's familiar morning ache had
become chronic, a back pain that increased with a vengeance by late afternoon.
He felt pain not only in the curve of his lower back but frequently down the
back of his pelvis. It was hard for him to walk long distances. His stride was
shorter, and he tired more easily. At the studio, his ability to lean forward and
to reach the control panel had become both constricted and slower. If James
worked in his garden on Saturday, he would be almost crippled Sunday morn-
ing. And on two occasions-once starting his lawn mower and again using a
spade-his back suddenly "went out." Each time he froze with such intense
pain that he had to stay in bed for a full week.
9
10 Somatics
This witS a nightmare for James, who otherwise was in perfectly good health,
kept quite active, and had an athletic body. In fact, he used to jog regularly. At
32 he looked young and felt young, except that his body was "breaking down."
Nothing seemed to help. If he rested and took painkillers, the pain would di-
minish, but it came back a few days later. The best remedy was a weekl y visit
to a chiropractor, which relieved the pain immediately. Within a day or so,
though, the pain always returned.
James's doctor, after looking at X rays, said that his
intervertebral disks were weakening and beginning to
protrude as the posterior walls of the lumbar vertebrae
narrowed-"disk degeneration," he called it. He showed
James his X rays. They showed the lumbar vertebrae
tilted backward in a swaybacked curve, with the poste-
rior facets of the vertebrae looking as if they were falling
into the disk material, which was protruding outward.
The doctor said that if the disks became any weaker they
might herniate or rupture, and then the only relief would
be surgery, to remove the extruding disk material or to
fuse the lower vertebrae. James's physician would not
promise him one hundred percent recovery, only that
surgery would avert paralysis.
When I met James, he was in despair. But within two
weeks he was no longer in pain; and he felt only a gen-
eralized stiffness which was rapidly disappearing, in his
back and trunk. Within six weeks he had begun to jog
again for the first time in five years.
What was wrong with James's back? Can a stressful job
situation really cause disks to dissolve and bones to col-
lapse? No, of course not. But long-term stress can cause
an increasing contraction in the paravertebral muscles
that run vertically down either side of the spine and at-
tach to the upper portion of the sacrum. That's the origin
of chronic stiffness and pain in the back.
Figure 4
James's Posture
When James told me his problem, I did two simple things: I touched him,
and I looked at him. Palpation-feeling the patient's body-is almost a lost art
in the medical world. Why touch patients if you can see inside their bodies with
X rays? The reason is because X rays do not show the body's softer tissues, like
the muscles. When I touched James's paravertebral muscles, I found that they
were not soft, but rigidly contracted, almost like cables. And when I looked at
him from the side, I saw that his lower back was curved into a swayback.
The swayback that I saw was preci sely what the physician saw in the X-ray
photo-the lower vertebrae tilted into an extreme lordotic curve, like an archer's
bow. But, because the X rays did not show muscle contraction, they did not
James (32 Years): The Nightmare Back 11
show the physician the taut thong that had pulled the bow into its curve. That
thong was James's paravertebral muscles, chronically contracted, perhaps 50
percent, day and night. Research on extreme tonic muscular contraction has
shown that it goes on uninterrupted even during sleep.2 It is no wonder that
James and others with this problem wake up sore.
The tremendous posterior tension of these hypercontracted paravertebral
muscles had gradually curved James's vertebrae so that their rear surfaces were
forced down into the disks, causing the disks to protrude slightly. The X rays
gave the illusion of a stack of blocks collapsing from lack of support (Figure Sa).
If we keep in mind, however, that this is not a structural pile of blocks but rather
a musculo-skeletal system that is controlled by a brain operating in a stressful
environment, we will see something quite different when we look at the X rays:
a section of vertebrae that has been bowed under the stress of a chronically
active muscular pull (Figure 5b). The root of James's back pain was sensory-
motor amnesia, a problem that could be traced back to his brain.
Figure Sa
"Collapsing Blocks" Illusion
I
Figure Sb
Vertebrae Bowed by Muscular Pull
The moment we realize that James is a human with a brain, whose functions
are however deficient, we know he can determine for himself what functional
changes he needs to make. But if we think of James merely as a brainless me-
chanical doll with a collapsed spinal structure, then we have a desperate medical
situation, one that demands a reengineering of the doll's spine-the operation
James's doctor could not guarantee.
I treated James as a human being who could relearn to sense and control the
hypertense muscles of his lower back. I had him lie down on a padded work
table, to relieve his brain of its habitual response to having to support weight. I
12 Somatics
helped him feel movement in his pelvis and in the vertebrae of his lower spine.
, As he began to sense these movements, he informed me that he was becoming
aware of that region of his back for the first time in years: "I'm beginning to feel
what's there," he said. "Before, I didn't feel anything other than the pain."
Once this sensory feedback to the brain became clearer to him, I asked him
to attempt gentle movements of the parts of his back he- was beginning to per-
ceive. We worked our way gradually along the full length of the spine, with
James feeling and then lightly contracting the muscles that had automatically
contracted up until this time. The paravertebral muscles slowly began to soften,
and the extreme lordotic curvature began to release. I had him reach behind his
back to feel the muscles, so that the sense of touch in his hands could add to
his brain's internal sensing of his muscles' softening.
Once we had reestablished sufficient sensory-motor competence, I taught
James a simple Somatic Exercise, one he could practice in the evening before
bedtime and in the morning upon awakening. At these times, when the brain
waves are slower, the brain is more open to new learning.
3
James practiced these brief exercises in somatic control for a week. When he
appeared for his second appointment smiling, I knew his sensory-motor am-
nesia was fading. He was out of acute pain now, and he could move more easily
and with more confidence. We did some further exploration of spinal and trunk
movements on the work table, and he learned a more ambitious Somatic Exer-
cise. He went off for a second week of practice in relearning sensory-motor
control.
When I saw him the next time, James reported that even the mild soreness
he had felt was gone. Rather than complaining about pain, he now wanted his
trunk to be even more supple. This meant to me that he had passed through
the looking glass to the other side. He was no longer focused on how to get rid
of pain, but on how to gain greater flexibility-signaling the rearrival of sensory-
motor control. It was obvious to me that I was about to lose a client, and I
congratulated James on this fact. For our third session we explored how greater
control of the central muscles of the trunk now made possible greater freedom
of movement of the shoulder and hip joints. I taught him a complex movement
pattern involving the coordination of trunk, arms, and legs. Then I said good-
bye to him as my client.
Years later I spoke to James and asked him how he was. He said he had no
problems whatsoever. In the morning he still performed the Somatic Exercises
I taught him. He didn't feel normal unless he reminded himself of how good it
felt for his muscles to be long and relaxed. When he woke up, he "stretched like
a cat" and then went to work. A couple of days a week he jogged in the early
morning. The stress of television production was the same, but James wasn't
the same. He was supple in his response to stress, and he enjoyed his work.
"You were right," James said. "You can have your cake and eat it, too."
James (32 Years): The Nightmare Back 13
Interlude: Chronic Muscular Tension
James was fortunate in that we diagnosed and corrected his muscular tension
early. He spent only a few years in pain. We could still have corrected his prob-
lem if he had come in later on in his life, but by then he would have undergone
20 or 30 years of pain. I have had many clients who experienced more or less
constant pain in some part of their body for up to 40 years. They always had
chronic muscular tension in these areas as well. Constant pain and chronic mus-
cular tension go together. But they can be prevented from ever happening at all.
Muscles are designed for one action: to contract, or grow shorter. The con-
traction occurs when the muscle receives an electrochemical signal from the cen-
tral nervous system to do so. When the signal stops, the contraction stops, and
the muscle relaxes back to its former length. It does not take energy to relax and
lengthen a muscle, only to contract and shorten it. When we voluntarily contract
a muscle and then relax it, the muscle should soften almost completely. A re-
laxed muscle has absolutely no electrical activity in it. Full voluntary control of
a muscle is the ability both to contract the entire span of the muscle and to relax
it fully to its entire length.
Many people, however, contract the muscles of their backs or hips or shoul-
der in order to move. But then, when the movement is finished, they do not
voluntarily relax the muscles back to their full length. Rather than the contrac-
tion and the energy consumption dropping down to zero, the muscles remain
10 percent contracted-or 20 percent or even 40 percent. No matter how hard
they try, these people cannot fully relax their muscles. Their muscles continue
to do work and to burn up energy.
All muscles have tone, or tonus; that is, a natural elasticity or ability to stretch
and contract in response to stimuli. In the resting state, tonus is zero. So, if we
have complete control of a muscle, we can achieve a muscle tonicity of zero-
complete relaxation. But if we lose our voluntary control of the muscle, its to-
nicity can increase to 10, 20, or even 40 percent. This is chronic muscular
tension.
If the tonus is 10 percent, the muscle will always feel tired and firm. If the
tonus is 20 percent, the muscle will feel tired, very firm, and sore. If the tonus
is 40 percent, the muscle will feel tired, hard, and quite painful. People with
chronically high muscular tonicity often feel that their muscles are "weak" be-
cause they cannot move freely. Sometimes physicians will tell them that the
muscles have become weak. On the contrary, their muscles are quite strong, but
they are tired and overworked from contracting all the time. If we would only
bother to feel our muscle, we would feel its hardness, a sure sign of its constant
contraction. The chronically contracted muscle is like a motor that one cannot
turn off. It continues to run and to burn up energy.
This is why muscles with a high tonus are always sore. The glycogen, which
14 Soma tics
is stored in the muscle for the energy of contraction, is constantly being burned
up. The combustion of glycogen creates contraction, and the glycogen is then
turned into lactic acid. If there is constant combustion, then there is a constant
buildup of lactic acid, and the more acid there is, the more the muscle's sensory
cells become irritated. A constant 10 percent buildup will create enough activity
to make the muscle feel tired. A constant 40 percent buildup will create so much
hot acidity around the pain receptor cells that the bloodstream cannot flush it
away, and the muscle will constantly feel painful.
It is common to have chronically sore or painful muscles from the late twen-
ties onward. It can go on year after year, at times being hardly perceptible, but
at other times intolerable, depending on how much stress the individual has
endured. As we become older we have had time to accumulate many stressful
and traumatic experiences. Therefore, in later years, we usually suffer greater
muscular tonus, and thus more stiffness in our bodily movements, as well as a
more distorted posture. Because of the constant production of lactic acid, these
hard, stiff muscles are also chronically sore and painful.
This muscular stiffness, limitation of movement, tiredness, distortion of pos-
ture, and chronic pain are misinterpreted as the effects of "old age"-a fictitious
disease that presumably leads to physiological degeneration, constant fatigue,
and weakness and is "irreversible." In fact, however, age has nothing to do with
it. These events are the result of an accumulation of physiological reactions to
stress and traumatic accidents. Usually it takes a number of years to accumulate
enough stress or trauma to raise muscle tonicity to such an unhealthy level. But
the same chronic muscle tension can occur in a young person, if the childhood
and teenage years were unusually traumatic. I have seen many people in their
twenties and thirties with the same bodies, the same high tonicity, and the same
complaints as those of people in their seventies. In every case they had suffered
early childhood illnesses, surgery, a tragic family dislocation, or a threatening
sociopolitical situation such as war.
Increasing muscular tonus usually occurs in later years. There is no question
about that. But it occurs in later years, not because of the accumulation of the
mysterious factor of "age," but because of the accumulation of the unmysterious
factors of stressful living and traumatic accidents. The longer one lives, the more
chances one has for these events to occur and accumulate. Some humans have
an early and intense accumulation and so show these symptoms early. Others
have the good fortune to escape these effects of stress or trauma, and they are
just as supple and lively at 70 as they were at 25. It is my hope that, with in-
creased understanding of sensory-motor amnesia, this latter group will grow in
number.
When we consider that the human body has almost 800 muscles, and that all
of them are well stocked with sensory cells, we can appreciate why our well-
being depends on sensory information fed back to our brains by our muscles.
James (32 Years): The Nightmare Back 15
People with high muscle tonus do not feel good. Often they see no hope for
recovery. "Oh, I feel so old!" hundreds of clients have told me, implying that
their high degree of tonus is irreversible.
But muscular reactions to stress can be overcome. It is possible to feel genu-
inely "young" no matter what one's age. Practically speaking, this means to
enjoy a muscular tonus that is very low in contraction and energy expenditure
and very high in comfort and control. The basic somatic task during our lifetime
is to gain greater and greater control over ourselves, learning to flow with the
stress and trauma of life, like a cork floating on top of the waves.
Chapter 3
Louise (56 Years):
The Frozen Shoulder
When I met Louise, she had a "frozen shoulder." Two years earlier she had
fallen, breaking the upper part of the humerus where the arm articulates with
the shoulder. A surgeon had applied a pin to the bone to hold it together, and
then removed it later on. The bone structure healed and was normal, but the
arm functions did not heal. Physical therapy released some of the arm's post-
surgical rigidity, but the improvement was minimal. Louise could not lift her
right arm above the horizontal position, nor could she bring it behind her back.
She could move her arm forward, but even this was difficult because she had
intense chronic pain in the front of her shoulder joint. Louise, in her mid-fifties,
had come to a decision: "1 guess I'm just over the hill."
After Louise gave me her history, I had her stand up so that I could observe
her stance and feel her muscles-just as I had done with Barney and James.
Looking at her from the front, I could see that her right shoulder was lower than
her left. It looked "pulled down," and her right hand hung three-quarters of an
inch lower than her left hand. She said, "My arm feels like it weighs 50 pounds."
She stood before me, looking despondent and wilted on one side.
When I touched her muscles, I immediately knew why her arm felt so heavy.
She was correct: It was weighed down. There was a powerful contraction of the
latissimus dorsi muscle, which attaches to the upper surface of the humerus and
to the edge of the shoulder blade and then spreads down across the back to the
lower spine and pelvis. This constant contraction pulled her arm down and pre-
vented her from reaching above the horizontal level. In order to perform the
simplest forward movements of her arm, like driving or eating, she was forced
to exert an enormous contraction of the muscles on top of her shoulder. These
muscles suffered intense chronic pain; they were constantly overworked. And
the frozen latissimus dorsi muscle was out of her control.
Louise's powerful chest muscle, the pectoralis, was also involuntarily con-
tracted and rigid. This muscle, next to the latissimus dorsi, has its roots on the
upper surface of the humerus. Its fibers fan out in front of the chest, attaching
to the clavicle, or collarbone, and sternum, or breastbone, and reaching all the
17
18 Soma/ics
Figure 6
Louise's Posture
way down to the fifth, or sometimes the sixth rib. The
rib cage, in turn, was pulled down by a chronic con-
traction of the abdominal muscle, which extends
downward from the lower half of the chest to the pubic
bone. The rigidity of the pectoral and abdominal con-
traction kept the shoulder held slightly forward and
downward against the equally unremitting pull of the
latissimus dorsi backward and downward. Thus, the
shoulder was "frozen." It was as if Louise had a crip-
pled wing.
Because Louise was in her fifties, she had assumed
it was due to her age that her arm had not healed. Her
physician told her that her arm was frozen by adhe-
sions formed around the fracture that had occurred
near the joint. He said that the adhesions might be re-
moved by surgery. But, after two surgical interven-
tions, setting the pin and removing it, Louise objected
to further surgery. Curiously enough, she thought it
would not help.
Louise was intuitively right: Surgery would not
have helped her frozen shoulder, because it was not
some "thing"-some structural blockage, such as
"adhesions"-that prevented movement. Rather, re-
gions of Louise's brain outside of her conscious control were continuously sig-
naling for her muscles to contract. This distinction between a "thing" (i.e., a
structure) and an ability (i.e., a function) is fundamental in viewing human
problems somatically. If a "thing" is the cause, then some structure must be
surgically cut or chemically altered. But if lack of voluntary ability is the cause,
then a human function must be restored.
Specifically, Louise had to relearn to use her muscles efficiently, and that pre-
sented the problem. From my experience I knew what was causing her frozen
shoulder, but all Louise could sense was a heavy right arm and an intense pain
in the front of the shoulder. She was unaware of the contraction of her muscles.
Not only could she not relax them, she could not even sense them. She believed,
as her physician had told her, that some structure beyond her power to control
was blocking her movement.
In order to restore Louise's voluntary ability to control the muscles that were
"frozen," I had to help her become aware of the action of contraction from
within her own central nervous system. While she lay on her left side, with a
pillow under her head and her right side up, I placed one hand on her lower
back at the borders of the latissimus dorsi muscle and the other on her right
shoulder. I then moved them together so that she could perceive their
connection.
Louise (56 Years): The Frozen Shoulder 19
Gradually she became aware that the movement in her lower back was di-
rectly connected with the movement in her shoulder. At that point, I asked her
to do an odd thing: to contract the latissimus dorsi muscle as hard as she could
all the way to the pelvis, making her shoulder even tighter and more "frozen."
As she did this, I held her arm forward and pulled it firmly in the opposite
direction, so as to make her contract even harder. Why did I make her do this?
So that the sensory feedback would make her highly conscious that she was
contracting her own shoulder into a frozen position.
Louise practiced voluntarily making her shoulder even tighter, alternately
contracting, then releasing, the "frozen" muscle that had been spastically hold-
ing her arm. As she continued this movement, she got better at it: She was
remembering how to do it. And the more she remembered, the better she be-
came at it. Soon the release of the formerly spastic muscle was so successful that
the muscle became soft and loose, allowing her shoulder to move freely for the
first time in two years.
Louise was both exultant and amazed. She even began to weep at the magic
of the transformation. And the joy of her tears was compounded by the ex-
panding realization that she had regained control of herself. The magic was not
in anything that I did; the transformation had occurred because Louise had ac-
complished it from within. She felt the expansive experience of rediscovering
herself to be free and self-controlling.
We followed similar procedures with the other muscles of Louise's shoulder
joint until both her sense of what she was doing and her motor control were
sufficiently clear. I then taught her a Somatic Exercise that would let her rehearse
her newly found sensory-motor ability just before going to bed and just after
waking up. Two weeks later, in our third session, she lifted her right arm up to
a vertical position and was able to put it against her right ear.
From that point onward Louise remained comfortable, supple, and active:
Her shoulder problem did not return. And something else did not return: her
despondent, "over-the-hill" feeling. She forgot that she was in her fifties and
began acting like a much younger woman. The experience of discovering that
she had within herself the resources to overcome a serious physical problem
had given her vibrancy and confidence again.
Interlude: What "Somatic" Means
There are two ways in which a human being can be viewed: from the outside
in, or from the inside out. Looked at from the outside, by a physiologist or a
physician, human beings are very different from the beings they appear to be
when they view themselves from the inside out.
When one looks at another human being, one sees a "body" with a certain
external shape and size. It's just the same as an observed statue or wax dummy
20 Soma tics
that also has a "bodily" shape and size. But when the human being looks at
himself or herself from the inside, he or she is aware of feelings and movements
and intentions-a quite different, fuller being. To view a body from the outside
is a third-person view: One sees a "he" or a "she" or an "it." But when the
human views himself or herself from the inside, it is a first-person view-a priv-
ileged view of "me," which means being aware of "I, myself."
What physiologists see from their externalized, third-person view is always a
"body." What the individual sees from his or her internalized, first-person view
is always a "soma." Soma is a Greek word that, from Hesiod onward, has meant
"living body." This living, self-sensing, internalized perception of oneself is rad-
ically different from the externalized perception of what we call a "body," which
could just as well be a human, a statue, a dummy, or a cadaver-from an objec-
tive viewpoint, all of these are "bodies."
Any viewpoint of the human being that fails to include both the first-person,
somatic view and the third-person, physiological view is deceptive. To view a
human only as a third-person, externalized body is to see only a physical puppet
or dummy that can be changed by the external methods of chemical and surgical
engineering. This is, prima jacie, a false view of the human being: It is one-sided
and incomplete.
Inasmuch as "scientific medicine" has built itself on the foundation of an ob-
jective, third person view of the human as a body, it is a deceptive and incom-
plete approach to human health. Scientific medicine not only ignores a
fundamental truth about human beings but dooms itself to be consistently in-
efficient as a method of aiding human improvement. Because its view of the
human being is insufficient, medicine's ability to help human beings is
insufficient.
The uniqueness of human beings is in being, simultaneously, subjects and
objects. Humans are self-sensing and self-moving subjects while, at the same
time, they are observable and manipulable objects.
To yourself, you are a soma. To others, you are a body. Only you can perceive
yourself as a soma-no one else can do so. But everyone else can see you as a
body. Even you can see yourself as a body by looking into a mirror. In the mirror
you will see an external, third-person "him" or "her" just like everyone else;
but only you have the privileged perception of also seeing "me."
The great calamity of the human sciences is that we have, as it were, ganged
up on ourselves. Only one person can see himself or herself as a first-person
somatic being, but millions of people can see that person as a third-person bod-
ily being. Consequently, these millions can join together and observe, measure,
and diagram the objective body of the human person. That is the easy and ob-
vious way taken by the sciences.
But what is easy and obvious is not necessarily true or effective. It is all very
well for millions to study our objective bodies: There are some fundamental and
Louise (56 Years): The Frozen Shoulder 21
essential facts to be ascertained about how humans are subject to the same phys-
ical and chemical forces as are all other bodies, from atoms to asteroids. But if
these millions pursue their studies of human bodies as if humans were only
third-person, objective bodies and not simultaneously first-person, subjective
somas, then they are blind and dangerous. They are blind because they have
trained themselves to see only one side of whole people: They ignore our so-
matic side. And they are dangerous, because their observations, predictions,
and practical methods are based on a false, incomplete view of the human being.
The reason that physiology and medicine have failed to perceive the myths
behind aging is that they have failed to recognize the fundamental fact that all
human beings are self-aware, self-sensing, and self-moving: They are self-re-
sponsible somas. The somatic viewpoint recognizes not only that human beings
are bodily beings who can become victims of physical and organic forces, but
also that they are equally somatic beings who can change themselves. Humans
can learn to perceive their internal functions and improve their control of their
somatic functions.
This is the underlying theme of this book: that the somatic viewpoint must
be added to the objective bodily viewpoint if we are to understand exactly what
happens to human beings as they age. By adding the somatic viewpoint to our
human sciences, we not only become capable of overcoming major health prob-
lems mistakenly attributed to aging, but we are capable of overcoming many of
the major health problems that plague all of humankind.
In saying this, there is absolutely no implication that physiological science is
invalid. On the contrary, its contributions to understanding the objective func-
tions of the human being are monumental. What I am saying is that this contri-
bution is, even so, incomplete and insufficient, and that this is dearly seen in
the perennial incompleteness of medical diagnosis and the insufficiency of med-
ical treatments in the areas I am discussing.
The somatic viewpoint complements and completes the scientific view of the
human being, making it possible to have an authentic science that recognizes
the whole human: the self-aware, self-responsible side as well as the externally
observable "bodily" side. Together, these two viewpoints make possible an au-
thentic human science. By completing a viewpoint of human beings that has,
for so long, suffered from incompleteness, we will set foot on a new continent
of human advancement.
Chapter 4
Harley (60 Years):
The Retracted Landing Gear
Walking with a smooth, even stride is one of the essential human functions. We
are bipedal creatures with a way of walking that is different from that of any
other bipedal animal: Each arm swings freely to counterbalance the movement
of the opposite leg. There is a twist in the middle of our spine, centering be-
tween the seventh and eighth rib vertebrae, at which point the upper body is
rotating in one direction and the lower body in the other. I
Figure 7a Figure 7b
Normal Bipedal Walking from Side Normal Bipedal Walking from Front
23
24 Soma tics
At least this is what happens in normal bipedal movement (see Figures 7a
and 7b), which requires that the posture be vertical for these upper and lower
rotations to be smooth and even. If the body's posture is bent or tilted, the
smooth balance is utterly compromised, and one must walk with a slow, halting,
uneven gait. When this happens, walking is inefficient, fatiguing, and often
painful.
Harley walked into my office with a pronounced limp. His body lurched to
the left, and he swung his left leg in an outward curve as he brought it forward.
Otherwise, Harley was a hardy, ebullient man in his sixties with the look of a
California rancher who had spent most of his life out of doors. A year or so
earlier he fell out of a pickup truck and landed on his left knee, which became
swollen and discolored and left him hobbled for a number of weeks. X-ray ex-
amination showed that, fortunately, the knee capsule was undamaged. The car-
tilage and tendons had been severely impacted and jerked, but they were intact.
Even so, after the pain and swelling had faded away, Harley found that he
walked with a stiffly bent left knee, his weight heavily pitched over onto the left
leg. He had trouble just getting around, but what he missed most of all was
square dancing with his wife.
I examined Harley's knee and found that it moved quite freely; and, when I
manipulated the leg, it could straighten completely.
There was no interior obstruction nor any grating
sound, and there was no looseness in the capsule
when I put lateral pressure on the knee joint. It was a
perfectly sound knee, except that, while standing or
walking, Harley could not straighten it. Already I
knew that his problem was functional, not structural.
In standing, Harley tilted strongly to the left, with
his head tilted back to the right in compensation. I
asked him if the muscles on the right side of his neck
were always sore, and he said yes. All the muscles on
the left side of his trunk were rigidly tight, especially
those in the left waist. These pulled his rib cage so far
over to the left that it was touching his pelvis. It was
as if these muscles were still cringing in response to
the fall on his knee. In fact, this was precisely what
was happening: The painful trauma of the fall had trig-
gered in the brain a reflex muscular contraction on the
left side, which had lingered on ever since the time of
the fall. The shock to his left side-and to his right
brain hemisphere-was, as it were, frozen in time.
The muscles of Harley's left waist and hip were so
spastic that he could neither move nor straighten his
leg in a normal fashion. His left pelvis and knee were
Figure 8
Harley's Posture
Harley (60 Years): The Retracted Landing Gear 25
"frozen" in a bent, cringing position-like an airplane landing gear half re-
tracted. Because medical technology allows doctors to focus only on the small
picture, his doctors, in looking at the knee for structural damage, had missed
the larger picture of what was actually happening to his entire left side.
I began to reacquaint Harley with the powerful muscles of his left side, which
at that time he could not sense. The center of his sensory-motor amnesia was
on the left of his body in the muscles attaching the rib cage to the pelvis. While
he lay sideways on my work table, I moved his pelvis for him in the same way
it would move if he voluntarily did it himself. As he began to sense movement
in that part of his waist, I asked him to try to do it himself-voluntarily contract-
ing the already tight waist muscles even a bit tighter.
Consider this from a functional viewpoint: Harley's waist muscles on his left
side were constantly receiving a signal from the involuntary part of his brain to
contract at, perhaps, 50 percent of their capacity. I asked him to contract them
at 80 percent or more by sending an even stronger signal from the voluntary
part of the brain. The electrochemical signal from the cerebral cortex, the vol-
untary part of the brain, was stronger than the signal from the involuntary,
subcortical portions of his brain. In electrochemical terms, the voluntary signal
was "overriding" the involuntary signal and reasserting its control of the waist
muscles. In this way, once Harley learned that he could voluntarily control his
waist muscles, a magical event happened: They began to soften and lengthen
for the first time in a year and a half.
Harley and I continued to practice this, until he became better at it. As he
became better, not only did his ability to contract and release these muscles
improve, but, equally, his sensing of this area of his body began to improve. As
his hip relaxed down to its normal position, he was able to straighten his knee
while walking.
"I feel like my left side is waking up again," Harley said. In fact, his brain
was waking up; that is, the cerebral cortex, the seat of the brain's voluntary
actions, had begun to take charge of his body again. It is a wonderful neurolog-
ical fact that increasing bodily awareness means increasing neurological sensory
awareness, and that this sensory awareness of the muscles goes hand in hand
with voluntary motor control of the muscles. This is because the sensory-motor
system is a "feedback loop": in other words, if you cannot sense it, you cannot
move it, and the more you can move it, the more you will sense it. This is a rule
of the sensory-motor system, one solid part of the neurophysiological founda-
tion of somatic education.
I do not wish it to seem like I never spend more than three sessions with a
client, but, as it turned out, Harley and I saw each other twice more and that
was all. In the first session, I taught him control of his waist muscles; during
the second, we focused on his hip muscles; and during the third we focused on
coordinating his ankle and knee with his hip and waist muscles. At the end of
the third session, Harley had no limp whatsoever. He walked with a smooth,
26 Somatics
even stride, his trunk vertical and his upper arms swinging freely in balance
with the lower movements of his legs. Harley could straighten out his knee with
total freedom, and he soon returned to his beloved weekly square dancing.
Interlude: The Unconscious Levels of the Brain
One of the most striking features about sensory-motor amnesia is that we are
unconscious of muscle contraction while it is going on. It is a startling experience
to discover that we are actively doing something without knowing it.
Every day I help my clients discover this aspect of SMA. For example, while
a client with a chronically sore shoulder is lying on my padded work table, I lift
her arm in the air and tell her to relax. Then, when I let go of her arm, it stays
in the air. I call her attention to it: "Look at your arm. Do you notice something
odd?" She looks and says, no, she sees nothing odd. "But you're holding your
arm in the air!" "Oh!" she says, and abruptly drops her arm. "I didn't realize
what I was dOing." Or a person who constantly has a sore neck will be on the
table, lying on his back, while I try to lift his head. I cannot lift it because the
posterior muscles of the neck are rigid. I say to him, "Relax the muscles in the
back of your neck so that I can lift your head." He voluntarily relaxes them, and
I lift his head, then put it down. I wait two seconds and try again. It will not
lift-the posterior muscles have become contracted again, but he is unaware of
it. Without prompting, he is never aware of it. All day, every day, he tightly
contracts the muscles in the back of his neck, totally unaware of them, and
comes to me wondering why he has constant neck pain. The muscles are fa-
tigued and sore from continually working-and he doesn't know he is doing it.
My clients have been told by other health professionals that there is some
simple, underlying cause for their pain-a nerve is being pinched, there is a
bone spur, there is bursitis, arthritis, tendinitis. In modern medicine, it sounds
reasonable, so it seems equally reasonable to perform surgery around or to the
pinched nerve, or to scrape the bone, or to inject various drugs into the area.
When these remedies fail to relieve the constant pain, however, the patients are
informed that they have permanent conditions and must learn to live with them.
Sustained muscular contraction will result in soreness or pain. Every athlete
knows that, just like every soldier who completes his or her first 40-mile march.
Whether it is voluntary or involuntary, sustained muscular contraction produces
soreness. When SMA occurs in musculature, the involuntary contraction is sus-
tained, not for one day-as with the athlete or soldier-but every day. It can
continue unabated-and unnoticed-for weeks, months, years, or for an entire
lifetime. It is common for SMA contractions in the lower back to occur in one's
early twenties and continue unabated, with varying intensity, for the rest of a
person's life.
I might say to my clients, "Look, can't you see that you're doing this to your-
Harley (60 Years): The Retracted Lalldillg Gmr 27
self? Stop contracting your muscles and the pain will go away!" I might say this.
I might say it for an entire year, or for 10 years, but it would not make the
slightest difference, except to drive them to despair. They cannot sense their
muscular contraction through their ears, from me-they have to sense it inside
their own bodies.
I have already discussed how our sensing and moving of muscles is a feed-
back loop, going from the muscle to the spinal cord and brain and then back
again. This loop can also be a short route through the nervous system, going
from the muscle into the spinal cord and back out again without involving the
nerve routes up to the brain. This is the sensory-motor pathway taken when a
physician taps her mallet just below her patient's patella, evoking the knee-jerk
reflex. The sensory impulse of the tap goes to a specific segment of the spine
and is relayed back with an automatic muscular contraction.
In SMA, the sensory-motor circuit becomes sidetracked from its usual route
through the voluntary controls of the brain and then entangled in the reflex
reactions of the brain's involuntary pathways. There is still the same sensory-
motor feedback loop, muscle-to-brain-to-muscle, but, as the nerve impulses
travel up the spinal column, they are, as it were, short-circuited: that is, the
feedback of sensory-motor impulses takes place below the conscious level of the
brain's voluntary functions.
This is not difficult to understand once we take into account the evolutionary
layers of the human brain. Humans do not possess a single brain so much as
they possess three brains working in coordination. Each level evolved out of the
earlier level, and each layer has added refinements of function that were lacking
in the operations of the earlier lower level. A breakdown in their coordination
characterizes SMA.
Paul MacLean described this three-layer organization as the "triune brain."2
The earliest layer, developed in primitive sea slugs and fish, controls essential
functions like heart regulation, blood circulation, respiration, locomotion, and
reproduction. Using the metaphor of a car, MacLean depicted this level as the
"neural chassis." The next brain layer-according to MacLean's analogy-
added"wheels" to the chassis. This intermediate level refined the essential func-
tions of the first, organizing them into greater movement coordination, more
organized attention to aggressive and defensive actions, and more concern for
territoriality and social hierarchy ("pecking order"). In its full development, the
intermediate level is the bearer of certain emotions: the fear that will make an
animal withdraw, the anger that will mobilize an animal to attack, the sexual
desire that will lead an animal to mating. These emotional functions show a
higher sensitivity to surrounding conditions and what kinds of actions are ap-
propriate responses. This level of brain function is powerfully present in the
human brain and is a central source of involuntary, and thus unconscious,
actions.
The highest level came with the emergence of the neocortex, which MacLean
28 Somatics
analogized to "the driver at the wheel of the neural chassis." This is the massive
proliferation of gray cells in mammals, which developed further in primates,
and which achieved its most complex development in the human species. The
neocortex, an immense collection of nerve cells, is the seat of the voluntary
learning and control that takes place in the rest of the brain. The source of con-
scious actions, this voluntary control center is a colossal organ of adaptation and
learning. It possesses only primitive abilities at birth, but, as we mature, it grad-
ually but steadily begins to learn all of the complex abilities and movements that
we associate with growing up.
Maturation is the growth of greater and greater cortical learning. This process
can continue indefinitely, improving and refining human actions, unless nega-
tive conditions force the brain into emergency actions in order to survive. Sus-
tained stress and traumatic accidents are such negative conditions that sidetrack
the voluntary cortex from its normal control of the sensory-motor system. When
that occurs, the lower and more primitive regions of the first and second levels
take control. It is a regression to involuntary reaction. This is what occurs with
sensory-motor amnesia.
How much better it would be if we could always return control of our muscles
to our voluntary cortex after moments of stress! Then the process of living would
not be disrupted by the pain and disability associated with SMA. We would
continue to mature throughout our lives, instead of expending our energy fight-
ing, and involuntarily sustaining, needless muscular contractions. We would
reach closer to our full potential as human beings. That is the hope of Somatics.
Chapter 5
Alexander (81 Years):
Los Viejitos
The Tarascon region of southwestern Mexico is famous for its traditional Danza
de los Viejitos-the "Dance of the Little Old Men." The little old men, wearing
flat brim hats over long white beards, are all bent forward, leaning on their
canes. They are garbed in the loose white shirts and pantaloons of the peasants
of the land around the city of Patzcuaro.
Actually, inside these costumes of white hair and white garments are young
boys with very fast feet. At the beginning of the music, the "little old men" stand
motionless, looking not even capable of standing upright. Then, gradually, they
begin to shift their bodies with the rhythm, their knees
lift, their feet shuffle, and, before you know it, they
are dancing a little quickstep movement that's dazzling
in its rapidity. Then, just when you think they have
reached their limit, the tempo of the music suddenly
doubles to an incredible pace, and the little old men
are dancing furiously, their legs and feet blurred as
they drum out the rhythm upon the ground. During
all of this, they never cease leaning forward onto their
walking canes.
The citizens of Tarascon know the myth of aging
and its image of the old man walking on "three legs."
It shows a charming insight the way they present the
notion that inside these viejitos are really young boys
waiting for the sound of music to induce them to
emerge once again into joyful dancing. What a won-
derful transformation when an old body, seemingly in-
capable of youthful movement, suddenly shows such
speed and flexibility!
Alexander was a man of 81 years who looked exactly
like a viejito: He walked with a cane and was bent for-
ward about 50 degrees from the vertical. His son Figure 9
brought Alexander to see me, informing me in ad- Alexander's Posture
30 Soma tics
vance that his father had constant pains in his chest and stomach. He was locked
into his curvature of 50 degrees, so that when he slept on his back he had to
have three large pillows under his head. This extreme posture is the very image
of the old person in the riddle of the Sphinx.
Alexander's son told me that, given his father's age, he did not expect that
anything could change his stooped posture, but he hoped I could relieve some
of Alexander's chronic pains in the front of his body. Except for his posture,
Alexander was a feisty, highly alert, person with no complaints except for the
frequent ache in his stomach and lower back. His complexion was good, he ate
well, he was interested in many activities, and he was, otherwise, quite healthy
at 81.
His son said that Alexander's bending had begun in his mid-sixties, when he
retired, and it had increased over a IS-year period. Once he got out of business,
living on his investments and Social Security, Alexander apparently felt less in
control of his economic destiny. He continually fretted over inflation and loss of
stock values. It seemed that the more Alexander worried about his vulnerable
economic position as a retiree, the more he doubled over.
As I do with all my clients, I looked at Alexander carefully from every angle
while he was both standing and walking. I felt the muscles of his trunk to de-
termine what was causing his postural distortion. His abdominal muscle was
hard and leathery. The long abdominal muscle extends from the pubic bone and
groin line all the way up to the center of the chest, covering over half of the
front of the rib cage. When it is tight, it pulls the chest downward toward the
pubic bone. When it is so tight as to be hard and leathery, it pulls the entire
trunk forward into the typical curve of a viejito. The small intercostal muscles
between Alexander's ribs were also excessively tight, depressing his chest wall,
pulling his head forward, and distorting his neckline into a shape like that of a
vulture.
As all athletes know, muscles that are used too much will be sore the next
day. In Alexander's case, the muscles in his abdomen, chest, and neck were
constantly in use and thus were constantly sore and fatigued. So were the mus-
cles of his back, which were struggling to prevent his torso from completely
collapsing. Because Alexander could not voluntarily release this contraction, he
lived with constant pain and fatigue. He would wake up feeling full of energy,
and then, within a couple of hours, he was dog-tired. Furthermore, the chronic
contraction of his abdominal and chest muscles limited Alexander to very min-
imal, shallow breathing. His oxygen intake was not sufficient to metabolize his
food, and that added to his constant fatigue.
Alexander's physician had explained to him that his feeling of weakness in
the front of his body was due to atrophy of his muscles: They were supposedly
degenerating. This, however, was the opposite of what was actually happening:
Alexander's abdominal muscles were not weak at all, but incredibly powerful.
They could not help but be powerful, because they were working constantly.
Alexander (81 Years): Los Viejitos 31
Realizing that Alexander's problems were due not to a degeneration of his
bodily structure but to a dysfunction, I began to teach him how to overcome his
essential difficulty: sensory-motor amnesia of the affected muscles. Because I
didn't have three overstuffed pillows to allow him to lie on his back, I had him
lie down on his side. With him in this side position, I did not attempt to
straighten his trunk but did just the opposite: I made him more comfortable by
curving him forward to almost 90 degrees. He liked that. I began to demonstrate
what all his trunk muscles were doing while he was curled up. At first it was
unclear to him what I was doing, but gradually he became aware of different
areas in the front of his body.
I asked him to contract his abdominal muscles a little harder than they were
already involuntarily contracted. At first he complained that he was too weak
to do so, but gradually he began to achieve a moderate degree of voluntary
contraction. As he did, he said, "I don't feel that pain in my stomach anymore."
We practiced in this fashion for a while, and then, to measure what changes
he had made, I asked him to lie on his back. He protested, saying there would
not be enough support for his upper trunk and head. I showed him a large
pillow I had placed on the table. It was slanted up about 30 degrees from the
surface. He said it was too low. I told him to try it and find out. He turned over
and found that he could lie with his head against it. In less than an hour he had
straightened 20 degrees!
I taught Alexander some Somatic Exercises to practice twice a day, at bedtime
and upon awakening, and then sent him away. I didn't see him for a number of
weeks, but I had reports from his son that the severe pains in his abdomen had
disappeared, his sleeping was much improved, and he was considerably more
energetic. He didn't become fatigued in the middle of the morning.
Six weeks later I saw Alexander for the second time, and during that session
we gained further release in his abdominal muscles and began to do the same
with the muscles of his neck. When, at the end, he lay down on his back, his
head now came down to a lO-degree level. From that point on, he slept with
only one pillow rather than three. His energy and range of activities improved
enormously. The viejito had begun to hear his inner music again and had started
to dance.
An even more significant change occurred in Alexander's life: He was less
anxious. For years he had been cautious and crabby and fearful. Now, perhaps
because he no longer felt constant pain, he was not as bothered by the things
that used to trouble him. Consequently, he was clearer-headed in his thinking
and decision making. His wife told me something more basic: He was much
easier to live with-like he had been before he retired.
Alexander had been a captain of industry, with the power and perogatives of
that position. Once he retired, he no longer felt the invulnerability that he had
enjoyed throughout his working life. He had changed his entire life-style and
modified the economic basis of his livelihood. Rather than being active in the
32 Somatics
affairs of the world, he was passive. Rather than being independent, he felt
dependent on other forces. Retirement was a change that was very stressful for
Alexander, and this continual stress had its somatic manifestation in abdominal
muscular contractions. These contractions shortened his breath, pulled his
trunk forward, and caused him to feel continual pain on top of his continual
anxiety.
It was not old age that afflicted Alexander; it was growing sensory-motor
amnesia in response to his radically changed life-style. It was not aging that
caused the creature in the Sphinx's riddle to go from two legs to three; it was
the same thing that had happened to Barney, James, Louise, and Harley-the
negative effects of stress and traumatic injuries. When sensory-motor amnesia
is avoided and the muscular response to stress and trauma are corrected, then
"old age" disappears. There emerges from the little old men of Tarascon a con-
cealed youth who begins to move in surprising ways.
Summary: What These Five Case Histories Teach Us
1. These problems are functional, not structural. In all five case histories, the prob-
lems, which on the surface looked to be irreparable breakdowns of the body,
were, instead, malfunctions of the nervous system. Viewed externally, they
seem to be about five bodies that are degenerating; but viewed internally, these
are five brains that have lost control of their bodily functions.
To use my own terms, these are somatic problems-not bodily problems.
These are functional problems-not structural problems. These are problems
solvable only by the patient-not by the doctor. These are problems reflecting a
loss of control from the inside of the human system-not a deterioration of bod-
ily parts at the outside of the human system.
2. The functional problems are cases of sensory-motor amnesia. All five of these peo-
ple were suffering from non-medical problems. They were outside the reach of
medical help, whose services they had exhausted. They were not suffering from
infectious diseases or physical lesions or biochemical imbalance. They were suf-
fering from a loss of memory: the memory of what it feels like to move certain
muscles of their bodies, and the memory of how to go about moving these same
muscles.
Their memory loss was, to be specific, sensory-motor amnesia (SMA). I know
this to be the case, simply because their being shown how certain muscular
patterns feel, and how these contractions are accomplished, resulted in an end
to their problems. They regained their normal functioning and normal bodily
well-being without any need for antibiotics for infection or surgery for lesions
or drugs to correct a biochemical imbalance.
Alexander (81 Years): Los Viejitos 33
3. These SMA problems were caused by the quality of their life span and not by the
quantity: It was not the number of years but what happened during those years. Age,
in itself, is neutral as far as health is concerned. Age has never harmed anyone,
nor has it ever killed a single human being. It is what happens during the aging
process that harms and kills human beings.
Everything that happens to us during our lives causes a necessary reaction in
our central nervous system. Our brain responds to and adapts to the events that
occur. If we live a restricted, narrow life, our brain adapts to it. If we suffer years
of anxiety, fear, and despair, our brain adapts to it. If we suffer shocks, acciden-
tal injury, serious illnesses, or complex surgery, our brain responds and adapts
to it. These are the events that bring on sensory-motor amnesia, causing us to
believe we are helplessly deteriorating. On the other hand, if we enjoy years of
contentment, confidence, and hope, our brain adapts to that. And with very
different effects.
The brain is an adaptive organ. It responds to the events of our lives in what-
ever way is necessary in order to survive and keep going. But, because the brain
directly or indirectly controls all of our bodily functions, this means that our
entire body reflects what has happened to us during our lifetimes.
The bodily malfunctions in all five of these case histories clearly reflect an
internal, somatic adaptation to specific events that had occurred during the
course of these lives. SMA is the unfortunate result of specific adaptations made
by the central nervous system in response to what happens to us during our
lifetimes. Part 2 is a discussion of these specific adaptations.
4. SMA always affects the entire somatic system and has its roots in the center of the
human body. Any imbalance in the sensory-motor system creates imbalance
throughout the entire body. When the muscles in one single limb become spastic
or clumsy or too flaccid, this loss of control and efficient coordination within the
musculoskeletal system causes an automatic compensation within all the other
interconnected bodily parts. The brain brings about these compensations auto-
matically and unconsciously, in an attempt to rebalance the entire system.
Obviously, this compensatory rebalancing causes a distortion of the somatic
functions internally and the bodily structure externally. The entire somatic sys-
tem malfunctions and becomes askew. Because it is genetically programmed to
preserve the somatic system, the brain rebalances and compensates for this im-
balance, but the whole system has now become inefficient, less supple, slower
in response, habitually self-stressed, and operating with a significant loss of
energy. These are precisely the symptoms of what we mistake for "old age."
But not only does SMA always affect the entire somatic system, it also has its
roots in the center of the human body: namely, in the waist, lower back, and
abdomen where massive, powerful muscles connect the vertebrae and rib cage
to the pelvis. This area is the center of gravity for the human body. And it is
precisely the area where symptoms of "old age" first begin.
34 Somatics
In sum, because any sensory-motor disturbance will affect not only the entire
somatic system but also, and particularly, the gravitational center of the human
body, two simultaneous, interconnected problems will occur. First of all, mal-
functions will occur in the muscles at the center of gravity, which will cause
malfunctions in the movements of (1) the spinal-pelvic centrum; (2) the shoulder
and hip joints; (3) the elbows and knees; and (4) the distal regions of wrists and
hands and ankles and feet . Conversely, the other problem is that injuries and
malfunctions in the distal regions of the wrists and hands, ankles and feet, el-
bows and knees, shoulder and hip joints, and spine will cause malfunctions in
the proximal muscles at the spinal-pelvic center of gravity.
This phenomenon was clearly present in the five case histories. In all five,
the muscles in the center of the body are crucially involved, no matter what the
specific problem was in the peripheral parts of the body.
Figure 10 Figure 11 Figure 12 Figure 13 Figure 14
The specific problem with Barney's hip was that the muscles on the right side
of his back were involuntarily contracted: The entire right rib cage was pulled
down toward the side of the pelvis, causing his scoliotic leaning and distorted
sense of balance (see Figure 10).
The specific problem with James's back was that the massive paravertebral
muscles connecting the lower spine and rib cage to the pelvis were involuntarily
contracted: The entire lower rib cage was pulled down into a bowlike curve
toward the back of the pelvis, inhibiting both his walking and his reaching
movements (see Figure 11).
The specific problem with Louise's shoulder was that the muscles of the
shoulder girdle reaching downward on the right side of the trunk were involun-
tarily contracted: The entire shoulder-arm joint was pulled down, front and
back, toward the pelvis in a "frozen" position (see Figure 12).
Alexander (81 Years): Los Viejitos 35
The specific problem with Harley's limping gait and bent knee was that the
muscles of his left waist were involuntarily retracted upward to their attach-
ments on the left rib cage and spine: The entire hip and leg were held upward
like the half-retracted landing gear of an airplane (see Figure 13).
The specific problem with Alexander's stooped posture was that the abdom-
inal muscles connecting the chest to the pubic bone and lower pelvis were in-
voluntarily contracted: His entire trunk was pulled forward and downward into
the classic stoop of senility (see Figure 14).
But, in all five, the basic problem was really the same: involuntary contraction
of the muscles in the body's center of gravity, affecting the periphery of the
body; or involuntary contraction in the periphery of the body, causing a com-
pensating contraction in the center of gravity. In all five cases, the powerful
muscles connecting the spine and rib cage to the pelvis were the root of the
specific problem of each person.
Barney's hip, James's back, Louise's shoulder, Harley'S limp, and Alexander's
stoop were different manifestations of the very same event: chronic muscle con-
tractions in the center of the body, which they could neither sense nor control,
that were directly connected with chronic contractions in the periphery of the
body.
Finally, it should be remembered that, in all five case histories, it was by
becoming conscious of feelings and voluntary movements in the center of their
bodies that these persons overcame the unconscious and automatic reflex con-
tractions that the SMA had caused.
5. Viewed internally and functionally, SMA is a single somatic problem. Viewed exter-
nally and structurally, SMA is a multitude of mysterious medical problems. As I
pointed out earlier, age is not the cause of anything, healthy or unhealthy.
"Age" is a neutral term, just like "life": To live is to age. Nonetheless, within
the medical profession and in medical research, the word age has a mysterious
meaning. Even though, by definition, the word has no pathological significance
at all, in medical usage, it has strong pathological significance: It is the myste-
rious unknown cause of all the mysterious symptoms in elderly humans that
one cannot effectively diagnose or treat. "Doctor, why can't I be helped?" "Well,
you're not getting any younger. After awhile things begin to break down. It's
more or less what you should expect at your age."
This, of course, is nonsense. Age has nothing to do with the hundreds of
problems it is blamed for. "Age" is a crypto-pathology. Behind the mystery lies
ignorance, which is, by and large, an ignorance of the somatic condition of sen-
sory-motor amnesia.
The five case histories are the prototypes of millions of case histories and of
typical symptoms that occur all over the globe every day. Over a 12-year period,
I made note of some of the complaints my clients had when they first came to
see me. All of them had a clear connection with the central muscles of the body,
36 Somatics
and all were resolved when these muscles no longer constrained the other body
areas they affected. In every instance, SMA was the single, somatic problem at
the root of the multitude of mysterious symptoms.
In addition to painful feet, toes, legs, buttocks, chests, arms, hands, backs,
necks, and jaws, my clients reported such symptoms as sciatic pains in the leg,
swollen knees, varicose veins, weak ankles that turned too easily, stiff ankles
that would not turn, leg cramps, numbness or "pins and needles" in their
hands, chronic tension headaches, ringing in the ears, eye aches, shallow
breathing, constipation, frequent urination, spasms of the urethra, inflamed
joints, and restricted movement of the head. All of their complaints were
chronic, all of them unresponsive to medical and paramedical treatments, and
all of them resolved once the SMA was cleared up.
Please note that I do not say that all of them were "cured." Curing is a medical
procedure which has no significance in respect to SMA. Curing and treating are
what is done to a passive patient-an external engineering feat that goes from
the outside to the inside. Sensory-motor remembering is an educational proce-
dure, done by an active person-an internal somatic feat that goes from inside
the brain to the muscle system.
All of the complaints mentioned above were what my clients felt and de-
scribed. It was not what their physicians and other health professionals de-
scribed. They had been diagnosed by medical specialists as having neuralgia,
scoliosis, kyphosis, lordosis, arthritis, bursitis, osteoarthritis, osteoporosis, spi-
nal stenosis, bone spurs, carpal tunnel syndrome, compressed disks, bulging
disks, slipped disks, herniated disks, degenerated disks, subluxated disks, hy-
pochondria, allergic reactions, postsurgical trauma, and, in the end, "undi-
agnosable pain."
From the medical viewpoint, the fact that the complaints, so diagnosed, per-
sisted despite medical treatment meant that they were "incurable" and therefore
the fault of old age. But, from the somatic viewpoint, this was only part one of
a two-part investigation, the second of which disclosed that sensory-motor am-
nesia-particularly of the muscles of the body's center of gravity-was the cause
of these functional problems. Such functional problems cannot be "cured" by
"treatment"; but they can be controlled, by relearning. Fortunately, that is just
what happened to thousands of people with the complaints and diagnoses listed
above.
PART 2
How Sensory-Motor
Amnesia Occurs
Chapter 6
Atrophy: The Role of
Gradual Surrender
No advice is more treacherous than this: "Now that you're getting older, you
ought to slow down a bit." This is a pathway leading directly to decrepitude.
Such advice is not only debilitating; it is also deadly.
It is part of the traditional myth of aging that increasing age should mean
decreasing physical activity. But folk wisdom can be profoundly wrong. In this
case, it helps bring on the very loss of well-being that it presumes to avoid.
The truth is very different. If you want to pin a motto on your wall, pin up
this one: "Function maintains structure." The more popular motto is, "Use it or
lose it." This advice is correct, anatomically, physiologically, and neurologically.
For example, if our bones are not regularly used to bear substantial weights and
to sustain strong forces, they become soft. If our muscles are not regularly used
in challenging and skilled activities, they become weaker and less responsive.
If our brain cells are not systematically involved in a wide variety of voluntary
activities, they deteriorate.
This softening, weakening, and deterioration of our resources takes place
gradually and insidiously-not because of aging but because of what we cease
to do as we age.
Those who believe that they should take it easy as they become older are
deluded; they are persons who are surrendering their life functions bit by bit.
For most people, the act of growing up, maturing, and settling down to adult
life is an act of decay. It is a deliberate, and usually well-calculated, act of grad-
ually giving up the functional abilities acquired during the process of growing
up.
Maturation is a long process of learning, during which a repertoire of func-
tions is built up which allows us to live life fully. But this is not what usually
happens. No sooner do we acquire our repertoire of useful functions than we
cease to use them-an instance of planned obsolescence. It is ironic that so many
people complain about the breakdown of their refrigerators and automobiles,
blaming the manufacturers for deliberately built in attrition of their products,
yet often have bodies that are breaking down from the deliberate attrition that
is built into their way of life.
39
40 Somatics
Indeed, it is part of the American Dream to "have it made," it being clearly
understood that a person who "has it made" is a person who has attained the
status of doing nothing-of being inactive. A body in a bathing suit by a swim-
ming pool, lying motionless on a chaise lounge, is the American image of "hav-
ing it made." We should not forget, however, that this is also the image of a
dead body.
To become an adult means that we no longer have to do the things we did as
kids. Kids run, but we adults walk. Kids climb, but we take the elevator. Kids
scoot under bushes, but we go around them. Kids stand on their heads, but we
sit on our bottoms. Kids roll on the ground, but we turn on the mattress. Kids
jump up and down, but we shrug our shoulders up and down. Kids laugh with
joy, but we smile with restraint. Kids are exuberant, but we are careful. Kids
want to have fun, but we want to have security.
In short, to become a successful adult means to cease acting like a kid. It is
the customary sign of adulthood to cease functioning like a young person. But
this conception of adulthood has an unavoidable result: As soon as we stop
using these functions, we lose them. And we lose them because our brain,
which is a highly responsive organ of adaptation, adjusts to this lack of activity.
If certain actions are no longer part of our behavioral inventory, our brain
crosses them off. In a word, it forgets. The practical, everyday awareness of how
these actions feel and how they are performed fades away, and SMA is the
result.
Physiological and Anatomical Research on Aging and Physical Activity
We now know it to be a fact that, as one becomes older, physical activity be-
comes more necessary, not less. In a lO-year study of 268 people over the age of
60, Palmore reported that degree and frequency of illness was related more di-
rectly to physical inactivity than to such well-publicized factors as smoking and
being overweight. 1 Those who were physically inactive were two-and-a-half
times more likely to spend at least 14 days a year bed-ridden as were those who
were physically active!
During this same la-year longitudinal study, Palmore discovered something
of equal importance: The physically inactive were four times more apt to rate
their health as poor as were those who were active. Worse, these indolent elders
were twice as likely to report failing health when they appeared for their regular
medical examination. Worse still, over 50 percent of these same inactive persons
died sooner than actuarily expected, compared to between a fourth and a third
of those who had more locomotor activities. Thus, as we reduce our sphere of
physical activities, we reduce our chances for health and longevity.
Other research studies are more specific on the effects of regular physical
activities. In Los Angeles at the Andrus Gerontology Center, DeVries reported
that a well-planned program of physical conditioning leads to improvement in
cardiovascular functioning.
2
The heart functions better, the blood pressure load
is reduced, nervous tension decreases, further normalizing blood pressure, and
Atrophy: The Role of Gradual Surrender 41
the percentage of body fat drops, reducing the statistical probability of heart
attack.
The Journal of Gerontology reported on the physiological effects of a month-
long program of endurance training conducted with a group whose average age
was 70.
3
Results: Reduction in circulatory stress, as evidenced by decreases in
work pulse, in systolic blood pressure after exercise, and in blood lactate con-
centration. Barry, Steinmetz, Page, and Rodahl, and others, who carried out this
experiment, found, at its conclusion, that the work load limit of these 70-year-
old citizens was 76 percent higher than it was a month before! Additionally, the
subjects showed improved oxygen uptake and pulmonary ventilation, as well
as improvement in their postexercise systolic blood pressure and blood lactate
level. Similar findings have been reported in many other studies published in
the Journal of Gerontology, the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, and others.
The British researcher, E. J. Bassey, states flatly that, "It is clear that training
can improve the physical condition and maximum capacities of the elderly .... "
He goes on to say that a physical training program, by itself, " . .. will bring no
lasting benefit unless it catalyses a change to a more active life style which in-
corporates an appropriate amount of spontaneous exercise."
4
This, of course,
means a more active life-style than that usually chosen by adults in their middle
years, especially following the crucial time of their retirement.
There has been, in addition to American and British research, a significant
amount of Soviet research into the effects of exercise on older persons. Soviet
scientists have found that the human organism remains highly functional and
adaptive as long as it is given suitable challenges to which it can respond.
5
When
this occurs, there are positive effects on the adrenals, blood chemistry, carbo-
hydrate metabolism, the cardiovascular system, the respiratory system, and the
nervous system.
On an anatomical level, Smith and Reddan's studies in a female nursing
home
6
have shown that regular physical exercises slowed bone loss and pro-
moted bone accretion. This is a significant finding, inasmuch as fear of fractures,
especially of the hip, normally motivates elderly females to become cautious in
their locomotor activities. Just the reverse is their best protection.
In a similar vein, Erickson has studied the relation of joint flexibility to phys-
ical activity. He found that the collagen meshwork in the connective tissues
shortens if it is not regularly stretched.
7
Again, maintaining a broad range of
physical activity prevents joint stiffness and, hence, limited movement. In sum,
and quite apart from SMA, both the function and the structure of the human
body decline unless physical activity is constantly maintained.
Neurological Research on Aging and the Brain
As the riddle of the Sphinx makes clear, it is the loss of control of physical move-
ment that inspired the myth of aging. During our middle years, we usually
observe the start of impaired motor performance, including slower movement,
decreased strength, and a loss of fine motor coordination.
42 Soma tics
For almost a century this has been explained scientifically as neurological. In
the 1890s, Hodge, a neurologist, performed neuron counts on the brains of
young and old humans. His conclusion was: "As the work of life is being done,
the cells, one by one, are worn out. A stage is reached when only enough cells
remain to barely support processes requisite for life .... "
This happens not to be true; but, unfortunately, later research did not correct
this widespread misunderstanding. One still finds statements, in college text-
books as well as in popular publications, to the effect that, soon after infancy,
the brain begins to lose its fixed supply of neurons and that this loss continues
until the end of life. Such information reinforces the myth of aging and leads us
to the melancholy conviction that each day of our lives thousands of brain cells
are flowing out of our heads as we steadily lose both our mental and our phys-
ical competence.
Eventually it was discovered that the task of counting the estimated 100 bil-
lion neurons of the brain demands a much greater scientific sophistication than
that which was available to Hodge during the 1890s. The task is so complicated
that even the most advanced microscopic and computer technology cannot solve
the puzzle.
The Aging Motor System summarizes the full body of research done on aging
and the brain. In it, the question of research reports on neuron loss is addressed
head on: "The generalization to be gleaned from this body of reports is that at
present there is no generalization about neuron loss in old age."8
Spelled out more fully by researchers Curcio, Buell, and Coleman, this means
that
As objective quantitative data accumulate at an increasingly rapid pace, it is becom-
ing clear that age-associated declines are not universal or inevitable. Some aspects
of performance do not decline; neuron loss with age is not found in all regions of
the nervous system; not all neurons atrophy; not all transmitter systems decline;
some neurological measures do not show decrements; and some degree of neu-
ronal plasticity is retained in the aged nervous system."
This statement adds credence to my own point of view.
In this same volume, Lars Larsson reviews the subject of "Aging in Mam-
malian Skeletal Muscle." He delineates three levels that should be examined for
the effects of aging on muscular function: the brain, the motoneurons that con-
duct nerve impulses from brain to muscle, and the muscle itself. To account for
the motor impairment that afflicts so many elderly persons, he concludes that
"the factors of greatest importance appear to be reduced nerve impulse activity
related to progressive disuse together with functional impairment and subse-
quent loss of motoneurones."JO What he is saying is that reduced nerve impulses
from the brain, along with an increasing disuse of muscles, results in impair-
ment of muscle function as well as of the motoneurons immediately involved.
The problem originates, thus, in an inability of the brain to send nerve impulses.
Atrophy: The Role of Gradual Surrender 43
Larsson is referring in general to what I describe specifically as the condition of
sensory-motor amnesia.
Fortunately, SMA can be corrected. The three editors of The Aging Motor Sys-
tem see three ways to prevent and treat this functional loss: by drugs, by behav-
ioral. retraining, and by preservation of physical fitness. They see some
possibilities in drug treatment that need to be explored. They also see some
behavioral training techniques as a way to relearn motor skills; but they con-
clude that, "finally, the maintenance of physical fitness through a life-style of
daily exercises may offer an inexpensive and safe method to prevent motor and
mental performance deterioration."
ll
In sum, the best of our scientific knowledge points directly to what I am sug-
gesting in this book: that many of the physical problems attributed to old age
are instead functional problems of disuse. I describe this as sensory-motor am-
nesia, the effects of which are temporary and can be prevented, or corrected, by
means of a neurologically based exercise program such as the Somatic Exercises
I present in Part 3.
Chapter 7
The Muscular Reflexes
of Stress
Hans Selye is one of the prime figures in twentieth century medical research. It
was Selye's decades of work in endocrinology that led to his formulation of the
concept of stress, and to a recognition of the fact that there are "diseases of
adaptation. "
Selye's formulation of the general adaptation syndrome (GAS) is, possibly,
the most significant single event in medicine since the discovery of the germ
theory of disease and the development of antibacterial drugs. The extraordinary
significance of Selye's research is that it introduced into medicine what we have
termed a "somatic" dimension: namely, the viewpoint that psychological events
are as important as physiological events in determining human health or illness.
The somatic viewpoint encompasses how we individually view ourselves from
the inside looking out and how, from that viewpoint, the distinction between
mind and body disappears. From inside ourselves, we are not aware of the
"body" itself but rather of the feelings and active processes of that "body."
Hans Selye's somatic viewpoint has expanded the dimensions of health re-
search by emphasizing the health importance of what we, from the inside of
ourselves, can do to reduce the effects of stress by our own attitudes and by the
way we control our lives.
1
This emphasis on self-responsiblity is a hallmark of
the somatic viewpoint.
Traditional medicine emphasizes the external viewpoint of what can be done
to the individual's body to improve health. Selye, while fully accepting this em-
phasis, expanded the dimensions of medicine to include the individual's internal
ability of self-control. The somatic viewpoint does not subtract from medicine;
it adds to it a recognition of the mind-body interaction that is involved in all
diseases of adaptation. Here is the way Selye expresses it:
Life is largely a process of adaptation to circumstances in which we exist. A peren-
nial give-and-take has been going on between living matter and its inanimate sur-
roundings, between one living being and another, ever since the dawn of life in
the prehistoric oceans. The secret of health and happiness lies in successful ad-
justment to the ever-changing conditions on this globe; the penalties for failure in
this great process of adaptation are disease and unhappiness.
2
45
46 Somatics
But, in addition to this general evolution of life,
... there is another type of evolution which takes place in every person during his
own lifetime from birth to death: this is adaptation to the stresses and strains of
everyday existence. Through the constant interplay between his mental and bodily
reactions, man has it in his power to influence this second type of evolution to a
considerable extent, especially if he understands its mechanism and has enough
will power to act according to the dictates of human intellect.
1
Selye's viewpoint admirably expresses my own perspective. In fact, his defini-
tion of stress is essential in understanding the theme of this book: "In its medical
sense, stress is essentially the rate of wear and tear in the body." Stress, in itself,
is neither good nor bad; it is "the nonspecific response of the body to any de-
mand."4 To live means that we have continuous demands made on our bodies;
thus, how we respond and adapt to these ongoing demands will determine how
well our bodies stand up to the demands of living.
But, you will notice, to talk about stress is simply to talk about the nature of
living-of how well we cope with the daily demands placed upon us. This
means that stress is part of the nature of aging: How well we respond to it
determines how we age. Selye is addressing the same general question we have
been discussing all along. Indeed, by rephrasing what we have presented up to
this point, we can say that, "In its medical sense, what we have traditionally
taken to be the effects of aging is essentially the rate of wear and tear in the
body." The so-called "diseases of aging" are, as we have maintained, largely
"diseases of adaptation." Moreover, we have the power to influence this rate of
wear and tear if we have "enough will power to act according to the dictates of
human intellect."
The research of Hans Selye succeeded in expanding the dimensions of med-
icine by showing the effects that stress can have on the endocrine system when
it adaptively responds to some demand placed upon the whole bodily system.
In his general adaptation syndrome, he describes this response as having three
stages: the alarm reaction, the stage of resistance, and the stage of exhaustion.
Almost any event can cause an alarm reaction-anything from running a mile
to going without sleep, to having a violent argument, or to visually adjusting
from the dim light of a movie house to the bright sunlight outdoors. The de-
mand placed upon the system brings about a protective adjustment; for exam-
ple, the stimulation of the adrenal gland: Its secretion of epinephrine and
norepinephrine wakes up and mobilizes the biological resources of the body to
resist the stressor. Usually, this is the limit of the stress reaction. But, if the
period of resistance goes on for too long a time, increasingly depleting the
body's resources for resistance, a stage will be reached when these resources are
exhausted. Then a genuine breakdown can occur.
The GAS is an unavoidable and normal process that has been documented
by Selye in some 30 books. Selye's research centered primarily on the glandular
The Muscular Reflexes of Stress 47
system, referring only generally to the effects of stress on the neuromuscular
system. He recognized that, when we are under stress, increased muscular ten-
sion is inevitable, and suggested various attitudes and relaxation practices that
can help to reduce it. But his research did not specify just what neuromuscular
events occur with stress.
During the 12 years of my practice as a somatic educator, I have had ample
opportunity to observe the specific effects of stress on the neuromuscular sys-
tem. My findings, which I present in the next two chapters, help to round out
Selye's initial discoveries regarding the stress response-specifically, the bio-
chemical side of stress. By looking at the stress response more closely, we shall
discover that it has a sensory-motor side as well, that is of equal importance to
the biochemical side explored by Selye.
What I have found is that the neuromuscular system has two basic responses
to stress, both of which have their focus in the middle of the human body, at its
center of gravity. These two basic responses differ from one another because
they are two very different forms of stress-what Selye would distinguish as
"distress" and "eustress."
The neuromuscular adaptation to sustained negative stress ("distress") is the
withdrawal response, which occurs primarily in the front of the body. The neu-
romuscular adaptation to sustained positive stress ("eustress") is the action re-
sponse, which occurs in the back of the body. It is easier to think of the
withdrawal response as the Red Light reflex. The action response may be
thought of as the Green Light reflex. I discuss the Red Light reflex in the follow-
ing chapter. The Green Light reflex is the subject of Chapter 9, and the trauma
reflex, which is somewhat different, is discussed in Chapter 11.
Chapter 8
The Red Light Reflex
The Abdominal Muscles and the Withdrawal Response
It is surprising that a single, lower-brain reflex could be the cause of so many of
the body changes that are associated with aging. It is also enlightening, because
it helps us toward both understanding and overcoming the myth of aging.
"What with raising three children and taking care of the house and my hus-
band, it's no wonder I have these crow's feet next to my eyes"-so says a wife.
"If you want to know what it's like, keeping up a house, a wife, and raising
three children, just look at the wrinkles on my brow. That's what worry will do
to you" -so says a husband. Both husband and wife give witness to the same
ancient reflex.
"I'm beginning to get a bump on the back of my neck, just like my aunt. Is
that what they call a dowager's hump? And my head: It's always hanging for-
ward. It looks just awful, like an old person's. Can you do anything about that?"
This is a manifestation of the same lower-brain reflex.
"I sure wish you could do something about my shoulders. My wife says they
slump. 1 used to have a fairly big chest, and now you can hardly see it anymore,
its gotten so flat." The effects of the withdrawal response over the years did
this.
"You know, I'm not even 60 yet, and already 1 stand stooped forward. The
other day 1 saw this reflection in a store window of an old man bent over like
he needed a cane. Then I realized it was me!" What he saw was a reflection of
the Red Light reflex.
"My problem is that 1 can't get my breath anymore. I used to be able to climb
the steps up to my front door and not think a thing about it. Now 1 have to stop
to catch my breath. What's happening to me? Are my lungs beginning to
shrink?" Again, this is the same reflex, so often evoked and so familiar that it
becomes an unconscious habit. Only its effects are noticed.
"I've been active all my life, and 1 used to be able to outwalk anybody. But
something's gone wrong with my thighs: They're sore all the time. And my
knees, too. They ache when 1 get up in the morning." These, too, are effects of
the withdrawal reflex.
For many decades neurobiologists have been fascinated with this human re-
flex, because it occurs throughout the entire animal kingdom. It is sometimes
49
50 Soma tics
referred to as the "startle response"; at other times it is referred to as the "escape
response," because it aids the animal in avoiding or evading a threat. It is a
primitive reflex of survival. Its action in the central nervous system is usually
mediated by "giant" nerve fibers large enough to allow the nerve impulse to
travel more quickly. It is a "rapid motor act" that is built into the circuitry of
even very simple organisms, helping them to survive by rapidly withdrawing
from danger.
When you touch a sea anemone, its circle of small tentacles quickly retracts,
drawing back from the threatening stimulus. A common earthworm exhibits an
immediate withdrawal response when its body is touched by a probe. The pesky
but clever fly will wait until you have just about reached it before abruptly with-
draws, evading your fly-swatter. Its threshold for danger is high. Fish respond
with fast get-aways, and crayfish with a sudden tail-flip response.
Figure I5a
Withdrawal Response: Side View
Figure ISb
Withdrawal Response: Frontal View
All mammals that have been studied exhibit the withdrawal response (see
Figures ISa and ISb). Even in these complex animals, the reflex is quick and
effective. And in the most complex mammal, the human being, the withdrawal
response. is amazingly quick. If a woman walking down a street hears the sud-
den explosion of a car backfiring, this is what happens: Within 14 milliseconds
the muscles of her jaw begin to contract; this is immediately followed about 20
milliseconds later by a contraction of her eyes and brow. But, before her eyes
The Red Light Reflex 51
have squeezed shut, her shoulder and neck muscles (the trapezius) have re-
ceived a neural impulse at 25 milliseconds to contract, raising her shoulders and
bringing her head forward. At 60 milliseconds, her elbows bend, and then her
hands begin to turn palms-downward. These descending neural impulses con-
tinue by contracting the abdominal muscle, which brings her trunk forward,
simultaneously pulling down her rib cage and stopping her breathing. And,
immediately after that, her knees bend and point inward, while her ankles roll
her feet inward. The muscles of the crotch tighten, and the toes lift upward.
This sums up the Red Light reflex-the body's withdrawal from danger. The
body is flexed and crouched, almost as if ready to fall and curl up in a fetal
posture.!
This cascade of neural impulses begins in the face, then goes down to the
neck, then to the arms and trunk, and, finally, to the legs and toes. Why this
sequence from the head downward? Because the impulse originates in the
lower-level brain stem and arrives at the muscles of the head region earliest,
taking time to travel down its nerve pathways to the lower parts of the body.
This withdrawal response, shared by humans with the rest of the animal
kingdom, emanates from the primitive regions of the hindbrain-to be precise,
from the reticulospinal tract originating from the ventral pontine and medullar
reticular formation.
2
Thus, the mechanism of this reflex lies deep beneath the
control of the forebrain where conscious, voluntary actions originate. Not only
is the withdrawal reflex more primitive than our voluntary actions, it is much
faster. It happens before we can consciously perceive it or inhibit it. It is our
primitive protector, whose motto is "Withdraw now, and think about it later."
Survival demands an immediate response. We do not have the luxury to reflect
at length on how dangerous the sudden threat really is.
As the Red Light reflex rapidly courses downward from head to legs, it causes
contractions in exactly the same areas that I mentioned in the beginning of the
chapter: the crow's feet and wrinkled brow, the dowager's hump and projected
head, the slumping shoulders and flat chest, the stooped trunk, the lack of
breath, and the aching knees. Because all of these are body changes associated
with aging, it is surprising that they could be caused by a single, lower-brain
reflex.
By recognizing the known and well-researched effects of the withdrawal re-
sponse, we can gain simultaneous insight into two matters of great importance:
(1) the specific responses made by our neuromuscular system to stress condi-
tions; and (2) the real cause of body changes that, traditionally, and mistakenly
have always been blamed on a fictitious disease called "aging."
Malfunctions Caused by the Withdrawal Response
The Red Light reflex is a response to distressful events. It is a protective re-
sponse to negative events that threaten us, from vague apprehensions to gnaw-
ing anxieties, to overt dangers. The withdrawal response is a basic
neuromuscular response to stress; just as Selye's general adaptation syndrome
52 Somatics
is a basic glandular response. Indeed, it is a specification of that response: that
is, a protective response to negative stressors.
For example, when worries trigger this response, the eyes and forehead con-
tract, wrinkling the skin. If we worry long enough, our skin becomes perma-
nently wrinkled. When anxieties cause the neck muscles to flex, the face is
projected forward in space, causing the muscles at the base of the neck (around
the seventh cervical vertebra) to contract mightily, in order to hold up this for-
ward-hanging burden. The more frequently this happens, the stronger and
larger the muscles and fat tissue grow around the seventh cervical vertebra, thus
creating what is called a dowager's hump.
It is the same with the shoulders, whose posterior surface is connected to the
neck by the same trapezius muscles. When distressful events cause us to worry,
they cause the reflex of lifting and rounding the shoulder blades forward. One
cannot worry without contracting the shoulders. It is impossible to say, "Oi
Veh!" without lifting the shoulders. That is why people with chronic worry often
have chronically sore shoulders and necks. If serious worries afflict a human
early enough in life, the stooped shoulders will occur early. It is a measure of
childhood anxiety to what degree a child's shoulders are slumped and neck con-
tracted. During the distressful teenage years, this posture is common.
Thus, it is not "age" that causes these bodily changes, it is distress. The more
there is of it, and the longer it lasts, the more the Red Light reflex shows its
long-term effects. It is not "age" that causes a stooped posture and shallow
breathing; it is accumulated response to negative stress. Having a family and
taking care of the kids and holding a job and paying the bills and solving the
daily problems of life are all causes of looking old and stooped, unable to climb
steps without getting breathless and hearing one's heart beat faster.
A stooped posture and shallow breathing go together. Both are caused by
contraction of the abdominal muscle. The rectus abdominis is a long, powerful
sheath of muscles that stretches from its lower attachments at the pubic bone
and groin line all the way over the front of the chest and up to the nipple line.
When it contracts, the upper part of the rib cage is pulled forward and down,
and the pubic bone is pulled forward and up. The trunk is, thereby, pulled into
the flexed curve of the fetal posture.
Contraction of the abdominal muscle not only depresses the rib cage, it de-
presses the entire contents of the abdominal cavity, creating pressure on the
viscera. This means that when the diaphragm muscle between rib cage and ab-
domen contracts during inhalation, and begins to come downward toward the
abdominal cavity, breathing is abruptly stopped. The pump like downward
movement of the diaphragm is necessary in order to create a vacuum in the
thoracic cavity to draw in air. But if the impacted viscera inhibit this downward
movement, no vacuum is created, and breathing is insufficient.
As we come to understand how the muscular contractions of the Red Light
reflex cause bodily malfunctions, we acquire a different viewpoint on some of
The Red Light Reflex 53
the common "maladies of old age." Not only does this abdominal contraction
cause shallow breathing, it creates other problems as well. The pressure on the
viscera affects all visceral functions. For example, when liquid pressure rises in
the bladder, the urethra automatically contracts, giving us the urgent sense of
needing to urinate. But when the abdominal muscle becomes contracted, it
squeezes the bladder, raising its internal pressure, and giving the false sense of
a full bladder. "Frequent urination" is a common complaint of older humans. It
is usually the result of an habituated Red Light reflex. This same abdominal
contraction affects digestion and elimination. Constipation and a chronically
contracted stomach muscle often go together.
These are secondary effects of the withdrawal response. If one does not un-
derstand how they can cause basic malfunctions of the respiratory and digestive
systems, the mistake is easily made that these are "medical problems" -indi-
cating breakdown and degeneration of the internal organs. This is not necessar-
ily the case. That is why these malfunctions may disappear when one learns to
control the neuromuscular reflex creating them.
Aching legs and knees are typical of elderly persons. Careful observation re-
veals that these old persons have begun to walk with their knees slightly bent,
so that the weight-bearing function of a straight knee is lost. If the thigh muscles
are constantly engaged in weight support during waking, they will become
chronically fatigued and sore. In addition, the areas under the kneecap and be-
hind the knee joint, where the thigh tendons cross over the knee to attach to
the lower leg, will become sore and sometimes inflamed. Arthroscopic surgery
is not a likely solution. The solution, rather, lies in overcoming the Red Light
reflex, in order to walk once again with the full support of a vertical leg.
There are many other malfunctions that result when the body is habitually
contracted in the withdrawal response. These malfunctions are not typical med-
ical diseases but something else: what Hans Selye termed "diseases of adapta-
tion."3 I agree with Selye. Such diseases would not occur if one had the ability
to adapt to these stresses by the intelligent use of Somatic Exercises. The effect
is that our muscles become free of the control of lower-brain reflexes and are
returned to our voluntary control.
How the Withdrawal Response Becomes Habituated in Our Bodies
Habituation is the simplest form of learning. It occurs through the constant rep-
etition of a response. When the same bodily response occurs over and over
again, its pattern is gradually "learned" at an unconscious level. Habituation is
a slow, relentless adaptive act, which ingrains itself into the functional patterns
of the central nervous system.
When you see someone exhibit any or all of the postural distortions of the
withdrawal response, you are looking at a posture that has been imprinted in
the neuromuscular system by habituation. A person standing in the stooped
54 Soma tics
posture of old age has acquired a "habit" of doing so. He or she has not "broken
down," or degenerated, in bodily structure. Instead, the person has become
maladapted in his or her neuromuscular habits. It is crucial to understand this,
because, if the person's bodily structure has really finally broken down, there is
little more we can do than to give him or her a cane or some form of brace. But
if the person's stooped posture-and all the many ailments that can go with it-
is a bad habit learned by dint of chance repetition, then it can be corrected.
Voluntary muscular control, once possessed but momentarily quite forgotten,
can be relearned.
A considerable amount of research has been done on the habituation of mam-
mals to the withdrawal response. Because the central nervous system of all
mammals, including human beings, is the same, this research is highly reveal-
ing. Results show just how the Red Light reflex stamps its imprint on human
posture.
As a group, mammals are very different from other animals in the way their
startle reflex functions. In lower animals, this reflex is all-or-nothing-it has no
gradations. In humans and other mammals, however, the startle reflex is subject
to levels of response from low all the way up to very high. This graded ampli-
tude of response can be studied and calibrated exactly by measuring the degrees
of muscle contractions that occur during startle. They depend on a number of
factors, all of which are relevant to human beings. First of all, the degree of
response depends on the other levels of the brain that overlie the brain stem
and that can modulate its initial responses. A prime influence on the startle
response is expectation. Because expectation is such an important factor, I de-
vote an entire chapter to it later on. Expectation can either dampen or heighten
the withdrawal response. For example, if laboratory animals are made to fear
that something harmful might happen, their startle reaction is sharply higher
when it happens than it usually is when they do not have this fear.
This phenomenon is universally recognized among humans. When children
are told a scary story, and suspense builds, and someone comes up behind them
and shouts "Boo!" -they may jump right out of their shoes. All theater and
movie directors know that creating a sense of suspenseful expectation is how to
startle the audience the most. After sufficient buildup, the stimulus is suddenly
introduced, and the muscles of the audience contract. Everyone, because their
withdrawal reflex has contracted the abdomen, pushing out the air, suddenly
exclaims-"Oh!"
In contrast to this high-level startle response, humans can also undergo the
same reaction at low levels-so low that the startle response can be picked up
only by sensitive electrodes measuring the electrical activity of muscular con-
traction (electromyograms, EMG). In some fascinating research reported from
Canada, it was found that EMG tension rose when a person was engaged in
any challenging task involving fear of failure. When the task was completed,
EMG tension fell back to normal levels.
4
In one experiment, EMG tension was
The Red Light Reflex 55
recorded from the muscles of the forehead, which are very sensitive to the Red
Light reflex. At the same time the subjects listened to a suspenseful detective
story. As the story continued, the rise in muscular tension continued, making it
clear to the researchers that feelings of suspense are directly tied to the feeling
of muscular tension. When the story reached its climax, and the dangerous sit-
uation was dispelled, the tension that had been slowly building up dissolved
abruptly, returning to its original level.
But there were some important exceptions. When the story was interrupted
in the middle, the accumulated muscle tension remained, even hours later. The
Canadian researchers discovered this phenomenon to be a general human trait:
Tension built up during any human task involving fear of failure will not drop
at its completion if there is no sense of completion. This concept can be quite
subtle. If, at the end of a task, laboratory subjects are praised by the experimen-
ter for their performance, their muscular tension drops. But if they are criticized,
muscle tension remains. This is called "residual tension."s
According to research results from Canada, it is clear that the human neuro-
muscular system has the ability to adapt to a higher level of tension in these
muscles, triggered by the withdrawal response. It is obvious that, if suspense
and fear preexist, the startle response is triggered more easily. In one Canadian
experiment, highly anxious patients were compared to normal persons in their
startle response to a sudden loud noise. Even before the experiment, the EMG
showed the muscles of the anxious patients to be more contracted than those of
the calmer control group. When the startling sound was made, the difference
between the two groups of subjects was not so much in their immediate reac-
tion. It became clear in what happened afterward. The normal persons' muscles
returned to their original state within half a second after the initial abrupt sound.
The anxious persons' muscle tension not only remained high but continued to
rise during the test. 6
Unfortunately, to live in an "advanced society" is to live in a society that is
rife with distress. Anxiety is the very currency of exchange in an industrial so-
ciety. Everyone lives with suspenseful stories that are not completed. Everyone
lives with fears that are overcome only to be replaced by new fears. Everyone
has anxiety: anxiety over one's life, over one's family, over one's financial secu-
rity, over one's place in the community, over the safety of one's house, over
one's own safety in the streets, over the safety of the country, over the safety of
the human race. And our jobs, and customers, and the banks, and the loan
companies, and the Internal Revenue Service, and the newspapers, and the tele-
vision news programs all feed this anxiety, so that it accumulates in our lives,
layer upon layer, creating ever rising levels of habitual muscular tension in our
jaws, eyes, brows, necks, shoulders, arms, chests, bellies, and legs.
This same abdominal contraction creates two other problems, which lie mid-
way along a continuum from traditional psychological to physiological prob-
lems: namely, impotence and hemorrhoids. The chronic contraction, which
56 Soma tics
pulls the chest wall downward toward the groin and pubic bone, does not stop
at that point, but tautens all of the muscles lying at the bottom of the pelvis
between the pubic bone and the coccyx, that is, the muscular sling called the
perineum or "crotch." The Red Light reflex causes contraction in the perineal
muscles through synergistic action. Contraction also occurs because of the in-
creased pressure in the abdominal cavity, which causes the sphincter muscles
of the urethra and the anus to reflexly contract. This chronic tightening around
the blood vessels leading to the penis and clitoris prevents full blood flow and
full innervation, thus preventing tumescence.
Impotence is common among persons chronically contracted in the
abdominal-perineal area. And these same persons are, predictably, shallow
breathers subject to anxiety feelings. The problem would seem to be a traditional
psychological one, but it is not. It is more often a reflexive muscular problem in
which control has been lost. Sensory-motor amnesia commonly underlies
chronic impotence, and it is generally seen in older persons. But it is a habit,
not a degeneration of "old age." And habits can be broken.
Because chronic abdominal-perineal contraction causes the anus to contract,
its constant tension will not allow it to relax during defecation. This creates
intolerable pressure in the anal sphincter, brutalizing the blood vessels and caus-
ing hemorrhoids. The medical advice not to "strain at the stool" is relevant but
not particularly helpful, because it is impossible to defecate without applying
greater internal abdominal pressure. The solution is clear: relief of the anal/peri-
neal contraction, which, in effect, means relief from the Red Light reflex. One
cannot relieve only one part of the reflex; one must relieve it all. Cutting, stretch-
ing, or chemically treating the anus will not solve the problem, because the
problem is functional, not structural. The anal contraction is not the specific
cause of hemorrhoids; rather, it is the specific effect of the Red Light reflex.
Relief from the control of the Red Light reflex not only relieves the anal contrac-
tion but also enhances potency, deepens breathing, raises the chest wall, en-
hances heart function, and much more.
Effects of the Withdrawal Response on Breathing and Heart Functions
As noted earlier, the attention given to the effects of stress has been immense,
but it has failed to focus on the role played by the neuromuscular system. The
withdrawal response is a major muscular reaction to negative stress, and a fun-
damental feature of this reaction is the depression of breathing. Cardiovascular
disease is a paramount health problem in contemporary society. So it is extraor-
dinary that, in the research on stress and heart function, there is almost no
attention paid to breathing.
7
Respiration is considered either unimportant or a
minor variable in this research. This is profoundly disappointing, because, in a
sense, the heart and lungs are the same organ.
The Red Light Reflex 57
Venous blood entering the right chambers of the heart flows directly through
the filtering and oxygenating tissues of the lungs before entering the heart's left
chambers. The right side of the heart is linked to the left side via its passages
through the pulmonary vessels. The effects of respiration on heart function are
obvious: One cannot even cough, sigh, gasp, or hold one's breath without caus-
ing an immediate change in coronary activities. But these effects have been ig-
nored in scientific research. If we were to search for a reason for this, we might
first look at the ignorance of the relation between stress and neuromuscular
responses among scientific researchers. If Selye and other more recent research-
ers had known about it, more attention would have been paid to it later on, just
as a matter of course.
People who do not fall under the sway of the Red Light reflex have a relatively
uninhibited abdominal muscle. They are capable of diaphragmatic breathing,
with the belly expanding to the front and sides during inhalation. This type of
deep breathing has the following effects on cardiac function:
1. decreased heart rate
2. decreased cardiac output
3. reduced peripheral systolic blood pressure
4. regulation of the cardiovascular system by parasympathetic functions of
the autonomic nervous system
5. regulation of the heartbeat by the ebb and flow of respiratory sinus
arrhythmia
8
Number 5 is the most universally recognized effect of respiration on cardiovas-
cular function. Respiratory sinus arrhythmia refers to the way in which heart
rate varies with the phase of respiration: The heart rate accelerates during the
inspiratory phase, then decelerates during the expiratory phase. This alternation
is a sign of how the parasympathetic branch of the autonomic nervous system
dominates the stressed sympathetic branch, which governs the flight-or-fight
response. The respiratory rate associated with this up-and-down rhythm is in
the range of six breathing cycles a minute.
The five effects listed above characterize the unstressed cardiovascular func-
tions that usually prevail during uninhibited diaphragmatic breathing. The re-
spiratory sinus arrhythmia, with its rising and falling pressure, and its variable
rate of flow, has the effect of massaging and buffing the vascular walls, which
are flushed smooth by the pulsating pressure. The vascular canals tend, then,
to remain supple.
The presence of respiratory sinus arrhythmia is a sign of coronary health; its
absence is clinical evidence of a higher probability of coronary disease. It is
58 Somatics
known to be absent during sickness; moreover, we should not be surprised to
discover that this healthy link between breathing and heart function usually
diminishes with increasing age.
What takes its place? A steadier, nonvariable rate of heartbeat. And what else
happens? The breathing rate is more rapid. And what psychophysiological state
directly relates to this unhealthy change? Stress and the shallow breathing that
occurs when the abdominal muscle tenses with the withdrawal response. As
this response is repeated and its habituated effects accumulate during aging,
breathing becomes shallower and more rapid. This is called hyperventilation.
A research study was carried out with 153 heart attack patients in the coro-
nary care unit of a Minneapolis-St. Paul hospital.
9
These patients were examined
to determine whether they were abdominal diaphragmatic breathers or thoracic
breathers, whose tight abdominal muscles forced them into the labored chest-
lifting characteristic of shallow breathers. The results of the survey were dev-
astatingly clear: Every single one of the 153 patients examined were thoracic breathers!
Hyperventilation is a pattern of respiratory activity characterized by an in-
creased ventilatory response. It is a condition that goes hand in hand with in-
creased incidence of chest pains, heart palpitations, and the arterial narrowing
of ischemia. It describes a Type A behavior characteristic seen in persons who
are under increased risk of coronary heart disease.1O It also seems to be directly
linked to "essential" hypertension, that is, hypertension of no known cause. Of
patients clinically diagnosed as hypertensive, from 80 to 95 percent show no
known cause for their disease-such as kidney malfunction. 11
However, given the evidence, we can surmise that there is indeed a cause,
albeit a hidden one, of hyperventilation, one that has been neither particularly
noticed nor investigated: the Red Light reflex, whose activation is endemic to
industrial societies, and whose habituation causes the shallow thoracic breath-
ing of hyperventilation. Hyperventilation has the following known effects on
the heart:
1. increased heart rate
2. increased cardiac output
3. suppression of respiratory sinus arrhythmia and its replacement with a
nonvarying heart rate
4. loss of parasympathetic control over cardiac functions and its replacement
by sympathetic nervous functions
5. lowering of CO
2
arterial pressure and alteration of Ph, constricting both
cerebral and skin blood vessels.
The two medical researchers who have explored these matters in the most thor-
ough manner are Defares and Grossman. Their resume of the scientific literature
touching upon this crucial topic concludes with this statement:
The Red Light Reflex 59
Our analysis suggested some interesting possibilities for interventional strategies
to reduce risk among Type A individuals. A breathing therapy oriented toward
slowing down the respiratory pattern and increasing the depth of respiration might
prove an effective means of treatment .... it is possible to alter the breathing
pattern in a relatively stable manner. Such therapies might simultaneously reduce
both psychological and coronary risk. 12
The Somatic Exercises devised to counteract the effects of the Red Light reflex
are just "such therapies." They enable us to remember what it feels like not to
be anxious, and to breathe once again like healthy human beings are meant to
breathe.
Chapter 9
The Green Light Reflex
The Back Muscles and the Action Response
People are always amazed to discover that they are doing things they are un-
aware of. This is because adults proudly hold on to the illusion that they are
always conscious of what they are doing. For not to be conscious of what one is
doing strikes one as a sign of incompetence, even irresponsibility. Nevertheless,
these acts that we are oblivious of have major consequences in our lives. One
of them, we now know, is the withdrawal response, when our abdomen, shoul-
ders, and neck cringe in apprehension-the Red Light reflex. There is another
response which also occurs constantly, but this time when we feel called upon,
not to withdraw, but to act: the Green Light reflex.
The Green Light reflex could almost be thought of as necessary to industrial
society, for to create an industrial economy, this reflex must be triggered con-
stantly throughout the entire population. It is just as much a part of twentieth-
century society as alarm clocks, calendars, coffee, quotas, sales commissions,
and deadlines-each of which acts as a spur to this deeply embedded reflex.
In our society, 80 percent of the adult population suffer back pain. Appar-
ently, the progress of technology is based on progressively deteriorating backs.
This is ironic, because, in our contemporary technological society, the reward
for escaping from back-breaking manual labor should be freedom from such
physical pain. Compounding the irony, twentieth-century medicine has been
spectacularly successful in extending our longevity to the limit our genes will
allow. At the same time, however, it has been spectacularly unsuccessful in com-
bating--even understanding-the epidemic we now see of chronic pain in the
skull, neck, shoulders, back, and buttocks of the entire adult population. As
Rene Caillet, a well-known specialist in medical rehabilitation, observes, "low
back pain remains an enigma of modern society and a great dilemma for the
medical profession."1 It is the most common disorder for which people seek
medical help. Moreover, it is the most common cause of worker absenteeism in
industrial societies.
2
It is the general disorder for which the largest amount of
money is spent on insurance and pharmaceutical and medical services-in the
billions.
How can anything so painful, so epidemic, so socially detrimental, and so
expensive be so little understood and so poorly coped with? How can medical
61
62 Somatics
researchers and practicing physicians, who study and treat back pain, be so
unfortunate as to have the same pains in their backs? As a medical enigma, it is
a cause of universal embarrassment.
The answer to this question touches upon something we have just men-
tioned: We constantly do things that have major consequences in our lives, yet
we are quite oblivious to the fact that we are doing them. This is because, ob-
viously, we cannot be aware of bodily events that are occurring unconsciously.
What is more, we and our business leaders, social planners, and medical re-
searchers-would be amazed to learn that we unconsciously cause our own
pain. Not to be conscious of self-inflicted suffering may seem like a sign of in-
competence and irresponsiblity, but the problem goes deeper than that.
We have not solved this problem, because we have not-until now-under-
stood it. And we have not understood it, because the answer has been hidden
from us, as it were, in the recesses of our consciousness; or, to be more precise,
beneath the conscious control of the cerebral cortex, wherein voluntary move-
ments originate. It lies hidden within the lower regions of the brain in a reflex
that is so familiar, so unconscious, and so human that it is as invisible to us and
yet ever present as the air we breathe. It is a reflex that is very specific in its
function: It readies us for action. And, because we live in a world where pro-
grams of reliable and precisely scheduled actions are the necessary oil of the
wheels of commerce, this reflex of ours is constantly being triggered until it has
become habituated as part of our bodily functioning.
Without understanding the reflexive nature of these universal back disorders,
we see this epidemic phenomenon as a scientific enigma. Caillet comments:
An enigma remains in that there is no universality or standardization of low back
pain disorders. The term "syndrome" must remain in today's terminology without
clarification or universal understanding. Thus low back pain remains a symptom
of vague etiology. Numerous terms prevail in the literature along with nonspecific
mechanisms and, therefore, nonspecific treatment regimes. Terms such as lumbo-
sacral strain, unstable back, lumbar discogenic disease, facet syndrome, pyriformis
syndrome, iliolumbar ligamentous strain, quadratus lumbar pain, myofascitis, spi-
nal stenosis, degenerative disc disease, latissimus dorsi syndrome, abnormal trans-
foraminalligaments, multifidus triangle syndrome, and a great many more enjoy
current vogue.
Each diagnosis is evaluated and treated with varying success. Treatment can
include epidural steroid injection, manipulation, rhizotomy, electrocautery, chem-
ical therapy, and facet joint injection, in addition to the time-honored standards of
rest, posture training, traction, medication, and systematic exercise.
3
In other words, medical confusion: shooting in all directions because one
doesn't know what to aim at.
When health authorities display such confusion in face of a health problem
affecting the majority of the population, they further compound the embarrass-
ment when they attempt to explain away the problem. For a long time the med-
ical world has supported the myth that back disorders are natural and inevitable.
The Green Light Reflex 63
This absurd yet widely spread unscientific notion is pithily summed up by Leon
Root, M.D.: "What we can say without dispute is that the change in man from
quadraped to biped, and the accompanying change in the structure of his back,
is the main, if not exclusive, reason for the prevalence of low back pain among
human beings."4 Dr. Root pronounces such nonsense without fear of dispute.
This is because, in the face of confusion, one must at least blame the problem
on something-despite all that we know about mutation and natural selection
and the enormous evolutionary advantage of the vertical human posture. And
we would be wise not to lay the blame on God, or on evolution-neither is
known for making mistakes in design. The human spinal column is a marvelous
structure. It is designed so that its center of gravity is as high as possible, in
order to allow for maximum mobility with the least expenditure of energy pos-
sible. Moreover, a vertical spinal column allows humans to walk, a feature that
made possible the evolution of the unique human hand and brain.
It's easy to see that the myth about back disorders follows the same mistaken
line of reasoning as does the myth about aging: Somehow, an "inevitable" struc-
tural breakdown is taking place. Both are false. The reason for the prevalence of
back disorders is a breakdown not in the structure but in the function of the
back. This is a crucial point. A broken structure cannot be made new again, but
a disordered function can; moreover, it can even be improved.
The Landau Reaction and the Responsible Adult
In the first year of life an adventure is taking place. It is the discovery of the
muscles of the back. And the most exciting moment of this adventure is the
discovery of the Green Light reflex. When the Green Light reflex first springs
into action, the tiny human is thrilled by the sensation of moving itself forward
through space. This sensation, and the excitement of discovery that follows,
continues throughout the entire span of human life.
At birth the infant is a helpless, cuddly mass of frontal flexing movements,
which enable it to cling to the body of its mother. It cannot lift its head, arch its
back, or support its trunk in sitting. Its back muscles are inoperative. During
the first weeks, then, the human baby is one-sided: The muscles in the front of
its body are highly active; the muscles in the back are highly inactive-they are,
as it were, still asleep.
But not for long. Soon, by the third month, the baby does something astound-
ing. Its little body begins to lift up its enormous head, as if this were the most
important thing in the world. It is. The baby, when lying prone, is lifting its
head so that its face will be vertical and its mouth horizontal. This allows the
baby to learn two wonderful things: a sense of balance in the head and a sense
of the horizon through the eyes. These are important, moreover, for reasons
that are profoundly human. When the small head lifts and learns to level itself
with the earth, the infant is teaching him or herself the first elements of the
64 Somatics
functions of standing and walking. These functions, genetically programmed,
are thereafter pursued with great appetite.
Discovering how to lift and balance the head only whets the appetite for more
adventure. The infant is now able to contract the muscles behind the neck but
as yet is unable to contract those farther down the posterior of the body. Impa-
tient wrigglings combine with the impatient unfolding of various genetic traits
to bring the child to a triumphant achievement at about five months or so: He
or she begins to arch the back. But that is not all. At the same time the baby
learns to lift and straighten his or her arms and legs.
At this stage, five to six months, a new gravitational response has sprung
into being: the Landau reaction (see Figure 16a). By holding the infant with one
hand beneath its thorax and lifting it, not only does its head lift but-for the
first time-its back arches and its legs extend. The muscles necessary for stand-
ing and walking come to life. This is the Landau reaction. It is a crucial stage of
development for the young human. If it is absent at six months (see Figure 16b),
it is a sign that something may be seriously wrong-for example, cerebral palsy.
But if development is normal, from six months on, the human infant can per-
form a swimming movement on its stomach while lifting its head and moving
its arms and legs. This is because it can now arch the powerful muscles of the
lower back.
Figure 16a Figure 16b
The Landau Reaction Absence of the Landau Reaction
The Landau reaction means that the infant can now do something that is even
more thrilling than "swimming." When it arches its back, straightening out its
bent knees, it can push against the floor and thrust its head forward: in other
words, it can now move itself through space! This is the full discovery of the
Green Light reflex. Up until this point the infant more resembled a plant, rooted
in one spot. But now the fledgling human being can not only move forward
toward a goal but can even choose the goal, busily activating the back muscles
and extending the legs in the newfound thrill of locomotion.
It is the contraction of the lower back muscles that inaugurates the Landau
reaction. When the lumbar muscles connecting the back of the pelvis to the
vertebrae contract, the infant has two simultaneous sensations: going up, and
going forward. It is a delicious feeling. But this lumbar contraction is accompa-
nied by the synergistic tensing of the muscles of the neck, shoulder, buttocks,
The Green Light Reflex 65
and thighs. They, too, are part of the Landau reaction and are essential for the
erect carriage of the body in standing and walking.
The Green Light reflex is the opposite of the Red Light reflex, as both a mus-
cular activity and an adaptational function. The Red Light reflex contracts the
anterior flexor muscles, curling the body forward; the Green Light reflex con-
tracts the posterior extensor muscles, lifting and arching the back in the opposite
direction. The adaptational function of the Red Light reflex is protective; it is a
withdrawal from the world. The Green Light reflex is assertive; its function is
action, and it too is adaptational. One makes us stop, the other makes us go.
Thus, they are in balance, and are both necessary for our survival. They are
equally necessary to our sense of well-being.
The activation of both these reflexes requires an expenditure of energy. Re-
membering Selye's statement, that stress is in response to good things as well
as bad, we can say that both reflexes are stressful. If the Red Light reflex is
negative distress, the Green Light reflex is positive, what Selye called eustress.
The action response is, therefore, a positive form of energy expenditure.
From the sixth month onward, the Landau reaction grows stronger and
stronger. Soon the child learns to turn over back to front and front to back. A
baby girl can sit balanced at eight months and has already started to pull herself
up to a standing position. By nine months, she can crawl on her hands and
knees. Before long she is moving about on her hands and feet. By 10 months
she can pivot and turn her body and walk holding on to furniture. Not long
after that she is walking by herself. As soon as she does this, she wants to run!
The world is now open to her, and the initial thrill of locomotion has expanded
into an adventure of constant exploration and discovery.
From infancy through childhood and on through adolescence the young hu-
man is enormously active. The action response is triggered over and again as
youngsters propel themselves into the world around them. The Green Light
reflex, centered in the lower back, unconsciously precedes and prepares her for
every positive action. Children are motivated to explore. Their activity is spon-
taneous and usually joyful. But as they grow, they begin to learn another reason
for action: responsibility. They learn that there are some things they "have to
do." They have to do their homework. They have to do their chores. They have
to take baths, and they have to go to school. They have to perform more and
more actions they are not spontaneously motivated to perform. They are learn-
ing what it means to become responsible adults.
Adults must make a living and be able to take care of themselves-whether
they want to or not. The Green Light reflex is still being triggered, but the thrill
is fast disappearing. The muscles of the back, now totally mastered, are being
activated increasingly toward the responsibilities of life. The more responsible
one is, the more often the back muscles are triggered.
We must recognize that the stressful aspects of aging begin early in life, usu-
ally in adolescence. The role of the adult differs among different cultures; some
are more stressful than others. Within the industrial societies of the twentieth
66 Somatics
century, adulthood is highly stressful. Clocks, calendars, quotas, sales commis-
sions, and multiple cups of coffee are all integral to the adult role. The general
effect is that a great deal of stress is engendered. The specific effect is the habit-
ual contraction of the muscles of the back.
In our society, most people begin to "get old" early in life. Our technology
lets us live a long life, but it also condemns us to live out those years in discom-
fort and fatigue. An industrial society is fueled by the energy of the Green Light
reflex, which is triggered incessantly. This relentless repetition guarantees that
the muscular contractions of the reflex will be constant and habitual. The action
response is so steady that, eventually, we cease to notice it. It becomes auto-
matic, fading into oblivion. This is sensory-motor amnesia, and once it takes
over we can no longer control the Green Light reflex. All we feel is fatigue,
soreness, and pain-in the back of our heads, in our necks, our shoulders, up-
per back, lower back, and buttocks.
Chapter 10
The Sum of
Neuromuscular Stress:
The Senile Posture
and the "Dark Vise"
Our examination of the muscular reflex patterns incurred by stress has produced
a fundamental insight: There are two major reflexes triggered by stress. To-
gether, they account for a major portion of the physiological malfunctions that
typically occur as humans age.
The Red Light reflex and the Green Light reflex (see Figures 17 and 18) are,
as basic adaptive reflexes, deeply inscribed in our central nervous system. A
correct appreciation of the roles of these two major reflex patterns gives a more
complete understanding of the stress response initially developed by Hans
Selye. In so doing, it allows us to understand why the quality of what happens
to us during the years of our life is infinitely more crucial to our health and
happiness than the quantity of how many years we have lived our lives.
These two adaptive reflexes are essential to our survival as a species and as
individuals. They serve, respectively, to protect us from danger in the world,
and to move us toward the opportunities of the world. They are as necessary to
our lives as the air we breathe and the food we eat.
The typical problems that occur during human aging are due to the combined
effect of the withdrawal response and the action response. In comparing these
two muscular responses (see Figures 17 and 18), you will see that they oppose
each other, pulling in opposite directions to serve the opposite functions of pro-
tection and mobility. They are total somatic responses; that is, not only do they
involve the entire musculature from head to toe, but also engage the entire cen-
tral nervous system in a specific orientation of either negative withdrawal or
positive action. If we view it objectively, we see only the movement of muscu-
lature; but more is happening subjectively: A specific feeling and set of sensa-
tions accompany this muscular movement.
When either of these opposing reflexes occurs, it affects the body's entire
musculature. Almost every muscle has an opposite muscle that counterbalances
67
68 Somatics
it. Each agonist has an antagonist, so that, for example, when we contract our
biceps to flex our arm, the triceps extensor muscle, its antagonist, automatically
relaxes. Thus, in the Red Light reflex, the front half of the body's musculature
contracts, while its antagonist, the back half, relaxes and lengthens. This means
that all of the muscles in the whole body-all agonists and antagonists-are
simultaneously involved.
Figure 17 The Red Light Reflex
From head to toe, the Red Light refl ex involves
the following movements: closing eyes, tensing
jaw and face, pulling forward of neck, lifting of
shoulders, flexing elbows, clenching fists, flat-
tening chest, tightening abdominal muscle,
contracting diaphragm and holding breath,
contracting perineum (including sphincters of
anus and urethra), contracting gluteus mini-
mus muscles to rotate thighs inward (feet are
pigeon-toed), adduction of thighs, contraction
of hamstrings to bend knees, flexing and supi-
nation of feet (each foot lifts and inverts, tilting
up arch). The sensory feedback of all these
movements constitutes the subjective feeling of
the Red Light reflex: fear.
Figure 18 The Green Light Reflex
From head to toe, the Green Light reflex in-
volves the following movements: opening
eyes, jaw and face, pulling backward of neck,
pulling downward of shoulders, extending el-
bows, opening hands, lifting chest, lengthen-
ing abdominal muscle, relaxing diaphragm and
freeing breathing, relaxing anal and urethral
sphincters in the perineum, contracting gluteus
maximus muscles to extend thighs, contraction
of gluteus medius muscles to rotate thighs out-
ward (feet are ducklike), abduction of thighs,
contraction of thigh extensors to straighten
knee to hyper-extension, extension and prona-
tion of feet . The sensory feedback of all these
movements constitutes the subjective feeling of
the Green Light reflex: effort.
The Sum of Neuromuscular Stress: The Senile Posture and the "Dark Vise" 69
But this ideal seesaw balance between agonistic contraction and antagonistic
relaxation is not what usually develops as we age. As the young human ma-
tures, various threatening and inviting situations will trigger the Red Light and
Green Light reflexes many times. As these repetitions accumulate, each reflex
pattern gradually becomes habitual. At first, it's only to a small degree, but, if
frequency and intensity increase, the contractions become well established.
Gradually, the Red Light and Green Light reflexes interfere with one another.
When one is partially contracted, the other cannot contract fully.
This is the sum of neuromuscular stress, a state of muscular immobility
caused by the gradual buildup of chronically opposing contractions.
The senile posture in Figure 19c is the summation of the two opposing re-
flexes (Figures 19a and 19b). It is a very familiar posture, seen in millions of aged
bodies, and it clearly shows how the two reciprocal reflexes habituate into a
tense compromise between the two patterns. The powerful contraction of the
spinal muscles in the Green Light reflex continues its pulling of the lower back
and neck into a curve. But the equally powerful pull of the abdominal and shoul-
der contractions in the Red Light reflex tilts the entire trunk forward, rounding
the back and shoulders and projecting the head forward.
Figure 19a
Red Light Reflex
Figure 19b
Green Light Reflex
Figure 19c
Senile Posture
70 Somatics
All three postures are shown in their extreme form, so we can clearly recog-
nize them. In reality, however, because the human body is so variable, these
postures occur in numerous combinations. Sometimes the Red Light reflex is
much more dominant, creating a far more stooped posture of senility. Or the
Green Light reflex may dominate, exaggerating the curves of the lower back, rib
cage, and neck. Whatever the combination, the competition between the two
reflexes gradually distorts the body in the direction of the senile posture. Al-
though this occurs as the human being typically ages, it is the sum of habitual
responses to neuromuscular stress that is the cause of the pathologies discussed
in the following paragraphs.
Figure 20a
Senile Posture
with Dominance of the
Red Light Reflex
Figure 20b
Senile Posture
with Dominance of the
Green Light Reflex
1. Stiff and limited movements. As the Red Light and Green Light reflexes close
in on one another, the human skeleton becomes imprisoned within its own mus-
culature. As noted earlier, it is the muscles around the body's center of gravity
that are the central agents of both reflexes. As they simultaneously pull the
pelvis and hips up toward the trunk, yet pull the trunk and shoulder girdle
down toward the pelvis, all movements become limited. The free rotational
movement between the pelvis and the trunk is restricted. This automatically
The Sum of Neuromuscular Stress: The Senile Posture and the "Dark Vise" 71
restricts walking. The pelvis doesn't swing, and the arms lose their counter-
swing to pelvic rotation. Rather than the right arm coming forward with the left
leg (Figure 21a), it begins to come forward with the right leg. The trunk has
become rigid, like a single block (Figure 21b) .
Figure 21a
Walking with Counterswing
Figure 21b
Walking with Rigid Trunk
Both the arms above the trunk and the legs below the pelvis are similarly
restricted, as is the head. As the senile posture develops, it becomes impossible
to turn the head all the way around, for example, to look behind you when you
try to park the car. The shoulder girdle is pulled downward, preventing the arms
from reaching and rotating. Women have trouble putting on their brassieres,
and golfers have trouble following through with a full swing. It becomes difficult
to turn the knees in and out in free rotation. Dancing is too much of an effort.
It's hard to maintain balance, and a fear of falling develops, which, in turn,
causes people to become more cautious and stiff in their movement.
2. Chronic pain. The chronically stiff contraction of the body's musculature
causes a chronic ache in these same muscles. They become sore, sometimes
genuinely painful. Because the early Landau reaction is being constantly trig-
gered in the Green Light reflex, the discomfort in the muscles in the lower back
and pelvic region will range from a dim ache to a lively pain, depending upon
72 Somatics
the degree of stressful activity. Moreover, the restrictions of the shoulder and
hip joints will cause varying degrees of discomfort, depending upon the kind of
habitual activities engaged in. Typists, for example, will have sore shoulders and
necks; postal workers will have sore buttocks and hips. When the senile posture
is well advanced, and the central body has become quite rigid, pain will begin
in the extremities. It is this pain-for example, in the elbows and hands, or in
the knees and feet-that physicians frequently mistake for arthritis, pinched
nerves, carpal tunnel syndrome, and so on.
3. Chronic fatigue. Inasmuch as the overlapping contractions of two reflexes
simultaneously activate all of the body's muscle system, the result is an enor-
mous expenditure of energy. One of the most common complaints of elderly
humans is that they are always tired. "Please, can you do something to give me
more energy?" is a plea I have heard hundreds of times. But these people do
not lack energy. That is not their problem. Their problem is that, involuntarily
and unconsciously, they are expending large amounts of energy constantly.
These chronic contractions continue unabated when they are lying down, even
during sleep. When they get up in the morning, they are dismayed to discover
that not only do their muscles ache but they are tired as well. Some become so
fatigued that they need to rest within an hour or two after rising.
Sometimes the subjective feeling is not of fatigue but of weakness. Frequently
I read medical reports that state that the muscles of an elderly patient have
become "weak." This is usually incorrect. If doctors would trouble to feel the
affected muscles, they would discover that they are rigidly held in a tonic, in-
voluntary contraction. They are, in fact, not weak, but strong, from their con-
stant contraction. Often they become quite large and powerful from their
chronic pulling.
4. Chronic shallow breathing. The senile posture, by combining the contractions
of the withdrawal and action responses, pulls down the entire rib cage, both
front and back, immobilizing the chest. We have seen how this provokes the
shallow, rapid breath of hyperventilation and its unfortunate effects on cardio-
vascular functions. When oxygen intake becomes extremely low, the result is
often depression, listlessness, and loss of mental acuity.
5. A negative self-image. When individuals reach a stage in life when (1) they
can no longer do what they once did, (2) they are always in pain, (3) they are
tired and without energy, and (4) their oxygen supply is restricted, these indi-
viduals usually develop a negative self-image. This may happen if, despite all
their efforts, they cannot reverse the loss of their youthful functions, and if they
constantly are told, "That's the inevitable effect of aging." This state of affairs
has its own disastrous consequences, because, according to the somatic law,
what you expect is usually what you get. This will be discussed in Chapter 12.
The Sum of Neuromuscular Stress: The Senile Posture and the "Dark Vise" 73
6. Chronic high blood pressure and the "Dark Vise." Perhaps the major cause of
death from diseases late in life is arteriosclerosis, also called "hardening of the
arteries." This condition is at the root of both coronary and cardiovascular dis-
eases, the latter of which include strokes and ruptured aneurysms. The scientific
view of gerontological researchers is that high blood pressure, combined with
hardening of the arteries which restricts blood flow, is what causes these events,
and that this condition is the result of a genetically programmed biological pro-
cess.
1
In other words, the medical view is that hypertensive arteriosclerosis is
"the inevitable effect of aging."
But quite possibly it is not, and I say this for two reasons, one of which I have
already mentioned in our discussion of the Red Light reflex: When the Red Light
reflex restricts breathing and therefore triggers hyperventilation, it also sup-
presses the normal variable heart rhythm and pressure of sinus arrhythmia. This
means that two things occur: (1) Dominance of the sympathetic nervous system
over cardiovascular functions causes the smooth muscle walls of the vascular
canals to contract; and (2) the up-and-down variation of blood pressure no
longer occurs, so that the vascular walls are not kept supple and therefore adapt-
able to blood pressure changes.
The other reason for modifying the current viewpoint about the inevitability
of hypertensive arteriosclerosis has to do with the known effects of static muscle
contraction-also known as isometric contraction. There are two ways in which
muscles can work: statically or dynamically. When you squeeze the juice from
an orange, the fingers close down around the orange; this movement of the
fingers is a dynamic contraction. When you squeeze a baseball, the fingers do
not move, even though the muscles are contracting; this is static contraction.
Static contraction of muscles is what happens in isometric exercise, once
made popular through the muscular development program of Charles Atlas. It
is the contraction of one muscle group against another, as when one presses the
palms of the hands tightly together causing the chest muscles to contract-the
hands do not move, but the muscles do.
But there is a problem with this form of exercise: It causes a sharp rise in
blood pressure.
For the normal heart isometric exercise poses a unique stress. Unlike dynamic ex-
ercise, where cardiac output increases dramatically with typically no change in
mean blood pressure, during isometric exercise cardiac output increases only slightly
but mean blood pressure increases dramatically. This results in a sharp increase in the
afterload on the heart . ... The increased afterload associated with isometric exercise
has been shown to precipitate many of the symptoms of congestive heart failure in many
individuals with a diseased myocardium.
2
It is well known that blood pressure can increase up to 50 percent after isometric
contraction.
3
The dangers posed by static muscle contraction are not limited to
the heart; there is as well the risk of stroke and ruptured aneurysm. J. S.
74 Soma tics
Petrofsky, who has devoted an entire volume to a review of the research in this
area, concludes his views about the effect of isometric exercise by warning that
"it is apparent that this form of exercise would be dangerous for the elderly
hypertensive patient."4
If we reflect upon the collision of the Red Light and Green Light reflexes in
the senile posture and their statically opposing contractions, we suddenly re-
alize the potential fatality of the senile posture. The body's two major muscle
groups are opposing one another involuntarily in a static, isometric contrac-
tion-a Dark Vise that causes chronically high blood pressure. As mentioned
above, hypertensive arteriosclerosis is at the root of cardiovascular disease, a
major cause of death in later life. Moreover, it is common for elderly humans to
have high blood pressure. By putting these two facts together, we come up with
a cause of hypertensive arteriosclerosis: the senile posture that occurs due to the
unimpeded habituation of the Red Light and Green Light reflexes. If these re-
flexes occur often enough and strongly enough, they can become habituated,
fading gradually from voluntary consciousness into sensory-motor amnesia-
and the Dark Vise takes over.
These six pathologies are the sum of neuromuscular stress in the lives of all
human beings. They are the result of reflexes that are utterly normal and can do
us no harm unless we cease to notice their occurrence and allow them to become
so familiar that they become unconscious and habitual. These six pathologies
are, then, avoidable: they are not "inevitable," which is to say that the major
effects of aging are both avoidable and/or remediable.
I think it is horrifying to consider old age as a disease. It is equally horrifying
to presume that a long life is a disease process with inevitable consequences.
These six pathologies associated with typical aging do not comprise a disease;
they are a syndrome, best described as the "aging syndrome." This means that
they are the associated signs and symptoms of an unhealthy process that must
be attended to and reversed.
Human beings are not in the least helpless. We can avoid, or dispel, the ef-
fects of the two neuromuscular responses to stress. We cannot avoid the re-
sponses themselves, because they are built into our genes. But we can be aware
of them. We cannot always avoid the situations that cause them to occur, but
we can control our responses to them. In animals, the withdrawal response and
the action response are conditioned reflexes; recall Pavlov's dog, that salivated
when it heard the bell ring. They may also become conditioned in us, but only
if we think of ourselves as no different from Pavlov's dog.
Pavlov and many other physiologists have "scientifically" viewed the human
being as just another animal. The somatic point of view, however, is profoundly
different. According to somatics, the human is not just another animal-a more
complex version of a laboratory rat. A human being is a self-aware being, ca-
pable of learning even greater self-awareness and greater self-control. Once we
The Sum of Neuromuscular Stress: The Senile Posture and the "Dark Vise" 75
recognize the power of self-awareness, we know we can save ourselves from
the inescapable forces of stress. Not to recognize the fact and utility of human
consciousness would be to condemn ourselves, in effect, to live and die like
dogs.
I do not think it is of the least importance whether science in general or med-
icine in particular recognizes the fa.ctual power of human self-awareness. By its
own definition of human beings as animals, science precludes recognition of it.
I do think, however, that it is of the highest importance that individuals-you
and I-recognize it and put it to use. Not only would we avoid the avoidable
pathologies that can occur during a long life, we would confirm to ourselves the
power of human self-responsibility and autonomy-a power that has much
deeper significance.
Interlude: The Archer's Bow and The Danger of a "Tight Gut"
When a person can't get rid of hiccups, everyone has a different remedy: "Put
a paper bag over your head and rebreathe the exhaled air." "Drink water upside
down." "Hold your breath till you can't hold it any longer." Sometimes these
methods work. Usually they don't.
It is exactly the same when you have back pains. Friends as well as health
professionals have an assortment of methods to suggest. Sometimes they work.
Usually they don't. "Your back is too weak; you have to strengthen it." "Your
back is too tight; you have to stretch it; touch your toes." "Your disks are her-
niated; you need an operation." "Your disks are bulging; you need a back
brace." "All you have to do is sit with a swayback." "All you have to do is sit
with a flat back." "It's very simple; when the back is too tight, it means the
stomach muscles have become weak and flabby; tighten up your gut; that will
solve the problem." Almost everyone has back problems, but they cannot help
themselves, because they don't understand what has gone wrong. That's why
their "solutions" are unsuccessful. The situation would seem comic if there were
not so much pain and anguish involved.
In 99 percent of the cases of lower back pain, the pain is located in the muscles
connecting the spine and rib cage to the back of the pelvis. The pain will be in
the lower back or the pelvis or both, sometimes on both sides and sometimes
on one side only. The muscles are painful for a single reason: excessive contrac-
tion, caused by the Green Light reflex.
Even a person with a comfortably functioning back can have lower back pain
if he or she spends 10 hours in the field digging potatoes or picking cotton. The
extensor muscles will become exhausted from repeatedly lifting up the trunk.
But a person can also sit in a chair all day working at a desk or typewriter stand
and have the same pain if the extensor muscles are constantly contracted by an
habituated Green Light reflex. The spinal muscles in the lower back will be very
76 Soma tics
firm and will pull the lower back into an arch. The painful swayback that afflicts
most adults in our society is like an archer's bow. The muscles at the back of the
spine are like the thong of the bow. When the thong is not taut, there is only a
slight bend (Figure 22a), but when the thong is tightened, the bow is arched
(Figure 22b).
Figure 22a
Relaxed Spine
Figure 22b
Archer's Bow Spine
When the extensor muscles of the back are chronically contracted, the posture
of the lower spine is bowed forward into an arch, which projects the belly for-
ward and reduces the height of the trunk. The spinal column shortens, because
a curved line is shorter than a straight line. This arch squeezes the back portions
of the vertebrae down against the posterior sections of the spongy disks, which,
being elastic like a golf ball, are compressed down pinching the posterior sec-
tion, causing it to bulge out into the spinal canal (Figure 22b). Since X rays do
not show muscle tissue (the tight "thong") but only the vertebrae and thick disks
(the "bow"), radiologists frequently mistake the outward bulge of the disk for a
collapse (hernia or rupture) . Thus, they incorrectly assume that the vertebral
structure has "broken down."
This mistaken image of a broken-down back haunts everyone's thinking
about this universal problem. "Back-breaking labor" expresses this confusion as
does the equally popular complaint, "My back went out." Except with fractures
and severe accidents, human backs rarely "break" or "go out." They do, how-
ever, become painfully bent into the archer's bow, with the pain usually being
in the constantly fatigued muscles of the back, not in the disks or in the nerves,
as is commonly believed. If the sensory nerves in the lower back under the
The Sum of Neuromuscular Stress: The Senile Posture and the "Dark Vise" 77
fourth and fifth lumbar vertebrae are pinched by excessive contraction, the pain
will be felt, not in the back, but in the pelvis and leg on the side of the pinch.
These are sciatic pains, which are an aggravated example of the same provisional
compression of the disks into an archer's bow.
Because the archer's bow curves the lower back inward, it automatically
curves the belly outward. "No matter how much I diet, I can't get rid of this
protruding stomach!" is a remark of many middle-aged clients. Even though
this protrusion is the unavoidable consequence of chronically contracted back
muscles, there is a befuddled conviction among some health professionals that
the back and belly sway forward because the abdominal muscles have become
weak. Having a "tight gut" is an obsession with many males, and they will
engage in long sessions of sit-ups and leg-lifts to remedy this situation. But
nothing changes, because the abdominal muscles were never weak. Instead, the
lower back muscles are excessively contracted-they are "too strong."
The typical curve in the middle of the body, then is, due neither to a "weak
back" nor to a "weak belly"-nor is it due to a structural breakdown that must
be repaired, braced, or trussed up. It is due to a chronic involuntary contraction
of the back muscles caused by a constantly triggered Green Light reflex. The
problem is in the brain where the reflex is habituated. When this reflex is mas-
tered, the curved back, the protruding belly, the compressed disks all disap-
pear-and the pain ceases. But sensory-motor amnesia causes us to forget what
it feels like to have a relaxed, undistorted back. After years of suffering the
effects of a curved and shortened spine, one's sense of "straight" is distorted.
Figure 23a
Distorted Body Image:
Swayback Seems Straight
Figure 23b
Straight Back Seems "Slumped"
78 Somatics
During the last 10 years I have never known a client with a painfully swayed
back who, when he or she learned to release these muscles, failed to say, "But
this doesn't feel straight. If feels slumped forward! If I am to sit up straight, I
have to hold my back like this ... " Whereupon they will contract and arch their
lower back into the old curve, protruding the belly forward and pulling the head
behind the center of gravity. In Figures 23a and 23b you see this crucial-and
also fascinating-phenomenon of a distorted body image. In Figure 23a you see
the distorted body image (dotted line) of a typically chronic Green Light reflex:
the backward curve of the trunk seems "straight," so that when one first learns
to relax back to a straight spine, it seems "slumped" (see Figure 23b). It takes a
few weeks to become accustomed to having a tall undistorted back. It is crucial
to keep this in mind as you begin to relax your back muscles in the first two
Somatic Exercises.
Chapter 11
Trauma: The Role of Injury
When the Body Tilts
One question I always ask my clients is whether they have had any bone frac-
tures, serious accidents, surgery, or any other cause for hospitalization. Another
thing I always do is look at the person head-on to see if he or she is tilting to
the side. Sometimes I ask the person to walk, to see if there is any hint of a limp.
Both the questions and the observations are directed at achieving the same goal:
to determine if there have been any traumatic injuries.
The gradual effects of the habituated Red Light and Green Light reflexes on
the body are most easily seen from the side: that is, the swayed back and pro-
truding belly of the archer's bow posture or the stooped upper trunk of the
viejito. But the sudden effects of trauma are best seen head-on from the front or
from the back: that is, the sideways tilting of the trunk. Long-term stress affects
the body on both sides equally, but it does not cause tilting. But trauma will
affect the body only on the side where the injury occurred, causing the muscles
to cringe and curve the body to one side.
The trauma reflex is a reaction of the sensory-motor system meant to guard
against pain. It is a common protective reflex, as transparently familiar as the
breath-holding crouch of the Red Light reflex or the arching back of the Green
Light reflex. When we are stung by a bee or pricked by a hypodermic needle,
we flinch-that is the trauma reflex. If someone holds a burning cigarette or a
sparkler too near to us, we move the threatened body part away from the danger
and cringe-that is the trauma reflex. If our body is injured, the muscular cring-
ing is meant to hold a tight protective pattern around the point of injury-that
too is the trauma reflex.
These kinds of trauma reflexes can occur in any part of the body-top or
bottom, front or back, left or right side. They can occur in the front of the body,
adding to the contracted crouch of the Red Light reflex, as happens sometimes
after heart surgery. They can occur in the back of the body, adding to the tight
swayback of the Green Light reflex, as sometimes occurs after spinal surgery.
But unless the injury is in the center of the body, the cringing contraction of the
trauma reflex will be most obviously seen on one side of the body, usually af-
fecting the smoothness of walking and the sense of balance.
79
80 Somatics
When there is scoliosis, it means that trauma has occurred. Orthopedic phy-
sicians frequently ignore trauma as a factor in a child's scoliosis, sometimes pro-
pounding the outlandish theory that the causes are genetic, that one side of the
body grows faster than the other! In the tiniest fraction of cases this might,
indeed, occur, but usually such genetic deformities occur along with other signs
of deformity-something rarely the case with scoliosis.
Scoliosis can be a simple curve like a long C, or it can be a double curve like
an S (Figures 24a and 24b). In the latter case, the lower spine is curved in one
direction and the thoracic spine is curved in the opposite direction. The genesis
of this is usually always the following: An injury occurs on one side of the body,
causing the muscles of the pelvis and lumbar spine to contract tighter on one
side, but the righting reflex of our balancing system automatically pulls the head
and upper trunk in the opposite direction to counterbalance the lower tilt. In
Figures 24a and 24b you see the effect of reflexive muscle contraction over which
the person has lost control; that is, SMA has occurred. Whether the curve is
simple or S-shaped, the cause is usually the same: trauma to one side of the
body, causing reflex muscular contraction.
Figure 24a
Simple Scoliosis with C Curve
Figure 24b
Scoliosis with S Curve
The trauma reflex can be triggered by any severe damage to the body. In the
case histories of Part 1, Barney, who leaned heavily to the right, had broken his
left thigh in an automobile accident three years earlier; Louise's "frozen" right
Trauma: The Role of Injury 81
shoulder and right tilt occurred after she had fallen, breaking her upper arm;
Harley had fallen out of a truck, injuring his left knee. Thereafter he limped,
leaning to the left.
The trauma reflex can be triggered by surgery: A spastic cringing reaction will
occur in the muscles surrounding the site of surgery. Women who have mastec-
tomies may have chronic stiffness and soreness in the shoulder and upper rib
cage. Men who have heart surgery may have a tight soreness in the chest. Peo-
ple who have kidney surgery and a catheter insertion will sometimes have un-
controllable muscular spasms in the lower belly and upper thigh where the
catheter had been. Examples of this kind are endless.
Equally frequent are trauma reflexes on one side of the body after a severe
fall on the hip, or following a sprained ankle or a broken leg. The inability to
put weight on the injured leg causes an automatic shift of weight to the other
leg. This is not a voluntary action; it is a reflex to avoid the pain. One cannot
help but "favor" the injured leg. Tailors as well as chiropractors will frequently
tell their clients that one of their legs is shorter than the other. Out of hundreds
of persons who have been told that, I have never seen one whose leg was ac-
tually shorter; in every case, the muscles of the center of the body were chron-
ically contracted, pulling up the hip on the side-like Harley's "retracted landing
gear." There are as many varieties of the trauma reflex as there are ways for
humans to injure themselves, ranging from the bruskly to the subtly violent and
from a whiplash twist of the neck to a paralytic disease.
Inequality between the two sides is so common that we see it constantly but
do not notice it. In fact, curved spines are so "normal" that few health practi-
tioners realize that persons tilted to one side by accident will, if their lower back
becomes increasingly arched by the Green Light reflex, risk pinching one or both
of their sciatic nerves.
Sciatica is caused by disk pressure on the sciatic nerves located just between
the fourth and fifth lumbar vertebrae and the fifth lumbar vertebra and the first
sacral vertebra, respectively. They are sensory nerves, extending through the
pelvis, down the thigh and calf, ending in the foot. The former goes down the
side of the leg, ending in the big toe; the latter goes down the back of the leg to
the heel, ending in the little toe. Whichever nerve is pinched, the pain will be
felt along that route. If the pinch is moderate, the pain is felt only in the pelvis
and hip. If the pressure is severe, the pain is like a hot wire going all the way
to the foot. It is a nerve pain with a different sensation than muscular pain, and
it can be agonizingly debilitating when it is severe.
Except in obvious cases of severe accidents and compression fractures, scia-
tica is a relatively common adaptive disease. Like all diseases of adaptation, it is
directly related to the amount of stress and trauma that has occurred in that
person's life. The longer we live, the more chance we have to experience stress
and trauma; therefore, sciatica is often associated with the diseases of aging. But
it can occur at any age. And as a disease of adaptation, sciatica can be either
82 Somatics
avoided or remedied. Teaching people how to avoid or get rid of the sciatic
condition has been one of the more interesting aspects of my work as a somatic
educator. I am frequently consulted by persons with severe sciatica who are
desperate to avoid surgery.
A baker in his early forties hobbled into my office with excruciating sciatic
pains down his left leg to the big toe. He was terrified of the pain, but more
terrified of the back surgery that was considered "necessary." After a few ses-
sions, he regained-seii.sation and motor control of the lumbar and left trunk
muscles. The pain then disappeared, first in the leg, then in the back. The in-
tervertebral disk that was presumed to be "ruptured" had, as it turned out,
merely been bulging from the viselike pressure of involuntary contraction in the
lower back muscles. With the contractions now under his voluntary control, the
vertebrae returned to their normal position. To perpetually celebrate the fact that
his back is perfectly sound, he now makes a great show of lifting 100-pound
sacks of flour to pour into his mixing machine. He has been doing this for three
years.
In another instance, I worked with a cowboy who was out of rodeo compe-
tition because of chronic sciatic pain. Ten days after our last of three sessions of
retraining, he was at San Francisco's Cow Palace bronco-busting and steer riding
at the Grand National competition.
It is this near-miraculous capacity of the human consciousness and the central
nervous system to learn and adapt that is the theme of this book. We are capable
of far more than we believe ourselves to be. As we learn more and more about
the ways in which brain functions control, maintain, repair, and protect our
bodies, we come more and more to respect this marvelous capacity we have.
We are far less dependent and helpless than we believe ourselves to be; which
is to say, we are far more responsible and self-governing than we know.
Interlude: Staying Sexy and Smart
A common myth of aging is that, after the first flush of youth, we steadily begin
to lose both our sexual and our mental competence. But this is not what really
happens.
There is, however, an element of truth to the myth of declining sexual com-
petence, and it has to do with males and with the high frequency of orgasms
possible when they are four years into adolescence. This initial explosion of
sexuality drops, by the end of the teenage period, to a relatively steady state,
which continues at such a stable level that, at 50-plus years, 98 percent of men
are still sexually active.
Our knowledge about early sexuality comes from Alfred C. Kinsey's ground-
breaking reports of some three decades ago. But Kinsey's survey only included
persons up to 65 years old, and the number sampled at the 50-plus level was
Trauma: The Role of Injury 83
minimal. This missing information was richly supplied in 1984 with the publi-
cation of the Consumers Union report, Love, Sex, and Aging,! which covered the
age span of the 50s through the 80s. This report on 4,246 respondents covered
the largest geriatric sample ever assembled for a sexuality study.
What this report tells us is that the decline in sexual competence in later years
is minimal: The frequency may not be that of the late teenager, but, if we peruse
the report's personal remarks, the pleasure is apparently greater. It seems that
older persons need fewer repetitions to do it right.
The sexual responsiveness of women reaches its fullness considerably later
than that of males, that is, during their late twenties and early thirties. The
average frequency of female sexual activity remains fairly constant up until their
sixties. Of all women in their fifties sampled in the Consumers Union report, 93
percent were sexually active. When we match this with the 98 percent of sex-
ually active 50-year-old males sampled, we have a picture of human beings at
the half-century mark whose sexuality does not subscribe to the myth of aging.
Given the known muscular discomforts and limitations of the average citizen
after a lifetime of stress and accidental trallmas, these are astonishing figures. It
is just as astonishing that 91 percent of men in their sixties were sexually active,
as well 81 percent of women. (Keep in mind that this reduced percentage in-
cludes many widows.) Surely by the time the average man or woman manages
to reach their seventies they must be sexually exhausted. Not at all: 79 percent
of all men and 65 percent of all women surveyed were still sexually active.
2
So there is a decline in sexuality as humans age, but it is only a small decline.
And, if humans could learn how to ward off the cumulative effects of stress and
trauma in their nervous systems, there might be literally no decline at all.
Most impressive was the Consumers Union report on people in their eighties.
Roughly half of these men and women were still sexually active, and the ma-
jority still rated the sexual experience as "very enjoyable." When asked what
she had to say to younger people regarding love and sexual relationships, an
83-year-old San Diego woman replied, "That sex relations may continue indefi-
nitely." A 68-year-old-widower wraps it up with this remark: "To sum up suc-
cinctly, I indulge less and enjoy it more .... "3
The myth about aging and sexuality has its parallel in false assumptions about
aging and mental competence. When the Binet intelligence tests were first used
in the United States, it was believed that intellectual development, running par-
allel with sexual development, reached a peak at age 16. During the 1920s, some
researchers thought the peak might be even earlier, at perhaps 13 years. After
these peaks, no further intellectual development was presumed to take place.
(This is when the popular myth probably got its start.) But the Wechsler tests of
the 1930s quickly revealed that the findings of the Binet tests were not true.
According to the later tests, many adults seemed to get smarter as they got
older. And the Wechsler scales turned up an interesting complication: Different
types of intellectual function had different times and rates of peaking and de-
84 Soma tics
clining. This was further complicated by the discovery that some adults did not
show any decline at all.
We are all familiar with the way some elderly people say, "I'm not as sharp
as I used to be," or "I don't have the head for it anymore," just as we know
some elders have the memory dysfunction of Alzheimer's disease. Given the
rapid change of each generation during the twentieth century, we are also fa-
miliar with the way the younger generation seems to be getting smarter than
the older one. But is this due to a difference in age or to something quite sepa-
rate: a difference in culture and education?
There was no way of definitely answering this question until a difficult sci-
entific task could be attempted: to launch a "longitudinal study," which mea-
sured the intellectual abilities of a single group of people throughout their later
adulthood. Keeping track of a large group of persons and retesting them over a
20- to 3D-year period is a formidable task, and only a few such studies have been
completed. Eight were published in a unique research report-Longitudinal Stud-
ies of Adult Psychological Development.
4
Its editor was K. Warner Schaie, whose
own 21-year Seattle longitudinal study is the backbone of this book.
Schaie's study began with 1,656 subjects aged 25 through 67, tested in the
years 1956, 1963, 1970, and 1977. This group was tested and retested for the
growth or decline of various intellectual abilities. It became obvious that intel-
lectual development did not peak at 16 years. Different intellectual abilities took
different lengths of time to mature. For example, the ability to think with num-
bers does not reach its peak until age 32; reasoning ability peaks at 39; speech
and word fluency do not hit their peaks until age 46; and comprehension of
verbal meaning does not reach its stride until 53 years.
5
Apparently aging is not
a period of decline but one of improvement and development. This was a stun-
ning discovery.
Why didn't all of those tested show this same continuing improvement? Why
did some decline, yet others continued to grow? After sifting through various
possibilities, Schaie concludes that persons with "flexible personality styles" are
more likely to continue to perform at high ability levels as they age. Intellectual
competence so reflects the way we have lived our lives that, as Schaie says,
" ... it is typically only by age 81 that one can show that the average older
person will fall below the middle range of performance for young adults."6
Schaie pinpoints, in addition to a flexible personality style, two other condi-
tions for continuing high mental abilities: first, a favorable, less stressful per-
sonal situation; and second, freedom from arthritis and cardiovascular disease.
Finally, Schaie roundly confirmed the general theses of this book when he said,
"I find myself concluding that the use-it-or-Iose it principle applies not only to
the maintenance of muscular flexibility, but to the maintenance of flexible life-
styles and a related high level of intellectual performance as well."7
Chapter 12
Expectation: The Role
of Mental Attitude
"Expectation" is one of the most important words in the English language. Its
importance has to do with the most inescapable feature of human existence:
time.
We live in time, which is to say we live with constant change: This minute
gives way to the next; this day gives way to the next; and this year gives way to
the next. Living and aging are identical events, because humans live in time,
their lives changing from present time to future time. At the cutting edge of that
change is expectation.
Expectation is what carries us from the present into the future. As such, it is
like the prow of a vessel nosing its way forward. The direction in which the
prow is pointed determines the direction the vessel will go. The prow leads the
movement of the vessel. If the prow points up, the vessel will follow in the same
direction: upward. If the prow points down, the vessel will go downward. The
course of our life follows our expectations in the same way that a vessel follows
the direction of its prow.
The expression, "a self-fulfilling prophecy," means that what we expect will
happen usually turns out to be what actually happens. Expectation is not only
a prediction of the future, it also directly contributes to making it happen. This
proactive role which expectation plays is crucial to our well-being. Consider the
placebo effect. This curious word is Latin. It means "I shall please," and it was
taken from the liturgy of the Catholic Church, in which the priest said, "I shall
please the lord ... " Later, it came to be applied more generally to any attempt
to flatter or please another person. By the nineteenth century it was being used
by physicians to refer to any ineffective substance given as "medicine," not to
cure, but merely to please, the patient. Soon, however, physicians began to
notice an odd thing. These substances, which were not supposed to have any
effect, actually succeeded if the physician cajoled the patient into believing it
would. If the patient expected that the sugar pill would help, it did. This is the
placebo effect.
Those in the medical profession are apt to think that their techniques are all
that patients need. But the placebo effect contradicts this. F. J. Evans conducted
85
86 Soma tics
a series of carefully controlled studies in pain reduction, which compared the
effects of morphine to the effects of a "worthless" placebo pill. The findings
were startling: The placebo was 56 percent as effective as a dose of morphine.
l
What could cause such a powerful analgesic effect? Only one thing: expectation.
Almost the same results were obtained in comparing placebo effects with
those of aspirin (54 percent), codeine (56 percent), and Darvon (45 percent). It
was extraordinary to learn that the placebo effect was constant. No matter what
the analgesic drug, the effectiveness of the placebo was always proportional.
But, as the information poured in, physicians learned that the placebo effect
was not at all limited to pain reduction; it was found in studies of adrenal gland
secretion, angina, asthma, blood cell counts, blood pressure, cancer, the com-
mon cold, the cough reflex, diabetes, emesis, fever, gastric secretion and motil-
ity, headache, insomnia, multiple sclerosis, oral contraceptives, parkinsonism,
pupil dilation and constriction, respiration, rheumatoid arthritis, seasickness,
ulcers, vaccines, vasomotor function, and warts.2 Such a list constitutes a mas-
sive confirmation of the somatic viewpoint-that human consciousness is an
integral part of the human body's self-regulation.
The influence expectation has on people is so consistent and widespread that
the pharmaceutical industry automatically takes it into consideration when it
does its drug testing. In the lab, there is a "double-blind" arrangement. Neither
the testers nor the subjects know which is the real drug and which is the pla-
cebo. Thus, Evans concludes: "The placebo should be considered a potent ther-
apeutic intervention in its own right, an active agent whose positive or negative
effects can be independently evaluated and whose mode of action is worthy of
independent investigation."3
Not only are placebo effects seen in the area of pharmacology, they even
compete with surgery. H. Beecher's classic medical study, "Surgery as a Pla-
cebo,"4 recounts how placeboic surgery was used to reduce the pain of angina
pectoris. The usual surgery involves making a skin incision and tying off the
mammary artery. But some surgeons were skeptical, so they divided up into
two teams, one making the incision and performing the mammary-artery liga-
tion and the other simply making an incision and doing nothing else. The results
were remarkable. The team making the incision and doing nothing else reported
that 100 percent of their patients showed an increased ability to exercise and
a reduced need for the painkiller, nitroglycerine. This same group of patients, when
examined six weeks later, then six months later, still showed these same remarkable
improvements. The other group showed only 76 percent improvements.
Placebo effects are evident also in the practice of biofeedback and in psycho-
therapy. Anxiety, edema, tachycardia, vasoconstriction, phobias, and depres-
sions have all been relieved through the application of placebos. Clearly
expectation is a factor in all human pathologies.
Because the placebo is so prevalent in clinical medicine, a science called psy-
choneuroimmunology has emerged. This promising research area presumes
Expectation: The Role of Mental Attitude 87
something that not too long ago was deemed impossible: that the immune sys-
tem is not isolated in its functions, but has a working relation with the central
nervous system. In addition, emotions, attitudes, and other conscious states
trigger certain neurotransmittors which, in turn, affect the immune system-
hence, the young science's name, psychoneuroimmunology.
The working thesis of psychoneuroimmunology is that a state of conscious-
ness, such as an expectation, can cause changes in both the central nervous
system and the immune system. This is essentially the somatic viewpoint: that
the attitudes and beliefs we have about our bodies and our health vitally affect
the ongoing state of our bodies and our health. If we expect our bodies to be
resilient and healthy, then they will tend to remain so. On the other hand, ex-
pectation may be predicated on the myth of aging; that is, a belief in inevitable
structural breakdown and functional loss. In this case, breakdown and loss will
eventually occur. The prophecy becomes self-fulfilling: What we expect to hap-
pen does happen.
If we are at a certain age and feel within our bodies certain discomforts, how
we interpret them becomes crucial. If we take them as a sign of serious disease
and breakdown expected at this age in life, then we are accepting and giving in
to a presumed fatality. To anticipate pathology is, functionally, tantamount to
intending it. This unleashes dangerous reactions in the brain and in the immune
system, dangerous because apparently the mere feeling of "giving in" to an
ailment immobilizes our self-healing capacities.
If we habitually cringe in response to bodily discomforts, expecting the worst,
we are chronically reinforcing this discomfort as a permanent condition, which
then becomes resistant to improvement. Professor Ian Wickramasekera is a med-
ical research scientist. In his general analysis of the placebo as a conditioned
response, he says the following about this aspect of negative expectation:
This analysis may be particularly relevant to chronic diseases and functional dis-
orders such as low back pain, diabetes, cardiovascular disorders, musculoskeletal
disorders, and cancer, in which the long-term and intermittent reinforcements of
the unconditioned disease process, injury, or dysfunction increase the probability of
negative conditioned effects that sustain the disorder. In such cases, the chronic inter-
mittent activation of the disease mechanisms by unconditioned physiochemical
causes may lead to increasingly strong aversive anticipatory responses that inhibit the
motor system even when the unconditioned stimulus is inactive. It is a well-established
fact that intermittent reinforcement by unconditioned stimuli will make a maladaptive
response maximally resistant to improvement. 5
This statement makes it clear that the myth of aging is not merely a belief about
the diseases of aging; it can also be an active cause of these diseases. Thus, by
responding to bodily discomforts with intelligent awareness and positive coun-
termeasures, we can directly prevent such a "disease process, injury, or dys-
function" from becoming a permanent condition.
88 Somatics
In brief, if we are intelligently aware of our bodies, and if we use positive
countermeasures such as Somatic Exercises to improve our bodily self-regula-
tion, the presumed "inevitable effects of aging" will, by and large, not occur.
Interlude: Learning to Drink from the Well
The word "age" means, quite simply, "a period of existence." It is one of the
more fascinating words in the English language, because it is significantly more
complex than it sounds. First of all, it has a curious etymology. Its Latin root is
aetus. Its form, aticus, meaning "belonging to" or "proper to," was commonly
used as a termination to many words: for example, silvaticus, "of the wood"
(silva), and viaticus, "of the way" (via). Later, aticus evolved into the French suf-
fix, age, and silvaticus passed into English as "savage" and viaticus as "voyage."
Age became a common suffix in many English words: language, village, mar-
riage, postage, and so on.
Moreover, even though "age" means simply "a period of existence," it refers
more broadly to that which characterizes a period of existence. It is particularly
interesting when it becomes a verb--to age-for then it means "to grow old."
What, we should ask, does it mean "to grow old"? "Old," in its Latin root, alo,
and in its ancient Germanic form, aft, means-quite surprisingly-"to nourish"
and "to bring up." More generally, alo means to strengthen, increase, and ad-
vance. It means to become taller and to become deeper. In its root meaning,
then, "to age," and to get older, means "to grow up." In view of the etymology
of "old," it is fascinating to note that "growing old" has come to mean exactly
the opposite of the original meaning of "old": that is, "old" has come to mean
worn out, deteriorated, decayed, dilapidated, and no longer useful.
Thus, in plumbing the meaning of the simple but curious word, "age," we
come upon a fundamental ambiguity: "To age" means either to grow, increase,
and become both taller and deeper or to decrease, decay, wear out, and become
decrepit and discarded.
It is most provocative that a word as basic to human life as "aging" can mean
either of two opposite possibilities: growth or degeneration. It suggests that
what is characteristic to the period of existence of a human's lifetime is neither
programmed nor predictable. It implies that the direction of human life is not
fixed but open.
This fundamental ambiguity reflects an abiding human insight into the am-
biguity of aging: A human life can unfold in the direction of growth and increas-
ing strength, or it can just as well unfold in the direction of decay and steady
degeneration.
From the layered depths of our language arises the tantalizing suggestion that
aging might mean growth rather than decay. This linguistic implication is tightly
interlaced with the etymological roots of "aging," almost like the expression of
Expectation: The Role of Mental Attitude 89
a "collective unconscious" of our race-a collective insight into the authentic
possibilities of human life. This insight has for millennia lain glowing within the
heart of our language, awaiting full discovery and confirmation.
We now know enough about expectation and the way it mobilizes our bodies
to realize that it is crucial, when we think of aging as a process, to distinguish
between the two opposite meanings of "to age" -that is, to grow, or to decay.
If we think of the coming years of our life as a continuing process of advance-
ment and strengthening, it is more than likely we shall experience just that. And
it is just as likely that a constant, daily expectation of wearing out and becoming
decrepit will be a self-fulfilling prophecy.
Expectation is the leading edge of a belief system, and it has the curious fea-
ture of being self-justifying. As a leading edge, it predetermines our future. It
programs what is to come, so that 60 years later one human smiles and affirms
the progress of his life, saying, "This is just what I expected"; but another, who
also says, "This is just what I expected," grimaces at his self-predicted decrepi-
tude. Both got what they expected. They could not imagine it happening any
other way.
Time is the currency spent by life, so we cannot wait for 60 years, wondering
indecisively what to expect. Sixty years later will be too late.
We see in this situation an extraordinary truth about human life: Whether we
will grow or degenerate during the course of our lives is a question not of known
fact but of expected possibility. Time, as the currency of life, is always futurity;
it is not yet spent. How we expect it to be spent predetermines the plan for its
expenditure. Once we realize that the investment we make in our lives is the
same as any other investment, we may adopt a very different attitude about
what possibilities we expect for our future years.
I do not think it improper to say that what we invest in life determines how
much we get out of it. It is a question of whether we think that our lives are at
least as important an investment as, for example, real estate or stocks. It is my
observation that many humans do not value their personal bodily future as
highly as they value the future of their material possessions. Undoubtedly, they
get their reward, which is "what they expected." To expand slightly a famous
comment on the situation: "For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the
whole world, and lose his own soul-and body?"
But life need not unfold in this way. We now know enough about expectation
and the way it mobilizes our bodies to willingly choose the expectation that our
conjoint souls and bodies-our "somas"-will"increase," "advance," become
"deeper and taller"-partly because they are "nourished" and "brought up"
with this happy expectation.
The human who knows that his or her being is growing is a human who
usually has the strength and endurance to prevail over the defeats and stresses
and traumas that occur in each and every life. Such a person knows that the
inevitable pains and dysfunctions occurring in the body are not "inevitable signs
90 Somatics
of degeneration," but typical adjustments that all bodies go through in regulat-
ing and readapting themselves for the future.
A human who knows aging to be a process of ongoing growth is a human
who has the ongoing power to overcome ailments, surmount malaise, and
triumph over the worst of defeats. Not to countenance defeat, not to accept
failure, not to give up, is to drink from the well of life's richest nourishment:
the wisdom that, in its depth, life is ever redemptive and rejuvenating.
A Pride in Age
One effect of the myth of aging is that is induces us to despise old age and
adulate youth. Worshiping youth is the inverse side of hating advancing age. It
is regrettable that this attitude seems to have become steadily more popular,
almost directly counter to the recent sudden expansion of our elderly
population.
Is it that there are more people now who see their advancing years as some-
thing ominous and catastrophic? And is it that they hopelessly yearn for a state
of youth that can never again be? Is this yearning so desperate that they will do
anything to have at least the semblance of youth, masking the shameful signs.
of age so that, at least externally, they seem to give lie to the inescapable fact of
aging skin and hair?
Let me say this as emphatically as possible: To despise the fact of aging is not
only to despise life but to betray a pitiful ignorance of the nature of life.
Youth is not a state to be preserved but a state to be transcended. Youth has
strength, but it does not have skill, which, in the long run, is the most potent
strength. Youth has speed, but it does not have efficiency, which, in the long
run, is the only effective way of attaining goals. Youth is quick, but it is not
deliberate, and deliberation is the only way to make correct decisions. Youth has
energy and intelligence, but it does not have the judgment necessary to make
the best use of that energy and intelligence. Measured judgment in the end, is
the only guarantor of intelligent behavior. Youth has the beauty of genetic en-
dowment, but it does not have the beauty of real achievement. Youth has the
glow of promise, but it does not have the radiance of accomplishment. Youth is
a time of seeding and cultivation, but it is not a time of fruiting and harvest.
Youth is a state of ignorance and innocence, but it is not a state of knowledge
and wisdom. Youth is a state of emptiness awaiting fullness, a state of possibility
awaiting actualization, a state of beginning awaiting transcendence.
In short, youth is a state to be put behind us as we grow taller and deeper
and fuller. Unless we understand that life and aging are a process of growth
and progress, we will never know the first principles of living. Nor will we
understand what youth is all about: an explosive yearning to grow taller and
deeper and fuller and to transcend oneself. It is by losing this yearning that we
Expectation: The Role of Mental Attitude 91
forget the first principles of living and begin to worship a false and superficial
image of youthfulness.
The human species, possessed with a brain whose genius is unlimited learn-
ing and adaptation, is a species that is genetically designed to age by growing.
Not to expect to grow is to misunderstand what it means to be human. Not to
do so is to fail in the God-given task of living a fully human life. To expect the
opposite is, in effect, to sin against life and its biological promise.
As we move toward a new moment in history when one-quarter of the pop-
ulation will be 65 years or older, we must remind and reeducate ourselves to
the full possibilities contained in the entire human life span. In our worship of
youth, and in our frantic scramble to falsify our age, we have blindly ignored a
growing number of discoveries that can make life and aging a continuing pro-
cess of growth, achievement, satisfaction, and pleasure. My primary concern is
to present scientific and practical information about discoveries that can free us
from the fear of aging. Fear of aging is a product of ignorance, and this igno-
rance is no longer defensible, any more than the myth of aging is defensible.
The laboratory and clinical research reviewed earlier and the Somatic Exercises
that follow in Part 3 are the instruments with which we can begin to reverse our
traditional superstitions about aging. This reversal can come about, not with
more doctors, more hospitals, and more nursing homes, but with more self-
conscious, self-regulating, individuals who have educated themselves in the
ways of controlling the process of their own lives.
During this epochal upward shift in population, it is not more "hard" tech-
nologies we need. It is new "soft" technologies, such as those we have dis-
cussed. The soft technologies are the somatic technologies that teach us internal
control of our own physiological and psychological lives. The Somatic Exer-
cises-which are not to be read with the "mind" but learned through both the
body and the mind-are a soft technology.
This is an age of "software," where the "programs" for the machines are more
significant than the machines themselves. Computers are totally useless without
their programs. It is the right program in the right computer language that un-
locks the magic of the cybernetic process. In exactly the same manner, it is the
right method and the right understanding of somatic practice that is the key for
unlocking the magic of the human central nervous system, and of keeping it
unlocked during the whole of one's life.
Not only is it possible to overcome and avoid the effects of sensory-motor
amnesia, it is also possible to have a body and a life that are lasting sources of
productivity and satisfaction and pride. I believe that, more than anything else,
it is pride in age that must be restored to our lives-to be happy with aging, to
savor its promise and to enjoy its unfolding. Every human being should school
himself and herself in looking forward to aging as a promise to be fulfilled. If
92 Soma tics
we are to learn anything from youth, it is just this--for the burning essence of
youthfulness is to look forward to aging as a beckoning promise of happiness
and fulfillment.
This is the attitude of youth that we must keep from birth through maturity
and till death, for it is an attitude of positive expectation: to expect the best of
our lives and to have the basic somatic skills to guarantee this expectation. Such
an attitude and such skills can make for a very different elderly population. It is
my conviction that the most extraordinary gerontological event will not be the
age shift in the population but the shift in attitude and accomplishment of the
elderly.
I envisage a totally practicable possibility of an emerging elderly population
with the skills, efficiency, deliberation, judicious use of energy, measured judg-
ment, and real abilities of achievement and accomplishment to become the most
significant portion of the population. Even the briefest reflection tells us that
this is obvious: that the most experienced, skilled, and learned portion of our
population should be the source of our most reliable leadership and most im-
pressive abilities. And it is my contention that, with the means of avoiding the
age-old plague of sensory-motor amnesia, and with a positive expectation that
creates pride in age, this event has every likelihood of coming about. The enor-
mous capacity of the human brain almost guarantees that such a shift in the
quality of mature human life can occur, once humans master the personal, adap-
tive skills of controlling the internal processes of their lives.
To say that aging is an adventure is the same as saying that life is an adven-
ture. Indeed, each individual life is the greatest adventure. Together, they are
part of the larger adventure, a life of community evolving on a blue and green
planet as it spins its course through a measureless universe. The human race is
changing. At the present moment, this change is accelerating, and is charged
with the thrill of danger and promise. That's what it feels like when the currents
of futurity gather momentum and move us forward headlong into the future.
We must make our way through this great time of change, expecting that it
will be good, and intending that it will be good. We must make our future the
way we want it to be. That is what human freedom is for. And, in the process,
we may discover that the myth of aging has been replaced by another, brighter
myth. If it is true that, in the deepest reaches of the human heart, we all live
according to myths, we may find that, from the ashes of the old myth, a new
myth of aging is arising: that life is a continuous process of growth and
expansion.
PART 3
The Somatic
Exercise Program
I designed these Somatic Exercises specifically to reduce the effects of sensory-
motor amnesia that normally occur by middle age. They are based on the ingen-
ious work of Dr. Moshe Feldenkrais, an Israeli scientist. In 1975, I sponsored
and directed the first Feldenkrais training course in the United States. Since that
time, his revolutionary method of body reeducation has been taught worldwide.
This program consists not of physical exercises but of Somatic Exercises; it
offers specific procedures for making changes in the sensory-motor areas of the
brain in order to maintain internal control of the muscle system. Because you
are exercising your brain as well as your body, it is important to practice each
movement pattern with your maximum conscious attention.
The program is progressive and gradual, centering on the areas of the body
where SMA occurs. The first four Somatic Exercises train you in sensitivity and
control of the muscles in the middle of your body, at its center of gravity. The
next two deal with the periphery of your body: namely, your legs, arms, and
neck. The final two exercises focus on two major functions of your body: breath-
ing and walking, both of which are typically limited by SMA.
Chapter 13
How to Give Yourself
the Maximum Benefit
of Somatic Exercises
The most important thing for you to remember is that Somatic Exercises change
your muscular system by changing your central nervous system. If you do not
remember this important fact, their effectiveness will be diminished for you.
You will receive the maximum benefit from the eight movement patterns that
make up the Somatic Exercises if you do the following:
1. Learn the nature of sensory-motor amnesia, how it occurs in your brain, and where it
occurs in your body, by reading and reviewing Part 2. Understanding your brain
and body and how they are affected by stress and trauma is essential for the
benefits of Somatic Exercises to last. For most people, the initial effect of these
movement patterns "feels like" magic as their bodies relax and regain their sup-
pleness. But the "real" magic comes from learning how to maintain your sup-
pleness and how to continue developing it.
As your internal sensitivity and control grow, look back from time to time at
the information contained in different sections of Somatics. You will discover that
certain passages and chapters take on more and more meaning as you come to
understand your body better. And the more you understand about your body,
the more you can discover about yourself through these exercises.
2. While doing the Somatic Exercises, your primary task is to focus your attention on the
internal sensations of movement. These movement patterns highlight those areas
of the body most commonly affected by sensory-motor amnesia. As you perform
the exercises, concentrate on developing a careful sensory awareness of the
movements in these body areas as a direct way to maintain control over them.
To this end, the instructions on performing each individual movement are
immediately followed by instructions for sensing each one. In this way, you will
know what to look for in the feelings of sensory feedback that these movement
patterns evoke.
95
96 Somatics
3. Ideally, you should do your Somatic Exercises while lying on a rug or mat, wearing
loose clothing, and being away from all distractions. A rug or mat allows comfort
while providing a firm support for your body. This allows you to be more pre-
cise in performing the movement and more precise in perceiving it. People
whose movement or strength is extremely limited may do their Somatic Exer-
cises in bed. The firmer their mattresses, the more effective the exercises will
be, and they should move to a rug or mat as soon as possible.
The object of Somatic Exercises is to loosen your body from constricted mus-
cles, so it makes no sense to wear constricting clothing while you do them. On
the other hand, there's no need for athletic gear. You're not supposed to work
up a sweat doing Somatic Exercises.
Finally, you should avoid areas of your home where you will be interrupted
or distracted. You will need to concentrate on the movement patterns and how
they feel inside your body. Therefore, being in a room where a television is on,
or even where music is playing, will interfere with your learning. You might
think that a mirror will help you position your body correctly, but actually, it
might mislead you. It is more important to perceive the movements through
your sensory-motor system than through your eyes.
One way to preserve your concentration is to have the instructions for your
Somatic Exercises read aloud to you as you do them, so that you do not have to
stop to read each one. If you have a tape recorder, record the lessons on a tape
at the right speed so that they are always handy.
4. Always move slowly. Moving slowly, you give your brain the chance to notice
all that is happening in your body as you move. Slow-motion films are essential
in sports training because they allow athletes to study the details of a movement
or play. The same goes for focusing attention on the internal sensations of your
own movements: The slower you go, the more you perceive.
Furthermore, although you will experience bodily changes almost from the
beginning of the first exercise, do not go on to the next until your mind is com-
pletely clear about what you are doing and until you can do it with ease and
comfort. It is best to repeat each lesson at least once before going to the next.
Somatic Exercises are programmed at progressive levels, so that successful
learning depends on having mastered the movements at the previous levels. In
this way your mastery is solid, and can become part of your regular pattern of
movements.
5. Always move gently and with the least possible effort. This, again, is so that your
brain can receive precise and uncluttered sensory feedback from the exercises.
When you experience excessive effort and strain-as is usually the case in doing
calisthenics-then your brain is cluttered by sensory feedback that is irrelevant
to what you are relearning to control. It is better for you to feel that you are
doing "too little" than to risk doing too much and undermining the somatic
learning process.
How to Give Yourself the Maximum Benefit of Somatic Exercises 97
6. Do not force any movement. Somatic Exercises help you maintain sensitivity
and control, but, until your brain learns how to move your muscles, no amount
of force and effort will release the involuntary contractions in your body. Push-
ing against your muscles is from the old tradition of physical training, which
always fails to release the hold of sensory-motor amnesia. If you attempt to
voluntarily force a muscle that is involuntarily contracted, you will cause an
equal and opposite resistance of that muscle. It will contract even tighter, finally
to the point of spasm.
Remember: If you want to untie a knot, you must look at the cord carefully
and then gently undo the tangle. Yanking on the cord will only make the knot
tighter.
7. Somatic Exercises are not painful. The movement patterns of these exercises
are the normal movements of the musculoskeletal system. If you perform them
slowly and gently, they are completely harmless. Hurting yourself while exer-
cising is unnecessary, harmful, and, of course, no fun at all.
Often people with tight, sore muscles make matters worse by protectively
tightening their muscles even further so as to avoid moving them at all. Remem-
ber that life is movement, and no one can avoid moving. The act of breathing,
for example, automatically brings a constantly alternating pressure on your
spine. Because movement is unavoidable, we should be sure to move in direc-
tions that are, anatomically and neurologically, the least harmful-that is how
Somatic Exercises are designed.
People who are already suffering from sensory-motor amnesia, especially
those with severely contracted lower back muscles, will sometimes feel soreness
when these muscles first begin to lengthen. This is to be expected; and once
their muscles lengthen, the soreness will disappear. Even very painful lower
back muscles become comfortable after about three days of Somatic Exercises,
once they have relaxed to their natural length and blood has circulated through
the muscle fibers. Thus, if you feel some pain doing the exercises, move gently
and slowly, never forcing your movements, and keep in mind that this is the
normal direction of movement that you are trying to reestablish.
There are always unusual situations where normal musculoskeletal move-
ment patterns are impossible because of an observable obstacle. In such cases,
you should seek medical advice and follow it. Physicians usually agree that So-
matic Exercises are anatomically harmless when done properly.
8. Be persistent, patient, and positive. Somatic Exercises change your body by
teaching your brain. Your learning grows steadily and solidly. You must be per-
sistent-determined in your practice of these movement patterns. You must be
patient-looking not for a "quick fix" on your body, but for a genuine, lasting
change in your comfort, range of movement, posture, and general functioning.
Most importantly, you must be positive in your expectations, envisaging and
aiming for the improvement you know your somatic system is capable of.
98 Somatics
Interlude: The Daily "Cat Stretch"
After you have mastered bodily control, you will arrive at a new stage of your
Somatic Exercises: maintenance of your sensory-motor control. You must preserve
what you have learned as a normal and permanent aspect of your bodily habits
without any loss or erosion due to the daily stresses to which you may be
subjected.
While the learning stage requires patient attention, the maintenance stage
requires only a short time each day to reinforce what you have learned. All that
is required is a brief repetition of your basic movement patterns, to remind the
sensory-motor tracts of your brain how to do them. Therefore, your Daily "Cat
Stretch" consists of the most important movements from your Somatic
Exercises.
I am often asked, "How long must I continue doing these maintenance move-
ments?" My reply is, "How many years must a cat continue to stretch after it
wakes up?" The answer for cats is the same as for humans: at least once a day,
preferably just after waking up.
Because a cat's muscles and connective tissue shorten while it sleeps, after
waking up it stretches them back to their previous length. Most animals stretch
when they awaken in order to maintain their full range of muscular control. Our
muscles and brains are no different in this respect from those of other animals.
Hence, your maintenance movements are not to be thought of as "exercises"
any more than a cat thinks of them as such-they are the natural way of pre-
paring your body to feel good throughout the day.
Doing your Daily "Cat Stretch" for five minutes each day upon awakening is
sufficient to reinforce what your brain has learned so that you will never suffer
sensory-motor amnesia. Many people prefer to do the same routine for five min-
utes at night just before retiring. That way they go to sleep with the movement
patterns freshly reinforced in their brains, and it helps them sleep more soundly.
If your day has been stressful, making your muscles tight and fatigued, you will
find that a "Cat Stretch" automatically relieves your tension.
If you suffer a traumatic event-an injury, surgery, or a tragic personal ex-
perience-it is advisable to return to the basic program of Somatic Exercises.
Carefully go through each lesson, one by one, to be sure you overcome any
involuntary constrictions caused by your trauma. Then return to your "Cat
Stretch" each day.
The Daily "Cat Stretch"
Like all Somatic Exercises, these maintenance movements should be done slowly, gently,
and with maximum awareness. Do them in an easygoing, catlike manner so that they
give you pleasure.
How to Give Yourself the Maximum Benefit of Somatic Exercises 99
1. Lying on your back, arch and flatten your lower back, inhaling while
going up and exhaling while going down. Repeat five times over thirty
seconds. Lesson One: 1.B.
2. Lying on your back with both hands interlaced behind your head, lift
your head while exhaling and flattening your back. Lower your head while
inhaling and arching your back. Repeat five times over thirty seconds. Les-
son One: S.A.
3. Lying on your stomach with your left cheek on the back of your right
hand, lift your head, hand, and right elbow while simultaneously lifting
your left leg. Do this two times, then do the same for the other side of your
body. Inhale slowly while lifting; exhale slowly while coming down. This
will take about thirty seconds. Lesson One: 2.E and 3.E.
4. Lying on your back with your left knee held by your left hand, lift your
head and right elbow to your left knee while exhaling and flattening your
back. As your head comes down, inhale, arching your back up. Repeat
three times. Do the same for the other side of your body three times. This
will take about sixty seconds. Lesson Two: 3.A and 4.A.
5. Lying on your back, roll your arms in opposite directions on the floor,
alternately dropping your knees each time to the side of the arm rolling
down the floor. Turn your head in the direction opposite your knees to
make a full spinal twist. Move slowly and lazily, so as to enjoy the stretch.
Repeat six times over thirty seconds. Lesson Four: B.A.
6. Lying on your back, twist your right foot, leg, and hip in and out five
times, being sure to lift and arch each side of your back alternately without
lifting your shoulders. Do the same with your left side. Move both legs
simultaneously in alternating bow-Iegged/knock-kneed positions five
times, then together in skiing motions five times. This will take about sixty
seconds. Lesson Five: 3.A, 6.A, 7.A, and 7.B.
7. Sitting with your right hand on your left shoulder and with both knees
bent and facing left, rotate your trunk to the left three times. Holding your
trunk motionless at full left turn, turn your head to the right and back three
times. Turn both your head and your trunk in alternate directions three
times for the full spinal twist. Still holding your trunk to the left, lift your
face to the ceiling while dropping your eyes to the floor and vice versa three
times. Do the same for the other side of your body. This will take about
sixty seconds. Lesson Six: 1.A and 1.B for both sides; 3.A for both sides; and 4.A
and 4.B for both sides.
Chapter 14
The Somatic Exercises
l
LESSON 1
Controlling the Extensor Muscles of the Back
The first movement pattern deals with the muscles of the back, which are acti-
vated by the Green Light reflex. When this reflex becomes habituated, it causes
the most common ailment in industrialized societies: lower back pain.
Because you are just beginning to explore this area of frequent soreness and
aching, start out with small, cautious movements that are done slowly and at-
tentively. At the end, repeat the lesson one more time to be certain that you
understand the movement patterns and that you can do them with awareness
and comfort.
1. POSITION
Lie on back, knees bent, and feet
near to buttocks.
A. MOVEMENT
Press pelvis down against the floor
several times, then begin pressing
the tailbone down more firmly than
the rest of the pelvis. This will make
the lower back arch up at the belt
line.
SENSING
Slide one hand under the small of
the back to feel how the muscles
contract on both sides of your spine
as you arch.
B. MOVEMENT
Now inhale as you arch the lower
back and exhale as you flatten the
101
102 Remember: Always move slowly, gently, and without forcing the movement
lower back down toward the floor.
Gradually increase the range of this
movement by pressing the tailbone
down more firmly to lift the lower
back higher, and then by pressing
the lower back down more firmly,
which slightly lifts the tailbone. (Do
this movement slowly and gently
about 20 times. )
2. POSITION
Turn over onto your stomach, plac-
ing your left cheek down on the
back of your right hand with the left
hand lying alongside your body.
A. MOVEMENT
Slowly lift up the right elbow 3
times .
SENSING
Try to feel which muscles in the
shoulder are contracting.
B. MOVEMENT
Slowly lift head to look over right
shoulder 3 times.
SENSING
Notice the contraction of muscles
from the shoulder down the right
side of the spine to the pelvis.
C. MOVEMENT
Simultaneously lift elbow, hand,
and head to look over right shoul-
der 3 times.
SENSING
Notice how the contraction has now
extended through the shoulder gir-
dle down the spine into the left but-
tocks, which contracts as if to lift the
left leg.
Remember: Always focus your attention on the internal sensations of the movement 103
D. MOVEMENT
Now reverse this movement by lift-
ing the left leg a few inches from the
floor 3 times.
SENSING
Notice how your brain balances the
weight of the left leg by automati-
cally contracting the muscles of
both the right spine and shoulder.
E. MOVEMENT
Do both movements simultane-
ously: Slowly inhale, lifting both the
left leg and the right hand-elbow
and head 3 times.
3. POSITION
Now turn your head to the left,
placing the right cheek on back of
the left hand with the right hand
lying alongside your body.
MOVEMENT
Same as above, i.e.,
A. Lift left elbow 3 times.
B. Lift head to look over shoulder 3
times .
C. Lift head, hand, and shoulder to
look over left shoulder 3 times.
D. Lift the right leg a few inches from
the floor 3 times.
E. Do both movements simultane-
ously: Slowly inhale, lifting both the
right leg and the left hand-elbow
and head 3 times.
4. POSITION
Put left hand on back of right hand,
placing center of forehead on back
of left hand.
104 Remember: Always move slowly, gently, and without forcing the movement
A. MOVEMENT
Inhale and slowly lift head and eyes
up toward ceiling 3 times .
SENSING
Feel how the muscles contract along
both sides of the spine down into
the buttocks. You are feeling the
classic swaybacked posture with
belly projected forward and head
pulled backward that most adults
mistakenly take to be "straight."
This is the distorted Green Light re-
flex which causes most adults to
have chronic back pain.
During the next five movements,
notice the different areas of contrac-
tion in the neck, shoulder, back,
buttocks, and hamstring muscles of
the legs.
MOVEMENTS
B. Inhale, lifting up right leg a few
inches, then lowering it as you ex-
hale. 3 times.
C. Inhale, lifting up left leg a few
inches, then lowering it as you ex-
hale. 3 times .
D. Inhale, lifting right leg and head si-
multaneously, then lowering them
as you exhale. 3 times.
E. Inhale, lifting left leg and head si-
multaneously, then lowerinB them
as you exhale. 3 times.
F. Inhale, just slightly lifting both legs
and head one time only.
5. POSITION
Roll over onto your back again,
knees bent, and feet near to but-
tocks. Interlace the fingers of both
Remember: Always focus your attention on the internal sensations of the movement 105
The Daily "Cat Stretch"
hands and place them beneath back
of head.
A. MOVEMENT
Inhale, arching your lower back (re-
member that when you do this the
tailbone presses downward as the
beltline rises); then exhale, flatten-
ing the lower back down toward the
floor as you lift your head. Repeat 6
times.
B. MOVEMENT
Relax now, stretching out hands
and legs on the floor.
SENSING
Try to sense how your back feels as
you lie in this relaxed position.
Sense it from inside your body, then
slip your hand flat under the lower
back to feel whether the lower back
is lying flatter on the floor.
Already, you have learned four parts of the Daily "Cat Stretch," that you will
be doing later as part of your maintenance routine. Please note that the move-
ments you did in LB. and in S.A. are the first two parts of the "Cat Stretch."
These are followed by the movements of 2.E. and 3.E.
106 Remember: Always focus your attention on the internal sensations of the movement
LESSON 2
Controlling the Flexor Muscles of the Stomach
This lesson teaches the rudiments of controlling the Red Light reflex, which
flexes the muscles in the front of the body. Learning to control these muscles
goes hand in hand with controlling their opposite muscle group: the extensor
muscles of the back.
The flexor muscles pull in the opposite direction of the extensor muscles-
one group is the agonist, and the other group is the antagonist. When they both
pull at the same time, they squeeze the entire trunk in what has been called the
Dark Vise--a condition directly related to shallow breathing and to distortion of
heartbeat rhythm and blood pressure.
When you finish the movement of lifting the head toward the right knee
while using the right hand, notice the difference in the way the right pelvis and
the right shoulder blade lie against the rug. You will be asked throughout the
lesson to be aware of your sensory feedback; this is just as important to learn as
is improved muscle control. The sensory learning goes together with the motor
learning.
At the end of the lesson, it is essential that you do the Body Image Training. It
will reveal to you how sensory-motor amnesia creates a distorted body image:
that is, even though you may believe you are sitting "straight," you may actually
be sitting with a swayback. And when the back muscles have released enough
to anow you to sit truly straight, you will, at first, feel as if you are slumped
forward! At this point you will realize that, as of Lesson Two, your body is
actually reorganizing its posture.
1. POSITION
Lie on back, knees bent, with feet
near to buttocks. Place left hand on
pubic bone and place right hand
over lower half of chest. (N. B.: The
abdominal muscle extends from the
pubic bone to the mid-chest.)
A. MOVEMENT
Inhale, slowly lifting lower back as
the pelvis rolls down to the tail-
bone; then exhale, flattening lower
back. Repeat 6 times.
Remember: Always move slowly, gently, and without forcing the movement 107
SENSING
Feel with your hands how the ab-
dominal muscle contracts when you
flatten the lower back. The emo-
tions of fear and apprehension will
also cause the abdominal muscle to
contract-that is the Red Light
reflex.
B. MOVEMENT
Place right hand beneath head, then
inhale, arching back as you did be-
fore; then, exhale, contracting ab-
dominal muscle to flatten lower
back toward floor as you lift up
head with right hand. Repeat 6
times.
SENSING
Use your left hand to notice how
the abdominal muscle contracts
even harder when you lift your
head.
C. MOVEMENT
Now raise right knee and hold it in
front with left hand. Continue same
pattern as above, but now, as you
exhale, flattening the back and lift-
ing the head, pull the right knee to-
ward the elbow and point the right
elbow toward the right knee 6 times.
SENSING
Notice how the more you lower the
back against the floor, the easier it is
to bring the elbow to the knee. You
are releasing the back muscles even
farther now.
Stretch out arms and legs and relax, no-
ticing how it feels down the trunk be-
tween the right shoulder and the right
hip.
108 Remember: Always focus your attention on the internal sensations of the movement
2. POSITION
On back, knees bent, with feet near
to buttocks.
A. MOVEMENT
Begin, once again, the pattern of
slowly inhaling, lifting the lower
back, then exhaling, while flatten-
ing the lower back ....
B. MOVEMENT
Place left hand beneath head and
hold front of left knee in the air with
right hand. Now, as you lower the
back, exhaling, simultaneously lift
head and elbow to left knee, while
pulling left knee toward left elbow.
6 times.
SENSING
Notice that the more you lower the
small of the back, the nearer the
face and elbow will come to the
knee. Your back muscles are begin-
ning to release even more.
Stop, stretch out arms and legs to rest.
3. POSITION
On back with knees bent, place
right hand beneath head. Then lift
left knee and hold it with left hand.
A. MOVEMENT
Inhale, slowly lifting the lower
back; then, as you exhale, flatten
the back and lift the head and right
elbow toward the left knee. Simul-
taneously, pull left knee toward
right elbow and face. 6 times.
SENSING
Notice how the head and elbow
must point slightly to the left. Also
Remember: Always move slowly, gently, and without forcing the movement 109
feel how the more you round the
back downward toward the floor,
the nearer the elbow comes to the
knee. Your back muscles are releas-
ing still further and becoming more
supple: i.e., you are remembering
how to gain voluntary control again
of the muscles of the back.
4. POSITION
Place left hand beneath head, then
lift up the right knee and hold it
with the right hand.
A. MOVEMENT
Inhale, arching lower back; then, as
you exhale, lift the head and left el-
bow toward the right knee: while
pulling the knee toward the left el-
bow and face. 6 times.
5. POSITION
Interlace both hands and place
them beneath the back of the head.
A. MOVEMENT
Inhale, arching lower back, then ex-
hale, flattening the back as you lift
up the head. 3 times.
6. POSITION
Keep hands beneath head, lift up
both knees, letting them balance
over the stomach.
A. MOVEMENT
Inhale, arching up lower back; then
exhale, flattening back as the hands
lift the head and both elbows to-
ward both knees. Try to bring the
knees toward the elbows.
Stretch out legs with arms alongside
body and rest .
110 Remember: Alwajs focus your attention on the internal sensations of the movement
Body Image Training
SENSING
Notice how you feel inside your
body from the middle of the chest
down to the pubic bone and in the
area between the legs. As you qui-
etly inhale, allow your lower belly
to rise freely with complete relaxa-
tion, so that your breathing be-
comes deep and full.
After repeating Lesson Two and becoming more able to release and flatten the
lower back, practice this same movement while you are sitting. If you have had
chronic lower back pains for many years, you will have a swayback with very
contracted muscles along each side of the lower spine.
If that has been your chronic condition, you will discover-through Body
Image Training-how sensory-motor amnesia has caused you to forget what it
means for the lower back to be relaxed and more vertical, with the weight rest-
ing on the vertebrae.
Because SMA creates a distorted body image, when your back is relaxed and
flat, and when your head is directly over the center of gravity of your body, you
will feel too far forward, as if you were slumped. Because you have held the back for
so long in an unnatural (and uncomfortable!) position, it has come to feel "nor-
mal" being that way-even though you have had recurrent pains with the
swayed back and its contraction of the lumbar muscles.
Figure 25a
Distorted Body Image:
Swayback Seems Straight
Figure 25b
Straight Back Seems "Slumped"
Remember: Always move slowly, gently, and without forcing the movement 111
Hence, when your back now begins to relax and your upper trunk can come
forward again to a natural, unstressed posture, notice how "abnormal" it feels
at first. This is only a transient experience that will pass away within a week or
so as the relaxed posture begins to feel normal.
It is essential that you deal directly with the distorted body image caused by
SMA. Otherwise, learning how to release the chronically held muscles of the
lower back will not, by itself, lead to a permanent change in your comfort and
height or in the way you habitually sit.
I ask my clients to practice relaxing and flattening their lower back while sit-
ting, with their eyes closed in a chair that is turned sideways to a mirror. When
they internally sense that they have relaxed their backs, they will-while in a
sitting posture-feel abnormally "slumped forward."
But then, when I ask them to open their eyes and look at their image in the
mirror, they are astonished to discover that their back is both tall and vertical-
and also that the belly is flat.
Please make use of this mirror technique. It is a simple and fascinating ex-
ample of biofeedback.
When your internal sense of back position and your visual sense of back po-
sition finally adjust to one another, your way of sitting will be permanently
changed. You will be able to sit for hours without soreness or fatigue, because
your vertebrae will be a vertical column of support for the trunk-exactly as the
mirror shows it to be. It is just a matter of getting used to a new body image.
And, in addition, you will be taller. Why? Because a straight line is longer
than a curved line!
The Daily "Cat Stretch"
Please note that you have now learned two more parts of your Daily "Cat
Stretch" routine: 3.A. and 4.A.
112 Remember: Always focus your attention on the internal sensations of the movement
LESSON 3
Controlling the Muscles of the Waist
If you are short-waisted, these movement patterns will help make you visibly
longer-waisted. If your trunk tends to tilt to one side, Lesson Three will bring
you more toward verticality.
When you have finished the movements on the right side, be sensitive to the
feeling of length that has come into this side. You may also notice that there is
more movement in the waist when you inhale. You are cultivating greater so-
matic self-awareness, and this sensory ability allows you to be more capable of
self-monitoring what is happening in your body.
1. POSITION
Lie on left side, knees folded on top
of each other at right angles to the
body. Extend left arm on floor, so
that left ear can rest on it, like a
cushion. Reach right hand over top
of head, placing the palm of the
right hand against left ear.
A. MOVEMENT
Inhale and, using right arm, very
slowly lift the head into the air.
Then exhale, letting the head slowly
come back down. 3 times .
B. MOVEMENT
Inhale and very slowly lift up right
lower leg and foot, rolling (but not
lifting) right thigh. Then exhale, let-
ting the foot slowly come back
down. Pretend that you are lifting
up the right hip to touch the right
armpit. 3 times.
C. MOVEMENT
Inhale and very slowly lift both head
and right foot in air. Then exhale,
letting them both come down si-
multaneously. Pretend that you are
lifting the right armpit to place over
the right hip. 3 times.
Remember: Always move slowly, gently, and without forcing the movement 113
Lie on your back and rest one minute,
with arms alongside body and feet
slightly apart .
SENSING
As you rest, sense within your body
how it feels in the mid-section. Can
you notice any difference between
the left and right sides?
2. POSITION
Tum over onto right side with knees
folded on top of each other at right
angles to the body. Extend the right
arm on the floor, so that the right
ear can rest on it like a cushion.
Reach left arm over top of head,
placing the palm against the right
ear.
A. MOVEMENT
Inhale and, using left arm, very
slowly lift up head in the air as high
as is comfortable. 3 times. Does it go
up more easily than the right side?
Or less easily?
B. MOVEMENT
Inhale and very slowly lift left foot
in the air as high as is comfortable.
Let the thigh roll but do not lift it.
Your left hip will contract and lift to-
ward the left shoulder. Exhale, let-
ting the foot come back down
slowly. 3 times .
C. MOVEMENT
Inhale and very slowly lift both
head and left foot in air as high as is
comfortable. Then exhale, letting
them come back down slowly. Pre-
tend that you are bringing the left
hip up to fit into the hollow of the
left armpit. 3 times.
114 Remember: Always focus your attention on the internal sensations of the movement
Turn over onto your back and rest, with
the arms alongside body and the feet
slightly apart.
3. POSITION
Lying on your back, spread the feet
a little wider than your hip joints.
Then reach both arms straight
above top of head against rug,
spreading them wider than your
shoulders. Your body will be like a
large X lying on the rug with a
straight line from the right arm
do"wn to the left leg and from the
left arm down to the right leg.
A. MOVEMENT
Slowly lengthen your right leg,
stretching the heel down the floor.
B. MOVEMENT
Relaxing the right leg, slowly
lengthen your left arm above the
head, sliding it along the rug. Repeat
this leg-arm movement 10 times.
SENSING
Notice how your waist and rib cage
on both sides change back and forth
as you alternate stretching the right
leg and left arm. Sense how your
ability to reach depends on how
freely you can move your waist and
rib cage. You can see that a tight
waist automatically restricts the
movement of the leg in walking and
the arm in reaching.
Stop and relax, so that you can compare
the feelings in the right leg with the left
and the feelings in the left arm and rib
cage with that of the right .
Remember: Always move slowly, gently, and without forcing the movement 115
C. MOVEMENT
Slowly lengthen your left leg,
stretching the heel down the floor.
D. MOVEMENT
Relaxing the left leg, slowly
lengthen your right arm above the
head, sliding it along the rug. Repeat
this leg-arm movement 10 times.
Relax, and notice the greater feeling of
similarity between the two sides.
E. MOVEMENT
Now put together these four move-
ment directions in a rounded fash-
ion: Stretch the left arm upward,
then relax. Stretch the right leg
downward, then relax. Stretch the
left leg downward, then relax.
Stretch the right arm upward, then
relax. Stretch the left arm upward,
then relax. Then the right leg, then
left leg, then right arm, and so on.
Repeat this 4-point cycle 10 times.
Stop and relax. You have now
learned greater control and aware-
ness of the muscles on the sides of
the body, in addition to what you
learned earlier about the back and
front of the body. This prepares you
for the next lesson, which involves
using all of these muscles by rotat-
ing the body.
116 Remember: Always focus your attention on the internal sensations of the movement
LESSON 4
Controlling the Muscles Involving Trunk Rotation
This Somatic Exercise takes full advantage of the growing sensitivity and control
you have now attained in all three sections of the center of the body: the exten-
sor muscles of the back, the flexor muscles of the abdomen, and the lateral mus-
cles of the waist.
During the spiral twisting you will be doing in this lesson, your sensory-
motor tracts can simultaneously experience the lengthening of all three muscle
groups. Not only is the pelvis now beginning to move more freely, the entire
spine and the rib cage are also. You will notice that, as you gain control of these
areas, the body begins to reshape itself. As your chest, for example, is released
from the depressing effect of the Red Light reflex, it lifts and expands.
At this stage of your neuromuscular training, you will begin to perceive how
similar these movement patterns are to what a cat is doing when it stretches.
You will notice the special pleasure that is sensed when the trunk stretches more
freely.
This lesson ends with an easy-to-do resume movement that involves inverse
rotation of the arms and legs. Later on, you can include this in your Daily "Cat
Stretch" routine. This movement is a full spiral twist, and it allows the trunk to
stretch to its fullest length. Note that when the knees are dropped to one side
and the head is turned to the opposite side, the entire body is twirled, exactly
the way a washrag is spirally twisted when we wring it out, twisting one end
clockwise and the other end counterclockwise. As you will learn in Lesson
Eight, mastering this twist is essential to an easy stride in walking.
1. POSITION
Lie on your back with knees bent
and feet near to buttocks.
A. MOVEMENT
Cross the left leg fully over the right
leg. Inhale; then, as you exhale, al-
low the legs to tilt slowly down to
the left as far as they will naturally
fall. Then inhale and slowly lift
them back to vertical; then exhale
once again and allow the legs to
slowly tilt back down to the left. Re-
peat this movement 10 times. Be sure
that your right shoulder stays on
the floor and does not lift as the legs
drop left.
Remember: Always move slowly, gently, and without forcing the movement 117
Stretch out your arms and legs and rest .
SENSING
Compare the feelings in the right
hip and leg with those in the left.
See if the right side of your chest
feels more open than the left side.
2. POSITION
Still lying on your back with knees
bent, hold up both hands in the air,
with the elbows straight and the
palms pressed firmly together. The
arms will be making the shape of a
tall steeple. As you do the next
movement, make certain that the el-
bows do not bend nor the palms
slip. The knees will remain in the
vertical position.
A. MOVEMENT
Inhale. Then, as you exhale, tilt the
arms slowly to the right as far as is
comfortable-also turning the eyes
and head to the right . Then inhale
and slowly lift the arms back to ver-
tical; then exhale and tilt the arms
down again to the right, repeating
this movement 5 times.
Stretch out your arms and legs and rest .
B. MOVEMENT
Now, once again, cross the left knee
over the right (the arms remain
down at your side) and exhale, al-
lowing the legs to tilt down to the
left. Roll your head to the right as
you do this, and reach your arm up
on the rug above the head, stretch-
ing as the knees drop. Inhale, lifting
legs vertical, then exhale, dropping
them down left again as you tum
your head and stretch the arm, re-
peating this 5 times.
118 Remember: Always focus your attention on the internal sensatiolls of the movement
SENSING
Is it easier to drop the legs this sec-
ond time? Do they seem to go far-
ther? Think of how your upper
body has been twisting to the right
and your lower body to the left:
Your body is forming a spiral, and
your body is lengthening.
3. POSITION
On back with arms by side and
knees bent, but this time cross the
right leg over the left.
A. MOVEMENT
Exhale, letting the legs tilt slowly
down to the right, then inhale,
bringing them back to vertical.
Then exhale again, letting the legs
drop right again. Each time, roll the
head left and stretch the left arm up
on the rug over your head. Repeat 10
times .
SENSING
By turning the head, your neck ver-
tebrae rotate to left, making it easier
for the vertebrae and ribs in the
middle of your trunk to space them-
selves and form the spiral twist.
4. POSITION
Hold both hands straight up in the
air, with elbows straight and palms
pressed firmly together, making a
steeple. The knees are bent and re-
main vertical.
A. MOVEMENT
Exhale, tilting the arms slowly to
left. Inhale, bringing the arms back
to vertical. Be sure the elbows and
hands maintain their positions. Re-
peat 5 times.
Remember: Always move slowly, gently, and without forcing the movement 119
5. POSITION
Once again, cross the right leg over
the left.
A. MOVEMENT
Exhale, tilting the legs slowly to the
right, while rolling your head to the
left and stretching the left arm up-
ward on the rug. 5 times.
SENSING
Notice the catlike grace of this
stretching movement. Make it feel
as pleasant as possible, as you re-
member the delight you had
stretching when you were a child.
6. POSITION
Leave your right leg crossed over
the left as you hold both hands up
in the steeple position.
A. MOVEMENT
Exhale, letting your arms and head
tilt halfway over to the left, before
releasing legs to tilt over to the
right. (The arms go first because the
upper half of the body is much
lighter than the lower half.) Then
inhale, bringing both arms and legs
slowly back to vertical. Repeat 5
times.
SENSING
Notice the full spiral twist of the
body-as if two giant hands were
gently twisting the lower part of the
body one way and the upper part
the other, like squeezing the water
out of a washrag.
120 Remember: Always focus your attention on the internal sensations of the movement
7. POSITION
Cross left leg over the right, while
holding the arms in the steeple
position.
A. MOVEMENT
Exhale, letting your arms and head
tilt halfway to the right, before re-
leasing the legs to tilt over to the
left. Then inhale, bringing arms and
legs back to vertical 5 times .
UnCross your legs and relax for a
moment.
Now you can put all of this together
in a delightful movement pattern:
8. POSITION
Leave knees bent, but stretch out
both arms to the side.
A. MOVEMENT
Roll the left arm up on the surface
of the floor (roll-don't slide-the
arm) until the shoulder begins to
press down on the floor, while si-
multaneously rolling the right arm
down the surface of the floor (roll-
ing-not sliding) until the shoulder
begins to lift up off the floor ....
Then, do the reverse, by rolling the
left arm down the floor and the
right arm up. Do this slowly and
gently several times until you get
the feel of it.
Now, roll the right arm down and
the left arm up as you simultane-
ously let the two legs drop down to
the right. Then do the reverse: As
the right arm rolls back up and the
Remember: Always move slowly, gently, and without forcing the movement 121
Body Image Training
left arm rolls down, drop the legs
over to the left.
Continue this movement slowly,
back and forth, letting your head
join in the movement by rolling left
when the knees drop to the right
and rolling right when the knees
drop to the left. Repeat 10 to 20 times.
SENSING
Notice how the entire body twists,
stretches, and lengthens. Try to
make this movement as pleasurable
as possible-like a child, lazily
stretching. Or like a cat.
Stop and rest.
Traumatic injuries cause many individuals to be scoliotic, that is, tilted over to
one side, with a spinal curvature. Because this curvature is, in most cases,
caused by the spinal and trunk muscles being chronically contracted on that
side, regaining control of these muscles makes it possible to correct this
curvature.
To test whether you are scoliotic, stand in front of a mirror, close your eyes,
and tilt briefly to one side; then return to "what feels like vertical," with the eyes
still closed. Then open your eyes and look into the mirror to see if the mirror
image matches "what feels like vertical." Is the head vertical? Are the shoulders
horizontal? Are your two hands hanging down at the same level?
If you find that you are tilting, then you have clear evidence that your body
image ("what feels like vertical") is distorted and your sense of balance has been
disturbed.
To correct this distorted body image, do the following procedure: With eyes
closed, tilt to the right, then return to "what feels like vertical." If, when you
open your eyes, you are off balance, immediately close the eyes again, and try to
correct the imbalance purely by sensing your balance "in the dark." When you
believe you have corrected it, open your eyes again but do not move. Did you
rebalance this time? If not, close your eyes again, and correct your posture until
you think you have it balanced. Then, not moving, open your eyes and check
again. If still unbalanced, repeat until you end up balanced.
Important: Under no circumstance should you attempt to correct your balance with
the eyes open-otherwise, the sensory-motor system learns nothing and your posture will
not change.
122 Remember: Always focus your attention on the internal sensations of the movement
After getting the correct balance with the eyes closed, repeat the same pro-
cedure, except that this time you close the eyes and tilt to the left. Then, when
you get it balanced, do it once more to the right. Then do it once more to the
left. That is sufficient for one day's training.
The next day, go through the same procedure again, and you will discover
that you are rapidly becoming more consistently accurate. After a week or so,
you will find that while "in the dark," you know exactly where your head and
body are in space. At that point, the correction of the scoliosis will be complete,
assuming that you have also mastered the muscle releases of the first four So-
matic Exercises.
At the end, your body image will be adjusted and your muscle control re-
stored. Your internal image and the external mirror image will be the same. This
is a classic example of biofeedback self-training-a solidly established scientific
method of learning control of bodily functions.
The Daily "Cat Stretch"
In this lesson, the movement pattern of B.A. is now added to your "Cat Stretch"
routine.
Remember: Always focu s your attention on the internal sensations of the movement 123
LESSON 5
Controlling the Muscles of the Hip Joints and Legs
This lesson allows you to understand why Somatic Exercises must be unrushed
and progressive in order to be genuinely successful. You will discover, in your
own body, how freeing the muscles first in the center of gravity makes it pos-
sible to free the movements of the hips, legs, and feet .
It will also become clear to you how sensory-motor amnesia, by causing con-
striction of the muscles between the pelvis and trunk, causes general stiffness
in locomotion, characteristic of what is mistakenly thought of as an inevitable
feature of old age.
You will now begin to free the muscles, not only for walking, but for all leg
movements. Many persons who have not hiked or danced for years, discover
that the ability and pleasure of performing these activities become, once more,
a normal capacity of their bodies.
1. POSITION
Lie on your back with the legs
stretched out on the floor but with
the right knee slightly bent and
tilted out to the right side.
A. MOVEMENT
Invert the right foot, turning the
sole inward, and keep turning it un-
til it leads the lower leg to lift up
slightly off the floor. The right knee
will drop down on the right as the
foot makes a "scooping" motion up-
ward and a little to the left. Return
the foot to the floor and repeat 10
times.
SENSING
Notice how the action of inverting
and lifting the foot not only causes
the knee to drop down, but the left
side of the back to lengthen, lifting
up the left side of the pelvis. You
will discover that the more you
lengthen the back and lift the left
side of the pelvis, the more you will
be able to lift the foot, while drop-
ping the knee.
124 Remember: Always move slowly, gently, and without forcing the movement
2. POSITION
Now slide the right foot out to the
right side, while letting the right
knee drop inward to the left.
A. MOVEMENT
Evert the right foot, turning the sole
to the outside and lifting the foot
upward and a little to the right,
while letting the knee drop down
more to the inside. Then return the
foot to the floor and repeat 10 times.
SENSING
Notice what the right hip does and
how the right side of the back
lengthens to lift up the right side
of the pelvis. As you repeat this
movement of everting the right foot
upward, dropping the knee down-
ward and lifting the right pelvis, no-
tice how your movement extends all
the way up into the chest and,
even, the neck. Go with this move-
ment by allowing the head to gently
roll right as you evert the foot, and
see if this makes the movement eas-
ier. Indeed, it may now seem almost
graceful.
Stop, stretch out your legs and rest, no-
ticing how different your right leg
feels from the left.
Now, put these two movements
together:
3. POSITION
Have both legs straigh t at this start-
ing position.
A. MOVEMENT
First, invert the right foot, lifting it
upward and inward, as the right
knee drops outward and the left
Remember: Always focus your attention on the internal sensations of the movement 125
back lifts. Secondly, straighten the
leg, and then evert the right foot,
lifting it upward and outward as the
right knee drops inward and the
right back lifts. Then straighten the
leg and invert the foot again. Repeat
10 times, very slowly.
SENSING
Notice how the whole of the body
up to the neck will follow this
movement of the ankle. Your body
is becoming supple and beginning
to move more supplely as a single
unit. This is the feeling of synergy.
Stop, stretch out your legs, and rest.
SENSING
Notice how much "more" of a leg
you have on the right in compari-
son with how the left feels.
4. POSITION
Lie on your back with the legs
stretched out on the floor, but this
time with the left knee slightly bent
and tilted out to the left side.
A. MOVEMENT
Invert the left foot, turning the sole
inward, and keep turning it until it
leads the lower leg to lift up slightly
off the floor. The left knee will drop
down on the left, as the foot makes
a "scooping" motion upward and a
little to the right. Return the foot to
the floor. Repeat 10 times.
SENSING
Notice how the action of inverting
and lifting the foot not only causes
the knee to drop down, but the
126 Remember: Always move slowly, gently, and without forcing the movement
right side of the back to lengthen,
lifting up the right side of the pel-
vis. You will discover that the more
you lengthen the back and lift the
right side of the pelvis, the more
you will be able to lift the foot while
dropping the knee.
5. POSITION
Now slide the left foot out to the left
side, while letting the left knee drop
inward to the right.
A. MOVEMENT
Evert the left foot, turning the sole
to the outside and lifting the foot
upward and a little to the left, while
letting the knee drop down more to
the inside. Then return the foot to
the floor and repeat 10 times.
SENSING
Notice what the left hip does and
how the left side of the back length-
ens to lift up the left side of the pel-
vis. As you repeat this movement of
everting the left foot upward, drop-
ping the knee downward, and lift-
ing the left pelvis, notice how your
movement extends all the way up
into the chest, and even the neck.
Go with this movement, by allow-
ing the head to gently roll left as
you evert the foot, and see if this
makes the movement easier and
more graceful.
Stop, stretch out your legs and rest, no-
ticing whether the left leg is already
feeling changed.
Now put these two movements
together:
Remember: Always focus your attention on the internal sensations of the movement 127
6. POSITION
Have both legs straight at the
beginning.
A. MOVEMENT
First invert the left foot, lifting it up-
ward and inward as the left knee
drops outward and the left back
lifts. Secondly, straighten the leg
and then evert the left foot, lifting it
upward and outward as the left
knee drops inward and the left back
lifts. Then, straighten the leg and
invert the foot again. Repeat 10
times, very slowly.
SENSING
Again, notice how the whole of the
body up to the neck will follow this
ankle movement. Relax the neck
and chest, and your head will au-
tomatically rotate right then left as
you invert and then evert.
Stop, stretch out your legs, and rest.
SENSING
Notice that the left leg has caught
up with the right leg in its feeling of
fullness and aliveness.
Now use both legs simultaneously:
7. POSITION
Continue lying on your back with
the legs stretched out on the floor.
A. MOVEMENT
Invert both feet simultaneously, let-
ting the knees fall outward in a
"bow-legged" position; then,
straighten the legs, and turn both
feet into eversion, and the knees
will fall inward in a "knock-kneed"
128 Remember: Always move slowly, gently, and without forcing the movement
The Daily "Cat Stretch"
position. Go back and forth 10
times.
SENSING
Notice that when you are "bow-
legged," the lower back tends to
arch up into a swayback. When you
are "knock-kneed," the lower back
tends to flatten downward.
Stop and rest.
B. MOVEMENT
Keep the legs close together, and in-
vert the right foot while everting
the left (the knees will drop to the
right). Straighten the legs, and then
evert the right foot while inverting
the left. (Keep the knees together as
they drop to the left.) Go back and
forth 10 times.
SENSING
This is the movement pattern of
skiing: The soles of the feet remain
parallel, while the hips and back ro-
tate left and right. Notice the sup-
pleness of your body as you go back
and forth.
Stop, stretch out, and relax.
SENSING
Notice how fully alive your legs
now feel. From the point of view of
your sensory-motor system, you
have "more" of a leg on both sides
than you had before. And notice
how this aliveness extends upward
into the whole of your body, which
is now more relaxed than ever.
This lesson adds the following movement patterns to your "Cat Stretch" routine:
3.A. and 6.A.; then 7.A. ("bow-legged" and "knock-kneed" positions) and 7.B.
("skiing" movements) .
Remember: Always focus your attention on the internal sensations of the movement 129
LESSON 6
Controlling the Muscles of the Neck and Shoulders
This fascinating Somatic Exercise, which was invented by my teacher, Dr.
Moshe Feldenkrais, lets you discover how the act of paying attention to the
movements of different parts of your body frees these parts to move more easily.
No better example could be found of how sensory awareness can awaken motor
control.
During this lesson, you will also discover that, whereas traditional body ex-
ercises make the muscles stronger, Somatic Exercises make the brain more in-
telligent in sensing and controlling the muscles. It is the inner change in brain
function that makes possible outer change in muscle function.
When you have completed learning this left-turning rotational pattern, repeat
the pattern on the right side, so that both hemispheres of the brain are com-
pletely reprogrammed.
1. POSITION
Sit on the floor with both knees bent
and tilted over to the left onto the
floor. Place the sole of the left foot
against the thigh of the right leg.
Extend the left arm downward to
the floor at your side, leaning on it
only slightly. Keep your torso erect,
without leaning your weight back
too far. Now, finally, place the palm
of your right hand on your left
shoulder.
A. MOVEMENT
Very slowly, turn your whole torso
to the left, rotating the eyes, head,
shoulder, elbow, and torso as far as
is comfortable. When you have
reached your limit of turning, re-
verse the movement and come back
to the front. Repeat this 5 times, then
put down your hand to rest a brief
moment.
130 Remember: Always move slowly, gently, and without forcing the movement
B. MOVEMENT
Once again tum the whole torso to
the left, this time stopping when
you have reached the limit of your
rotation. Stay at this position, and
take notice of the exact direction in
which your nose is pointing by re-
membering a particular spot on the
wall. (Don't forget this spot, be-
cause you will be checking it later
on to test your progress.)
Now, holding the torso in this ro-
tated position, turn the head only back
to the right and then, again, to the left,
5 times.
After 5 repetitions, return to the
center and bring the hand down to
your lap and rest while sitting. Do
not lean too heavily on your left
arm.
C. MOVEMENT
Again, place your right hand on
your left shoulder and rotate your
head and torso all the way around
to the left, stopping when you reach
your limit. Stay there. This time
move only your eyes back to the right
and then return 5 times.
Return to center, put down your hand,
and rest.
SENSING
As you moved the eyes, alone, back
to the right, did you notice any
trembling of your neck muscles, as
if they were trying to move? This
comes from the learned habit we
have of usually moving the head
and eyes together. For some per-
sons, it is difficult, at first, to pre-
Remember: Always focus your attention on the internal sensations of the movement 131
vent this slight movement in the
neck. Later on, it will disappear
with practice.
D. MOVEMENT
Now, do a test, by closing the eyes,
placing your right hand on your
shoulder, and, once more, rotating
the eyes, head, shoulder, and torso
around to the left 5 times, each time
going to the limit of your tum. At
the 5th tum, stop at your limit, open
your eyes, and check to see if your
nose is pointing at a spot on the
wall farther than the original check-
point. If you are rotating farther, re-
member that it is not because of
forcing the muscles but of becoming
internally more aware of their dif-
ferent functions .
E. MOVEMENT
Again, place the right hand on the
left shoulder and slowly rotate
around to your new limit 10 times.
SENSING
While doing this, notice what your
right hip is doing: It tries to lift up
each time you tum left, then it
drops back down when you return
to center. Let your awareness help
the right hip to do what it wants to
do: let it rise as far as it wants, and
you will notice how this improves
the movement.
On your last tum, stop and check
your point on the wall to see if you
have now turned even farther to the
left.
Stop, stretch out on your back, and
rest for a full minute. While resting,
you might gently roll your head
132 Remember: Always move slowly, gently, and without forcing the movement
back and forth a few times to see if
it rolls more easily to the left than
the right.
2. POSITION
Resume same position, sitting on
the floor with bent knees dropped
down to the left, the sole of the left
foot against the right thigh, while
gently leaning on the extended left
arm.
Now place your right hand on top
of your head, lightly gripping the
skull. Completely relax your neck,
so that the movement is done
purely by the right hand.
A. MOVEMENT
Slowly and gently pull the head
over toward the right shoulder and
then push the head in the opposite
direction over toward the left shoul-
der. Continue doing this, repeating
10 times.
SENSING
When the head tilts to the right, no-
tice how the right ribs compress
and the left ribs open up. When the
head tilts to the left, the left ribs
then compress, while the right ribs
open. The rib cage is like an accor-
dion! Allow this alternating rib
movement to occur freely, and the
head will begin to tilt over farther-
not through greater force but
through greater awareness.
Also sense that the right waist
shortens and the right pelvis takes
on more weight when the head
goes to the right. The same occurs
on the left when you tilt left. Again,
Remember: Always focus your attention on the internal sensations of the movement 133
allow this movement to occur
freely, and the head will tilt down
even more toward the shoulder.
Stop and rest for a moment, with your
hand on your leg.
B. MOVEMENT
Now do a test again by closing the
eyes as you place your right hand on
your left shoulder and fully rotate
around to the left-being aware this
time of the movements of the rib
cage, the waist, and the right hip.
On the 5th rotation, stop at your full
limit and open your eyes, checking
your original point on the wall.
Have you now turned even farther?
You can see how learning new sen-
sory awareness helps us learn new
possibilities of movement.
Stop, stretch out on your back, and rest
for a full minute.
3. POSITION
Sit on floor, resuming the same po-
sition as before, except that now
you bring the right hand over to the
left, to rest on the floor next to the
left hand.
A. MOVEMENT
Slowly rotate eyes, head, and torso
to the left, feeling how much move-
ment there is in the ribs, waist, and
hips. Repeat 5 times.
On the 5th rotation, stop at your full
left turn, and stay there. Now
slowly bring only the head back to
the right center, so that the right
cheek almost touches the right
shoulder, and stay there a brief mo-
ment. This is your starting position.
134 Remember: Always move slowly, gently, and without forcing the movement
Now, at the same time, bring the
trunk back to the right center as you
rotate the head to the left, your left
cheek almost touching your left
shoulder and your eyes looking
over the left shoulder.
Then, at the same time, reverse this
movement, bringing the trunk back
to the left as you rotate the head
back to the right center. Go very
slowly at first, until the coordina-
tion begins to be smooth. Repeat 10
times.
Return to the center after this, and rest
for a brief moment.
B. MOVEMENT
Now do a test again by closing the
eyes and placing the right hand on
the left shoulder: Slowly rotate to
the left and back 5 times. On the 5th
rotation, stop at your limit, open
your eyes to check if your turn is
still farther from your original point
on the wall.
Rest a brief moment, with your hand on
your leg.
e. MOVEMENT
With the right hand next to the left
hand, rotate to the left, out to your
full limit, and stay there. Now move
only the eyes back to the right (the head
doesn't move). Pause a moment:
This is your starting position.
Now, at the same time, move the
head, shoulders, and torso back to
the right center as you move the
eyes slowly back to the far left. Go
very slowly back and forth, until
the original jerkiness of this move-
ment smooths out. Repeat 10 times.
Remember: Always focus your attention on the internal sensations of the movement 135
SENSING
You will notice at first the difficulty
of this coordination-the eyes jerk,
and the head wants to follow the
eyes. This is due to your habit of al-
ways turning the eyes and head to-
gether in the same direction. As the
movement is smoothed out, your
neck muscles will no longer be un-
der the unconscious tyranny of the
eyes.
Stop, stretch out on your back, and rest
for a full minute.
4. POSITION
Resume your position of sitting,
with the knees tilted left and your
right hand next to the left hand.
A. MOVEMENT
Rotate all the way to the left 5 times
and, on the 5th rotation, stop at
your limit . . .
Then, slowly lift the face up toward
the ceiling, then bring it down to-
ward the floor 5 times.
B. MOVEMENT
Stop, with the head down, and then
lift the eyes only up toward the ceil-
ing. Now, at the same time, lift the
head as you let the eyes fall down-
ward, then drop the head as the
eyes float upward. Repeat 5 times .
SENSING
You will, again, experience an initial
jerkiness of the eyes and a hesita-
tion of the head. You are creating a
new program in the sensory-motor
section of the brain, so you must go
136 Remember: Always move slowly, gently, and without forcing the movement
The Daily "Cat Stretch"
very slowly and pay careful atten-
tion. You will, most likely, feel
proud of yourself when you have
mastered this coordination.
Stop and rest for a brief moment.
C. MOVEMENT
This is the final test. Sitting, as at the
beginning, with the legs tilted to the
left, the left hand on the floor at
your side, and the right hand on
your shoulder, close your eyes and
rotate around to the left 5 times,
sensing everything you have
learned to sense and using all of
your body, so as to achieve a maxi-
mal turn.
On the 5th rotation, stop at your
limit, open your eyes, and check a last
time to see if your nose is pointing
still farther past the original spot on
the wall.
Stop and stretch out on your back and
rest .
After you have rested for at least
several minutes (or, perhaps,
waited until the next day), repeat
these very same movements in the
reverse position: that is, with the
knees bent and dropped over to the
right onto the floor, your right hand
on the floor by your side, and the
left hand on your right shoulder-
as illustrated.
This lesson contains the final movement patterns of your Daily "Cat Stretch"
routine: Do l.A. and l.B. to the left, followed by 3.A. (or, better, followed by
3.C. when the reverse eye movements become easier), ending with 4.A. and
4.B. Then take the reverse position, doing the same sequence to the right side.
Remember: Always focus your attention on the internal sensations of the movement 137
LESSON 7
Improving Breathing
Once greater awareness and control have been achieved in the muscles at the
center of the body and in the upper trunk, it is then possible to learn the art of
deeper breathing-namely "diaphragmatic breathing."
This is a Somatic Exercise of major physiological importance. It should be
mastered along with a knowledge of the pathological effects of the Red Light
reflex on both breathing and heart function, as described in Part 2.
Although this series of movement patterns is too lengthy to become part of
your Daily "Cat Stretch" routine, you should repeat them from time to time.
This exercise is a lifesaver. Each time you go through it, you will discover an
improvement in your breathing; that is, you will be taking in more and more air
with less and less effort.
Each position you take during this lesson---on the back, the sides, and the
stomach-has its own distinctive sensory feedback and necessitates a slightly
different type of motor control each time. This is because each position is in a
different relation to gravity.
1. POSITION
Lie on your back, with the knees
bent, and the feet drawn up near to
the buttocks. Keep the feet slightly
apart and the arms alongside your
body.
A. MOVEMENT
Inhale through the nose and lift the
belt line upward as the tailbone tilts
slightly downward. (Remember:
This is what you did in Lesson One.)
Then, exhale, pressing the belt line
downward to touch against the
floor. Repeat this slowly and gently 15
times.
SENSING
Become aware of the upward-
downward movement of the dia-
phragm muscle. It is located at the
lower borders of the rib cage from
front to back and from side to side.
138 Remember: Always move slowly, gently, and without forcing the movement
The diaphragm stretches across this
entire area, completely separating
the thoracic cavity from the abdom-
inal cavity.
When you exhale, this unusual
muscle relaxes upward into the
vault of the thoracic cavity, arching
like an umbrella, as its elasticity
pushes out the used air from the
lungs. When you inhale, the dia-
phragm contracts, making the um-
brella shape collapse downward.
This pumplike, downward move-
ment creates a partial vacuum,
which draws fresh air into the
lungs. But be very aware of this:
When the diaphragm contracts down-
ward, inhaling, it must push the viscera
of the lower abdomen downward and
outward, making the lower belly swell
outward slightly like a balloon. Do not
resist this natural swelling of the lower
belly. The more you relax the ab-
dominal muscle, allowing the belly
to swell, the greater will be the
quantity of air drawn into the lungs.
In relaxed, deep breathing, it is not
the upper chest that lifts, but only
the belly.
If, for whatever reason, you hold
the abdominal muscle tight to pre-
vent the belly from swelling out-
ward, you block the pumplike
descent of the diaphragm, causing
shallow breathing.
So, relax your belly as you inhale
and let it swell out. It will come
back by its own elasticity, and you
will not be creating a large belly.
"Tight guts" are deadly: They cause
shallow breathing and increase the
heartbeat and blood pressure. As
Remember: Always focus your attention on the internal sensations of the movement 139
you take these 15 breaths, let the
balloon of the abdomen swell
higher and higher with each inhal-
ation, and let it be flatter and hol-
lower with each exhalation.
THE PUMP
B. MOVEMENT
Now inhale and, with the belly
round and full like a balloon, stop,
holding your breath and locking it
in. Then, abruptly, flatten your back
and belly, forcing this balloon of air
upward into your chest, so that the
chest swells up. (Be careful: Don't
let the air come out your nose or
mouth!) Then flatten your chest,
pushing the ball of air back down
into the belly, while arching the
back again.
Continue this pumplike up-down
movement until you need to take a
breath. Do the movement vigor-
ously and decisively like a piston
stroking upward and downward.
Stop and rest a moment.
SENSING
As you rest, breathing normally,
can you feel more space for breath-
ing in the abdomen and rib cage?
Does the trunk seem less tight?
Does everything in the trunk move
more easily and softly as you
breathe?
C. MOVEMENT
Repeat this pumplike breathing pat-
tern 2 more times, being sure you do
not let the air out as you flatten the
back, forcing the air up into the
chest, or as you flatten the chest,
forcing the air back down into the
rounded, arched belly.
140 Remember: Always move slowly, gently, and without forcing the movement
D. MOVEMENT
Now reverse the pattern, by inhal-
ing first into the chest (the back re-
mains flat); then shoot the air
balloon from the chest down into
the belly and arched back; then
shoot it back up, then down, and so
on, until you must take a new
breath. Do this 2 times.
Stop and rest.
2. POSITION
Tum over and lie on your stomach,
with your head turned to the right,
and the left cheek lying on the back
of the right hand. Let your left arm
lie stretched downward alongside
your body.
A. MOVEMENT
Keeping your torso loose and re-
laxed, inhale deeply into the belly,
letting it swell out downward
against the floor; hold your breath,
locking in the air, and then shoot
the balloon of air up into the chest,
then back down into the belly, and
so on, until you need to take a new
breath. Repeat once more, this time
inhaling first into the chest.
3. POSITION
Change over with the head turned
to the left, the right cheek resting on
the back of your left hand. Let the
right arm lie stretched downward
alongside your body.
A. MOVEMENT
Repeat the same pattern, once be-
ginning with the belly inhalation
and once with the chest.
Remember: Always focus your attention on the internal sensations of the movement 141
SENSING
Can you sense a stretching and
opening in the back of the ribs and
in the lower back?
4. POSITION
Roll over onto your left side, with
your right arm lying across the right
hip and the left arm stretched up-
ward on the floor, to serve as a
cushion for your left ear. Keep your
knees bent and on top of one
another.
A. MOVEMENT
Inhale into the belly, arching the
back and swelling the belly; then
shoot this balloon of air up into the
chest, flattening the back.
Then, send the air balloon down
into the belly again. Make this
movement precise and pistonlike.
Repeat once more, inhaling first into
the chest.
SENSING
When you finish the two move-
ments, pause and see if you can
sense more breathing space in the
right side of the rib cage and waist.
Does the right side move more
freely? (Remember: Your left ribs
are pressed against the floor, so that
the pressure of the air is forced up
into the right rib cage.)
5. posmON
Roll over onto your right side, ar-
ranging your arms and legs as
before.
142 Remember: Always move slowly, gently, and without forcing the movement
A. MOVEMENT
Repeat the same two pumplike
breaths.
SENSING
Do you feel more space in your left
side? More ease in movement as
you breathe?
Stop, turn over onto your back, and
rest .
THE DIAGONAL PUMP
6. POSITION
Lie on your back with the knees
bent and raised and with the feet
drawn up near the buttocks.
A. MOVEMENT
Tighten your left rib cage, so that
the right rib cage opens up broadly.
Then, inhale deeply only into the
right chest, keeping the back flat.
When your right chest is filled up
like a balloon, push the balloon of
air downward into the left abdo-
men! You can do it. As you swell
out the left abdomen, the back will
arch and the left side of the pelvis
will tilt down a bit.
Then, shove the balloon of air back
up into the right chest, flattening
the back and tightening the left rib
cage; then, shove it down again.
Keep the torso very loose and sup-
ple as you perform this unusual
movement. It will become easier.
Pause and rest before repeating this
movement once more. Try to make it
smoother the second time.
Remember: Always focus your attention on the internal sensations of the movement 143
7 . POSITION
Still lying on your back, do the op-
posite diagonal pattern, preparing
for it by tightening the right rib cage
to open up the left side and by flat-
tening the lower back.
A. MOVEMENT
Inhale deeply up into the left chest,
filling up the left lung like a balloon;
then, hold in your breath and shoot
the balloon of air downward into
the right side of the abdomen. The
back will arch, and the right side of
the pelvis will drop down a bit.
Continue this pistonlike movement,
until you have to take a fresh
breath. Rest a moment before re-
peating this one more time.
S. POSITION
Remain lying on your back with the
chest relaxed on both sides.
A. MOVEMENT
End this lesson by inhaling deeply
and slowly into both sides of the
chest. Then, hold the breath, as you
shoot the balloon of air downward
into both sides of the abdomen;
then back up again, then back
down, and so on, until you have to
take a fresh breath.
Stop and rest.
SENSING
As you relax and breathe easily and
naturally, notice how much softer
and fuller and looser your entire
trunk and abdomen feel. Sense the
downward movement of the ab-
dominal muscle, as it descends into
144 Remember: Always move slowly, gently, and without forcing the movement
the lower abdominal area, softly lift-
ing and swelling the belly in full
deep breathing. Also notice the
quiet feeling of calmness and relax-
ation that has now come into your
body.
Remember: Always focus your attention on the internal sensations of the movement 145
LESSON 8
Improving Walking
If the muscles in the center of the body gradually become stiff, the ability to
walk is gradually diminished. The pelvis does not rotate horizontally as you step
forward; nor does it move upward and downward as the weight comes off and
onto the leg; nor does the trunk twist, so that the right arm and shoulder come
forward as the left hip and leg come forward (the contralateral walking pattern).
As this stiffness in the center of the body increases, and as a person becomes
accustomed to this diminished ability in moving the pelvis and trunk, the art of
walking is forgotten. Sensory-motor amnesia occurs, and one cannot help walk-
ing like an "old person."
What you will learn in this Somatic Exercise is enormously important for hu-
man existence: Humans are the only creatures on earth that walk on two legs
with the arms swinging freely in counterbalance. That is why you will find it so
deeply satisfying to experience the wonderful circular movement of the hip that
occurs in smooth, effortless walking.
In the previous seven lessons, you learned greater awareness and control of
the entire bodily musculature, which makes it now possible for you to learn the
pattern of "well-oiled," efficient walking. Achieving this efficient pattern will be
your graduation present to yourself for completing the Somatic Exercises.
1. POSITION
Lie on your back, with the arms
alongside your body, and with the
legs stretched out on the floor. Let
your feet be slightly separated to
about the width of your hip joints.
THE VERTICAL DIMENSION OF
WALKING
A. MOVEMENT
Slowly lengthen the right leg by
sliding the right heel downward on
the floor. (Notice that your left hip
goes upward as you do this.)
Then, slowly lengthen the left leg
by sliding the left heel downward
on the floor. (And this time, the
right hip goes upward.) Then,
again, lengthen the right leg, then
the left leg, and so on. Repeat this 20
times.
146 Remember: Always move slowly, gently, and without forcing the movement
SENSING
As you do this alternating move-
ment, imagine that you are running
in slow motion: As one leg length-
ens in a new step, the other leg
shortens as it touches the ground
and receives the weight of the body.
Notice how the lower spine curves
left and right in response to the foot
touching the imaginary ground:
The spine hollows inward on the
left side as the left hip rises; then, as
the right hip goes upward, the
spine is concave on the right.
Feel how the large muscles and
vertebrae of the lower back adjust to
receive the weight of the leg's up-
ward movement, as the foot hits the
ground. This up-down movement
is the north-south aspect of bipedal
locomotion. It is the vertical dimen-
sion of walking and running.
Stop and rest for a moment.
THE HORIZONTAL DIMENSION
OF WALKING
2. POSITION
Bend your knees and spread the
feet and knees as far apart as is com-
fortable . Be sure your hips, waist,
back, and rib cage are relaxed and
supple.
A. MOVEMENT
Let the right knee drop to the left,
falling down inside the space left
open by the other leg. Then bring
the knee back up to vertical and re-
peat, making sure that the right side
of your back rises to allow the right
hip to rise. In this way, the knee
will go nearer to the floor. Repeat 5
times.
Remember: Always focus your attention on the internal sensations of the movement 147
B. MOVEMENT
Now let the left knee drop inward
to the right, falling toward the floor.
Allow the left side of the back to
lengthen, so the left hip will rise.
Repeat 5 times.
C. MOVEMENT
Now alternate this same movement
between the right and left legs. Re-
peat 5 times.
SENSING
As you do this alternating move-
ment, notice how the pelvis rolls
left and right on the floor, like a bar-
rel, as the back lengthens and lifts
on alternate sides of the pelvis.
Use all of your torso to help in lift-
ing the pelvis as high as possible on
each side. Make a large, rolling
movement of the pelvis-the torso
is rolling but your shoulders remain
flat on the floor.
Remember this important action of
lengthening and lifting the entire
side of the torso when you perform
the following movement pattern.
3. POSITION
Remain on your back with the
knees still bent, but this time hold
them parallel with one another.
A. MOVEMENT
Lift up the right side of the pelvis,
by lengthening the right side of the
back, waist, and rib cage. Then,
without moving the foot, push the thigh
straight forward . This is a walking
movement: The pelvis is rotating
forward, as the right leg comes for-
148 Remember: Always move slowly, gently, and without forcing the movement
ward to take a step. Push the thigh
and knee forward, lifting the right
pelvis, 5 times.
B. MOVEMENT
Then stop, and do the same movement 5
times with the left knee.
C. MOVEMENT
Now alternate the same movement
between both legs 10 times.
SENSING
Notice that this is still the same
movement of the pelvis and torso
you were doing earlier, except that
now the knee is pointing straight
forward rather than dropping
downward and inward.
You will discover that the more you
lengthen and lift the back, the far-
ther the knee moves forward. If you
were standing, you would be
swinging the hips to take a big step
forward. This is the horizontal di-
mension of walking and running.
COMBINING THE VERTICAL AND
HORIZONTAL MOVEMENTS OF
THE HIPS
4. POSITION
Stretch out the left knee on the
floor, leaving the right knee bent.
A. MOVEMENT
Push the right thigh straight for-
ward, as you simultaneously pull
up the left hip, by contracting the
left waist and shortening the left
leg. Relax, and then keep repeating
this movement, until it becomes
easy to do. Then you will be ready
for the complete movement:
Remember: Always focus your attention on the internal sensations of the movement 149
Push the right thigh forward, short-
ening the left leg. Then slowly
straighten the right leg flat onto the
floor, as you now bend the left knee,
pushing the left thigh forward. At the
same time, shorten the right leg by con-
tracting the right waist and pulling up
the right leg.
SENSING
Stop and clarify what it is you are
doing: This is an exaggeration of the
movement of walking! Especially
notice that the right hip makes a
slow circle by rising, going forward,
falling, and sliding back. Then the
left hip makes the same circle.
B. MOVEMENT
Continue doing this walking pat-
tern of the hips and legs very slowly
20 times. One leg bends and pushes
forward as the other leg simultane-
ously straightens and pulls back up.
Make the movement smooth and
even.
SENSING
Imagine that the straight leg that
pulls up is touching the ground,
causing the hip to rise from the up-
ward force of the weight; then
imagine the same thing as the other
leg pulls upward.
Take your time in doing this, pre-
tending that you are a giant, walk-
ing in slow motion.
You have now combined the verti-
cal and horizontal movements of
the hips, making both of them
move in a circular pattern. Remem-
ber that the ball of your hip joint is
perfectly round. It is designed to go
in a perfect circle, once your back
150 Remember: Always move slowly, gently, and without forcing the movement
and torso become supple enough to
allow your hip to do so.
5. POSITION
Now stand up, with your feet di-
rectly under your two hip joints.
A. MOVEMENT
Hold the right knee straight, as you
allow the left knee to bend, which
will cause your left hip to drop
down and your right hip to slide
partially to the side. All of your
weight is resting on your right leg
as you do this.
B. MOVEMENT
Now do the reverse: Straighten the
left knee, relaxing the right knee so
that it bends. This will cause your
right hip to drop down and your left
hip to slide to the left. All of your
weight has now been transferred to
the left leg.
e. MOVEMENT
Again, straighten the right knee, al-
lowing the left knee to relax and
bend; then straighten the left knee,
allowing the right knee to relax and
bend. Continue this weight transfer
movement smoothly and evenly 20
times.
SENSING
Notice the circling of the hips in the
full movement of efficient walking.
The straight leg, by holding your
weight, will naturally slide outward
and upward, making the lower
spine curve in on that side. Keep
your spine supple, so that its partic-
ipation in the movement is easy and
smooth.
Remember: Always focus your attention on the internal sensations of the movement 151
Do not be ashamed of moving your hips
freely. At first, the movement feels
embarrassingly free, but if you look
at yourself in a mirror as you do it,
you will see that it is not exagger-
ated, but is actually graceful. If this
free, efficient movement seems, at
first, exaggerated, it is because you
have forgotten what efficient walk-
ing feels like. You will soon become
used to it, and in your normal walk-
ing will have just exactly the
amount of natural movement that is
proper to your skeletal structure.
D. MOVEMENT
Stop with your weight on the left
leg and bring your right knee for-
ward. Then, sliding the right foot
forward on the floor, take a small
step. As you do so, let your weight
transfer over to your straight right
knee, allowing the right hip to re-
lax, sliding outward to the side. The
left knee now bends. Bring it for-
ward, sliding the left foot forward
on the floor, to take a small step.
The left knee straightens as it re-
ceives the weight, and the left hip
will slide a little out to the side.
SENSING
If the knee is straight, you can relax
all of your weight on that leg. And,
as soon as you do so, the hip re-
sponds by sliding out to the side.
Let it slide all the way, until it stops.
The ligaments and muscles of the hip
will hold all your weight without any
effort on your part . Relax all of your
weight on this solid support.
As you begin to make use of this au-
tomatic locking of the knee and hip
152 Remember: Always move slowly, gently, and without forcing the movement
joint, you will notice that the effort
of walking is greatly reduced-
walking becomes easy, because you
are using the bones and ligamental
structure to hold your weight,
rather than unconsciously con-
tracted muscles.
Practice this movement until it is as
smooth as a lion's gait: The pelvis
and hips move freely as the weight
shifts from one side to the other,
but the head and upper trunk re-
main quietly stable and in balance.
E. MOVEMENT
Now emphasize the horizontal
swing of the hips by stopping, with
your weight on the straightened left
leg, and then bring the right side of
the pelvis forward by lengthening
and rotating the back-just as you
had been doing on the floor, earlier.
Now, with the pelvis brought for-
ward, let the right knee and foot
also come straight forward, your
weight relaxing down on that
straight leg and the right hip mov-
ing out to the side.
Next, bring the left pelvis forward,
with the left knee and foot coming
straight ahead to take a step, and
the left knee then straightening to
take the weight, and so on.
SENSING
Be sure that, as your right hip and
leg go forward, you do not uncon-
sciously bring the right shoulder
forward. Instead, pull the right
shoulder backward slightly, as the
right hip goes forward. When the
left hip goes forward, pull back the
Remember: Always focus your attention on the internal sensations of the movement 153
left shoulder. As you do this, you
will feel a supple twist occurring in
the middle of your trunk. This is the
feeling of the contralateral walking
pattern-it is the feeling of free,
youthful walking!
You will also notice that this relaxed
movement of the hips takes the
shock out of the foot's contact with
the floor: that is, there is no "fight-
ing against gravity" on the part of
the foot, ankle, knee, hip, or pel-
vis--they can accept the weight, be-
cause it is absorbed and cushioned
by the springlike movements of the
large vertebrae and muscles of the
lower back, as they rotate left and
right.
References
Introduction
1. Lake, Bernard. "Functional Integration: A Literal Position Statement." Soma tics 4 (2),
Spring-Summer 1983, p. 13.
2. Researchers in gerontology have finally begun to recognize that humans age in very
different ways: "Usual" aging moves toward decrepitude, but some people "success-
fully" age and maintain their functions undiminished. See John W. Rowe and Robert
L. Kahn. "Human Aging: Usual and successful." Science 237 Ouly 10, 1987), pp. 143-
149.
Chapter 2
1. Barlow, Wilfred. The Alexander Technique. New York: Knopf, 1973, p. 110.
2. Basmajian, J. v. Muscles Alive: Their Functions Revealed by Electromyography. Baltimore:
Williams & Wilkins, 1979, p. 81.
3. Budzynski, Thomas H. "Brain lateralization and rescripting." Soma tics 3(2) (Spring,
1981) pp. 4 ff.
Chapter 4
1. Kapandji, I. A. The Physiology of the Joints, Vol. III, The Trunk and Vertebral Column.
New York: Churchill Livingstone, 1974, pp. 118--119.
2. MacLean, Paul. "Studies in the limbic system (visceral brain) and their bearing on
psychological problems." In Wittkower and Cleghorn (Eds.), Research Developments in
Psychosomatic Medicine. Philadelphia: Lippincott, 1954, pp. 101-125.
Chapter 6
1. Palmore, E. (Ed.). Normal Aging, Vol. II, Reports from the Duke Longitudinal Studies.
Durham, N. c.: Duke University Press, 1974.
2. DeVries, H. A. "Physiological effects of an exercise training regimen upon men aged
52--88." Journal of Gerontology 24(1970), pp. 325--336; and DeVries, H. A., and Adams,
G. N. "Effect of the type of exercise upon the work of the heart in older men." Journal
of Sports Medicine 17(1977), pp. 41-46.
3. Barry, A. J., Daly, J. W., Pruett, E. D., Steinmetz, J. R., Page, H. F., Birkhead, N. c.,
and Rodahl, K. "The effects of physical conditioning on older individuals. I. Work
capacity, circulatory-respiratory function, and work electrocardiogram." Journal of
Gerontology 21(1966), pp. 182-191.
4. Bassey, E. J. "Age, inactivity and some physiological responses to exercises." Geron-
tology, 24(1978), pp. 66--77.
5. Gore, I. Y. "Physical activity and aging-A survey of Soviet literature." Geronologica
Clinica 14(1972), pp. 65--85.
6. Smith, E. L., and Reddan, W. "Proceedings-Physical activity-A modality for bone
accretion in the aged." American Journal of Roentgenology, 126(1976), p. 1297.
7. Erickson, D. J. "Exercise for the older adult." The Physician and Sports Medicine (Oc-
tober 1978), pp. 99-107.
8. Mortimer, James A., Pirozzolo, Francis J., and Matetta, Gabe J. The Aging Motor Sys-
tem. New York: Praeger, 1982, p. 9.
9. Ibid., pp. 8--9.
10. Ibid., p. 84.
11. Ibid., p. 6.
155
156 Soma tics
Chapter 7
1. Selye, Hans. The Stress of Life. New York: McGraw-Hill, 1978; and Stress Without Dis-
tress. Philadelphia: Lippincott, 1974.
2. Selye, The Stress of Life, pp. XV-XIII.
3. Ibid., p. XVI.
4. Ibid., p. 1.
Chapter 8
1. Eaton, Robert C. (Ed.). Neural Mechanisms of Startle Behavior. New York: Plenum, 1984,
p.291.
2. Ibid., pp. 295-296.
3. Selye, The Stress of Life, op. cit. p. 83.
4. Malmo, Robert B. On Emotions, Needs, and Our Archaic Brain. New York: Holt, Rinehart
& Winston, 1975, pp. 22 ff.
5. Ibid., p. 58.
6. Ibid., pp. 10-11.
7. Grossman, P., and Defares, P. B. "Breathing to the heart of the matter: Effects of
respiratory influences upon cardiovascular phenomena." In Peter B. Defares (Ed.),
Stress and Anxiety, Vol. 9. Washington, D. c.: Hemisphere Publishing Corporation,
1985, pp. 150-151.
8. Ibid., pp. 151-152.
9. Hymes, A., and Neurenberger, P. "Breathing patterns found in heart attack pa-
tients." Research Bulletin of the Himalayan International Institute 2(2) (1980), pp. 10-12.
10. Grossman and Defares, op. cit., p. 159.
11. Ibid., pp. 154-155.
12. Ibid., p. 159.
Chapter 9
1. Caillet, Rene. Low Back Pain Syndrome. Philadelphia: Davis, 1962, p. v.
2. Spano, John. Mind over Back Pain. New York: Morrow, 1984, p. 9.
3. Caillet, op. cit., pp. v-vi.
4. Root, Leon. Oh, My Aching Back. New York: New American Library, 1975,
p.5.
Chapter 10
1. Blumenthal, Herman T. (Ed.). Handbook of Diseases of Aging. New York: Van Nostrand
Reinhold, 1983, pp. xi ff.
2. Petrofsky, Jerrold Scott. Isometric Exercise and Its Clinical Implications. Springfield, Ill.:
Thomas, 1982, p. 125. (Italics my own.)
3. Ibid., p. 128.
4. Ibid., p. 129.
Chapter 11
1. Beacher, Edward M. (Ed.). Love, Sex, and Aging: A Consumers Union Report. Boston:
Little, Brown, 1984.
2. Ibid., p. 313.
3. Ibid., p. 346.
4. Schaie, K. Warner (Ed.). Longitudinal Studies of Adult Psychological Development. New
York: Guilford Press, 1983.
5. Ibid., p. 97.
6. Ibid., p. 127.
7. Ibid., pp. 128-129.
References 157
Chapter 12
1. Evans, F. J. "The power of the sugar pill." Psychology Today 7(1947), pp. 55-59.
2. Evans, F. J. "Unravelling placebo effects: Expectations and the placebo response."
Advances 1(3) (Summer 1984), p. 16.
3. Ibid., p. 11.
4. Beecher, H. "Surgery as a placebo." Journal of the American Medical Association
176(1961), pp. 1102-1107.
5. Wickramasekera, Ian. "The placebo as a conditioned response." Advances 1(3) (Sum-
mer 1984), p. 25. (Italics my own).
Chapter 14
1. An audio cassette version of these same eight somatic exercises, The Myth of Aging,
narrated by Thomas Hanna, is available through Somatic Educational Resources, 1516
Grant Avenue, Suite 220, Novato, California 94945. Somatics: Magazine-Journal of the
Bodily Arts and Sciences can also be ordered from this address.
Index
Abdominal muscles, 52, 53, syndrome, 74 lower, 9-12, 62, 63, 75,
57,58,77 Aging Motor System, The 97,101,110
and withdrawal response, (Mortimer, Pirozzolo, Somatic Exercises for, 101-
49-51 and Matetta), 42-43 105
Action response (Green Agonists, 68-69, 106 Barlow, Wilfred, 9
Light reflex), 47, 67, Alarm reaction, 46 Barry, A. J., 41
72 Allergic reactions, 36 Bassey, E. J., 41
back muscles and, 61-63 Alzheimer's disease, 84 Beecher, H., 86
Landau reaction and, 63- Andrus Gerontology Center Binet intelligence tests, 83
66 (Los Angeles), 40 Biofeedback, 86; 111
See also Green Light reflex Aneurysms, ruptured, 73 Bipedalism, 23--24
Activity, physiological and Angina, 86 Blood cell counts, 86
anatomical research Ankles Blood pressure, 40, 41, 57,
on aging and physical, sprained, 81 86,106
40-41 stiff, 36 chronic high, 73--74
Acupuncturist, 3 weak, 36 Body Image Training, 106,
Adrenal gland secretion, 86 Antagonists, 68-69, 106 110-111, 121-122
Age Anus, 56 Bone spur, 26, 36
defined, 88, 89 Anxiety, 55, 86 Brain, 5, 6, 25
pride in, 92-94 Archer's bow posture, 75-78, adaptation of, 33
viewed as neutral term, 35 79 neurological research on
Aging Arrhythmia, respiratory aging and, 41-43
ambiguity of, 88-89 sinus, 57-58, 73 triune, 27
and brain, neurological Arteriosclerosis, 73, 74 unconscious levels of, 26-
research on, 41-43 Arthritis, 3, 26, 36, 72 28
fear of, 91 rheumatoid, 86 Breathing
and mental competence, Aspirin, 86 diaphragmatic, 57, 137
82,83--84 Asthma, 86 and heart functions,
myth of, 3, 21, 39, 41, 49, Atlas, Charles, 73 effects of withdrawal
83, 87, 91, 92 Atrophy, 39-43 response on, 56-59
and physical activity, shallow, 36, 52, 56, 58, 72,
physiological and Back 106,138
anatomical research muscles, 64, 97 Somatic Exercise for
on, 40-41 and action response, 61- improving, 137-144
as process of growth, 90 63 thoracic, 58
and sexuality, 82-83 pain, 61-63, 75-78, 104 Buell, Stephen J., 42
159
160 Index
Bursitis, 26, 36 Diseases of adaptation, 46, benefit of, 95-97
53,81 improving breathing, 137-
Caillet, Rene, 61, 62 Disks 144
Cancer, 86 bulging, 36, 75 improving walking, 145-
Cardiovascular disease, 73, compressed, 36 153
74 degenerated, 10,36 Exhaustion, stage of, 46
Cardiovascular function, 72, herniated, 36, 75 Expectation, 54, 85-88, 89, 92
73 slipped,36 Extensor muscles of back,
physical conditioning and, subluxated, 36 controlling, 101-105
40-41 Distress, 47, 52, 55 Eye aches, 36
Carpal tunnel syndrome, 36, Double-blind arrangement,
72 86 Fatigue, chronic, 72
Catheter insertion, 81 Dowager's hump, 49, 52 Feedback loop system, 7, 25,
Cat Stretch, Daily, 98-99, 27
105, 111, 116, 122, Ears, ringing in, 36 Feldenkrais, Moshe, 93, 129
128, 136, 137 Edema, 86 Fever, 86
Central nervous system,S, Electromyograms (EMG), 54- Flexor muscles of stomach,
54,87,95 55 controlling, 106-110
motor division of, 5-7 Emesis, 86 Flight-or-fight response, 57
sensory division of, 5-7 Epinephrine, 46 Functional vs. structural
Cerebral cortex, 25, 62 Erickson, D. J., 41 problems, 32, 63
Cerebral palsy, 64 Escape response, 50
Chiropractors, 3, 10, 81 Eustress, 47, 65 Gastric secretion and
Chronic muscular tension, Evans, F. J., 85-86 motility, 86
13-15 Exercise(s), Somatic, 12, 19, General adaptation
Codeine, 86 43, 53, 59, 78, 88, 91 syndrome (GAS), 45-
Cold, common, 86 controlling extensor 47,51-52
Coleman, Paul D., 42 muscles of back, 101- Gluteus medius muscle, 3, 4
Conditioned reflexes, 74 105 Glycogen, 13-14
Constipation, 36,53 controlling flexor muscles Green Light reflex, 67-71,
Consumers Union, Love, Sex, of stomach, 106-110 74, 75, 77, 78, 79, 81,
and Aging, 83 controlling muscles of hip 101
Contraceptives, oral, 86 joints and legs, 123- defined, 47, 61
Coronary disease, 73 128 See also Action response
Cough reflex, 86 controlling muscles Grossman, P., 58-59
Curcio, Christine A., 42 involving trunk Gut, danger of tight, 75-78,
Cybernetic process, 91 rotation, 116-121 138
controlling muscles of
"Dance of the Little Old neck and shoulders, Habituation, 53-56
Men," 29 129-136 Hands, numbness in, 36
Dark Vise, 73, 74, 106 controlling muscles of Hardening of the arteries, see
Darvon,86 waist, 112-115 Arteriosclerosis
Defares, P. B., 58-59 Daily Cat Stretch, 98-99, Head, restricted movement
Depression, 86 105, 111, 116, 122, of,36
DeVries, H. A., 40 128, 136, 137 Headaches, 86
Diabetes, 86 giving yourself maximum chronic tension, 36
Heart and breathing
functions, effects of
withdrawal response
on, 56-59
Heart attack, 41, 58
Heart surgery, 81
Hemorrhoids, 55, 56
Hesiod,20
Hip(s),81
combining vertical and
horizontal dimensions
of, 148--153
fractures, 41
joints, controlling muscles
of, 123-128
pain, 3
Hodge, C. F., 42
Humerus, 17
Hypertension, essential, 58
See also Blood pressure
Hyperventilation, 58, 72, 73
Hypochondria, 36
Immune system, 87
Impotence, 55-56
Injury, role of, 79-82
Insomnia, 86
Ischemia, 58
Isometric contraction, see
Static muscle
contraction
Jogging, 10
Joints, inflamed, 36
Journal of Gerontology, 41
Journal of the American
Geriatrics Society, 41
Kidney surgery, 81
Kinsey, Alfred c., 82
Knee(s)
aching, 53
pain and swelling in, due
to fall, 24-26
Knee-jerk reflex, 27
Kyphosis, 36
Lactic acid, 14
Landau reaction, 63--66, 71
Larsson, Lars, 42-43
Latissimus dorsi muscle, 17,
18,19
Leg(s)
aching, 53
broken, 81
controlling muscles of,
123-128
cramps, 36
sciatic pains in, 36
Longitudinal Studies of
Adult Psychological
Development, 84
Lordosis, 36
MacLean, Paul, 27-28
Mastectomies, 81
Maturation, 28, 39
Mental attitude, role of, 85-
88
Mental competence, aging
and, 82, 83-84
Mirror technique, 111
Morphine, 86
Motor nerves, 5-7
Movements, stiff and
limited, 70-71
Multiple sclerosis, 86
Muscle tonicity, 13-15
Neck, controlling muscles of,
129-136
Neocortex, 28
Nerve, pinched, 26, 72
Neuralgia, 36
Nitroglycerine, 86
Norepinephrine, 46
Osteoarthritis, 36
Osteoporosis, 36
Page, H. F., 41
Index 161
Pain
chronic, 71-72
undiagnosable, 36
Palmore, E., 40
Palpation, 10
Parkinsonism, 86
Pavlov, Ivan, 74
Pectoralis, 17
Petrofsky, J. 5., 73-74
Phobias, 86
Placebo effect, 85-87
Postsurgical trauma, 36
Posture
archer's bow, 75-78, 79
senile, 69-71, 72, 74
stooped, 29-30, 52, 53-54,
70
Psychoneuroimmunology,
86-87
Psychotherapy, 86
Pump, 139-142
diagonal, 142-144
Pupil dilation and
constriction, 86
Reddan, W., 41
Red Light reflex, 67-70, 73,
74, 79, 104, 106, 116
defined, 47, 49-51
See also Withdrawal
response
Resistance, stage of, 46
Respiration, 86
See also Breathing
Rheumatoid arthritis, 86
Rodahl, K., 41
Root, Leon, 63
Schaie, K. Warner, 84
Sciatica, 9, 71, 81-82
Scoliosis, 36, 80, 121-122
Seasickness, 86
Seattle Longitudinal study,
84
162 Index
Self-awareness, power of,
74-75
Self-fulfilling prophecy, 85,
87
Self-image, negative, 72
Selye, Hans, 53, 57, 65, 67
general adaptation
syndrome (GAS) of,
45-47, 51-52
Sensory-motor amnesia
(SMA), 1, 66, 74, 77,
80,91,92
cases of, 3-5, 9-12, 17-19,
23-26, 29-32
distorted body image
caused by, 110-111
exercises for, 93, 95, 97 (see
also Exercise(s),
Somatic)
learning from cases about,
32-36
stiffness caused by, 123
Sensory nerves, 5-7, 81
Sexuality, aging and, 82-83
Shoulder(s)
controlling muscles of,
129-136
frozen, 17-19
stooped,52
Smith, E. L., 41
Software, 91
Somatic, definition of, 19-21
Sphincter muscles, 56
Sphinx, riddle of, 32, 41
Spinal cord, 5, 6
Spinal stenosis, 36
Startle response, 50, 54-55
Static muscle contraction, 73,
74
Steinmetz, J. R., 41
Stomach, controlling flexor
muscles of, 106-110
Stress
and chronic lower back
pain, 10
definition of, 46
muscular reactions to, 14,
15
muscular reflexes of, 45-47
neuromuscular response
to, 47, 51, 56-57, 69,
74
in response to good
things, 65
Strokes, 73
Surgery
placebo effect and, 86
trauma reflex and, 81
Swayback, 10, 75-78, 106,
110
Tachycardia, 86
Technologies, need for soft,
91
Tendonitis, 26
Tension
EMG,54-55
muscular, 55
residual, 55
Tilting, 79, 81
Tonus, muscle, 13-15
Trauma reflex, 47, 79-81
Trunk rotation, controlling
muscles involving,
116-121
Ulcers, 86
Urethra
contractions of, 53, 56
spasms of, 36
Urination, frequent, 36, 53
Use-it-or-Iose-it principle, 39,
84
Vaccines, 86
Varicose veins, 36
Vasoconstriction, 86
Vasomotor function, 86
Waist, controlling muscles
of, 112-115
Walking, 123
combining vertical and
horizontal dimensions
of,148-153
horizontal dimension of,
146-148
Somatic Exercise for
improving, 145-153
vertical dimension of, 145-
146
Warts, 86
Wechsler tests, 83
Wickramasekera, Ian, 87
Withdrawal response (Red
Light reflex), 47, 61,
65,67,72
abdominal muscles and,
4 9 ~ 5 1
effects of, on breathing
and heart functions,
56-59
habituation of, in our
bodies, 53-56
malfunctions caused by,
51-53
secondary effects of, 53
Wrinkling, skin, 52
X rays, 10-11
Youth
attitude of, 92
worship of, 90-91

"Thomas Hanna has written a fantastic book answering questions the experts are only beginning to ask. And he does it in a way that lay people as well as health professionals will find exciting reading, full of entertainment and striking insights."
Dieter Kallinke, M.D. leading Heidelberg pain specialist

"One of the most profound revolutions in our thinking concerns the fundamental connections between body and mind. Now that we begin to understand something of our inner healing powers, along comes Somatics to give form and shape to our new-found knowledge. We have been blessed by Tom Hanna through the publication of this book."
Paul DuBois, Ph.D. Executive Director, Association for Humanistic Psychology

"Somatic education is fortunate to have Thomas Hanna. His newest book, Somatics, marks a new maturity and sophistication in the field he named."
Michael Murphy Director, Esalen Institute

"If I could, I would put Somatics in the hands of every neurologist, internist, nurse, psychophysiologic therapist, and clinical psychologist in the country."
Elmer E. Green, Ph.D The Menninger Clinic

"Somatics should be translated into every Western language, and it should be read by all parents and educators."
Gerda Alexander founder of Eutony

"The missing link between many doctors and their patients can be rediscovered if both parties understand what Somatics is really about: how wisely and wonderfully we are organized to live a better life than many of us do."
Mark Schmid-Neuhaus, M.D. Chief Physician, Munich Health Park

ALSO BY THOMAS HANNA The Body of Life (1980) The End of Tyranny: An Essay on the Possibility of America (1976) Bodies in Revolt: A Primer in Somatic Thinking (1970) The Lyrical Existentialists (1963) The Thought and Art of Albert Camus (1958) BOOKS EDITED BY THOMAS HANNA Explorers of Humankind (1979) The Bergsonian Heritage (1963) .

and Health Thomas Hanna Director of The Novato Institute for Somatic Research and Training OaCapo C\J II FE LONG A Member of the Perseus Books Group .ontatics Reawakening the Mind's Control of Movement. Flexibility.

Printed in the United States of America. ISBN 0-7382-0957-0 ISBN-I3 978-0-7382-0957-9 Published by Da Capo Press A Member of the Perseus Books Group http://www. then you may have problems other than sensory-motor amnesia. 11 Cambridge Center. Knopf. 20 19 18 17 16 15 14 13 . For such advice you should consult a medical doctor. Set in 10-point Palatino by Compset. or transmitted. Where those designations appear in this book and Da Capo Press was aware of a trademark claim.The two drawings on pp. by corporations. 5 and 6 originally appeared in The Body of Life by Thomas Hanna. Cambridge. institutions. or call (800) 255-1514 or (617) 252-5298. and you should consult your doctor immediately. those designations have been printed with initial capital letters. nor should it be regarded. For more information. Cataloging-in-Publication data for this book is available from the Library of Congress. No part of this publication may be reproduced. This book is not intended. published by Alfred A. Inc. without the prior written permission of the publisher. Inc. If you experience serious or protracted pain during or after Somatic Exercises. Copyright © 1980 by Thomas Hanna. mechanical. and other organizations. MA 02142. as medical advice.S. please contact the Special Markets Department at the Perseus Books Group. or email special.com Da Capo Press books are available at special discounts for bulk purchases in the U. Copyright © 1988 by Thomas Hanna All rights reserved.com. photocopying. recording. electronic. in any form or by any means.markets@perseusbooks. Many of the designations used by manufacturers and sellers to distinguish their products are claimed as trademarks.dacapopress. stored in a retrieval system. or otherwise.

Contents Introduction The Myth of Aging xi PART 1 The Stories of Sensory-Motor Amnesia 1 Chapter 1 Barney (42 Years): The Tower of Pisa 3 Interlude: Moving and Feeling-Two Sides of the Same Coin 5 Chapter 2 James (32 Years): The Nightmare Back 9 Interlude: Chronic Muscular Tension 13 Chapter 3 Louise (56 Years): The Frozen Shoulder 17 Interlude: What "Somatic" Means 19 Chapter 4 Harley (60 Years): The Retracted Landing Gear 23 Interlude: The Unconscious Levels of the Brain 26 Chapter 5 Alexander (81 Years): Los Viejitos 29 Summary: What These Five Case Histories Teach Us 32 PART 2 How Sensory-Motor Amnesia Occurs 37 Chapter 6 Chapter 7 Chapter 8 Chapter 9 Atrophy: The Role of Gradual Surrender 39 The Muscular Reflexes of Stress 45 The Red Light Reflex 49 The Green Light Reflex 61 Chapter 10 The Sum of Neuromuscular Stress: The Senile Posture and the "Dark Vise" 67 Interlude: The Archer's Bow and Danger of a "Tight Gut" 75 Chapter 11 Trauma: The Role of Injury 79 Interlude: Staying Sexy and Smart 82 Chapter 12 Expectation: The Role of Mental Attitude 85 Interlude: Learning to Drink from the Well 88 ix .

x Soma tics PART 3 The Somatic Exercise Program 93 Chapter 13 How to Give Yourself the Maximum Benefit of Somatic Exercises 95 Interlude: The Daily "Cat Stretch" 98 Chapter 14 Lesson 1: Lesson 2: Lesson 3: Lesson 4: Lesson 5: Lesson 6: Lesson 7: Lesson 8: The Somatic Exercises 101 Controlling the Extensor Muscles of the Back 101 Controlling the Flexor Muscles of the Stomach 106 Controlling the Muscles of the Waist 112 Controlling the Muscles Involving Trunk Rotation 116 Controlling the Muscles of the Hip Joints and Legs 123 Controlling the Muscles of the Neck and Shoulders 129 Improving Breathing 137 Improving Walking 145 References 155 Index 159 .

some new insight. How could it be any other way?" But there is another way. "It is obvious. fail to protect us from simple bodily stiffness. There is no denying the fact that. The question remains: What happens during aging to account for this decline? How can scientific medicine. but we do not live better. From the fifth century B. and pains? Why do we assume that beyond a certain age-say. we are still haunted by the myth that aging means degeneration. Hans Selye recognized that physiological xi . some new information. But it does not answer a second riddle that lurks within the first: Why is it that humans.D. who crawls on all fours in infancy. to the twentieth century A. walks on two legs in adulthood. This answers the riddle of the Sphinx. "Aging itself causes us to become stiff and aching. just as inscrutable to us today as it was to the Ancient Greeks. may lose this ability and often end up walking with a cane? Clearly. we usually become stiff.. This presumption was accepted in the fifth century B. and leans on a cane in old age. With all that we now know. extending our life span to 80-odd years. having learned to walk upright. aches. they become crippled and infirm.Introduction The Myth of Aging One of the most ancient and famous of riddles is that of the Sphinx: "What is it that has one voice and yet becomes four-footed and two-footed and threefooted?" In Greek mythology." we all declare. At the close of the twentieth century. as we get older. should have made some sense out of why our bodies seem to break down as they enter middle-age. If we could find out how this breakdown occurs. thirty-our bodies have already started to decay? We are not even middle-aged yet! Throughout the centuries the riddle within the riddle remains. After so long a time something should have improved. Twentieth-century science is slowly groping forward toward a better understanding of the body's deterioration.C. we might conceivably learn how to prevent it. when Sophocles wrote about the Sphinx. We may now live longer. but oddly enough it continues to be accepted in the late twentieth century.C. the presumption is that to grow older is to become crippled. as humans become older. Oedipus provided the correct answer: the human being. which protects us from infections and organic disorders. but this does not explain why this degeneration should occur.

In an article he later wrote about his reactions to the class. both avoidable and reversible. The fact is that. during the course of our lives. chiropractors. They call it "successful aging. Clients I have worked with during the past 12 years evince changes that are real and lasting.xii Somatics diseases could arise from psychological causes. and I am convinced that everyone can avoid the loss of bodily function which is the curse of growing older. they typically tell me. because I have seen it occur thousands of times. Some of the most famous people in every epoch have lived to an extended age."2 We all know of examples. It is the missing link in health care." Then they often add an intriguing remark: "You know. Years later they happily confirm the fact. "I had no idea that this was really possible. osteopaths. create habitual muscular contrac- . no longer need regress to a limping posture once they become older. Even Sophocles. Many people in every generation continue to function actively right up until they die. I confess that 20 years ago I would not have believed possible what I see taking place in my office every day."1 For 12 years now I have been hearing such statements of confirmation. some people who in their later years seem to have avoided the aging process. I decided I had to learn to live with it. and creating right up to the end. It is. even though I didn't think this was possible. This is a phenomenon gerontologists have finally recognized. such as stress." A similar thought was expressed by a group of physicians. and physical therapists from Australia to whom I had taught some of these procedures: "You have shown us what we thought we should learn during our training but never did. Functional Integration. These reflexes. still working. There is no reason for our bodies to suffer when most of our life is still before us. That is to say. our sensory-motor systems continually respond to daily stresses and traumas with specific muscular reflexes. and probably envy. This is a "somatic" viewpoint: namely. with nothing to help it. Even though clients-most of them 30 and older-have heard good things about my work. they first come to me with the same mix of hope and skepticism that I once had. We all know. Human beings. I am pleased to say that my treatment based on the work of both Selye and Feldenkrais has achieved some dramatic results in counteracting the aging process. Having had this problem for years. Moshe Feldenkrais put this viewpoint into action with his method of bodily re-education. somehow I always thought that it should be possible. the bodily decrepitude presumed under the myth of aging is not inevitable. that everything we experience in our lives is a bodily experience." One of the physicians attending my class was a distinguished cardiologist. But once we finish working together. he said that what he had learned "has as much potential for understanding the mind-body relationship as Einstein's theory of relativity had for physics. thinking. once they advance from crawling on all fours to walking on two. I know this to be true. by and large. wrote his last play when he was 90. repeatedly triggered. who gave us the riddle of the Sphinx. practicing in Sydney.

There are three. hyper-curved necks. a slight limp. Moreover. show symptoms of sensory-motor amnesia: sunken chests. The ultimate benefit of the Somatic Exercises may likely be found in their application to the physical education of young people. they actually reverse the process. and to remember what has been forgotten. The result is stiffness. but usually become apparent in our thirties and forties. I am convinced that a program of early training in personal sensory awareness and motor control . Children who grow up in disturbed family situations. and I have named them the Red Light reflex. eventually. This is my good news: Sensory-motor amnesia can be avoided. In older people. what we can experience. it call be xiii unlearned. we no longer remember how to move about freely. they are particularly important for people in their thirties. scoliotic tilting of the trunk. It is a memory loss of how certain muscle groups feel and how to control them. And it is primarily this event. the Green Light reflex. and does. and the Trauma reflex. Traumatic accidents or serious surgery in young people can cause the same chronic muscular contractions which in older adults are falsely attributed to aging: for example. You can escape it by making direct and practical use of two abilities that are the unique properties of the human sensory-motor system: to unlearn what has been learned. The reflexes that cause sensory-motor amnesia are very specific. because this occurs within the central nervous system. who begin to experience the accumulated effects of the Red Light reflex. we are not aware of it. yet it affects us to our very core. soreness. and (3) because SMA is a learned adaptive response. It can. the Green Light reflex.Introduction tions. however. First of all. Before discussing the three reflexes. This habituated state of forgetfulness is called sensory-motor amnesia (SMA). These exercises are a major discovery. These muscular contractions have become so deeply involuntary and unconscious that. Our image of who we are. and it can be reversed. permanently raised shoulders. (2) SMA is an adaptive response of the nervous system. that we falsely think of as "growing older. which we cannot-voluntarily-relax. And. or chronic undiagnosable pain that never disappears during the remainder of one's life. occur anytime-from childhood onward. These provide a direct and effective way to reprogram the sensory-motor system. and what we can do is profoundly diminished by sensory-motor amnesia. or in other fearful environments such as war. it is important that I point out the following facts: (1) The effects of sensory-motor amnesia can begin at any age. which has caused so many people to feel stiff and aching. they erase the primary effects of what is falsely attributed to growing older. and the Trauma reflex. They are a crucial part of SMA and round out the enormously important discoveries of Hans Selye and Moshe Feldenkrais. and a restricted range of movement. and its secondary effects." But sensory-motor amnesia has nothing whatsoever to do with age. In Part 3 you will find eight Somatic Exercises.

rather. In fact. as these discoveries relate to our conception of what human beings are and can be. a reversal of the major public health problems--cardiovascular disease. requiring not treatment but education. and how responsible we should be in taking care of our total being. The message of this book is. in part. . but no more so than the false notions of the ill effects of aging that have lasted for millennia. they have broad philosophical implications for understanding the nature of our existence. Somatic Exercises can change how we live our lives. that Oedipus's answer to the riddle of the Sphinx is false. right up until the very end. and it cannot be diagnosed or treated within these traditions. which holds that first-person human experience must be considered of equal scientific and medical importance as outside. cancer. feel that this is how life really should be lived. Soma tics provides us with a way to live under the stressful demands of an urban-industrial environment and still remain healthy-physically and mentally. how powerful we think we are in controlling our lives. we will meet it with open eyes and overcome it. But there is a larger message. There is no need to give in to this blindly as the unavoidable effect of aging. Even so. These claims are far-reaching. a myth. It is a somatic pathology. this category probably accounts for more than half of all human ailments. I am arguing that sensory-motor amnesia describes a category of health problems that has not been recognized until now. and mental illness. I believe that all of us. which will become obvious once you have learned about sensory-motor amnesia and its causes: As we grow older. in our hearts. SMA is a pathology that is neither medical nor surgical. With case histories and research evidence. thirdperson observation. how we believe that our minds and bodies interrelate.xiv Soma tics would cause. this book serves as a practical introduction to the new field of Soma tics. It helps us understand the tendency-of life in general and of technological societies in particular-to wear down our well-being. within the span of one generation. our bodies-and our lives-should continue to improve.

If you are observant. And to understand sensory-motor amnesia is to understand one of the fundamental causes of the malfunctions we have falsely believed to be the effects of aging. in which damage to the body has built up over the years. and almost no one knows what to do about it. In this section are five typical advanced cases of sensory-motor amnesia. you will see them on every street in every city and town in the United States. . I estimate that at least three-quarters of adult Americans suffer from sensory-motor amnesia. In my office I see such cases in various forms every day.PARTl The Stories of Sensory-Motor Amnesia The sensory-motor system is a mechanism fundamental to all human experience and behavior.

3 . Having heard his story. So. He adjusted Barney's spine. That relieved Barney's pain. In addition. and that he had to learn to live with it. Barney went to a chiropractor. who told him that the bones of his lower spine were out of alignment and needed adjustment. typical of the aging process." which no one quite understood but which nonetheless was said to be highly successful. He had heard that I do something unusual called "somatic education. The ancient myth of aging is firmly embedded in modern medicine. painful or not. with this history. Barney pointed to the back of his right pelvis in the area between the hip joint and the sacrum. but four days later it came back. she ordered X rays. that he had arthritis. Barney then went to an acupuncturist. For several years he had felt chronic pain in his right side. was in his forties. And I knew that it was common for physicians to tell patients suffering chronic and medically incurable pain that they had arthritis and there was nothing to do for it. he would frequently lose his balance and stumble. an insurance executive. I informed Barney that he did not have arthritis. I wanted to find out where the pain was. who was a tall man. She concluded that 42 vigorous years of wear and tear had caused arthritic deterioration of the hip joint. I knew that X rays do not show muscle tissue. which is typical. I felt the area. She prescribed aspirin and bed rest on days when the pain was extreme. but she saw no obvious deformity. Barney's hip joint was not painful either to the touch or during movement. I told him I did not know. It braces the leg against the pelvis to maintain stability while we lean over to one side. She told Barney. It was the gluteus medius muscle that was sore. but had a painfully overworked muscle that was sore from constant contraction. who determined which meridians were involved and inserted needles in the appropriate spots. It is the muscle that we usually contract when standing on one leg. "Why did my physician tell me I had arthritis?" he asked.Chapter 1 Barney (42 Years): The Tower of Pisa Barney. which extends across the buttocks from the top of the thigh to the back center of the pelvis. When his physician heard his complaint. but the hip continued to hurt. Barney presented himself to me. Not satisfied with this treatment. The line of pain was in the gluteus medius muscle.

The muscles on Barney's right side were chronically contracted. As Barney stood there. whereas the right back muscles were tensed-especially those near the spinal column . I had Barney stand in front of a full-length mirror. I asked Barney to bring himself up to a vertical position and then close his eyes. But he looked like the Tower of Pisa. and they were the same length. he went right back to a 15degree tilt to the right. Then I had him tilt far to the left with his eyes closed and them come back to what he felt was vertical." I asked." he said.4 Soma/ics Now that I knew precisely where Barney's pain was. so that he could see his IS-degree tilt. He had had no idea that he was tilted . "How does that feel?. At one time. It was soft and uncontracted. pulling him into a scoliotic curve. He said yes. What he once did." he said. Barney could not voluntarily relax the muscles on the right side of his back. It was hard and contracted. I felt his left gluteus medius muscle. five years earlier he had broken his left thigh in an automobile accident. I asked Barney if he had ever had any injuries of a serious nature. Barney's entire trunk was leaning almost 15 degrees to the right. His sense of balance was distorted. putting its weight on the leg . That is the typical effect of sensory-motor amnesia. his trunk immediately tilted back to the right. but his perception of his body's position in space was defective as well. Because the bulk of his weight was thus always on his right side. he could no longer sense. "Are you balanced?" "No. When I felt the muscles of his back. Without hesitating. But he did remember his physician telling him that his right leg was shorter than his left. At that point I knew why he had begun leaning to the right: It is common after leg fractures to tilt one's body to the other side. His senses had been aware of what his Barney's Posture muscles were doing to change the posture of his body in space. "Now I'm vertical. They simply would not respond. earlier in his life. his gluteus medius muscle was always contracted. "I feel tilted to the left. What he once sensed. We measured his legs. Barney had normal motor control of his muscles on Figure 1 both sides. he could no longer do. Not only was Barney's perception of his right side muscles defective." As soon as he relaxed. I asked him to stand directly in front of me with his eyes closed. so that the added weight of his trunk caused his right gluteus medius muscle to contract constantly-thus the chronic pain and fatigue in the muscle. they were similar: The left side muscles were relatively soft and relaxed. But he had since lost both his motor control and his sensory awareness. Then I felt the same muscle on the right side.

Once Barney was taught how to sense his muscular movements as he once did. From the brain down the spine to the tailbone. both structurally and functionally. OORSALROOT ':t/---'\---- Ne. despite the "arthritis" of old age. (2) he now stood vertical. 5 Interlude: Moving and Feeling-Two Sides of the Same Coin When he first came to me. He was now self-maintaining. Both problems relate to the central nervous system.Barney (42 Years): The Tower of Pisa that is uninjured. which is the overall system that controls the body. A traumatic accident had brought on sensory-motor amnesia. no longer needing my help. three things occurred: (1) He no longer had any pain in the pelvis. And better still. to control this problem. the sensory nerves emerge from the back side of the spine and the motor nerves emerge from the front (see Figure 2). with his weight equally balanced on each leg and with his trunk muscles balanced left and right. that is. During the long weeks of healing. and once he relearned ways to control his muscles. He no longer had the precarious posture that had caused him to stumble constantly. When we look at the central nervous system. we see that the most fundamental aspect of it is that it has. Barney no longer had sensory-motor amnesia. he now possessed the happy knowledge of how to prevent this from ever occurring again. Barney could not properly control the muscles of his trunk and pelvis-which was a motor deficiency-and could not properly sense what these muscles were doing with his body-which was a sensory deficiency. the brain and the spinal cord.uron5 Relaying Sensory InpUT Ne-Ul"On5 Roe-laying Motor and Au'tonomic Output" Figure 2 The Sensory and Motor Tract in the Spinal Cord . Barney's right leaning became habituated and totally unconscious. nor the help of any other health professional. and (3) his sense of balance was restored. so that he knew when he was vertical and when he was tilted. two divisions: a sensory division and a motor division. In brief.

These integrated functions of the sensory and motor systems are so fundamental and so familiar that. These two fundamental divisions of the spinal cord reach upward into the brain : The sensory nerve cells conti. like the fish that does not notice the water. and the motor nerve cells continue to the front of the brain (see Figure 3). the brain integrates the incoming sensory information with outgoing commands to the motor system. The sensory nerves control our perceptions of the world and of ourselves. The motor nerves control our movements in the world and inside ourselves by means of their attachments to the muscles of the skeleton and the smooth muscles of the viscera..rM (one. Provided with this information.nue to the rear of the central sulcus of the brain. on left 5ideon'y) R4!:cvvio9 UnUr"'S for '" eo. the brain can compute what to do and how to do it: that is. The sensory nerves carry to the brain information of what is happening in the world as well as in our bodies."in~ Infor-rnation Figure 3 The Sensory and Motor Tract in the Cerebral Cortex This structural division is functionally integrated within a single neural system: The sensory and motor functions are two sides of the same coin.$ Motor Spuc:h A. but in the brain we see their integration. we do not notice their ceaseless operation. Initiating ynhu"S for Outgoing MUSDgC.6 SOlllatics Everything we sense in the world outside our bodies and everything we sense inside our bodies comes into our brain by way of the sensory nerves. Everything that we do in the world and every movement we make flows out from our brain down the spine by way of the motor nerves. In the spine we see the division of the two systems. .

and turns it to the left. trajectory. and speed of the hand movement in relation to the perceived location of the edge of the next page at the right corner of the book. For thousands of years they have been associated with the disorders of aging and were therefore thought to be unavoidable and irreversible. This feedback loop continues its exchange of information until the hand and fingers touch the page and turn it. If something happens that dims our sensory perception. 7 . goes to the right. To recognize how obviously fundamental the sensory-motor system is to the way we live makes us aware of something else fundamental: If anything goes wrong with the sensory-motor system. the motor nerves "feed back" new information to the sensory nerves about the position of the hand. You know where your hand and book are. whose response "loops back" with movement commands along the motor nerves. we will not know how to control our bodies and our actions efficiently. it must know where it is going. If something happens that dulls our motor control. it becomes obvious to us that we require a constant stream of sensory information from the outside in order to maintain ongoing control of our muscular movements from the inside out. As movement takes place. contour. or hit you in the nose. the ongoing interplay of sensory information and motor guidance is referred to as a "feedback system" opi erating in "loops": The sensory nerves "feed back" information to the motor nerves. In contemporary neurophysiological science. Once we reflect on it. and when they occur. they cause a fundamental deterioration in our lives. We could not purposefully do anything in this world if our sensory-motor system did not constantly function. How we sense our world and feel ourselves to be is affected just as much as how we act in the world and how well our bodies function. one's left hand lifts. as we shall see. otherwise it might lift and flop to your side. our lives will be fundamentally diminished. they can be prevented and reversed. Inasmuch as the sensory-motor functions are integrated into one system. When one comes to the end of a page. direction. Malfunctions of the sensory-motor system are serious matters. Luckily. because during every instant that you move your hand you are receiving a constant stream of sensory information about the location. or go over and touch your right shoulder. When your left hand lifts. finds the edge of the next page at the right corner of the book. But for the left hand to "find the edge of the next page" demands precise sensory information as to where the hand is and where the book is. anything that goes wrong in one part automatically goes wrong with the other. it doesn't. not only will we become limited and inefficient in our actions but our feedback will become confusing and imprecise as well.Barney (42 Years): The Tower of Pisa We are rarely conscious of these two integrated functions when we do something as simple as turn the pages of a book. But.

he noticed occasional twinges in his lower back. as German as beer. deadlines. but they always went away. and scheduled goals-all of which are basic procedures of modern business practices-is to risk incurring chronic back pain. Chronic lower back pains are so endemic to the industrialized nations that surveys in these countries suggest that up to three-quarters of the population over 45 suffer from them. he would be almost crippled Sunday morning. a back pain that increased with a vengeance by late afternoon. He felt pain not only in the curve of his lower back but frequently down the back of his pelvis. By the time he reached his early thirties. 9 . even when we are not doing physical labor. to be a manager. and as Australian as Vegemite. the pain was more common. as French as Brie. As it occurred to James. James's familiar morning ache had become chronic. When he was in his mid-twenties. his ability to lean forward and to reach the control panel had become both constricted and slower. To be a salesperson. l There is a direct relationship between chronic back pain and stressful. and he tired more easily. At the studio. And on two occasions-once starting his lawn mower and again using a spade-his back suddenly "went out. It was hard for him to walk long distances. The British physician Wilfred Barlow estimates that half of all the adult population of England suffers severe lower back pains and sciatica.Chapter 2 James (32 Years): The Nightmare Back Chronic pain in the lower back is as American as apple pie. We expect damage to occur to our bodies. But what physicians call the "lower back syndrome" is also as British as beef. James was a technician in a television studio. challenging situations." Each time he froze with such intense pain that he had to stay in bed for a full week. as Japanese as sake. It is even part of our modern folklore. It is so common and so predictable that we are not surprised when it happens. to meet quotas. By the time he reached his late twenties. and it stayed with him until he began to be more active during the morning. a job he had held for more than 10 years. If James worked in his garden on Saturday. He always had the same ache when he woke up. His stride was shorter.

I found that they were not soft. like an archer's bow. and had an athletic body." Nothing seemed to help. to remove the extruding disk material or to fuse the lower vertebrae. But within two weeks he was no longer in pain. he used to jog regularly." he called it. They showed the lumbar vertebrae tilted backward in a swaybacked curve. kept quite active. they did not . Within a day or so. though. James's physician would not promise him one hundred percent recovery. with the posterior facets of the vertebrae looking as if they were falling into the disk material. The best remedy was a weekly visit to a chiropractor. But. And when I looked at him from the side. In fact. What was wrong with James's back? Can a stressful job situation really cause disks to dissolve and bones to colFigure 4 lapse? No. I did two simple things: I touched him. in his back and trunk. When I met James. which was protruding outward . and I looked at him. That's the origin of chronic stiffness and pain in the back. When I touched James's paravertebral muscles. Why touch patients if you can see inside their bodies with X rays? The reason is because X rays do not show the body's softe r tissues. I saw that his lower back was curved into a swayback. after looking at X rays. The doctor said that if the disks became any weaker they might herniate or rupture. almost like cables. Within six weeks he had begun to jog again for the first time in five years. but it came back a few days later. but rigidly contracted. When James told me his problem. the pain always returned . only that surgery would avert paralysis. and then the only relief would be surgery. If he rested and took painkillers. because the X rays did not show muscle contraction. who otherwise was in perfectly good health. the pa in would diminish. Palpation-feeling the patient's body-is almost a lost art in the medical world. like the muscles. But long-term stress can cause James's Pos ture an increasing contraction in the paravertebral muscles that run vertically down either side of the spine and attach to the upper portion of the sacrum. The swayback that I saw was precisely what the physician saw in the X-ray photo-the lower vertebrae tilted into an extreme lordotic curve. He showed James his X rays.10 Somatics This witS a nightmare for James. At 32 he looked young and felt young. of course not. and he felt only a generalized stiffness which was rapidly disappearing. James's doctor. said that his intervertebral disks were weakening and beginning to protrude as the posterior walls of the lumbar vertebrae narrowed-"disk degeneration. except that his body was "breaking down . he was in despair. which relieved the pain immediately.

that this is not a structural pile of blocks but rather a musculo-skeletal system that is controlled by a brain operating in a stressful environment. however. That thong was James's paravertebral muscles. causing the disks to protrude slightly. If we keep in mind. one that demands a reengineering of the doll's spine-the operation James's doctor could not guarantee. Research on extreme tonic muscular contraction has shown that it goes on uninterrupted even during sleep. chronically contracted. perhaps 50 percent. The root of James's back pain was sensorymotor amnesia. whose functions are however deficient. 11 I Figure Sa "Collapsing Blocks" Illusion Figure Sb Vertebrae Bowed by Muscular Pull The moment we realize that James is a human with a brain. we know he can determine for himself what functional changes he needs to make. to relieve his brain of its habitual response to having to support weight. then we have a desperate medical situation. day and night. we will see something quite different when we look at the X rays: a section of vertebrae that has been bowed under the stress of a chronically active muscular pull (Figure 5b). I . a problem that could be traced back to his brain. The X rays gave the illusion of a stack of blocks collapsing from lack of support (Figure Sa).James (32 Years): The Nightmare Back show the physician the taut thong that had pulled the bow into its curve. The tremendous posterior tension of these hypercontracted paravertebral muscles had gradually curved James's vertebrae so that their rear surfaces were forced down into the disks.2 It is no wonder that James and others with this problem wake up sore. I had him lie down on a padded work table. But if we think of James merely as a brainless mechanical doll with a collapsed spinal structure. I treated James as a human being who could relearn to sense and control the hypertense muscles of his lower back.

For our third session we explored how greater control of the central muscles of the trunk now made possible greater freedom of movement of the shoulder and hip joints.12 Somatics helped him feel movement in his pelvis and in the vertebrae of his lower spine. A couple of days a week he jogged in the early morning. he informed me that he was becoming aware of that region of his back for the first time in years: "I'm beginning to feel what's there. the brain is more open to new learning. He said he had no problems whatsoever. When he appeared for his second appointment smiling. As he began to sense these movements. We worked our way gradually along the full length of the spine. one he could practice in the evening before bedtime and in the morning upon awakening. I taught James a simple Somatic Exercise. In the morning he still performed the Somatic Exercises I taught him. and he could move more easily and with more confidence. Once we had reestablished sufficient sensory-motor competence. when the brain waves are slower. The stress of television production was the same. He went off for a second week of practice in relearning sensory-motor control.was beginning to perceive. He was out of acute pain now. he "stretched like a cat" and then went to work. but James wasn't the same. I didn't feel anything other than the pain. "You were right. I taught him a complex movement pattern involving the coordination of trunk. Rather than complaining about pain. Then I said goodbye to him as my client. and legs. ." he said. and I congratulated James on this fact. He didn't feel normal unless he reminded himself of how good it felt for his muscles to be long and relaxed. At these times. and the extreme lordotic curvature began to release. but on how to gain greater flexibility-signaling the rearrival of sensorymotor control. "Before. and he learned a more ambitious Somatic Exercise. "You can have your cake and eat it. He was no longer focused on how to get rid of pain. too." Once this sensory feedback to the brain became clearer to him. and he enjoyed his work. Years later I spoke to James and asked him how he was. We did some further exploration of spinal and trunk movements on the work table. so that the sense of touch in his hands could add to his brain's internal sensing of his muscles' softening." . with James feeling and then lightly contracting the muscles that had automatically contracted up until this time. I had him reach behind his back to feel the muscles. When I saw him the next time. I asked him to attempt gentle movements of the parts of his back he. The paravertebral muscles slowly began to soften. he now wanted his trunk to be even more supple. He was supple in his response to stress. 3 James practiced these brief exercises in somatic control for a week." James said. I knew his sensory-motor amnesia was fading. This meant to me that he had passed through the looking glass to the other side. When he woke up. James reported that even the mild soreness he had felt was gone. It was obvious to me that I was about to lose a client. arms.

James (32 Years): The Nightmare Back Interlude: Chronic Muscular Tension James was fortunate in that we diagnosed and corrected his muscular tension early. Rather than the contraction and the energy consumption dropping down to zero. Their muscles continue to do work and to burn up energy. No matter how hard they try. Full voluntary control of a muscle is the ability both to contract the entire span of the muscle and to relax it fully to its entire length. They always had chronic muscular tension in these areas as well. Many people. Constant pain and chronic muscular tension go together. This is chronic muscular tension. But then. these people cannot fully relax their muscles. It continues to run and to burn up energy. If the tonus is 10 percent. If the tonus is 40 percent. only to contract and shorten it. the muscle should soften almost completely. A relaxed muscle has absolutely no electrical activity in it. tonus is zero. their muscles are quite strong. contract the muscles of their backs or hips or shoulder in order to move. or grow shorter. the muscle will always feel tired and firm. a natural elasticity or ability to stretch and contract in response to stimuli. when the movement is finished. The chronically contracted muscle is like a motor that one cannot turn off. It does not take energy to relax and lengthen a muscle. Sometimes physicians will tell them that the muscles have become weak. hard. but they are tired and overworked from contracting all the time. or even 40 percent. or tonus. they do not voluntarily relax the muscles back to their full length. When we voluntarily contract a muscle and then relax it. But they can be prevented from ever happening at all. Muscles are designed for one action: to contract. we can achieve a muscle tonicity of zerocomplete relaxation. The contraction occurs when the muscle receives an electrochemical signal from the central nervous system to do so. its tonicity can increase to 10. if we have complete control of a muscle. But if we lose our voluntary control of the muscle. We could still have corrected his problem if he had come in later on in his life. On the contrary. and the muscle relaxes back to its former length. In the resting state. the muscles remain 10 percent contracted-or 20 percent or even 40 percent. however. and quite painful. This is why muscles with a high tonus are always sore. a sure sign of its constant contraction. I have had many clients who experienced more or less constant pain in some part of their body for up to 40 years. So. the muscle will feel tired. If we would only bother to feel our muscle. If the tonus is 20 percent. He spent only a few years in pain. the muscle will feel tired. When the signal stops. 20. very firm. and sore. All muscles have tone. which 13 . we would feel its hardness. The glycogen. People with chronically high muscular tonicity often feel that their muscles are "weak" because they cannot move freely. the contraction stops. but by then he would have undergone 20 or 30 years of pain. that is.

constant fatigue. The longer one lives. as well as a more distorted posture. Usually it takes a number of years to accumulate enough stress or trauma to raise muscle tonicity to such an unhealthy level. depending on how much stress the individual has endured. is constantly being burned up. and the muscle will constantly feel painful. . but at other times intolerable. When we consider that the human body has almost 800 muscles. These events are the result of an accumulation of physiological reactions to stress and traumatic accidents. not because of the accumulation of the mysterious factor of "age. this latter group will grow in number. If there is constant combustion. age has nothing to do with it. It is my hope that. A constant 40 percent buildup will create so much hot acidity around the pain receptor cells that the bloodstream cannot flush it away. these hard. and weakness and is "irreversible. It can go on year after year. and the glycogen is then turned into lactic acid." In fact. or a threatening sociopolitical situation such as war. if the childhood and teenage years were unusually traumatic. at times being hardly perceptible. In every case they had suffered early childhood illnesses. Therefore. in later years. Others have the good fortune to escape these effects of stress or trauma. and they are just as supple and lively at 70 as they were at 25. a tragic family dislocation.14 Soma tics is stored in the muscle for the energy of contraction. and the same complaints as those of people in their seventies. distortion of posture. surgery. It is common to have chronically sore or painful muscles from the late twenties onward. There is no question about that. Increasing muscular tonus usually occurs in later years. Some humans have an early and intense accumulation and so show these symptoms early. I have seen many people in their twenties and thirties with the same bodies. the same high tonicity. and the more acid there is. This muscular stiffness. tiredness. Because of the constant production of lactic acid. we usually suffer greater muscular tonus. and that all of them are well stocked with sensory cells. however. we can appreciate why our wellbeing depends on sensory information fed back to our brains by our muscles. and thus more stiffness in our bodily movements. As we become older we have had time to accumulate many stressful and traumatic experiences. But it occurs in later years. stiff muscles are also chronically sore and painful. with increased understanding of sensory-motor amnesia. The combustion of glycogen creates contraction. But the same chronic muscle tension can occur in a young person. the more chances one has for these events to occur and accumulate." but because of the accumulation of the unmysterious factors of stressful living and traumatic accidents. limitation of movement. the more the muscle's sensory cells become irritated. and chronic pain are misinterpreted as the effects of "old age"-a fictitious disease that presumably leads to physiological degeneration. A constant 10 percent buildup will create enough activity to make the muscle feel tired. then there is a constant buildup of lactic acid.

It is possible to feel genuinely "young" no matter what one's age. I feel so old!" hundreds of clients have told me.James (32 Years): The Nightmare Back People with high muscle tonus do not feel good. "Oh. The basic somatic task during our lifetime is to gain greater and greater control over ourselves. 15 . Often they see no hope for recovery. this means to enjoy a muscular tonus that is very low in contraction and energy expenditure and very high in comfort and control. like a cork floating on top of the waves. learning to flow with the stress and trauma of life. Practically speaking. implying that their high degree of tonus is irreversible. But muscular reactions to stress can be overcome.

She was correct: It was weighed down." Two years earlier she had fallen." and her right hand hung three-quarters of an inch lower than her left hand. and reaching all the 17 . There was a powerful contraction of the latissimus dorsi muscle. In order to perform the simplest forward movements of her arm. This constant contraction pulled her arm down and prevented her from reaching above the horizontal level. which attaches to the upper surface of the humerus and to the edge of the shoulder blade and then spreads down across the back to the lower spine and pelvis. "My arm feels like it weighs 50 pounds. This muscle. she had a "frozen shoulder. Louise's powerful chest muscle." After Louise gave me her history. A surgeon had applied a pin to the bone to hold it together. she was forced to exert an enormous contraction of the muscles on top of her shoulder. was also involuntarily contracted and rigid. Looking at her from the front. had come to a decision: "1 guess I'm just over the hill. and sternum. And the frozen latissimus dorsi muscle was out of her control. It looked "pulled down. She said. I had her stand up so that I could observe her stance and feel her muscles-just as I had done with Barney and James. they were constantly overworked. Physical therapy released some of the arm's postsurgical rigidity. breaking the upper part of the humerus where the arm articulates with the shoulder. The bone structure healed and was normal. and then removed it later on. Its fibers fan out in front of the chest. or breastbone. She could move her arm forward. has its roots on the upper surface of the humerus. like driving or eating. but the improvement was minimal. looking despondent and wilted on one side. attaching to the clavicle. in her mid-fifties. I could see that her right shoulder was lower than her left. These muscles suffered intense chronic pain. but the arm functions did not heal. Louise. Louise could not lift her right arm above the horizontal position." She stood before me. the pectoralis. or collarbone. but even this was difficult because she had intense chronic pain in the front of her shoulder joint.Chapter 3 Louise (56 Years): The Frozen Shoulder When I met Louise. When I touched her muscles. nor could she bring it behind her back. next to the latissimus dorsi. I immediately knew why her arm felt so heavy.

In order to restore Louise's voluntary ability to control the muscles that were "frozen.18 Soma/ics way down to the fifth. Louise had to relearn to use her muscles efficiently. setting the pin and removing it. Curiously enough. in turn. The rigidity of the pectoral and abdominal contraction kept the shoulder held slightly forward and downward against the equally unremitting pull of the latissimus dorsi backward and downward.. but all Louise could sense was a heavy right arm and an intense pain in the front of the shoulder.e. as her physician had told her.e. Her physician told her that her arm was frozen by adhesions formed around the fracture that had occurred near the joint. or sometimes the sixth rib. she could not even sense them. He said that the adhesions might be removed by surgery. This distinction between a "thing" (i. I placed one hand on her lower back at the borders of the latissimus dorsi muscle and the other on her right shoulder. she had assumed it was due to her age that her arm had not healed. While she lay on her left side.. If a " thing" is the cause. because it was not Figure 6 some "thing"-some structural blockage. Not only could she not relax them. and that presented the problem. then a human function must be restored. From my experience I knew what was causing her frozen shoulder. But if lack of voluntary ability is the cause. a function) is fundamental in viewing human problems somatically. such as Louise's Posture "adhesions"-that prevented movement. which extends downward from the lower half of the chest to the pubic bone. with a pillow under her head and her right side up. that some structure beyond her power to control was blocking her movement. Specifically. She believed. the shoulder was "frozen . was pulled down by a chronic contraction of the abdominal muscle. Rather. she thought it would not help." It was as if Louise had a crippled wing. a structure) and an ability (i. Louise objected to further surgery. Because Louise was in her fifties. . She was unaware of the contraction of her muscles. Louise was intuitively right: Surgery would not have helped her frozen shoulder. then some structure must be surgically cut or chemically altered." I had to help her become aware of the action of contraction from within her own central nervous system. regions of Louise's brain outside of her conscious control were continuously signaling for her muscles to contract. Thus. after two surgical interventions. But. I then moved them together so that she could perceive their connection. The rib cage.

From that point onward Louise remained comfortable. alternately contracting. the better she became at it. I then taught her a Somatic Exercise that would let her rehearse her newly found sensory-motor ability just before going to bed and just after waking up. she lifted her right arm up to a vertical position and was able to put it against her right ear. Why did I make her do this? So that the sensory feedback would make her highly conscious that she was contracting her own shoulder into a frozen position. And the joy of her tears was compounded by the expanding realization that she had regained control of herself. the "frozen" muscle that had been spastically holding her arm. "over-the-hill" feeling. At that point. She forgot that she was in her fifties and began acting like a much younger woman. supple. so as to make her contract even harder. Soon the release of the formerly spastic muscle was so successful that the muscle became soft and loose. We followed similar procedures with the other muscles of Louise's shoulder joint until both her sense of what she was doing and her motor control were sufficiently clear. Two weeks later.Louise (56 Years): The Frozen Shoulder Gradually she became aware that the movement in her lower back was directly connected with the movement in her shoulder. then releasing. allowing her shoulder to move freely for the first time in two years." As she did this. When one looks at another human being. Looked at from the outside. or from the inside out. the transformation had occurred because Louise had accomplished it from within. and active: Her shoulder problem did not return. one sees a "body" with a certain external shape and size. by a physiologist or a physician. 19 Interlude: What "Somatic" Means There are two ways in which a human being can be viewed: from the outside in. I held her arm forward and pulled it firmly in the opposite direction. she got better at it: She was remembering how to do it. I asked her to do an odd thing: to contract the latissimus dorsi muscle as hard as she could all the way to the pelvis. She felt the expansive experience of rediscovering herself to be free and self-controlling. The magic was not in anything that I did. Louise was both exultant and amazed. As she continued this movement. It's just the same as an observed statue or wax dummy . in our third session. And something else did not return: her despondent. Louise practiced voluntarily making her shoulder even tighter. human beings are very different from the beings they appear to be when they view themselves from the inside out. She even began to weep at the magic of the transformation. making her shoulder even tighter and more "frozen. And the more she remembered. The experience of discovering that she had within herself the resources to overcome a serious physical problem had given her vibrancy and confidence again.

or a cadaver-from an objective viewpoint. Even you can see yourself as a body by looking into a mirror. third-person view is always a "body. But everyone else can see you as a body. To view a body from the outside is a third-person view: One sees a "he" or a "she" or an "it." What the individual sees from his or her internalized. Consequently. Only you can perceive yourself as a soma-no one else can do so." Soma is a Greek word that. but millions of people can see that person as a third-person bodily being." which means being aware of "I. third-person "him" or "her" just like everyone else. and diagram the objective body of the human person." which could just as well be a human. prima jacie. these millions can join together and observe. fuller being. This is. To yourself. you are a body. Because its view of the human being is insufficient. at the same time. from Hesiod onward. But what is easy and obvious is not necessarily true or effective. he or she is aware of feelings and movements and intentions-a quite different. they are observable and manipulable objects. a statue. externalized body is to see only a physical puppet or dummy that can be changed by the external methods of chemical and surgical engineering. medicine's ability to help human beings is insufficient. somatic view and the third-person. Humans are self-sensing and self-moving subjects while. myself." What physiologists see from their externalized. first-person view is always a "soma. ganged up on ourselves. has meant "living body. measure. That is the easy and obvious way taken by the sciences. but only you have the privileged perception of also seeing "me." The great calamity of the human sciences is that we have. it is a deceptive and incomplete approach to human health. Inasmuch as "scientific medicine" has built itself on the foundation of an objective. simultaneously. you are a soma." This living. Only one person can see himself or herself as a first-person somatic being.20 Soma tics that also has a "bodily" shape and size. self-sensing. internalized perception of oneself is radically different from the externalized perception of what we call a "body. as it were. it is a first-person view-a privileged view of "me." Any viewpoint of the human being that fails to include both the first-person. all of these are "bodies. In the mirror you will see an external. subjects and objects." But when the human views himself or herself from the inside. physiological view is deceptive. The uniqueness of human beings is in being. a dummy. third person view of the human as a body. Scientific medicine not only ignores a fundamental truth about human beings but dooms itself to be consistently inefficient as a method of aiding human improvement. To others. a false view of the human being: It is one-sided and incomplete. But when the human being looks at himself or herself from the inside. It is all very well for millions to study our objective bodies: There are some fundamental and . To view a human only as a third-person.

predictions. making it possible to have an authentic science that recognizes the whole human: the self-aware. these two viewpoints make possible an authentic human science. 21 . This is the underlying theme of this book: that the somatic viewpoint must be added to the objective bodily viewpoint if we are to understand exactly what happens to human beings as they age. and that this is dearly seen in the perennial incompleteness of medical diagnosis and the insufficiency of medical treatments in the areas I am discussing. By adding the somatic viewpoint to our human sciences. And they are dangerous. because their observations. On the contrary. What I am saying is that this contribution is. and practical methods are based on a false. suffered from incompleteness. but also that they are equally somatic beings who can change themselves. we not only become capable of overcoming major health problems mistakenly attributed to aging. we will set foot on a new continent of human advancement. They are blind because they have trained themselves to see only one side of whole people: They ignore our somatic side. then they are blind and dangerous. from atoms to asteroids. The somatic viewpoint complements and completes the scientific view of the human being. there is absolutely no implication that physiological science is invalid. The somatic viewpoint recognizes not only that human beings are bodily beings who can become victims of physical and organic forces. but we are capable of overcoming many of the major health problems that plague all of humankind. subjective somas. Humans can learn to perceive their internal functions and improve their control of their somatic functions. for so long. and self-moving: They are self-responsible somas. its contributions to understanding the objective functions of the human being are monumental. But if these millions pursue their studies of human bodies as if humans were only third-person. By completing a viewpoint of human beings that has. self-sensing. In saying this.Louise (56 Years): The Frozen Shoulder essential facts to be ascertained about how humans are subject to the same physical and chemical forces as are all other bodies. self-responsible side as well as the externally observable "bodily" side. incomplete view of the human being. incomplete and insufficient. Together. objective bodies and not simultaneously first-person. The reason that physiology and medicine have failed to perceive the myths behind aging is that they have failed to recognize the fundamental fact that all human beings are self-aware. even so.

There is a twist in the middle of our spine. at which point the upper body is rotating in one direction and the lower body in the other. even stride is one of the essential human functions. centering between the seventh and eighth rib vertebrae. I Figure 7a Normal Bipedal Walking from Side Figure 7b Normal Bipedal Walking from Front 23 . We are bipedal creatures with a way of walking that is different from that of any other bipedal animal: Each arm swings freely to counterbalance the movement of the opposite leg.Chapter 4 Harley (60 Years): The Retracted Landing Gear Walking with a smooth.

which requires that the posture be vertical for these upper and lower rotations to be smooth and even. I examined Harley's knee and found that it moved quite freely. Otherwise. except that. fortunately. Already I knew that his problem was functional. and he said yes. uneven gait. If the body's posture is bent or tilted. X-ray examination showed that. his weight heavily pitched over onto the left leg. and there was no looseness in the capsule when I put lateral pressure on the knee joint. Even so. It was as if these muscles were still cringing in response to the fall on his knee. after the pain and swelling had faded away. while standing or walking. the smooth balance is utterly compromised. the knee capsule was undamaged. especially those in the left waist. Harley found that he walked with a stiffly bent left knee. His body lurched to the left. When this happens. and. These pulled his rib cage so far over to the left that it was touching his pelvis. but what he missed most of all was square dancing with his wife. when I manipulated the leg. Harley walked into my office with a pronounced limp. and often painful. His left pelvis and knee were Harley's Posture . All the muscles on the left side of his trunk were rigidly tight. Harley was a hardy. The cartilage and tendons had been severely impacted and jerked. halting. Harley tilted strongly to the left. and one must walk with a slow. which became swollen and discolored and left him hobbled for a number of weeks . and he swung his left leg in an outward curve as he brought it forward . In standing. with his head tilted back to the right in compensation. There was no interior obstruction nor any grating sound. The shock to his left side-and to his right brain hemisphere-was. A year or so earlier he fell out of a pickup truck and landed on his left knee. walking is inefficient. which had lingered on ever since the time of the fall. as it were. but they were intact. this was precisely what was happening: The painful trauma of the fall had triggered in the brain a reflex muscular contraction on the left side. it could straighten completely. not structural. Harley could not straighten it. frozen in time. He had trouble just getting around. I asked him if the muscles on the right side of his neck were always sore. In fact. The muscles of Harley's left waist and hip were so spastic that he could neither move nor straighten his Figure 8 leg in a normal fashion . ebullient man in his sixties with the look of a California rancher who had spent most of his life out of doors.24 Soma tics At least this is what happens in normal bipedal movement (see Figures 7a and 7b). It was a perfectly sound knee. fatiguing.

At the end of the third session. 25 . his doctors. the cerebral cortex. He walked with a smooth.Harley (60 Years): The Retracted Landing Gear "frozen" in a bent." Harley said. I taught him control of his waist muscles. Because medical technology allows doctors to focus only on the small picture. and the more you can move it. Harley and I saw each other twice more and that was all. I moved his pelvis for him in the same way it would move if he voluntarily did it himself. had begun to take charge of his body again. you cannot move it. the more you will sense it. not only did his ability to contract and release these muscles improve. a magical event happened: They began to soften and lengthen for the first time in a year and a half. but. While he lay sideways on my work table. Harley had no limp whatsoever. I asked him to try to do it himself-voluntarily contracting the already tight waist muscles even a bit tighter. I began to reacquaint Harley with the powerful muscles of his left side. was stronger than the signal from the involuntary. had missed the larger picture of what was actually happening to his entire left side. and that this sensory awareness of the muscles goes hand in hand with voluntary motor control of the muscles. In fact. and during the third we focused on coordinating his ankle and knee with his hip and waist muscles. as it turned out. I asked him to contract them at 80 percent or more by sending an even stronger signal from the voluntary part of the brain. he was able to straighten his knee while walking. if you cannot sense it. the voluntary part of the brain. As he became better. This is a rule of the sensory-motor system. The center of his sensory-motor amnesia was on the left of his body in the muscles attaching the rib cage to the pelvis. subcortical portions of his brain. which at that time he could not sense. equally. As he began to sense movement in that part of his waist. As his hip relaxed down to its normal position. The electrochemical signal from the cerebral cortex. perhaps. his brain was waking up. in looking at the knee for structural damage. we focused on his hip muscles. In electrochemical terms. once Harley learned that he could voluntarily control his waist muscles. Consider this from a functional viewpoint: Harley's waist muscles on his left side were constantly receiving a signal from the involuntary part of his brain to contract at. In the first session. that is. but. the voluntary signal was "overriding" the involuntary signal and reasserting its control of the waist muscles. I do not wish it to seem like I never spend more than three sessions with a client. It is a wonderful neurological fact that increasing bodily awareness means increasing neurological sensory awareness. In this way. during the second. until he became better at it. cringing position-like an airplane landing gear half retracted. 50 percent of their capacity. the seat of the brain's voluntary actions. "I feel like my left side is waking up again. This is because the sensory-motor system is a "feedback loop": in other words. Harley and I continued to practice this. his sensing of this area of his body began to improve. one solid part of the neurophysiological foundation of somatic education.

sustained muscular contraction produces soreness. The muscles are fatigued and sore from continually working-and he doesn't know he is doing it. Whether it is voluntary or involuntary. When these remedies fail to relieve the constant pain. it stays in the air. underlying cause for their pain-a nerve is being pinched. so it seems equally reasonable to perform surgery around or to the pinched nerve. "I didn't realize what I was dOing. I lift her arm in the air and tell her to relax. Harley could straighten out his knee with total freedom. there is a bone spur. or to scrape the bone. she sees nothing odd. It is a startling experience to discover that we are actively doing something without knowing it. or for an entire lifetime. and abruptly drops her arm. the involuntary contraction is sustained. My clients have been told by other health professionals that there is some simple. just like every soldier who completes his or her first 40-mile march. I might say to my clients. then put it down. In modern medicine. It is common for SMA contractions in the lower back to occur in one's early twenties and continue unabated. however. or to inject various drugs into the area. All day. and he soon returned to his beloved weekly square dancing. it sounds reasonable. he is never aware of it. no. Every day I help my clients discover this aspect of SMA. his trunk vertical and his upper arms swinging freely in balance with the lower movements of his legs. Sustained muscular contraction will result in soreness or pain. "But you're holding your arm in the air!" "Oh!" she says. I call her attention to it: "Look at your arm. "Look. lying on his back. for the rest of a person's life. every day. when I let go of her arm. arthritis. while a client with a chronically sore shoulder is lying on my padded work table. Every athlete knows that. Without prompting. Then." Or a person who constantly has a sore neck will be on the table. years. totally unaware of them. he tightly contracts the muscles in the back of his neck. while I try to lift his head. but he is unaware of it. It will not lift-the posterior muscles have become contracted again. Do you notice something odd?" She looks and says. I say to him.26 Somatics even stride. tendinitis. When SMA occurs in musculature. and comes to me wondering why he has constant neck pain. there is bursitis. and I lift his head. I cannot lift it because the posterior muscles of the neck are rigid. Interlude: The Unconscious Levels of the Brain One of the most striking features about sensory-motor amnesia is that we are unconscious of muscle contraction while it is going on. It can continue unabated-and unnoticed-for weeks. For example. can't you see that you're doing this to your- . not for one day-as with the athlete or soldier-but every day. the patients are informed that they have permanent conditions and must learn to live with them. "Relax the muscles in the back of your neck so that I can lift your head. months. I wait two seconds and try again. with varying intensity." He voluntarily relaxes them.

the feedback of sensory-motor impulses takes place below the conscious level of the brain's voluntary functions. going from the muscle to the spinal cord and brain and then back again. In SMA. muscle-to-brain-to-muscle. but it would not make the slightest difference. Humans do not possess a single brain so much as they possess three brains working in coordination. Paul MacLean described this three-layer organization as the "triune brain. or for 10 years. organizing them into greater movement coordination. and each layer has added refinements of function that were lacking in the operations of the earlier lower level. as it were. respiration. I have already discussed how our sensing and moving of muscles is a feedback loop. and thus unconscious. The highest level came with the emergence of the neocortex. I might say it for an entire year. more organized attention to aggressive and defensive actions." The next brain layer-according to MacLean's analogyadded"wheels" to the chassis. and reproduction. This intermediate level refined the essential functions of the first. locomotion. There is still the same sensorymotor feedback loop. the anger that will mobilize an animal to attack. MacLean depicted this level as the "neural chassis. as the nerve impulses travel up the spinal column. A breakdown in their coordination characterizes SMA. except to drive them to despair. from me-they have to sense it inside their own bodies. Each level evolved out of the earlier level. In its full development.Harley (60 Years): The Retracted Lalldillg Gmr self? Stop contracting your muscles and the pain will go away!" I might say this. the sensory-motor circuit becomes sidetracked from its usual route through the voluntary controls of the brain and then entangled in the reflex reactions of the brain's involuntary pathways. These emotional functions show a higher sensitivity to surrounding conditions and what kinds of actions are appropriate responses. They cannot sense their muscular contraction through their ears. and more concern for territoriality and social hierarchy ("pecking order"). but. they are. This is not difficult to understand once we take into account the evolutionary layers of the human brain. evoking the knee-jerk reflex. developed in primitive sea slugs and fish. This loop can also be a short route through the nervous system. actions. the intermediate level is the bearer of certain emotions: the fear that will make an animal withdraw. blood circulation. This level of brain function is powerfully present in the human brain and is a central source of involuntary. Using the metaphor of a car. This is the sensory-motor pathway taken when a physician taps her mallet just below her patient's patella. going from the muscle into the spinal cord and back out again without involving the nerve routes up to the brain. which MacLean 27 . the sexual desire that will lead an animal to mating. The sensory impulse of the tap goes to a specific segment of the spine and is relayed back with an automatic muscular contraction. controls essential functions like heart regulation."2 The earliest layer. short-circuited: that is.

We would reach closer to our full potential as human beings. this voluntary control center is a colossal organ of adaptation and learning. Maturation is the growth of greater and greater cortical learning." This is the massive proliferation of gray cells in mammals. the lower and more primitive regions of the first and second levels take control. This process can continue indefinitely. instead of expending our energy fighting. but. It possesses only primitive abilities at birth. That is the hope of Somatics. We would continue to mature throughout our lives.28 Somatics analogized to "the driver at the wheel of the neural chassis. . which developed further in primates. needless muscular contractions. The source of conscious actions. it gradually but steadily begins to learn all of the complex abilities and movements that we associate with growing up. and involuntarily sustaining. It is a regression to involuntary reaction. improving and refining human actions. Sustained stress and traumatic accidents are such negative conditions that sidetrack the voluntary cortex from its normal control of the sensory-motor system. This is what occurs with sensory-motor amnesia. The neocortex. unless negative conditions force the brain into emergency actions in order to survive. as we mature. and which achieved its most complex development in the human species. When that occurs. is the seat of the voluntary learning and control that takes place in the rest of the brain. an immense collection of nerve cells. How much better it would be if we could always return control of our muscles to our voluntary cortex after moments of stress! Then the process of living would not be disrupted by the pain and disability associated with SMA.

they never cease leaning forward onto their walking canes. their feet shuffle. During all of this. They are garbed in the loose white shirts and pantaloons of the peasants of the land around the city of Patzcuaro. wearing flat brim hats over long white beards. His son Figure 9 brought Alexander to see me. suddenly shows such speed and flexibility! Alexander was a man of 81 years who looked exactly like a viejito: He walked with a cane and was bent forward about 50 degrees from the vertical. before you know it. just when you think they have reached their limit.Alexander's Posture . they are dancing a little quickstep movement that's dazzling in its rapidity. The citizens of Tarascon know the myth of aging and its image of the old man walking on "three legs. their knees lift." The little old men. are all bent forward. leaning on their canes. and.Chapter 5 Alexander (81 Years): Los Viejitos The Tarascon region of southwestern Mexico is famous for its traditional Danza de los Viejitos-the "Dance of the Little Old Men. Actually. their legs and feet blurred as they drum out the rhythm upon the ground. the "little old men" stand motionless. Then." It shows a charming insight the way they present the notion that inside these viejitos are really young boys waiting for the sound of music to induce them to emerge once again into joyful dancing. informing me in ad. gradually. At the beginning of the music. What a wonderful transformation when an old body. looking not even capable of standing upright. they begin to shift their bodies with the rhythm. seemingly incapable of youthful movement. the tempo of the music suddenly doubles to an incredible pace. inside these costumes of white hair and white garments are young boys with very fast feet. and the little old men are dancing furiously. Then.

His son said that Alexander's bending had begun in his mid-sixties. but he hoped I could relieve some of Alexander's chronic pains in the front of his body. Alexander's physician had explained to him that his feeling of weakness in the front of his body was due to atrophy of his muscles: They were supposedly degenerating. he was dog-tired. This. The long abdominal muscle extends from the pubic bone and groin line all the way up to the center of the chest. otherwise. because they were working constantly. was the opposite of what was actually happening: Alexander's abdominal muscles were not weak at all. His complexion was good. shallow breathing. chest. and distorting his neckline into a shape like that of a vulture. and then. however. he was interested in many activities. I looked at Alexander carefully from every angle while he was both standing and walking. living on his investments and Social Security. when he retired. When it is tight. muscles that are used too much will be sore the next day. This extreme posture is the very image of the old person in the riddle of the Sphinx. the more he doubled over. and he was. it pulls the entire trunk forward into the typical curve of a viejito. he lived with constant pain and fatigue. within a couple of hours. it pulls the chest downward toward the pubic bone. and that added to his constant fatigue. His oxygen intake was not sufficient to metabolize his food. Furthermore. and it had increased over a IS-year period. As I do with all my clients. which were struggling to prevent his torso from completely collapsing. the chronic contraction of his abdominal and chest muscles limited Alexander to very minimal. the muscles in his abdomen. pulling his head forward. he did not expect that anything could change his stooped posture. highly alert. I felt the muscles of his trunk to determine what was causing his postural distortion. So were the muscles of his back. and neck were constantly in use and thus were constantly sore and fatigued. They could not help but be powerful. covering over half of the front of the rib cage. given his father's age. . person with no complaints except for the frequent ache in his stomach and lower back. Except for his posture. depressing his chest wall. He would wake up feeling full of energy. His abdominal muscle was hard and leathery. Alexander apparently felt less in control of his economic destiny. Once he got out of business. he ate well. so that when he slept on his back he had to have three large pillows under his head. quite healthy at 81. Because Alexander could not voluntarily release this contraction.30 Soma tics vance that his father had constant pains in his chest and stomach. When it is so tight as to be hard and leathery. The small intercostal muscles between Alexander's ribs were also excessively tight. Alexander's son told me that. It seemed that the more Alexander worried about his vulnerable economic position as a retiree. As all athletes know. He continually fretted over inflation and loss of stock values. He was locked into his curvature of 50 degrees. but incredibly powerful. In Alexander's case. Alexander was a feisty.

He protested. He turned over and found that he could lie with his head against it. he lay down on his back. At first it was unclear to him what I was doing. at the end. Alexander had been a captain of industry. Six weeks later I saw Alexander for the second time. I didn't see him for a number of weeks. I showed him a large pillow I had placed on the table. he was clearer-headed in his thinking and decision making. Because I didn't have three overstuffed pillows to allow him to lie on his back. From that point on. At first he complained that he was too weak to do so.Alexander (81 Years): Los Viejitos Realizing that Alexander's problems were due not to a degeneration of his bodily structure but to a dysfunction. he said. with the power and perogatives of that position. his sleeping was much improved. but I had reports from his son that the severe pains in his abdomen had disappeared. In less than an hour he had straightened 20 degrees! I taught Alexander some Somatic Exercises to practice twice a day. His wife told me something more basic: He was much easier to live with-like he had been before he retired. perhaps because he no longer felt constant pain. He said it was too low. The viejito had begun to hear his inner music again and had started to dance. As he did. I had him lie down on his side. he slept with only one pillow rather than three. An even more significant change occurred in Alexander's life: He was less anxious. Now. Once he retired. his head now came down to a lO-degree level. and then. With him in this side position. His energy and range of activities improved enormously. I did not attempt to straighten his trunk but did just the opposite: I made him more comfortable by curving him forward to almost 90 degrees. I asked him to lie on his back. "I don't feel that pain in my stomach anymore. Rather than being active in the 31 . he no longer felt the invulnerability that he had enjoyed throughout his working life. I told him to try it and find out. saying there would not be enough support for his upper trunk and head. I asked him to contract his abdominal muscles a little harder than they were already involuntarily contracted. He had changed his entire life-style and modified the economic basis of his livelihood. It was slanted up about 30 degrees from the surface. and during that session we gained further release in his abdominal muscles and began to do the same with the muscles of his neck. He liked that. and he was considerably more energetic." We practiced in this fashion for a while. to measure what changes he had made. and then sent him away. He didn't become fatigued in the middle of the morning. I began to demonstrate what all his trunk muscles were doing while he was curled up. at bedtime and upon awakening. he was not as bothered by the things that used to trouble him. I began to teach him how to overcome his essential difficulty: sensory-motor amnesia of the affected muscles. Consequently. When. but gradually he began to achieve a moderate degree of voluntary contraction. For years he had been cautious and crabby and fearful. but gradually he became aware of different areas in the front of his body.

These contractions shortened his breath. To use my own terms. sensory-motor amnesia (SMA). They were not suffering from infectious diseases or physical lesions or biochemical imbalance. It was not old age that afflicted Alexander. not structural. he felt dependent on other forces. malfunctions of the nervous system. they seem to be about five bodies that are degenerating. I know this to be the case. the problems. 2. They were outside the reach of medical help. It was not aging that caused the creature in the Sphinx's riddle to go from two legs to three. these are somatic problems-not bodily problems.32 Somatics affairs of the world. They regained their normal functioning and normal bodily well-being without any need for antibiotics for infection or surgery for lesions or drugs to correct a biochemical imbalance. he was passive. They were suffering from a loss of memory: the memory of what it feels like to move certain muscles of their bodies. These are functional problems-not structural problems. whose services they had exhausted. resulted in an end to their problems. it was the same thing that had happened to Barney. and Harley-the negative effects of stress and traumatic injuries. Rather than being independent. Louise. The functional problems are cases of sensory-motor amnesia. Summary: What These Five Case Histories Teach Us 1. were. These are problems reflecting a loss of control from the inside of the human system-not a deterioration of bodily parts at the outside of the human system. Retirement was a change that was very stressful for Alexander. and caused him to feel continual pain on top of his continual anxiety. and the memory of how to go about moving these same muscles. Their memory loss was. and how these contractions are accomplished. then "old age" disappears. but viewed internally. it was growing sensory-motor amnesia in response to his radically changed life-style. Viewed externally. and this continual stress had its somatic manifestation in abdominal muscular contractions. All five of these people were suffering from non-medical problems. instead. simply because their being shown how certain muscular patterns feel. These problems are functional. which on the surface looked to be irreparable breakdowns of the body. pulled his trunk forward. to be specific. James. These are problems solvable only by the patient-not by the doctor. these are five brains that have lost control of their bodily functions. When sensory-motor amnesia is avoided and the muscular response to stress and trauma are corrected. . There emerges from the little old men of Tarascon a concealed youth who begins to move in surprising ways. In all five case histories.

The brain brings about these compensations automatically and unconsciously. our brain adapts to it. in itself. If we suffer shocks. Age has never harmed anyone. Age. our brain adapts to it. slower in response. These are the events that bring on sensory-motor amnesia. powerful muscles connect the vertebrae and rib cage to the pelvis. somatic adaptation to specific events that had occurred during the course of these lives. or complex surgery. Because it is genetically programmed to preserve the somatic system. accidental injury. And it is precisely the area where symptoms of "old age" first begin. This area is the center of gravity for the human body. lower back." But not only does SMA always affect the entire somatic system. but the whole system has now become inefficient. Any imbalance in the sensory-motor system creates imbalance throughout the entire body. and abdomen where massive. Obviously. If we live a restricted. The brain is an adaptive organ. because the brain directly or indirectly controls all of our bodily functions. it also has its roots in the center of the human body: namely. in an attempt to rebalance the entire system. These are precisely the symptoms of what we mistake for "old age. SMA is the unfortunate result of specific adaptations made by the central nervous system in response to what happens to us during our lifetimes. fear. confidence. if we enjoy years of contentment. The bodily malfunctions in all five of these case histories clearly reflect an internal. The entire somatic system malfunctions and becomes askew. 4. this means that our entire body reflects what has happened to us during our lifetimes. narrow life. It is what happens during the aging process that harms and kills human beings. If we suffer years of anxiety. Our brain responds to and adapts to the events that occur. our brain adapts to that. less supple. in the waist. this loss of control and efficient coordination within the musculoskeletal system causes an automatic compensation within all the other interconnected bodily parts. Everything that happens to us during our lives causes a necessary reaction in our central nervous system. serious illnesses. It responds to the events of our lives in whatever way is necessary in order to survive and keep going. These SMA problems were caused by the quality of their life span and not by the quantity: It was not the number of years but what happened during those years. and hope. On the other hand. Part 2 is a discussion of these specific adaptations. is neutral as far as health is concerned. But. causing us to believe we are helplessly deteriorating. and operating with a significant loss of energy. nor has it ever killed a single human being. the brain rebalances and compensates for this imbalance. this compensatory rebalancing causes a distortion of the somatic functions internally and the bodily structure externally. When the muscles in one single limb become spastic or clumsy or too flaccid. and despair. our brain responds and adapts to it. habitually self-stressed. SMA always affects the entire somatic system and has its roots in the center of the human body. 33 . And with very different effects.Alexander (81 Years): Los Viejitos 3.

two simultaneous. Conversely. and (4) the distal regions of wrists and hands and ankles and feet. the muscles in the center of the body are crucially involved. and particularly. malfunctions will occur in the muscles at the center of gravity. front and back. This phenomenon was clearly present in the five case histories.34 Somatics In sum. which will cause malfunctions in the movements of (1) the spinal-pelvic centrum. (2) the shoulder and hip joints. The specific problem with James's back was that the massive paravertebral muscles connecting the lower spine and rib cage to the pelvis were involuntarily contracted: The entire lower rib cage was pulled down into a bowlike curve toward the back of the pelvis. First of all. the other problem is that injuries and malfunctions in the distal regions of the wrists and hands. causing his scoliotic leaning and distorted sense of balance (see Figure 10). the gravitational center of the human body. toward the pelvis in a "frozen" position (see Figure 12). ankles and feet. shoulder and hip joints. interconnected problems will occur. and spine will cause malfunctions in the proximal muscles at the spinal-pelvic center of gravity. The specific problem with Louise's shoulder was that the muscles of the shoulder girdle reaching downward on the right side of the trunk were involuntarily contracted: The entire shoulder-arm joint was pulled down. elbows and knees. inhibiting both his walking and his reaching movements (see Figure 11). no matter what the specific problem was in the peripheral parts of the body. because any sensory-motor disturbance will affect not only the entire somatic system but also. (3) the elbows and knees. Figure 10 Figure 11 Figure 12 Figure 13 Figure 14 The specific problem with Barney's hip was that the muscles on the right side of his back were involuntarily contracted: The entire right rib cage was pulled down toward the side of the pelvis. In all five. .

it should be remembered that. in all five case histories. the word age has a mysterious meaning. affecting the periphery of the body. Nonetheless. Barney's hip. which they could neither sense nor control.Alexander (81 Years): Los Viejitos The specific problem with Harley's limping gait and bent knee was that the muscles of his left waist were involuntarily retracted upward to their attachments on the left rib cage and spine: The entire hip and leg were held upward like the half-retracted landing gear of an airplane (see Figure 13)." This. All of them had a clear connection with the central muscles of the body. Age has nothing to do with the hundreds of problems it is blamed for. "Doctor. why can't I be helped?" "Well. The specific problem with Alexander's stooped posture was that the abdominal muscles connecting the chest to the pubic bone and lower pelvis were involuntarily contracted: His entire trunk was pulled forward and downward into the classic stoop of senility (see Figure 14). "Age" is a neutral term. The five case histories are the prototypes of millions of case histories and of typical symptoms that occur all over the globe every day. by and large. is nonsense. in medical usage. you're not getting any younger. the word has no pathological significance at all. It's more or less what you should expect at your age. of course. that were directly connected with chronic contractions in the periphery of the body. But. in all five. the basic problem was really the same: involuntary contraction of the muscles in the body's center of gravity. and Alexander's stoop were different manifestations of the very same event: chronic muscle contractions in the center of the body. or involuntary contraction in the periphery of the body. age is not the cause of anything. SMA is a multitude of mysterious medical problems. Viewed externally and structurally. SMA is a single somatic problem. James's back. Louise's shoulder. As I pointed out earlier. Finally. healthy or unhealthy. it was by becoming conscious of feelings and voluntary movements in the center of their bodies that these persons overcame the unconscious and automatic reflex contractions that the SMA had caused. "Age" is a crypto-pathology. In all five cases. by definition. the powerful muscles connecting the spine and rib cage to the pelvis were the root of the specific problem of each person. an ignorance of the somatic condition of sensory-motor amnesia. causing a compensating contraction in the center of gravity. it has strong pathological significance: It is the mysterious unknown cause of all the mysterious symptoms in elderly humans that one cannot effectively diagnose or treat. After awhile things begin to break down. I made note of some of the complaints my clients had when they first came to see me. just like "life": To live is to age. 35 5. Even though. Harley'S limp. within the medical profession and in medical research. . Viewed internally and functionally. Over a 12-year period. which is. Behind the mystery lies ignorance.

from the somatic viewpoint. In every instance. . necks. arthritis. bursitis." From the medical viewpoint. hypochondria. all of them unresponsive to medical and paramedical treatments. my clients reported such symptoms as sciatic pains in the leg. swollen knees. "undiagnosable pain. eye aches. the fact that the complaints. buttocks. varicose veins. persisted despite medical treatment meant that they were "incurable" and therefore the fault of old age. and restricted movement of the head. Fortunately. spasms of the urethra. backs. this was only part one of a two-part investigation. leg cramps. It was not what their physicians and other health professionals described. legs. but they can be controlled. weak ankles that turned too easily. compressed disks. In addition to painful feet. that is just what happened to thousands of people with the complaints and diagnoses listed above. toes. arms. scoliosis. osteoporosis." Curing is a medical procedure which has no significance in respect to SMA. shallow breathing. Sensory-motor remembering is an educational procedure. bulging disks. subluxated disks. But. kyphosis. by relearning. All of their complaints were chronic. somatic problem at the root of the multitude of mysterious symptoms. and all of them resolved once the SMA was cleared up. and jaws. lordosis. herniated disks. degenerated disks. in the end. the second of which disclosed that sensory-motor amnesia-particularly of the muscles of the body's center of gravity-was the cause of these functional problems. constipation. osteoarthritis. Curing and treating are what is done to a passive patient-an external engineering feat that goes from the outside to the inside. frequent urination. Please note that I do not say that all of them were "cured. Such functional problems cannot be "cured" by "treatment". spinal stenosis. allergic reactions. chronic tension headaches. done by an active person-an internal somatic feat that goes from inside the brain to the muscle system. slipped disks. They had been diagnosed by medical specialists as having neuralgia. postsurgical trauma. so diagnosed. All of the complaints mentioned above were what my clients felt and described.36 Somatics and all were resolved when these muscles no longer constrained the other body areas they affected. chests. and. inflamed joints. ringing in the ears. numbness or "pins and needles" in their hands. stiff ankles that would not turn. bone spurs. hands. carpal tunnel syndrome. SMA was the single.

PART 2 How Sensory-Motor Amnesia Occurs .

it helps bring on the very loss of well-being that it presumes to avoid. For most people. This softening. 39 . If you want to pin a motto on your wall. weakening. Those who believe that they should take it easy as they become older are deluded. In this case. If our brain cells are not systematically involved in a wide variety of voluntary activities.Chapter 6 Atrophy: The Role of Gradual Surrender No advice is more treacherous than this: "Now that you're getting older. physiologically. The truth is very different. and usually well-calculated. No sooner do we acquire our repertoire of useful functions than we cease to use them-an instance of planned obsolescence. If our muscles are not regularly used in challenging and skilled activities. It is ironic that so many people complain about the breakdown of their refrigerators and automobiles. and neurologically. they become weaker and less responsive. they are persons who are surrendering their life functions bit by bit. "Use it or lose it. and settling down to adult life is an act of decay. and deterioration of our resources takes place gradually and insidiously-not because of aging but because of what we cease to do as we age. But folk wisdom can be profoundly wrong." This is a pathway leading directly to decrepitude. during which a repertoire of functions is built up which allows us to live life fully. they become soft." The more popular motto is. they deteriorate. Such advice is not only debilitating. yet often have bodies that are breaking down from the deliberate attrition that is built into their way of life. It is a deliberate. you ought to slow down a bit. But this is not what usually happens. blaming the manufacturers for deliberately built in attrition of their products. anatomically. it is also deadly. For example. pin up this one: "Function maintains structure. maturing. Maturation is a long process of learning. the act of growing up. It is part of the traditional myth of aging that increasing age should mean decreasing physical activity. act of gradually giving up the functional abilities acquired during the process of growing up. if our bones are not regularly used to bear substantial weights and to sustain strong forces." This advice is correct.

Worse still. A body in a bathing suit by a swimming pool. Kids scoot under bushes. It is the customary sign of adulthood to cease functioning like a young person. everyday awareness of how these actions feel and how they are performed fades away. Kids are exuberant. Thus." We should not forget. these indolent elders were twice as likely to report failing health when they appeared for their regular medical examination. we reduce our chances for health and longevity. however. In Los Angeles at the Andrus Gerontology Center. but we turn on the mattress. 2 The heart functions better. Kids stand on their heads. DeVries reported that a well-planned program of physical conditioning leads to improvement in cardiovascular functioning. which is a highly responsive organ of adaptation. our brain crosses them off. nervous tension decreases. If certain actions are no longer part of our behavioral inventory.40 Somatics Indeed. but we are careful. the blood pressure load is reduced. but we shrug our shoulders up and down. Kids run. Worse. In a word. but we want to have security. we lose them. but we take the elevator. not less. but we go around them. In short. to become a successful adult means to cease acting like a kid." it being clearly understood that a person who "has it made" is a person who has attained the status of doing nothing-of being inactive. is the American image of "having it made. Palmore discovered something of equal importance: The physically inactive were four times more apt to rate their health as poor as were those who were active. The practical. compared to between a fourth and a third of those who had more locomotor activities. lying motionless on a chaise lounge. Kids climb. Kids want to have fun. it is part of the American Dream to "have it made. further normalizing blood pressure. And we lose them because our brain. Physiological and Anatomical Research on Aging and Physical Activity We now know it to be a fact that. physical activity becomes more necessary. over 50 percent of these same inactive persons died sooner than actuarily expected. To become an adult means that we no longer have to do the things we did as kids. it forgets. but we smile with restraint. But this conception of adulthood has an unavoidable result: As soon as we stop using these functions. Kids laugh with joy. adjusts to this lack of activity. as one becomes older. Kids jump up and down. In a lO-year study of 268 people over the age of 60. Other research studies are more specific on the effects of regular physical activities. but we sit on our bottoms. and SMA is the result. but we adults walk. Palmore reported that degree and frequency of illness was related more directly to physical inactivity than to such well-publicized factors as smoking and being overweight. Kids roll on the ground. 1 Those who were physically inactive were two-and-a-half times more likely to spend at least 14 days a year bed-ridden as were those who were physically active! During this same la-year longitudinal study. that this is also the image of a dead body. as we reduce our sphere of physical activities. and .

and quite apart from SMA. 5 When this occurs. " . limited movement. in systolic blood pressure after exercise. especially following the crucial time of their retirement. a significant amount of Soviet research into the effects of exercise on older persons. There has been. will bring no lasting benefit unless it catalyses a change to a more active life style which incorporates an appropriate amount of spontaneous exercise. decreased strength.. The Journal of Gerontology reported on the physiological effects of a monthlong program of endurance training conducted with a group whose average age was 70. normally motivates elderly females to become cautious in their locomotor activities. the subjects showed improved oxygen uptake and pulmonary ventilation. the respiratory system.Atrophy: The Role of Gradual Surrender the percentage of body fat drops. there are positive effects on the adrenals.. it is the loss of control of physical movement that inspired the myth of aging. "It is clear that training can improve the physical condition and maximum capacities of the elderly. means a more active life-style than that usually chosen by adults in their middle years. and the nervous system. Barry. In a similar vein. 41 Neurological Research on Aging and the Brain As the riddle of the Sphinx makes clear. Page.. Soviet scientists have found that the human organism remains highly functional and adaptive as long as it is given suitable challenges to which it can respond. including slower movement. the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society. During our middle years. especially of the hip. blood chemistry. This is a significant finding. we usually observe the start of impaired motor performance. hence. of course. states flatly that. and others. and a loss of fine motor coordination. . Similar findings have been reported in many other studies published in the Journal of Gerontology. and Rodahl. at its conclusion. as evidenced by decreases in work pulse. as well as improvement in their postexercise systolic blood pressure and blood lactate level. reducing the statistical probability of heart attack. On an anatomical level. Steinmetz. Erickson has studied the relation of joint flexibility to physical activity. Smith and Reddan's studies in a female nursing home 6 have shown that regular physical exercises slowed bone loss and promoted bone accretion. " He goes on to say that a physical training program. maintaining a broad range of physical activity prevents joint stiffness and. Bassey. 7 Again. that the work load limit of these 70-yearold citizens was 76 percent higher than it was a month before! Additionally. . in addition to American and British research.. E. 3 Results: Reduction in circulatory stress."4 This. and others. who carried out this experiment. found. The British researcher. both the function and the structure of the human body decline unless physical activity is constantly maintained. the cardiovascular system. Just the reverse is their best protection. carbohydrate metabolism. In sum. and in blood lactate concentration. J. He found that the collagen meshwork in the connective tissues shortens if it is not regularly stretched. inasmuch as fear of fractures. by itself.

" This statement adds credence to my own point of view. the question of research reports on neuron loss is addressed head on: "The generalization to be gleaned from this body of reports is that at present there is no generalization about neuron loss in old age."8 Spelled out more fully by researchers Curcio. along with an increasing disuse of muscles. are worn out. Lars Larsson reviews the subject of "Aging in Mammalian Skeletal Muscle. this means that As objective quantitative data accumulate at an increasingly rapid pace. one by one. In it. The task is so complicated that even the most advanced microscopic and computer technology cannot solve the puzzle. he concludes that "the factors of greatest importance appear to be reduced nerve impulse activity related to progressive disuse together with functional impairment and subsequent loss of motoneurones. In this same volume. in college textbooks as well as in popular publications. soon after infancy. Eventually it was discovered that the task of counting the estimated 100 billion neurons of the brain demands a much greater scientific sophistication than that which was available to Hodge during the 1890s. Buell.. thus. performed neuron counts on the brains of young and old humans. to the effect that. results in impairment of muscle function as well as of the motoneurons immediately involved. unfortunately. some neurological measures do not show decrements. a neurologist. and Coleman. not all neurons atrophy. One still finds statements. neuron loss with age is not found in all regions of the nervous system. the brain begins to lose its fixed supply of neurons and that this loss continues until the end of life.42 Soma tics For almost a century this has been explained scientifically as neurological. " This happens not to be true.. His conclusion was: "As the work of life is being done. it is becoming clear that age-associated declines are not universal or inevitable. and the muscle itself. later research did not correct this widespread misunderstanding. in an inability of the brain to send nerve impulses." He delineates three levels that should be examined for the effects of aging on muscular function: the brain. A stage is reached when only enough cells remain to barely support processes requisite for life . the cells. and some degree of neuronal plasticity is retained in the aged nervous system. To account for the motor impairment that afflicts so many elderly persons. not all transmitter systems decline. The Aging Motor System summarizes the full body of research done on aging and the brain.. but. . Such information reinforces the myth of aging and leads us to the melancholy conviction that each day of our lives thousands of brain cells are flowing out of our heads as we steadily lose both our mental and our physical competence. the motoneurons that conduct nerve impulses from brain to muscle. Hodge. The problem originates. Some aspects of performance do not decline."JO What he is saying is that reduced nerve impulses from the brain. In the 1890s.

They see some possibilities in drug treatment that need to be explored. the effects of which are temporary and can be prevented. retraining. the maintenance of physical fitness through a life-style of daily exercises may offer an inexpensive and safe method to prevent motor and mental performance deterioration. SMA can be corrected. I describe this as sensory-motor amnesia. 43 . or corrected. the best of our scientific knowledge points directly to what I am suggesting in this book: that many of the physical problems attributed to old age are instead functional problems of disuse." ll In sum.Atrophy: The Role of Gradual Surrender Larsson is referring in general to what I describe specifically as the condition of sensory-motor amnesia. The three editors of The Aging Motor System see three ways to prevent and treat this functional loss: by drugs. but they conclude that. "finally. Fortunately. by behavioral. by means of a neurologically based exercise program such as the Somatic Exercises I present in Part 3. They also see some behavioral training techniques as a way to relearn motor skills. and by preservation of physical fitness.

expanded the dimensions of medicine to include the individual's internal ability of self-control. From inside ourselves. and to a recognition of the fact that there are "diseases of adaptation. " Selye's formulation of the general adaptation syndrome (GAS) is. The somatic viewpoint does not subtract from medicine. the viewpoint that psychological events are as important as physiological events in determining human health or illness. 2 45 . possibly. 1 This emphasis on self-responsiblity is a hallmark of the somatic viewpoint. while fully accepting this emphasis. can do to reduce the effects of stress by our own attitudes and by the way we control our lives. from the inside of ourselves. between one living being and another. A perennial give-and-take has been going on between living matter and its inanimate surroundings." Hans Selye's somatic viewpoint has expanded the dimensions of health research by emphasizing the health importance of what we. the most significant single event in medicine since the discovery of the germ theory of disease and the development of antibacterial drugs. It was Selye's decades of work in endocrinology that led to his formulation of the concept of stress. The extraordinary significance of Selye's research is that it introduced into medicine what we have termed a "somatic" dimension: namely. Here is the way Selye expresses it: Life is largely a process of adaptation to circumstances in which we exist. The secret of health and happiness lies in successful adjustment to the ever-changing conditions on this globe. ever since the dawn of life in the prehistoric oceans. The somatic viewpoint encompasses how we individually view ourselves from the inside looking out and how. we are not aware of the "body" itself but rather of the feelings and active processes of that "body. it adds to it a recognition of the mind-body interaction that is involved in all diseases of adaptation. the distinction between mind and body disappears.Chapter 7 The Muscular Reflexes of Stress Hans Selye is one of the prime figures in twentieth century medical research. from that viewpoint. the penalties for failure in this great process of adaptation are disease and unhappiness. Selye. Traditional medicine emphasizes the external viewpoint of what can be done to the individual's body to improve health.

" Stress. . largely "diseases of adaptation. The demand placed upon the system brings about a protective adjustment. and the stage of exhaustion. thus. he describes this response as having three stages: the alarm reaction. This means that stress is part of the nature of aging: How well we respond to it determines how we age. his definition of stress is essential in understanding the theme of this book: "In its medical sense. But.. Indeed. to talk about stress is simply to talk about the nature of living-of how well we cope with the daily demands placed upon us." The so-called "diseases of aging" are. increasingly depleting the body's resources for resistance. the stimulation of the adrenal gland: Its secretion of epinephrine and norepinephrine wakes up and mobilizes the biological resources of the body to resist the stressor. the stage of resistance. 1 Selye's viewpoint admirably expresses my own perspective.46 Somatics But. man has it in his power to influence this second type of evolution to a considerable extent. Almost any event can cause an alarm reaction-anything from running a mile to going without sleep. But. In his general adaptation syndrome. how we respond and adapt to these ongoing demands will determine how well our bodies stand up to the demands of living. for example. or to visually adjusting from the dim light of a movie house to the bright sunlight outdoors. you will notice. In fact. especially if he understands its mechanism and has enough will power to act according to the dictates of human intellect." The research of Hans Selye succeeded in expanding the dimensions of medicine by showing the effects that stress can have on the endocrine system when it adaptively responds to some demand placed upon the whole bodily system. Selye is addressing the same general question we have been discussing all along. Usually. there is another type of evolution which takes place in every person during his own lifetime from birth to death: this is adaptation to the stresses and strains of everyday existence. Selye's research centered primarily on the glandular . we can say that. stress is essentially the rate of wear and tear in the body. is neither good nor bad. it is "the nonspecific response of the body to any demand. The GAS is an unavoidable and normal process that has been documented by Selye in some 30 books." Moreover. Then a genuine breakdown can occur. in addition to this general evolution of life."4 To live means that we have continuous demands made on our bodies.. as we have maintained. "In its medical sense. we have the power to influence this rate of wear and tear if we have "enough will power to act according to the dictates of human intellect. what we have traditionally taken to be the effects of aging is essentially the rate of wear and tear in the body. in itself. to having a violent argument. this is the limit of the stress reaction. if the period of resistance goes on for too long a time. a stage will be reached when these resources are exhausted. Through the constant interplay between his mental and bodily reactions. by rephrasing what we have presented up to this point.

and the trauma reflex. These two basic responses differ from one another because they are two very different forms of stress-what Selye would distinguish as "distress" and "eustress. we shall discover that it has a sensory-motor side as well. The Green Light reflex is the subject of Chapter 9. which I present in the next two chapters. The neuromuscular adaptation to sustained positive stress ("eustress") is the action response. I discuss the Red Light reflex in the following chapter. at its center of gravity. During the 12 years of my practice as a somatic educator. By looking at the stress response more closely. But his research did not specify just what neuromuscular events occur with stress. What I have found is that the neuromuscular system has two basic responses to stress. which occurs in the back of the body. help to round out Selye's initial discoveries regarding the stress response-specifically. My findings. He recognized that. the biochemical side of stress. that is of equal importance to the biochemical side explored by Selye. when we are under stress. both of which have their focus in the middle of the human body. is discussed in Chapter 11. and suggested various attitudes and relaxation practices that can help to reduce it. It is easier to think of the withdrawal response as the Red Light reflex. The action response may be thought of as the Green Light reflex. referring only generally to the effects of stress on the neuromuscular system.The Muscular Reflexes of Stress system." The neuromuscular adaptation to sustained negative stress ("distress") is the withdrawal response. which is somewhat different. which occurs primarily in the front of the body. I have had ample opportunity to observe the specific effects of stress on the neuromuscular system. 47 . increased muscular tension is inevitable.

" These. It looks just awful. and 1 used to be able to outwalk anybody. I'm not even 60 yet. 1 used to have a fairly big chest. "My problem is that 1 can't get my breath anymore. Can you do anything about that?" This is a manifestation of the same lower-brain reflex. just look at the wrinkles on my brow. because it occurs throughout the entire animal kingdom. "You know. too. "If you want to know what it's like. keeping up a house. and already 1 stand stooped forward. My wife says they slump. because it helps us toward both understanding and overcoming the myth of aging. Then I realized it was me!" What he saw was a reflection of the Red Light reflex. Now 1 have to stop to catch my breath. "I sure wish you could do something about my shoulders. They ache when 1 get up in the morning. it's no wonder I have these crow's feet next to my eyes"-so says a wife. so often evoked and so familiar that it becomes an unconscious habit. I used to be able to climb the steps up to my front door and not think a thing about it. But something's gone wrong with my thighs: They're sore all the time. It is sometimes 49 . and raising three children. just like my aunt. That's what worry will do to you"-so says a husband. a wife. its gotten so flat. lower-brain reflex could be the cause of so many of the body changes that are associated with aging. are effects of the withdrawal reflex.Chapter 8 The Red Light Reflex The Abdominal Muscles and the Withdrawal Response It is surprising that a single." The effects of the withdrawal response over the years did this. like an old person's. too. And my knees. "I've been active all my life. this is the same reflex. Is that what they call a dowager's hump? And my head: It's always hanging forward. It is also enlightening. "What with raising three children and taking care of the house and my husband. Only its effects are noticed. and now you can hardly see it anymore. "I'm beginning to get a bump on the back of my neck. Both husband and wife give witness to the same ancient reflex. What's happening to me? Are my lungs beginning to shrink?" Again. The other day 1 saw this reflection in a store window of an old man bent over like he needed a cane. For many decades neurobiologists have been fascinated with this human reflex.

the human being. Fish respond with fast get-aways. evading your fly-swatter. Even in these complex animals. its circle of small tentacles quickly retracts. the withdrawal response. the reflex is quick and effective. It is a primitive reflex of survival. If a woman walking down a street hears the sudden explosion of a car backfiring. When you touch a sea anemone. helping them to survive by rapidly withdrawing from danger. Its action in the central nervous system is usually mediated by "giant" nerve fibers large enough to allow the nerve impulse to travel more quickly." because it aids the animal in avoiding or evading a threat. And in the most complex mammal. is amazingly quick. But. this is what happens: Within 14 milliseconds the muscles of her jaw begin to contract. Its threshold for danger is high. drawing back from the threatening stimulus.50 Soma tics referred to as the "startle response". and crayfish with a sudden tail-flip response. this is immediately followed about 20 milliseconds later by a contraction of her eyes and brow. It is a "rapid motor act" that is built into the circuitry of even very simple organisms. A common earthworm exhibits an immediate withdrawal response when its body is touched by a probe. at other times it is referred to as the "escape response. Figure I5a Withdrawal Response: Side View Figure ISb Withdrawal Response: Frontal View All mammals that have been studied exhibit the withdrawal response (see Figures ISa and ISb). before her eyes . The pesky but clever fly will wait until you have just about reached it before abruptly withdraws.

The muscles of the crotch tighten. We do not have the luxury to reflect at length on how dangerous the sudden threat really is. It happens before we can consciously perceive it or inhibit it. emanates from the primitive regions of the hindbrain-to be precise. almost as if ready to fall and curl up in a fetal posture. her knees bend and point inward. taking time to travel down its nerve pathways to the lower parts of the body. The body is flexed and crouched. then goes down to the neck. It is a protective response to negative events that threaten us. And. from vague apprehensions to gnawing anxieties. simultaneously pulling down her rib cage and stopping her breathing. 2 Thus. which brings her trunk forward. to the legs and toes. whose motto is "Withdraw now. Why this sequence from the head downward? Because the impulse originates in the lower-level brain stem and arrives at the muscles of the head region earliest. the mechanism of this reflex lies deep beneath the control of the forebrain where conscious. her shoulder and neck muscles (the trapezius) have received a neural impulse at 25 milliseconds to contract. Because all of these are body changes associated with aging.! This cascade of neural impulses begins in the face. and think about it later. shared by humans with the rest of the animal kingdom. raising her shoulders and bringing her head forward. and mistakenly have always been blamed on a fictitious disease called "aging. while her ankles roll her feet inward. It is our primitive protector. to overt dangers. the stooped trunk. and then her hands begin to turn palms-downward. finally. lower-brain reflex. the lack of breath. At 60 milliseconds. it is much faster. This sums up the Red Light reflex-the body's withdrawal from danger. the dowager's hump and projected head. then to the arms and trunk. This withdrawal response. These descending neural impulses continue by contracting the abdominal muscle. and (2) the real cause of body changes that. As the Red Light reflex rapidly courses downward from head to legs.The Red Light Reflex have squeezed shut. her elbows bend. The withdrawal response is a basic neuromuscular response to stress." 51 Malfunctions Caused by the Withdrawal Response The Red Light reflex is a response to distressful events. from the reticulospinal tract originating from the ventral pontine and medullar reticular formation. the slumping shoulders and flat chest. voluntary actions originate. and the aching knees. just as Selye's general adaptation syndrome . traditionally. it causes contractions in exactly the same areas that I mentioned in the beginning of the chapter: the crow's feet and wrinkled brow. and the toes lift upward. By recognizing the known and well-researched effects of the withdrawal response. and." Survival demands an immediate response. immediately after that. Not only is the withdrawal reflex more primitive than our voluntary actions. we can gain simultaneous insight into two matters of great importance: (1) the specific responses made by our neuromuscular system to stress conditions. it is surprising that they could be caused by a single.

causing the muscles at the base of the neck (around the seventh cervical vertebra) to contract mightily. and begins to come downward toward the abdominal cavity. Both are caused by contraction of the abdominal muscle. and the longer it lasts. it is a specification of that response: that is. the more the Red Light reflex shows its long-term effects. The trunk is. For example. the eyes and forehead contract. breathing is abruptly stopped.52 Somatics is a basic glandular response. It is a measure of childhood anxiety to what degree a child's shoulders are slumped and neck contracted. it is not "age" that causes these bodily changes. the face is projected forward in space. whose posterior surface is connected to the neck by the same trapezius muscles. If we worry long enough. Thus. That is why people with chronic worry often have chronically sore shoulders and necks. When anxieties cause the neck muscles to flex. The more there is of it. pulled into the flexed curve of the fetal posture. If serious worries afflict a human early enough in life. the stooped shoulders will occur early. we acquire a different viewpoint on some of . and the pubic bone is pulled forward and up. It is not "age" that causes a stooped posture and shallow breathing. wrinkling the skin. It is impossible to say. The pump like downward movement of the diaphragm is necessary in order to create a vacuum in the thoracic cavity to draw in air. During the distressful teenage years. Indeed. they cause the reflex of lifting and rounding the shoulder blades forward. A stooped posture and shallow breathing go together. It is the same with the shoulders. As we come to understand how the muscular contractions of the Red Light reflex cause bodily malfunctions. One cannot worry without contracting the shoulders. the upper part of the rib cage is pulled forward and down. "Oi Veh!" without lifting the shoulders. it depresses the entire contents of the abdominal cavity. thereby. Contraction of the abdominal muscle not only depresses the rib cage. Having a family and taking care of the kids and holding a job and paying the bills and solving the daily problems of life are all causes of looking old and stooped. This means that when the diaphragm muscle between rib cage and abdomen contracts during inhalation. creating pressure on the viscera. this posture is common. The rectus abdominis is a long. and breathing is insufficient. it is distress. no vacuum is created. thus creating what is called a dowager's hump. When distressful events cause us to worry. unable to climb steps without getting breathless and hearing one's heart beat faster. When it contracts. our skin becomes permanently wrinkled. powerful sheath of muscles that stretches from its lower attachments at the pubic bone and groin line all the way over the front of the chest and up to the nipple line. The more frequently this happens. a protective response to negative stressors. the stronger and larger the muscles and fat tissue grow around the seventh cervical vertebra. when worries trigger this response. it is accumulated response to negative stress. in order to hold up this forward-hanging burden. But if the impacted viscera inhibit this downward movement.

When the same bodily response occurs over and over again. its pattern is gradually "learned" at an unconscious level. the areas under the kneecap and behind the knee joint. That is why these malfunctions may disappear when one learns to control the neuromuscular reflex creating them. Aching legs and knees are typical of elderly persons. The pressure on the viscera affects all visceral functions. rather. it creates other problems as well. relentless adaptive act. they will become chronically fatigued and sore. These malfunctions are not typical medical diseases but something else: what Hans Selye termed "diseases of adaptation. This is not necessarily the case. For example. 53 How the Withdrawal Response Becomes Habituated in Our Bodies Habituation is the simplest form of learning. Such diseases would not occur if one had the ability to adapt to these stresses by the intelligent use of Somatic Exercises. the mistake is easily made that these are "medical problems"-indicating breakdown and degeneration of the internal organs. There are many other malfunctions that result when the body is habitually contracted in the withdrawal response. In addition. so that the weight-bearing function of a straight knee is lost. giving us the urgent sense of needing to urinate. If the thigh muscles are constantly engaged in weight support during waking. Habituation is a slow. lies in overcoming the Red Light reflex. and giving the false sense of a full bladder. it squeezes the bladder. The effect is that our muscles become free of the control of lower-brain reflexes and are returned to our voluntary control. When you see someone exhibit any or all of the postural distortions of the withdrawal response. Arthroscopic surgery is not a likely solution. The solution. which ingrains itself into the functional patterns of the central nervous system.The Red Light Reflex the common "maladies of old age. "Frequent urination" is a common complaint of older humans. when liquid pressure rises in the bladder. in order to walk once again with the full support of a vertical leg. raising its internal pressure. A person standing in the stooped . where the thigh tendons cross over the knee to attach to the lower leg. Constipation and a chronically contracted stomach muscle often go together. will become sore and sometimes inflamed. But when the abdominal muscle becomes contracted. It is usually the result of an habituated Red Light reflex. Careful observation reveals that these old persons have begun to walk with their knees slightly bent. This same abdominal contraction affects digestion and elimination. If one does not understand how they can cause basic malfunctions of the respiratory and digestive systems."3 I agree with Selye. the urethra automatically contracts. you are looking at a posture that has been imprinted in the neuromuscular system by habituation. These are secondary effects of the withdrawal response." Not only does this abdominal contraction cause shallow breathing. It occurs through the constant repetition of a response.

suddenly exclaims-"Oh!" In contrast to this high-level startle response. Everyone. the degree of response depends on the other levels of the brain that overlie the brain stem and that can modulate its initial responses. the stimulus is suddenly introduced. As a group. Because expectation is such an important factor. once possessed but momentarily quite forgotten. and suspense builds. First of all. Voluntary muscular control. then it can be corrected. however. the person has become maladapted in his or her neuromuscular habits. For example. Results show just how the Red Light reflex stamps its imprint on human posture. this reflex is all-or-nothing-it has no gradations. if the person's bodily structure has really finally broken down. is the same. EMG tension was . pushing out the air. mammals are very different from other animals in the way their startle reflex functions. Instead. there is little more we can do than to give him or her a cane or some form of brace.54 Soma tics posture of old age has acquired a "habit" of doing so. In humans and other mammals. the startle reflex is subject to levels of response from low all the way up to very high. EMG tension fell back to normal levels. can be relearned. This phenomenon is universally recognized among humans. if laboratory animals are made to fear that something harmful might happen. It is crucial to understand this. this research is highly revealing. and the muscles of the audience contract. because. Because the central nervous system of all mammals. He or she has not "broken down. including human beings. They depend on a number of factors. humans can also undergo the same reaction at low levels-so low that the startle response can be picked up only by sensitive electrodes measuring the electrical activity of muscular contraction (electromyograms. A prime influence on the startle response is expectation. in bodily structure. it was found that EMG tension rose when a person was engaged in any challenging task involving fear of failure. All theater and movie directors know that creating a sense of suspenseful expectation is how to startle the audience the most. and someone comes up behind them and shouts "Boo!"-they may jump right out of their shoes." or degenerated. After sufficient buildup. because their withdrawal reflex has contracted the abdomen. Expectation can either dampen or heighten the withdrawal response. In lower animals. all of which are relevant to human beings. EMG). This graded amplitude of response can be studied and calibrated exactly by measuring the degrees of muscle contractions that occur during startle. A considerable amount of research has been done on the habituation of mammals to the withdrawal response. their startle reaction is sharply higher when it happens than it usually is when they do not have this fear. When the task was completed. 4 In one experiment. But if the person's stooped posture-and all the many ailments that can go with itis a bad habit learned by dint of chance repetition. In some fascinating research reported from Canada. When children are told a scary story. I devote an entire chapter to it later on.

It is obvious that. which lie midway along a continuum from traditional psychological to physiological problems: namely. But there were some important exceptions. But if they are criticized. the difference between the two groups of subjects was not so much in their immediate reaction. the rise in muscular tension continued. over the safety of the country. and customers. This is called "residual tension. In one Canadian experiment. At the same time the subjects listened to a suspenseful detective story. at the end of a task. The anxious persons' muscle tension not only remained high but continued to rise during the test. It became clear in what happened afterward. necks. Everyone has anxiety: anxiety over one's life. and the newspapers. chests. bellies. brows. highly anxious patients were compared to normal persons in their startle response to a sudden loud noise. Everyone lives with fears that are overcome only to be replaced by new fears. laboratory subjects are praised by the experimenter for their performance. even hours later. Everyone lives with suspenseful stories that are not completed. and legs. which are very sensitive to the Red Light reflex. And our jobs. Anxiety is the very currency of exchange in an industrial society. returning to its original level. so that it accumulates in our lives. the tension that had been slowly building up dissolved abruptly. This concept can be quite subtle. and the loan companies. creating ever rising levels of habitual muscular tension in our jaws. muscle tension remains. over one's financial security. impotence and hemorrhoids. the accumulated muscle tension remained. 6 Unfortunately. If. and the Internal Revenue Service.The Red Light Reflex recorded from the muscles of the forehead. over the safety of the human race. over one's own safety in the streets. triggered by the withdrawal response."s According to research results from Canada. it is clear that the human neuromuscular system has the ability to adapt to a higher level of tension in these muscles. their muscular tension drops. and the dangerous situation was dispelled. layer upon layer. As the story continued. to live in an "advanced society" is to live in a society that is rife with distress. if suspense and fear preexist. shoulders. over one's family. When the story was interrupted in the middle. arms. the startle response is triggered more easily. and the television news programs all feed this anxiety. When the story reached its climax. the EMG showed the muscles of the anxious patients to be more contracted than those of the calmer control group. over one's place in the community. eyes. making it clear to the researchers that feelings of suspense are directly tied to the feeling of muscular tension. The normal persons' muscles returned to their original state within half a second after the initial abrupt sound. The Canadian researchers discovered this phenomenon to be a general human trait: Tension built up during any human task involving fear of failure will not drop at its completion if there is no sense of completion. The chronic contraction. and the banks. over the safety of one's house. Even before the experiment. When the startling sound was made. This same abdominal contraction creates two other problems. which 55 .

which. deepens breathing. . One cannot relieve only one part of the reflex." The Red Light reflex causes contraction in the perineal muscles through synergistic action. rather. Cutting. This is profoundly disappointing. its constant tension will not allow it to relax during defecation. it is the specific effect of the Red Light reflex. Impotence is common among persons chronically contracted in the abdominal-perineal area. brutalizing the blood vessels and causing hemorrhoids. in effect. stretching. This chronic tightening around the blood vessels leading to the penis and clitoris prevents full blood flow and full innervation. and a fundamental feature of this reaction is the depression of breathing. This creates intolerable pressure in the anal sphincter." And habits can be broken. Contraction also occurs because of the increased pressure in the abdominal cavity. The withdrawal response is a major muscular reaction to negative stress. shallow breathers subject to anxiety feelings. Effects of the Withdrawal Response on Breathing and Heart Functions As noted earlier. The solution is clear: relief of the anal/perineal contraction. The medical advice not to "strain at the stool" is relevant but not particularly helpful. in the research on stress and heart function. because it is impossible to defecate without applying greater internal abdominal pressure. because. And these same persons are. Because chronic abdominal-perineal contraction causes the anus to contract. there is almost no attention paid to breathing. does not stop at that point. in a sense. Cardiovascular disease is a paramount health problem in contemporary society. one must relieve it all. the heart and lungs are the same organ. and much more. It is more often a reflexive muscular problem in which control has been lost. but it is not. the muscular sling called the perineum or "crotch. that is.56 Soma tics pulls the chest wall downward toward the groin and pubic bone. not a degeneration of "old age. Sensory-motor amnesia commonly underlies chronic impotence. thus preventing tumescence. or chemically treating the anus will not solve the problem. enhances heart function. means relief from the Red Light reflex. because the problem is functional. 7 Respiration is considered either unimportant or a minor variable in this research. not structural. The anal contraction is not the specific cause of hemorrhoids. but tautens all of the muscles lying at the bottom of the pelvis between the pubic bone and the coccyx. The problem would seem to be a traditional psychological one. But it is a habit. which causes the sphincter muscles of the urethra and the anus to reflexly contract. but it has failed to focus on the role played by the neuromuscular system. raises the chest wall. the attention given to the effects of stress has been immense. Relief from the control of the Red Light reflex not only relieves the anal contraction but also enhances potency. and it is generally seen in older persons. So it is extraordinary that. predictably.

then. reduced peripheral systolic blood pressure 4. The right side of the heart is linked to the left side via its passages through the pulmonary vessels. decreased heart rate 2. This alternation is a sign of how the parasympathetic branch of the autonomic nervous system dominates the stressed sympathetic branch. just as a matter of course. The presence of respiratory sinus arrhythmia is a sign of coronary health. decreased cardiac output 3. The five effects listed above characterize the unstressed cardiovascular functions that usually prevail during uninhibited diaphragmatic breathing. If Selye and other more recent researchers had known about it. Respiratory sinus arrhythmia refers to the way in which heart rate varies with the phase of respiration: The heart rate accelerates during the inspiratory phase. They are capable of diaphragmatic breathing. The respiratory rate associated with this up-and-down rhythm is in the range of six breathing cycles a minute. regulation of the heartbeat by the ebb and flow of respiratory sinus arrhythmia 8 Number 5 is the most universally recognized effect of respiration on cardiovascular function. which governs the flight-or-fight response. and its variable rate of flow. But these effects have been ignored in scientific research. If we were to search for a reason for this. which are flushed smooth by the pulsating pressure. The effects of respiration on heart function are obvious: One cannot even cough. The vascular canals tend. then decelerates during the expiratory phase. People who do not fall under the sway of the Red Light reflex have a relatively uninhibited abdominal muscle. more attention would have been paid to it later on.The Red Light Reflex Venous blood entering the right chambers of the heart flows directly through the filtering and oxygenating tissues of the lungs before entering the heart's left chambers. gasp. has the effect of massaging and buffing the vascular walls. or hold one's breath without causing an immediate change in coronary activities. This type of deep breathing has the following effects on cardiac function: 1. we might first look at the ignorance of the relation between stress and neuromuscular responses among scientific researchers. to remain supple. its absence is clinical evidence of a higher probability of coronary disease. with its rising and falling pressure. regulation of the cardiovascular system by parasympathetic functions of the autonomic nervous system 5. sigh. with the belly expanding to the front and sides during inhalation. It is 57 . The respiratory sinus arrhythmia.

breathing becomes shallower and more rapid. Of patients clinically diagnosed as hypertensive. increased cardiac output 3. And what psychophysiological state directly relates to this unhealthy change? Stress and the shallow breathing that occurs when the abdominal muscle tenses with the withdrawal response. And what else happens? The breathing rate is more rapid. hypertension of no known cause. 11 However. whose activation is endemic to industrial societies. Their resume of the scientific literature touching upon this crucial topic concludes with this statement: . loss of parasympathetic control over cardiac functions and its replacement by sympathetic nervous functions 5. What takes its place? A steadier.1O It also seems to be directly linked to "essential" hypertension. and the arterial narrowing of ischemia. The two medical researchers who have explored these matters in the most thorough manner are Defares and Grossman. constricting both cerebral and skin blood vessels. It describes a Type A behavior characteristic seen in persons who are under increased risk of coronary heart disease. suppression of respiratory sinus arrhythmia and its replacement with a nonvarying heart rate 4. albeit a hidden one. one that has been neither particularly noticed nor investigated: the Red Light reflex. 9 These patients were examined to determine whether they were abdominal diaphragmatic breathers or thoracic breathers. Paul hospital. As this response is repeated and its habituated effects accumulate during aging. nonvariable rate of heartbeat. A research study was carried out with 153 heart attack patients in the coronary care unit of a Minneapolis-St. The results of the survey were devastatingly clear: Every single one of the 153 patients examined were thoracic breathers! Hyperventilation is a pattern of respiratory activity characterized by an increased ventilatory response. we can surmise that there is indeed a cause. and whose habituation causes the shallow thoracic breathing of hyperventilation. we should not be surprised to discover that this healthy link between breathing and heart function usually diminishes with increasing age. heart palpitations. increased heart rate 2. moreover. lowering of CO 2 arterial pressure and alteration of Ph. that is. from 80 to 95 percent show no known cause for their disease-such as kidney malfunction. Hyperventilation has the following known effects on the heart: 1. given the evidence.58 Somatics known to be absent during sickness. It is a condition that goes hand in hand with increased incidence of chest pains. of hyperventilation. whose tight abdominal muscles forced them into the labored chestlifting characteristic of shallow breathers. This is called hyperventilation.

and to breathe once again like healthy human beings are meant to breathe. Such therapies might simultaneously reduce both psychological and coronary risk. A breathing therapy oriented toward slowing down the respiratory pattern and increasing the depth of respiration might prove an effective means of treatment ..The Red Light Reflex Our analysis suggested some interesting possibilities for interventional strategies to reduce risk among Type A individuals.." They enable us to remember what it feels like not to be anxious. 12 59 The Somatic Exercises devised to counteract the effects of the Red Light reflex are just "such therapies. it is possible to alter the breathing pattern in a relatively stable manner. ..

Chapter 9
The Green Light Reflex
The Back Muscles and the Action Response
People are always amazed to discover that they are doing things they are unaware of. This is because adults proudly hold on to the illusion that they are always conscious of what they are doing. For not to be conscious of what one is doing strikes one as a sign of incompetence, even irresponsibility. Nevertheless, these acts that we are oblivious of have major consequences in our lives. One of them, we now know, is the withdrawal response, when our abdomen, shoulders, and neck cringe in apprehension-the Red Light reflex. There is another response which also occurs constantly, but this time when we feel called upon, not to withdraw, but to act: the Green Light reflex. The Green Light reflex could almost be thought of as necessary to industrial society, for to create an industrial economy, this reflex must be triggered constantly throughout the entire population. It is just as much a part of twentiethcentury society as alarm clocks, calendars, coffee, quotas, sales commissions, and deadlines-each of which acts as a spur to this deeply embedded reflex. In our society, 80 percent of the adult population suffer back pain. Apparently, the progress of technology is based on progressively deteriorating backs. This is ironic, because, in our contemporary technological society, the reward for escaping from back-breaking manual labor should be freedom from such physical pain. Compounding the irony, twentieth-century medicine has been spectacularly successful in extending our longevity to the limit our genes will allow. At the same time, however, it has been spectacularly unsuccessful in combating--even understanding-the epidemic we now see of chronic pain in the skull, neck, shoulders, back, and buttocks of the entire adult population. As Rene Caillet, a well-known specialist in medical rehabilitation, observes, "low back pain remains an enigma of modern society and a great dilemma for the medical profession."1 It is the most common disorder for which people seek medical help. Moreover, it is the most common cause of worker absenteeism in industrial societies. 2 It is the general disorder for which the largest amount of money is spent on insurance and pharmaceutical and medical services-in the billions. How can anything so painful, so epidemic, so socially detrimental, and so expensive be so little understood and so poorly coped with? How can medical
61

62

Somatics
researchers and practicing physicians, who study and treat back pain, be so unfortunate as to have the same pains in their backs? As a medical enigma, it is a cause of universal embarrassment. The answer to this question touches upon something we have just mentioned: We constantly do things that have major consequences in our lives, yet we are quite oblivious to the fact that we are doing them. This is because, obviously, we cannot be aware of bodily events that are occurring unconsciously. What is more, we and our business leaders, social planners, and medical researchers-would be amazed to learn that we unconsciously cause our own pain. Not to be conscious of self-inflicted suffering may seem like a sign of incompetence and irresponsiblity, but the problem goes deeper than that. We have not solved this problem, because we have not-until now-understood it. And we have not understood it, because the answer has been hidden from us, as it were, in the recesses of our consciousness; or, to be more precise, beneath the conscious control of the cerebral cortex, wherein voluntary movements originate. It lies hidden within the lower regions of the brain in a reflex that is so familiar, so unconscious, and so human that it is as invisible to us and yet ever present as the air we breathe. It is a reflex that is very specific in its function: It readies us for action. And, because we live in a world where programs of reliable and precisely scheduled actions are the necessary oil of the wheels of commerce, this reflex of ours is constantly being triggered until it has become habituated as part of our bodily functioning. Without understanding the reflexive nature of these universal back disorders, we see this epidemic phenomenon as a scientific enigma. Caillet comments:
An enigma remains in that there is no universality or standardization of low back pain disorders. The term "syndrome" must remain in today's terminology without clarification or universal understanding. Thus low back pain remains a symptom of vague etiology. Numerous terms prevail in the literature along with nonspecific mechanisms and, therefore, nonspecific treatment regimes. Terms such as lumbosacral strain, unstable back, lumbar discogenic disease, facet syndrome, pyriformis syndrome, iliolumbar ligamentous strain, quadratus lumbar pain, myofascitis, spinal stenosis, degenerative disc disease, latissimus dorsi syndrome, abnormal transforaminalligaments, multifidus triangle syndrome, and a great many more enjoy current vogue. Each diagnosis is evaluated and treated with varying success. Treatment can include epidural steroid injection, manipulation, rhizotomy, electrocautery, chemical therapy, and facet joint injection, in addition to the time-honored standards of rest, posture training, traction, medication, and systematic exercise. 3

In other words, medical confusion: shooting in all directions because one doesn't know what to aim at. When health authorities display such confusion in face of a health problem affecting the majority of the population, they further compound the embarrassment when they attempt to explain away the problem. For a long time the medical world has supported the myth that back disorders are natural and inevitable.

The Green Light Reflex
This absurd yet widely spread unscientific notion is pithily summed up by Leon Root, M.D.: "What we can say without dispute is that the change in man from quadraped to biped, and the accompanying change in the structure of his back, is the main, if not exclusive, reason for the prevalence of low back pain among human beings."4 Dr. Root pronounces such nonsense without fear of dispute. This is because, in the face of confusion, one must at least blame the problem on something-despite all that we know about mutation and natural selection and the enormous evolutionary advantage of the vertical human posture. And we would be wise not to lay the blame on God, or on evolution-neither is known for making mistakes in design. The human spinal column is a marvelous structure. It is designed so that its center of gravity is as high as possible, in order to allow for maximum mobility with the least expenditure of energy possible. Moreover, a vertical spinal column allows humans to walk, a feature that made possible the evolution of the unique human hand and brain. It's easy to see that the myth about back disorders follows the same mistaken line of reasoning as does the myth about aging: Somehow, an "inevitable" structural breakdown is taking place. Both are false. The reason for the prevalence of back disorders is a breakdown not in the structure but in the function of the back. This is a crucial point. A broken structure cannot be made new again, but a disordered function can; moreover, it can even be improved.

63

The Landau Reaction and the Responsible Adult

In the first year of life an adventure is taking place. It is the discovery of the muscles of the back. And the most exciting moment of this adventure is the discovery of the Green Light reflex. When the Green Light reflex first springs into action, the tiny human is thrilled by the sensation of moving itself forward through space. This sensation, and the excitement of discovery that follows, continues throughout the entire span of human life. At birth the infant is a helpless, cuddly mass of frontal flexing movements, which enable it to cling to the body of its mother. It cannot lift its head, arch its back, or support its trunk in sitting. Its back muscles are inoperative. During the first weeks, then, the human baby is one-sided: The muscles in the front of its body are highly active; the muscles in the back are highly inactive-they are, as it were, still asleep. But not for long. Soon, by the third month, the baby does something astounding. Its little body begins to lift up its enormous head, as if this were the most important thing in the world. It is. The baby, when lying prone, is lifting its head so that its face will be vertical and its mouth horizontal. This allows the baby to learn two wonderful things: a sense of balance in the head and a sense of the horizon through the eyes. These are important, moreover, for reasons that are profoundly human. When the small head lifts and learns to level itself with the earth, the infant is teaching him or herself the first elements of the

buttocks. At the same time the baby learns to lift and straighten his or her arms and legs. Up until this point the infant more resembled a plant. . The muscles necessary for standing and walking come to life. cerebral palsy. Figure 16a The Landau Reaction Figure 16b Absence of the Landau Reaction The Landau reaction means that the infant can now do something that is even more thrilling than "swimming. from six months on. it is a sign that something may be seriously wrong-for example. rooted in one spot. genetically programmed. This is the Landau reaction. it can push against the floor and thrust its head forward: in other words. are thereafter pursued with great appetite. When the lumbar muscles connecting the back of the pelvis to the vertebrae contract. By holding the infant with one hand beneath its thorax and lifting it. This is because it can now arch the powerful muscles of the lower back. and going forward. the infant has two simultaneous sensations: going up. five to six months. But now the fledgling human being can not only move forward toward a goal but can even choose the goal. These functions. Discovering how to lift and balance the head only whets the appetite for more adventure.64 Somatics functions of standing and walking. But that is not all. busily activating the back muscles and extending the legs in the newfound thrill of locomotion. shoulder. At this stage. a new gravitational response has sprung into being: the Landau reaction (see Figure 16a). straightening out its bent knees. it can now move itself through space! This is the full discovery of the Green Light reflex. But this lumbar contraction is accompanied by the synergistic tensing of the muscles of the neck. It is a crucial stage of development for the young human. It is the contraction of the lower back muscles that inaugurates the Landau reaction. not only does its head lift but-for the first time-its back arches and its legs extend." When it arches its back. But if development is normal. Impatient wrigglings combine with the impatient unfolding of various genetic traits to bring the child to a triumphant achievement at about five months or so: He or she begins to arch the back. the human infant can perform a swimming movement on its stomach while lifting its head and moving its arms and legs. If it is absent at six months (see Figure 16b). The infant is now able to contract the muscles behind the neck but as yet is unable to contract those farther down the posterior of the body. It is a delicious feeling.

as both a muscular activity and an adaptational function. they begin to learn another reason for action: responsibility. The role of the adult differs among different cultures. By nine months. Children are motivated to explore. usually in adolescence. They have to perform more and more actions they are not spontaneously motivated to perform. Soon the child learns to turn over back to front and front to back. the Green Light reflex is positive. Before long she is moving about on her hands and feet. a positive form of energy expenditure. They are equally necessary to our sense of well-being. The Green Light reflex is assertive. They are learning what it means to become responsible adults. it is a withdrawal from the world. One makes us stop. The action response is triggered over and again as youngsters propel themselves into the world around them. and are both necessary for our survival. From the sixth month onward. The muscles of the back. unconsciously precedes and prepares her for every positive action. By 10 months she can pivot and turn her body and walk holding on to furniture. are part of the Landau reaction and are essential for the erect carriage of the body in standing and walking. Within the industrial societies of the twentieth 65 . But as they grow. Their activity is spontaneous and usually joyful. the Green Light reflex contracts the posterior extensor muscles. The Green Light reflex. they are in balance. but the thrill is fast disappearing. she can crawl on her hands and knees. the more often the back muscles are triggered. she wants to run! The world is now open to her. They have to take baths. They learn that there are some things they "have to do. its function is action. Adults must make a living and be able to take care of themselves-whether they want to or not. now totally mastered. The Green Light reflex is the opposite of the Red Light reflex. some are more stressful than others. If the Red Light reflex is negative distress. and they have to go to school. centered in the lower back. A baby girl can sit balanced at eight months and has already started to pull herself up to a standing position. too. The Red Light reflex contracts the anterior flexor muscles. From infancy through childhood and on through adolescence the young human is enormously active. and it too is adaptational. lifting and arching the back in the opposite direction. Remembering Selye's statement. the Landau reaction grows stronger and stronger. Not long after that she is walking by herself. Thus. that stress is in response to good things as well as bad. They." They have to do their homework. and the initial thrill of locomotion has expanded into an adventure of constant exploration and discovery. The more responsible one is. curling the body forward. The adaptational function of the Red Light reflex is protective. the other makes us go.The Green Light Reflex and thighs. we can say that both reflexes are stressful. We must recognize that the stressful aspects of aging begin early in life. are being activated increasingly toward the responsibilities of life. The Green Light reflex is still being triggered. The activation of both these reflexes requires an expenditure of energy. The action response is. As soon as she does this. therefore. what Selye called eustress. They have to do their chores.

and pain-in the back of our heads. An industrial society is fueled by the energy of the Green Light reflex. most people begin to "get old" early in life. It becomes automatic. sales commissions. and multiple cups of coffee are all integral to the adult role. but it also condemns us to live out those years in discomfort and fatigue. lower back. This relentless repetition guarantees that the muscular contractions of the reflex will be constant and habitual. Clocks. The specific effect is the habitual contraction of the muscles of the back. This is sensory-motor amnesia. adulthood is highly stressful. . which is triggered incessantly. The general effect is that a great deal of stress is engendered. Our technology lets us live a long life. soreness. In our society. our shoulders. calendars. and once it takes over we can no longer control the Green Light reflex.66 Somatics century. eventually. and buttocks. All we feel is fatigue. upper back. The action response is so steady that. quotas. fading into oblivion. in our necks. we cease to notice it.

it affects the body's entire musculature. it allows us to understand why the quality of what happens to us during the years of our life is infinitely more crucial to our health and happiness than the quantity of how many years we have lived our lives. as basic adaptive reflexes. Together. that is. to protect us from danger in the world. If we view it objectively. They are as necessary to our lives as the air we breathe and the food we eat. In so doing. These two adaptive reflexes are essential to our survival as a species and as individuals. The typical problems that occur during human aging are due to the combined effect of the withdrawal response and the action response. but also engage the entire central nervous system in a specific orientation of either negative withdrawal or positive action. but more is happening subjectively: A specific feeling and set of sensations accompany this muscular movement. They serve. and to move us toward the opportunities of the world. respectively. Almost every muscle has an opposite muscle that counterbalances 67 . deeply inscribed in our central nervous system. In comparing these two muscular responses (see Figures 17 and 18). A correct appreciation of the roles of these two major reflex patterns gives a more complete understanding of the stress response initially developed by Hans Selye. When either of these opposing reflexes occurs. you will see that they oppose each other. They are total somatic responses. we see only the movement of musculature. pulling in opposite directions to serve the opposite functions of protection and mobility. not only do they involve the entire musculature from head to toe. The Red Light reflex and the Green Light reflex (see Figures 17 and 18) are.Chapter 10 The Sum of Neuromuscular Stress: The Senile Posture and the "Dark Vise" Our examination of the muscular reflex patterns incurred by stress has produced a fundamental insight: There are two major reflexes triggered by stress. they account for a major portion of the physiological malfunctions that typically occur as humans age.

clenching fists. the back half. for example. in the Red Light reflex. its antagonist. flexing elbows. flattening chest. Figure 17 The Red Light Reflex From head to toe. Thus. lifting of shoulders. contracting diaphragm and holding breath. pulling downward of shoulders. lifting chest. Figure 18 The Green Light Reflex From head to toe. contraction of thigh extensors to straighten knee to hyper-extension. contracting gluteus minimus muscles to rotate thighs inward (feet are pigeon-toed). tensing jaw and face. so that. when we contract our biceps to flex our arm. tightening abdominal muscle. pulling backward of neck. the Green Light reflex involves the following movements: opening eyes. contracting gluteus maximus muscles to extend thighs. relaxing anal and urethral sphincters in the perineum. opening hands. abduction of thighs. contraction of gluteus medius muscles to rotate thighs outward (feet are ducklike). automatically relaxes. The sensory feedback of all these movements constitutes the subjective feeling of the Red Light reflex: fear. the triceps extensor muscle. extension and pronation of feet. the Red Light reflex involves the following movements: closing eyes. This means that all of the muscles in the whole body-all agonists and antagonists-are simultaneously involved. tilting up arch). pulling forward of neck. contraction of hamstrings to bend knees. the front half of the body's musculature contracts. jaw and face. Each agonist has an antagonist. relaxing diaphragm and freeing breathing. relaxes and lengthens. The sensory feedback of all these movements constitutes the subjective feeling of the Green Light reflex: effort. flexing and supination of feet (each foot lifts and inverts. lengthening abdominal muscle. while its antagonist. extending elbows.68 Somatics it. contracting perineum (including sphincters of anus and urethra). . adduction of thighs.

The senile posture in Figure 19c is the summation of the two opposing reflexes (Figures 19a and 19b). but. each reflex pattern gradually becomes habitual. various threatening and inviting situations will trigger the Red Light and Green Light reflexes many times. As the young human matures. rounding the back and shoulders and projecting the head forward. It is a very familiar posture. the Red Light and Green Light reflexes interfere with one another. a state of muscular immobility caused by the gradual buildup of chronically opposing contractions. Gradually. At first. seen in millions of aged bodies. But the equally powerful pull of the abdominal and shoulder contractions in the Red Light reflex tilts the entire trunk forward. The powerful contraction of the spinal muscles in the Green Light reflex continues its pulling of the lower back and neck into a curve. 69 Figure 19a Red Light Reflex Figure 19b Green Light Reflex Figure 19c Senile Posture . the contractions become well established. and it clearly shows how the two reciprocal reflexes habituate into a tense compromise between the two patterns. if frequency and intensity increase. As these repetitions accumulate. it's only to a small degree.The Sum of Neuromuscular Stress : The Senile Posture and the "Dark Vise" But this ideal seesaw balance between agonistic contraction and antagonistic relaxation is not what usually develops as we age. When one is partially contracted. This is the sum of neuromuscular stress. the other cannot contract fully.

Or the Green Light reflex may dominate. it is the sum of habitual responses to neuromuscular stress that is the cause of the pathologies discussed in the following paragraphs. In reality. and neck. however. the human skeleton becomes imprisoned within its own musculature . because the human body is so variable. exaggerating the curves of the lower back.70 Somatics All three postures are shown in their extreme form. it is the muscles around the body's center of gravity that are the central agents of both reflexes. Although this occurs as the human being typically ages. As the Red Light and Green Light reflexes close in on one another. the competition between the two reflexes gradually distorts the body in the direction of the senile posture. all movements become limited. Sometimes the Red Light reflex is much more dominant. these postures occur in numerous combinations. Whatever the combination. As noted earlier. As they simultaneously pull the pelvis and hips up toward the trunk. This automatically . creating a far more stooped posture of senility. rib cage. yet pull the trunk and shoulder girdle down toward the pelvis. Stiff and limited movements. Figure 20a Senile Posture with Dominance of the Red Light Reflex Figure 20b Senile Posture with Dominance of the Green Light Reflex 1. so we can clearly recognize them. The free rotational movement between the pelvis and the trunk is restricted.

Dancing is too much of an effort. it begins to come forward with the right leg . The shoulder girdle is pulled downward. in turn. It becomes difficult to turn the knees in and out in free rotation. It's hard to maintain balance. it becomes impossible to turn the head all the way around. The chronically stiff contraction of the body's musculature causes a chronic ache in these same muscles. to look behind you when you try to park the car. Chronic pain. depending upon . They become sore. The pelvis doesn't swing. for example. Women have trouble putting on their brassieres. like a single block (Figure 21b) . Rather than the right arm coming forward with the left leg (Figure 21a). 2. the discomfort in the muscles in the lower back and pelvic region will range from a dim ache to a lively pain.The Sum of Neuromuscular Stress: The Senile Posture and the "Dark Vise" restricts walking. and the arms lose their counterswing to pelvic rotation. sometimes genuinely painful. and golfers have trouble following through with a full swing. 71 Figure 21a Walking with Counterswing Figure 21b Walking with Rigid Trunk Both the arms above the trunk and the legs below the pelvis are similarly restricted. as is the head. Because the early Landau reaction is being constantly triggered in the Green Light reflex. The trunk has become rigid. causes people to become more cautious and stiff in their movement. which. and a fear of falling develops. As the senile posture develops. preventing the arms from reaching and rotating.

can you do something to give me more energy?" is a plea I have heard hundreds of times. It is this pain-for example. Frequently I read medical reports that state that the muscles of an elderly patient have become "weak. and the central body has become quite rigid. . We have seen how this provokes the shallow. postal workers will have sore buttocks and hips. both front and back. but strong. "Please. Inasmuch as the overlapping contractions of two reflexes simultaneously activate all of the body's muscle system. Sometimes the subjective feeling is not of fatigue but of weakness. depending upon the kind of habitual activities engaged in. involuntarily and unconsciously. involuntary contraction. Chronic shallow breathing. from their constant contraction. 3. or in the knees and feet-that physicians frequently mistake for arthritis." This state of affairs has its own disastrous consequences. A negative self-image. They are. When the senile posture is well advanced. That is not their problem. listlessness. even during sleep. they are dismayed to discover that not only do their muscles ache but they are tired as well. what you expect is usually what you get. When oxygen intake becomes extremely low. by combining the contractions of the withdrawal and action responses. and (4) their oxygen supply is restricted. This will be discussed in Chapter 12. One of the most common complaints of elderly humans is that they are always tired. Moreover. These chronic contractions continue unabated when they are lying down. and if they constantly are told. 5. rapid breath of hyperventilation and its unfortunate effects on cardiovascular functions. This may happen if. "That's the inevitable effect of aging. the result is an enormous expenditure of energy. in fact. Chronic fatigue. When they get up in the morning. and loss of mental acuity. and so on. immobilizing the chest.72 Somatics the degree of stressful activity. When individuals reach a stage in life when (1) they can no longer do what they once did. in the elbows and hands. (3) they are tired and without energy. Some become so fatigued that they need to rest within an hour or two after rising. Typists. for example. If doctors would trouble to feel the affected muscles. these individuals usually develop a negative self-image. carpal tunnel syndrome. The senile posture. 4. will have sore shoulders and necks. they would discover that they are rigidly held in a tonic. the restrictions of the shoulder and hip joints will cause varying degrees of discomfort. they cannot reverse the loss of their youthful functions. But these people do not lack energy. pulls down the entire rib cage. they are expending large amounts of energy constantly. according to the somatic law. (2) they are always in pain. Their problem is that. not weak. pain will begin in the extremities. despite all their efforts. the result is often depression. pinched nerves. Often they become quite large and powerful from their chronic pulling." This is usually incorrect. because.

J. even though the muscles are contracting. Chronic high blood pressure and the "Dark Vise. When you squeeze a baseball. so that the vascular walls are not kept supple and therefore adaptable to blood pressure changes. one of which I have already mentioned in our discussion of the Red Light reflex: When the Red Light reflex restricts breathing and therefore triggers hyperventilation. . the fingers do not move. it also suppresses the normal variable heart rhythm and pressure of sinus arrhythmia. When you squeeze the juice from an orange. Static contraction of muscles is what happens in isometric exercise. and (2) the up-and-down variation of blood pressure no longer occurs. once made popular through the muscular development program of Charles Atlas. as when one presses the palms of the hands tightly together causing the chest muscles to contract-the hands do not move. where cardiac output increases dramatically with typically no change in mean blood pressure. It is the contraction of one muscle group against another. is what causes these events. The increased afterload associated with isometric exercise has been shown to precipitate many of the symptoms of congestive heart failure in many individuals with a diseased myocardium. but the muscles do. during isometric exercise cardiac output increases only slightly but mean blood pressure increases dramatically. The other reason for modifying the current viewpoint about the inevitability of hypertensive arteriosclerosis has to do with the known effects of static muscle contraction-also known as isometric contraction. and I say this for two reasons. Unlike dynamic exercise. This means that two things occur: (1) Dominance of the sympathetic nervous system over cardiovascular functions causes the smooth muscle walls of the vascular canals to contract. and that this condition is the result of a genetically programmed biological process. the medical view is that hypertensive arteriosclerosis is "the inevitable effect of aging. This results in a sharp increase in the afterload on the heart .. But there is a problem with this form of exercise: It causes a sharp rise in blood pressure. this is static contraction." Perhaps the major cause of death from diseases late in life is arteriosclerosis. the latter of which include strokes and ruptured aneurysms. There are two ways in which muscles can work: statically or dynamically." This condition is at the root of both coronary and cardiovascular diseases. S.. there is as well the risk of stroke and ruptured aneurysm. also called "hardening of the arteries.The Sum of Neuromuscular Stress: The Senile Posture and the "Dark Vise" 6. 3 The dangers posed by static muscle contraction are not limited to the heart. The scientific view of gerontological researchers is that high blood pressure. For the normal heart isometric exercise poses a unique stress. . the fingers close down around the orange. 1 In other words. combined with hardening of the arteries which restricts blood flow. this movement of the fingers is a dynamic contraction." But quite possibly it is not. 2 73 It is well known that blood pressure can increase up to 50 percent after isometric contraction.

Moreover. Human beings are not in the least helpless. According to somatics. the human is not just another animal-a more complex version of a laboratory rat. In animals. They are the result of reflexes that are utterly normal and can do us no harm unless we cease to notice their occurrence and allow them to become so familiar that they become unconscious and habitual. We cannot always avoid the situations that cause them to occur."4 If we reflect upon the collision of the Red Light and Green Light reflexes in the senile posture and their statically opposing contractions. hypertensive arteriosclerosis is at the root of cardiovascular disease. or dispel. we suddenly realize the potential fatality of the senile posture." This means that they are the associated signs and symptoms of an unhealthy process that must be attended to and reversed. is profoundly different. the withdrawal response and the action response are conditioned reflexes. I think it is horrifying to consider old age as a disease. These six pathologies are. however. we come up with a cause of hypertensive arteriosclerosis: the senile posture that occurs due to the unimpeded habituation of the Red Light and Green Light reflexes. These six pathologies associated with typical aging do not comprise a disease." which is to say that the major effects of aging are both avoidable and/or remediable. We can avoid. they can become habituated. they are a syndrome. it is common for elderly humans to have high blood pressure. We cannot avoid the responses themselves. fading gradually from voluntary consciousness into sensory-motor amnesiaand the Dark Vise takes over. because they are built into our genes. Once we . Pavlov and many other physiologists have "scientifically" viewed the human being as just another animal. By putting these two facts together. But we can be aware of them. If these reflexes occur often enough and strongly enough. best described as the "aging syndrome. avoidable: they are not "inevitable. As mentioned above. concludes his views about the effect of isometric exercise by warning that "it is apparent that this form of exercise would be dangerous for the elderly hypertensive patient. A human being is a self-aware being. capable of learning even greater self-awareness and greater self-control. isometric contraction-a Dark Vise that causes chronically high blood pressure. These six pathologies are the sum of neuromuscular stress in the lives of all human beings. then. The body's two major muscle groups are opposing one another involuntarily in a static. They may also become conditioned in us. It is equally horrifying to presume that a long life is a disease process with inevitable consequences. the effects of the two neuromuscular responses to stress. that salivated when it heard the bell ring.74 Soma tics Petrofsky. but we can control our responses to them. who has devoted an entire volume to a review of the research in this area. recall Pavlov's dog. but only if we think of ourselves as no different from Pavlov's dog. a major cause of death in later life. The somatic point of view.

The Sum of Neuromuscular Stress: The Senile Posture and the "Dark Vise"
recognize the power of self-awareness, we know we can save ourselves from the inescapable forces of stress. Not to recognize the fact and utility of human consciousness would be to condemn ourselves, in effect, to live and die like dogs. I do not think it is of the least importance whether science in general or medicine in particular recognizes the fa.ctual power of human self-awareness. By its own definition of human beings as animals, science precludes recognition of it. I do think, however, that it is of the highest importance that individuals-you and I-recognize it and put it to use. Not only would we avoid the avoidable pathologies that can occur during a long life, we would confirm to ourselves the power of human self-responsibility and autonomy-a power that has much deeper significance.

75

Interlude: The Archer's Bow and The Danger of a "Tight Gut"
When a person can't get rid of hiccups, everyone has a different remedy: "Put a paper bag over your head and rebreathe the exhaled air." "Drink water upside down." "Hold your breath till you can't hold it any longer." Sometimes these methods work. Usually they don't. It is exactly the same when you have back pains. Friends as well as health professionals have an assortment of methods to suggest. Sometimes they work. Usually they don't. "Your back is too weak; you have to strengthen it." "Your back is too tight; you have to stretch it; touch your toes." "Your disks are herniated; you need an operation." "Your disks are bulging; you need a back brace." "All you have to do is sit with a swayback." "All you have to do is sit with a flat back." "It's very simple; when the back is too tight, it means the stomach muscles have become weak and flabby; tighten up your gut; that will solve the problem." Almost everyone has back problems, but they cannot help themselves, because they don't understand what has gone wrong. That's why their "solutions" are unsuccessful. The situation would seem comic if there were not so much pain and anguish involved. In 99 percent of the cases of lower back pain, the pain is located in the muscles connecting the spine and rib cage to the back of the pelvis. The pain will be in the lower back or the pelvis or both, sometimes on both sides and sometimes on one side only. The muscles are painful for a single reason: excessive contraction, caused by the Green Light reflex. Even a person with a comfortably functioning back can have lower back pain if he or she spends 10 hours in the field digging potatoes or picking cotton. The extensor muscles will become exhausted from repeatedly lifting up the trunk. But a person can also sit in a chair all day working at a desk or typewriter stand and have the same pain if the extensor muscles are constantly contracted by an habituated Green Light reflex. The spinal muscles in the lower back will be very

76

Soma tics
firm and will pull the lower back into an arch. The painful swayback that afflicts most adults in our society is like an archer's bow. The muscles at the back of the spine are like the thong of the bow. When the thong is not taut, there is only a slight bend (Figure 22a), but when the thong is tightened, the bow is arched (Figure 22b).

Figure 22a
Relaxed Spine

Figure 22b
Archer's Bow Spine

When the extensor muscles of the back are chronically contracted, the posture of the lower spine is bowed forward into an arch, which projects the belly forward and reduces the height of the trunk. The spinal column shortens, because a curved line is shorter than a straight line. This arch squeezes the back portions of the vertebrae down against the posterior sections of the spongy disks, which, being elastic like a golf ball, are compressed down pinching the posterior section, causing it to bulge out into the spinal canal (Figure 22b). Since X rays do not show muscle tissue (the tight "thong") but only the vertebrae and thick disks (the "bow"), radiologists frequently mistake the outward bulge of the disk for a collapse (hernia or rupture) . Thus, they incorrectly assume that the vertebral structure has "broken down." This mistaken image of a broken-down back haunts everyone's thinking about this universal problem. "Back-breaking labor" expresses this confusion as does the equally popular complaint, "My back went out." Except with fractures and severe accidents, human backs rarely "break" or "go out." They do, however, become painfully bent into the archer's bow, with the pain usually being in the constantly fatigued muscles of the back, not in the disks or in the nerves, as is commonly believed. If the sensory nerves in the lower back under the

The Sum of Neuromuscular Stress: The Senile Posture and the "Dark Vise"
fourth and fifth lumbar vertebrae are pinched by excessive contraction, the pain will be felt, not in the back, but in the pelvis and leg on the side of the pinch . These are sciatic pains, which are an aggravated example of the same provisional compression of the disks into an archer's bow. Because the archer's bow curves the lower back inward, it automatically curves the belly outward. "No matter how much I diet, I can't get rid of this protruding stomach!" is a remark of many middle-aged clients. Even though this protrusion is the unavoidable consequence of chronically contracted back muscles, there is a befuddled conviction among some health professionals that the back and belly sway forward because the abdominal muscles have become weak. Having a "tight gut" is an obsession with many males, and they will engage in long sessions of sit-ups and leg-lifts to remedy this situation. But nothing changes, because the abdominal muscles were never weak. Instead, the lower back muscles are excessively contracted-they are "too strong." The typical curve in the middle of the body, then is, due neither to a "weak back" nor to a "weak belly"-nor is it due to a structural breakdown that must be repaired, braced, or trussed up. It is due to a chronic involuntary contraction of the back muscles caused by a constantly triggered Green Light reflex . The problem is in the brain where the reflex is habituated. When this reflex is mastered, the curved back, the protruding belly, the compressed disks all disappear-and the pain ceases. But sensory-motor amnesia causes us to forget what it feels like to have a relaxed, undistorted back. After years of suffering the effects of a curved and shortened spine, one's sense of "straight" is distorted .

77

Figure 23a
Distorted Body Image: Swayback Seems Straight

Figure 23b
Straight Back Seems "Slumped"

In Figures 23a and 23b you see this crucial-and also fascinating-phenomenon of a distorted body image. If feels slumped forward! If I am to sit up straight. "But this doesn't feel straight.. " Whereupon they will contract and arch their lower back into the old curve. . when he or she learned to release these muscles. In Figure 23a you see the distorted body image (dotted line) of a typically chronic Green Light reflex: the backward curve of the trunk seems "straight. failed to say. it seems "slumped" (see Figure 23b). protruding the belly forward and pulling the head behind the center of gravity. It is crucial to keep this in mind as you begin to relax your back muscles in the first two Somatic Exercises.78 Somatics During the last 10 years I have never known a client with a painfully swayed back who." so that when one first learns to relax back to a straight spine. It takes a few weeks to become accustomed to having a tall undistorted back.. I have to hold my back like this .

The gradual effects of the habituated Red Light and Green Light reflexes on the body are most easily seen from the side: that is. we flinch-that is the trauma reflex. we move the threatened body part away from the danger and cringe-that is the trauma reflex. When we are stung by a bee or pricked by a hypodermic needle. 79 . But trauma will affect the body only on the side where the injury occurred. left or right side. the sideways tilting of the trunk. These kinds of trauma reflexes can occur in any part of the body-top or bottom. as happens sometimes after heart surgery. Another thing I always do is look at the person head-on to see if he or she is tilting to the side. causing the muscles to cringe and curve the body to one side. adding to the tight swayback of the Green Light reflex. the cringing contraction of the trauma reflex will be most obviously seen on one side of the body. the swayed back and protruding belly of the archer's bow posture or the stooped upper trunk of the viejito. If someone holds a burning cigarette or a sparkler too near to us. front or back. usually affecting the smoothness of walking and the sense of balance. as transparently familiar as the breath-holding crouch of the Red Light reflex or the arching back of the Green Light reflex. Sometimes I ask the person to walk. but it does not cause tilting.Chapter 11 Trauma: The Role of Injury When the Body Tilts One question I always ask my clients is whether they have had any bone fractures. It is a common protective reflex. But unless the injury is in the center of the body. They can occur in the back of the body. surgery. the muscular cringing is meant to hold a tight protective pattern around the point of injury-that too is the trauma reflex. serious accidents. They can occur in the front of the body. adding to the contracted crouch of the Red Light reflex. Both the questions and the observations are directed at achieving the same goal: to determine if there have been any traumatic injuries. If our body is injured. to see if there is any hint of a limp. The trauma reflex is a reaction of the sensory-motor system meant to guard against pain. But the sudden effects of trauma are best seen head-on from the front or from the back: that is. as sometimes occurs after spinal surgery. or any other cause for hospitalization. Long-term stress affects the body on both sides equally.

Whether the curve is simple or S-shaped. indeed. Figure 24a Simple Scoliosis with C Curve Figure 24b Scoliosis with S Curve The trauma reflex can be triggered by any severe damage to the body.80 Somatics When there is scoliosis. Louise's "frozen" right . occur. but the righting reflex of our balancing system automatically pulls the head and upper trunk in the opposite direction to counterbalance the lower tilt. sometimes propounding the outlandish theory that the causes are genetic. The genesis of this is usually always the following: An injury occurs on one side of the body. had broken his left thigh in an automobile accident three years earlier. the lower spine is curved in one direction and the thoracic spine is curved in the opposite direction . causing reflex muscular contraction. that is. it means that trauma has occurred. that one side of the body grows faster than the other! In the tiniest fraction of cases this might. In Figures 24a and 24b you see the effect of reflexive muscle contraction over which the person has lost control. In the case histories of Part 1. Barney. who leaned heavily to the right. causing the muscles of the pelvis and lumbar spine to contract tighter on one side. SMA has occurred . Orthopedic physicians frequently ignore trauma as a factor in a child's scoliosis. Scoliosis can be a simple curve like a long C. but usually such genetic deformities occur along with other signs of deformity-something rarely the case with scoliosis. or it can be a double curve like an S (Figures 24a and 24b). the cause is usually the same: trauma to one side of the body. In the latter case.

Trauma: The Role of Injury
shoulder and right tilt occurred after she had fallen, breaking her upper arm; Harley had fallen out of a truck, injuring his left knee. Thereafter he limped, leaning to the left. The trauma reflex can be triggered by surgery: A spastic cringing reaction will occur in the muscles surrounding the site of surgery. Women who have mastectomies may have chronic stiffness and soreness in the shoulder and upper rib cage. Men who have heart surgery may have a tight soreness in the chest. People who have kidney surgery and a catheter insertion will sometimes have uncontrollable muscular spasms in the lower belly and upper thigh where the catheter had been. Examples of this kind are endless. Equally frequent are trauma reflexes on one side of the body after a severe fall on the hip, or following a sprained ankle or a broken leg. The inability to put weight on the injured leg causes an automatic shift of weight to the other leg. This is not a voluntary action; it is a reflex to avoid the pain. One cannot help but "favor" the injured leg. Tailors as well as chiropractors will frequently tell their clients that one of their legs is shorter than the other. Out of hundreds of persons who have been told that, I have never seen one whose leg was actually shorter; in every case, the muscles of the center of the body were chronically contracted, pulling up the hip on the side-like Harley's "retracted landing gear." There are as many varieties of the trauma reflex as there are ways for humans to injure themselves, ranging from the bruskly to the subtly violent and from a whiplash twist of the neck to a paralytic disease. Inequality between the two sides is so common that we see it constantly but do not notice it. In fact, curved spines are so "normal" that few health practitioners realize that persons tilted to one side by accident will, if their lower back becomes increasingly arched by the Green Light reflex, risk pinching one or both of their sciatic nerves. Sciatica is caused by disk pressure on the sciatic nerves located just between the fourth and fifth lumbar vertebrae and the fifth lumbar vertebra and the first sacral vertebra, respectively. They are sensory nerves, extending through the pelvis, down the thigh and calf, ending in the foot. The former goes down the side of the leg, ending in the big toe; the latter goes down the back of the leg to the heel, ending in the little toe. Whichever nerve is pinched, the pain will be felt along that route. If the pinch is moderate, the pain is felt only in the pelvis and hip. If the pressure is severe, the pain is like a hot wire going all the way to the foot. It is a nerve pain with a different sensation than muscular pain, and it can be agonizingly debilitating when it is severe. Except in obvious cases of severe accidents and compression fractures, sciatica is a relatively common adaptive disease. Like all diseases of adaptation, it is directly related to the amount of stress and trauma that has occurred in that person's life. The longer we live, the more chance we have to experience stress and trauma; therefore, sciatica is often associated with the diseases of aging. But it can occur at any age. And as a disease of adaptation, sciatica can be either

81

82

Somatics
avoided or remedied. Teaching people how to avoid or get rid of the sciatic condition has been one of the more interesting aspects of my work as a somatic educator. I am frequently consulted by persons with severe sciatica who are desperate to avoid surgery. A baker in his early forties hobbled into my office with excruciating sciatic pains down his left leg to the big toe. He was terrified of the pain, but more terrified of the back surgery that was considered "necessary." After a few sessions, he regained-seii.sation and motor control of the lumbar and left trunk muscles. The pain then disappeared, first in the leg, then in the back. The intervertebral disk that was presumed to be "ruptured" had, as it turned out, merely been bulging from the viselike pressure of involuntary contraction in the lower back muscles. With the contractions now under his voluntary control, the vertebrae returned to their normal position. To perpetually celebrate the fact that his back is perfectly sound, he now makes a great show of lifting 100-pound sacks of flour to pour into his mixing machine. He has been doing this for three years. In another instance, I worked with a cowboy who was out of rodeo competition because of chronic sciatic pain. Ten days after our last of three sessions of retraining, he was at San Francisco's Cow Palace bronco-busting and steer riding at the Grand National competition. It is this near-miraculous capacity of the human consciousness and the central nervous system to learn and adapt that is the theme of this book. We are capable of far more than we believe ourselves to be. As we learn more and more about the ways in which brain functions control, maintain, repair, and protect our bodies, we come more and more to respect this marvelous capacity we have. We are far less dependent and helpless than we believe ourselves to be; which is to say, we are far more responsible and self-governing than we know.

Interlude: Staying Sexy and Smart
A common myth of aging is that, after the first flush of youth, we steadily begin to lose both our sexual and our mental competence. But this is not what really happens. There is, however, an element of truth to the myth of declining sexual competence, and it has to do with males and with the high frequency of orgasms possible when they are four years into adolescence. This initial explosion of sexuality drops, by the end of the teenage period, to a relatively steady state, which continues at such a stable level that, at 50-plus years, 98 percent of men are still sexually active. Our knowledge about early sexuality comes from Alfred C. Kinsey's groundbreaking reports of some three decades ago. But Kinsey's survey only included persons up to 65 years old, and the number sampled at the 50-plus level was

Trauma: The Role of Injury
minimal. This missing information was richly supplied in 1984 with the publication of the Consumers Union report, Love, Sex, and Aging,! which covered the age span of the 50s through the 80s. This report on 4,246 respondents covered the largest geriatric sample ever assembled for a sexuality study. What this report tells us is that the decline in sexual competence in later years is minimal: The frequency may not be that of the late teenager, but, if we peruse the report's personal remarks, the pleasure is apparently greater. It seems that older persons need fewer repetitions to do it right. The sexual responsiveness of women reaches its fullness considerably later than that of males, that is, during their late twenties and early thirties. The average frequency of female sexual activity remains fairly constant up until their sixties. Of all women in their fifties sampled in the Consumers Union report, 93 percent were sexually active. When we match this with the 98 percent of sexually active 50-year-old males sampled, we have a picture of human beings at the half-century mark whose sexuality does not subscribe to the myth of aging. Given the known muscular discomforts and limitations of the average citizen after a lifetime of stress and accidental trallmas, these are astonishing figures. It is just as astonishing that 91 percent of men in their sixties were sexually active, as well 81 percent of women. (Keep in mind that this reduced percentage includes many widows.) Surely by the time the average man or woman manages to reach their seventies they must be sexually exhausted. Not at all: 79 percent of all men and 65 percent of all women surveyed were still sexually active. 2 So there is a decline in sexuality as humans age, but it is only a small decline. And, if humans could learn how to ward off the cumulative effects of stress and trauma in their nervous systems, there might be literally no decline at all. Most impressive was the Consumers Union report on people in their eighties. Roughly half of these men and women were still sexually active, and the majority still rated the sexual experience as "very enjoyable." When asked what she had to say to younger people regarding love and sexual relationships, an 83-year-old San Diego woman replied, "That sex relations may continue indefinitely." A 68-year-old-widower wraps it up with this remark: "To sum up succinctly, I indulge less and enjoy it more .... "3 The myth about aging and sexuality has its parallel in false assumptions about aging and mental competence. When the Binet intelligence tests were first used in the United States, it was believed that intellectual development, running parallel with sexual development, reached a peak at age 16. During the 1920s, some researchers thought the peak might be even earlier, at perhaps 13 years. After these peaks, no further intellectual development was presumed to take place. (This is when the popular myth probably got its start.) But the Wechsler tests of the 1930s quickly revealed that the findings of the Binet tests were not true. According to the later tests, many adults seemed to get smarter as they got older. And the Wechsler scales turned up an interesting complication: Different types of intellectual function had different times and rates of peaking and de-

83

84

Soma tics
clining. This was further complicated by the discovery that some adults did not show any decline at all. We are all familiar with the way some elderly people say, "I'm not as sharp as I used to be," or "I don't have the head for it anymore," just as we know some elders have the memory dysfunction of Alzheimer's disease. Given the rapid change of each generation during the twentieth century, we are also familiar with the way the younger generation seems to be getting smarter than the older one. But is this due to a difference in age or to something quite separate: a difference in culture and education? There was no way of definitely answering this question until a difficult scientific task could be attempted: to launch a "longitudinal study," which measured the intellectual abilities of a single group of people throughout their later adulthood. Keeping track of a large group of persons and retesting them over a 20- to 3D-year period is a formidable task, and only a few such studies have been completed. Eight were published in a unique research report-Longitudinal Studies of Adult Psychological Development. 4 Its editor was K. Warner Schaie, whose own 21-year Seattle longitudinal study is the backbone of this book. Schaie's study began with 1,656 subjects aged 25 through 67, tested in the years 1956, 1963, 1970, and 1977. This group was tested and retested for the growth or decline of various intellectual abilities. It became obvious that intellectual development did not peak at 16 years. Different intellectual abilities took different lengths of time to mature. For example, the ability to think with numbers does not reach its peak until age 32; reasoning ability peaks at 39; speech and word fluency do not hit their peaks until age 46; and comprehension of verbal meaning does not reach its stride until 53 years. 5 Apparently aging is not a period of decline but one of improvement and development. This was a stunning discovery. Why didn't all of those tested show this same continuing improvement? Why did some decline, yet others continued to grow? After sifting through various possibilities, Schaie concludes that persons with "flexible personality styles" are more likely to continue to perform at high ability levels as they age. Intellectual competence so reflects the way we have lived our lives that, as Schaie says, " ... it is typically only by age 81 that one can show that the average older person will fall below the middle range of performance for young adults."6 Schaie pinpoints, in addition to a flexible personality style, two other conditions for continuing high mental abilities: first, a favorable, less stressful personal situation; and second, freedom from arthritis and cardiovascular disease. Finally, Schaie roundly confirmed the general theses of this book when he said, "I find myself concluding that the use-it-or-Iose it principle applies not only to the maintenance of muscular flexibility, but to the maintenance of flexible lifestyles and a related high level of intellectual performance as well."7

The prow leads the movement of the vessel. "I shall please the lord . Soon. F. in which the priest said. These substances. and this year gives way to the next." not to cure. which were not supposed to have any effect. At the cutting edge of that change is expectation. " Later. however. Expectation is not only a prediction of the future. The expression. We live in time. If the prow points up. Its importance has to do with the most inescapable feature of human existence: time.. it also directly contributes to making it happen. which is to say we live with constant change: This minute gives way to the next. but merely to please. actually succeeded if the physician cajoled the patient into believing it would. Evans conducted 85 . This curious word is Latin. Those in the medical profession are apt to think that their techniques are all that patients need. it did. The course of our life follows our expectations in the same way that a vessel follows the direction of its prow.Chapter 12 Expectation: The Role of Mental Attitude "Expectation" is one of the most important words in the English language. The direction in which the prow is pointed determines the direction the vessel will go. the patient. Consider the placebo effect.. "a self-fulfilling prophecy." means that what we expect will happen usually turns out to be what actually happens. this day gives way to the next. Expectation is what carries us from the present into the future. Living and aging are identical events. If the patient expected that the sugar pill would help. As such. their lives changing from present time to future time." and it was taken from the liturgy of the Catholic Church. it is like the prow of a vessel nosing its way forward. By the nineteenth century it was being used by physicians to refer to any ineffective substance given as "medicine. But the placebo effect contradicts this. J. physicians began to notice an odd thing. This proactive role which expectation plays is crucial to our well-being. It means "I shall please. because humans live in time. the vessel will go downward. the vessel will follow in the same direction: upward. This is the placebo effect. it came to be applied more generally to any attempt to flatter or please another person. If the prow points down.

The other group showed only 76 percent improvements. vaccines. Almost the same results were obtained in comparing placebo effects with those of aspirin (54 percent). But some surgeons were skeptical. "Surgery as a Placebo. oral contraceptives. and Darvon (45 percent).2 Such a list constitutes a massive confirmation of the somatic viewpoint-that human consciousness is an integral part of the human body's self-regulation. nitroglycerine. codeine (56 percent). Evans concludes: "The placebo should be considered a potent therapeutic intervention in its own right. Neither the testers nor the subjects know which is the real drug and which is the placebo. The results were remarkable. the cough reflex. Because the placebo is so prevalent in clinical medicine. Thus. the common cold. emesis. insomnia. phobias. l What could cause such a powerful analgesic effect? Only one thing: expectation. It was extraordinary to learn that the placebo effect was constant. pupil dilation and constriction. Clearly expectation is a factor in all human pathologies. still showed these same remarkable improvements. physicians learned that the placebo effect was not at all limited to pain reduction. an active agent whose positive or negative effects can be independently evaluated and whose mode of action is worthy of independent investigation. gastric secretion and motility. ulcers. Placebo effects are evident also in the practice of biofeedback and in psychotherapy. parkinsonism.86 Soma tics a series of carefully controlled studies in pain reduction. which compared the effects of morphine to the effects of a "worthless" placebo pill. This same group of patients. one making the incision and performing the mammary-artery ligation and the other simply making an incision and doing nothing else. tachycardia. headache. when examined six weeks later."3 Not only are placebo effects seen in the area of pharmacology. respiration. vasoconstriction. No matter what the analgesic drug. angina. there is a "double-blind" arrangement. vasomotor function. H. The usual surgery involves making a skin incision and tying off the mammary artery. asthma. rheumatoid arthritis. In the lab. Anxiety. and warts. But. The findings were startling: The placebo was 56 percent as effective as a dose of morphine. they even compete with surgery. as the information poured in. This promising research area presumes . it was found in studies of adrenal gland secretion. blood pressure. a science called psychoneuroimmunology has emerged. fever. blood cell counts. then six months later. so they divided up into two teams. cancer. The influence expectation has on people is so consistent and widespread that the pharmaceutical industry automatically takes it into consideration when it does its drug testing. edema. the effectiveness of the placebo was always proportional. and depressions have all been relieved through the application of placebos. multiple sclerosis. Beecher's classic medical study. The team making the incision and doing nothing else reported that 100 percent of their patients showed an increased ability to exercise and a reduced need for the painkiller. diabetes."4 recounts how placeboic surgery was used to reduce the pain of angina pectoris. seasickness.

we are chronically reinforcing this discomfort as a permanent condition. If we expect our bodies to be resilient and healthy. Thus. but has a working relation with the central nervous system. can cause changes in both the central nervous system and the immune system. then they will tend to remain so. If we take them as a sign of serious disease and breakdown expected at this age in life. that is. the chronic intermittent activation of the disease mechanisms by unconditioned physiochemical causes may lead to increasingly strong aversive anticipatory responses that inhibit the motor system even when the unconditioned stimulus is inactive. he says the following about this aspect of negative expectation: This analysis may be particularly relevant to chronic diseases and functional disorders such as low back pain. we can directly prevent such a "disease process. breakdown and loss will eventually occur. On the other hand. such as an expectation. The working thesis of psychoneuroimmunology is that a state of consciousness. expecting the worst. In such cases. or dysfunction increase the probability of negative conditioned effects that sustain the disorder. In addition. attitudes. To anticipate pathology is. expectation may be predicated on the myth of aging. musculoskeletal disorders. injury. or dysfunction" from becoming a permanent condition. Professor Ian Wickramasekera is a medical research scientist. a belief in inevitable structural breakdown and functional loss. how we interpret them becomes crucial. and cancer. diabetes. and other conscious states trigger certain neurotransmittors which. by responding to bodily discomforts with intelligent awareness and positive countermeasures. dangerous because apparently the mere feeling of "giving in" to an ailment immobilizes our self-healing capacities. injury. cardiovascular disorders. . in turn. it can also be an active cause of these diseases. which then becomes resistant to improvement. In this case. the young science's name. This unleashes dangerous reactions in the brain and in the immune system. If we habitually cringe in response to bodily discomforts. then we are accepting and giving in to a presumed fatality. It is a well-established fact that intermittent reinforcement by unconditioned stimuli will make a maladaptive response maximally resistant to improvement. tantamount to intending it. This is essentially the somatic viewpoint: that the attitudes and beliefs we have about our bodies and our health vitally affect the ongoing state of our bodies and our health. The prophecy becomes self-fulfilling: What we expect to happen does happen. 5 87 This statement makes it clear that the myth of aging is not merely a belief about the diseases of aging. If we are at a certain age and feel within our bodies certain discomforts. functionally. emotions. psychoneuroimmunology. In his general analysis of the placebo as a conditioned response. affect the immune systemhence. in which the long-term and intermittent reinforcements of the unconditioned disease process.Expectation: The Role of Mental Attitude something that not too long ago was deemed impossible: that the immune system is not isolated in its functions.

by and large. age. we should ask. the presumed "inevitable effects of aging" will. and become decrepit and discarded." What. it has a curious etymology. It is most provocative that a word as basic to human life as "aging" can mean either of two opposite possibilities: growth or degeneration. means "to grow up. "a period of existence. and viaticus. and silvaticus passed into English as "savage" and viaticus as "voyage. in plumbing the meaning of the simple but curious word. postage. From the layered depths of our language arises the tantalizing suggestion that aging might mean growth rather than decay. and advance." almost like the expression of . "of the wood" (silva). Thus. even though "age" means simply "a period of existence. It means to become taller and to become deeper. wear out. not occur. aticus. and no longer useful. deteriorated." it refers more broadly to that which characterizes a period of existence. and become both taller and deeper or to decrease. village. dilapidated. or it can just as well unfold in the direction of decay and steady degeneration. then." was commonly used as a termination to many words: for example." we come upon a fundamental ambiguity: "To age" means either to grow." In view of the etymology of "old. This linguistic implication is tightly interlaced with the etymological roots of "aging. and if we use positive countermeasures such as Somatic Exercises to improve our bodily self-regulation. Later. This fundamental ambiguity reflects an abiding human insight into the ambiguity of aging: A human life can unfold in the direction of growth and increasing strength. "old" has come to mean worn out. Moreover." it is fascinating to note that "growing old" has come to mean exactly the opposite of the original meaning of "old": that is. means-quite surprisingly-"to nourish" and "to bring up. does it mean "to grow old"? "Old. alo. It suggests that what is characteristic to the period of existence of a human's lifetime is neither programmed nor predictable. if we are intelligently aware of our bodies." It is one of the more fascinating words in the English language. First of all." in its Latin root." Age became a common suffix in many English words: language. It implies that the direction of human life is not fixed but open. Interlude: Learning to Drink from the Well The word "age" means. and in its ancient Germanic form. marriage. because it is significantly more complex than it sounds. aft. meaning "belonging to" or "proper to. aticus evolved into the French suffix.88 Somatics In brief. alo means to strengthen. silvaticus." More generally. decayed. "of the way" (via). Its Latin root is aetus. and so on. quite simply. In its root meaning. increase. "to age. increase. "age. It is particularly interesting when it becomes a verb--to age-for then it means "to grow old." and to get older. decay. Its form.

Time. It is a question of whether we think that our lives are at least as important an investment as. The human who knows that his or her being is growing is a human who usually has the strength and endurance to prevail over the defeats and stresses and traumas that occur in each and every life. and it has the curious feature of being self-justifying. wondering indecisively what to expect. I do not think it improper to say that what we invest in life determines how much we get out of it. real estate or stocks." grimaces at his self-predicted decrepitude. as the currency of life. Both got what they expected. awaiting full discovery and confirmation. We now know enough about expectation and the way it mobilizes our bodies to willingly choose the expectation that our conjoint souls and bodies-our "somas"-will"increase. but another. Sixty years later will be too late. How we expect it to be spent predetermines the plan for its expenditure. "This is just what I expected. "This is just what I expected". for example. We see in this situation an extraordinary truth about human life: Whether we will grow or degenerate during the course of our lives is a question not of known fact but of expected possibility.Expectation: The Role of Mental Attitude a "collective unconscious" of our race-a collective insight into the authentic possibilities of human life. And it is just as likely that a constant. when we think of aging as a process. It is my observation that many humans do not value their personal bodily future as highly as they value the future of their material possessions. saying. Such a person knows that the inevitable pains and dysfunctions occurring in the body are not "inevitable signs 89 . who also says. and lose his own soul-and body?" But life need not unfold in this way. is always futurity. daily expectation of wearing out and becoming decrepit will be a self-fulfilling prophecy. or to decay." become "deeper and taller"-partly because they are "nourished" and "brought up" with this happy expectation. to distinguish between the two opposite meanings of "to age"-that is. so that 60 years later one human smiles and affirms the progress of his life. Expectation is the leading edge of a belief system. so we cannot wait for 60 years. They could not imagine it happening any other way. it is not yet spent. to grow. Time is the currency spent by life." To expand slightly a famous comment on the situation: "For what shall it profit a man. Undoubtedly." "advance. We now know enough about expectation and the way it mobilizes our bodies to realize that it is crucial. Once we realize that the investment we make in our lives is the same as any other investment. As a leading edge. we may adopt a very different attitude about what possibilities we expect for our future years. It programs what is to come. it is more than likely we shall experience just that. if he shall gain the whole world. This insight has for millennia lain glowing within the heart of our language. which is "what they expected. If we think of the coming years of our life as a continuing process of advancement and strengthening. it predetermines our future. they get their reward.

Unless we understand that life and aging are a process of growth and progress. Youth is a time of seeding and cultivation. In short. but it does not have the beauty of real achievement. is the only effective way of attaining goals. Is it that there are more people now who see their advancing years as something ominous and catastrophic? And is it that they hopelessly yearn for a state of youth that can never again be? Is this yearning so desperate that they will do anything to have at least the semblance of youth. Youth has energy and intelligence." but typical adjustments that all bodies go through in regulating and readapting themselves for the future. Not to countenance defeat. Worshiping youth is the inverse side of hating advancing age. but it is not a time of fruiting and harvest. but it does not have the radiance of accomplishment. It is regrettable that this attitude seems to have become steadily more popular. youth is a state to be put behind us as we grow taller and deeper and fuller. is the most potent strength. a state of possibility awaiting actualization. in its depth. and triumph over the worst of defeats. Youth has strength. not to give up. Youth is not a state to be preserved but a state to be transcended. Youth has the beauty of genetic endowment. Youth has the glow of promise. is the only guarantor of intelligent behavior. but it is not a state of knowledge and wisdom. but it does not have the judgment necessary to make the best use of that energy and intelligence. masking the shameful signs. not to accept failure. life is ever redemptive and rejuvenating. almost directly counter to the recent sudden expansion of our elderly population. Youth has speed. in the long run. which.90 Somatics of degeneration. Youth is a state of ignorance and innocence. Youth is a state of emptiness awaiting fullness. of age so that. they seem to give lie to the inescapable fact of aging skin and hair? Let me say this as emphatically as possible: To despise the fact of aging is not only to despise life but to betray a pitiful ignorance of the nature of life. which. a state of beginning awaiting transcendence. but it does not have efficiency. It is by losing this yearning that we . and deliberation is the only way to make correct decisions. Measured judgment in the end. A Pride in Age One effect of the myth of aging is that is induces us to despise old age and adulate youth. at least externally. Youth is quick. A human who knows aging to be a process of ongoing growth is a human who has the ongoing power to overcome ailments. Nor will we understand what youth is all about: an explosive yearning to grow taller and deeper and fuller and to transcend oneself. but it does not have skill. in the long run. but it is not deliberate. we will never know the first principles of living. is to drink from the well of life's richest nourishment: the wisdom that. surmount malaise.

more hospitals. and of keeping it unlocked during the whole of one's life. This is an age of "software. and this ignorance is no longer defensible. Every human being should school himself and herself in looking forward to aging as a promise to be fulfilled. it is the right method and the right understanding of somatic practice that is the key for unlocking the magic of the human central nervous system. and in our frantic scramble to falsify our age. Fear of aging is a product of ignorance. and more nursing homes. My primary concern is to present scientific and practical information about discoveries that can free us from the fear of aging. to sin against life and its biological promise." where the "programs" for the machines are more significant than the machines themselves. If 91 . In exactly the same manner. such as those we have discussed. but with more selfconscious. is a species that is genetically designed to age by growing. we must remind and reeducate ourselves to the full possibilities contained in the entire human life span. This reversal can come about. we have blindly ignored a growing number of discoveries that can make life and aging a continuing process of growth. in effect. The human species. possessed with a brain whose genius is unlimited learning and adaptation.Expectation: The Role of Mental Attitude forget the first principles of living and begin to worship a false and superficial image of youthfulness. It is the right program in the right computer language that unlocks the magic of the cybernetic process. satisfaction. To expect the opposite is. individuals who have educated themselves in the ways of controlling the process of their own lives. Not to expect to grow is to misunderstand what it means to be human. not with more doctors. it is also possible to have a body and a life that are lasting sources of productivity and satisfaction and pride. It is new "soft" technologies. self-regulating. any more than the myth of aging is defensible. Not to do so is to fail in the God-given task of living a fully human life. During this epochal upward shift in population. achievement. it is not more "hard" technologies we need. Computers are totally useless without their programs. Not only is it possible to overcome and avoid the effects of sensory-motor amnesia. In our worship of youth. I believe that. to savor its promise and to enjoy its unfolding. As we move toward a new moment in history when one-quarter of the population will be 65 years or older. The Somatic Exercises-which are not to be read with the "mind" but learned through both the body and the mind-are a soft technology. and pleasure. The soft technologies are the somatic technologies that teach us internal control of our own physiological and psychological lives. it is pride in age that must be restored to our lives-to be happy with aging. The laboratory and clinical research reviewed earlier and the Somatic Exercises that follow in Part 3 are the instruments with which we can begin to reverse our traditional superstitions about aging. more than anything else.

Such an attitude and such skills can make for a very different elderly population. deliberation. measured judgment. If it is true that. At the present moment. a life of community evolving on a blue and green planet as it spins its course through a measureless universe. in the deepest reaches of the human heart. and with a positive expectation that creates pride in age. Together. and intending that it will be good. skilled. it is just this--for the burning essence of youthfulness is to look forward to aging as a beckoning promise of happiness and fulfillment. this change is accelerating. this event has every likelihood of coming about. each individual life is the greatest adventure. and learned portion of our population should be the source of our most reliable leadership and most impressive abilities. from the ashes of the old myth. I envisage a totally practicable possibility of an emerging elderly population with the skills. and real abilities of achievement and accomplishment to become the most significant portion of the population. for it is an attitude of positive expectation: to expect the best of our lives and to have the basic somatic skills to guarantee this expectation. and is charged with the thrill of danger and promise. with the means of avoiding the age-old plague of sensory-motor amnesia. they are part of the larger adventure. The human race is changing. expecting that it will be good. And. . we all live according to myths. This is the attitude of youth that we must keep from birth through maturity and till death. we may discover that the myth of aging has been replaced by another. Indeed. judicious use of energy. brighter myth. And it is my contention that. we may find that. It is my conviction that the most extraordinary gerontological event will not be the age shift in the population but the shift in attitude and accomplishment of the elderly. We must make our way through this great time of change. Even the briefest reflection tells us that this is obvious: that the most experienced. That is what human freedom is for. adaptive skills of controlling the internal processes of their lives. once humans master the personal. That's what it feels like when the currents of futurity gather momentum and move us forward headlong into the future. efficiency. We must make our future the way we want it to be.92 Soma tics we are to learn anything from youth. To say that aging is an adventure is the same as saying that life is an adventure. a new myth of aging is arising: that life is a continuous process of growth and expansion. The enormous capacity of the human brain almost guarantees that such a shift in the quality of mature human life can occur. in the process.

at its center of gravity. both of which are typically limited by SMA. Because you are exercising your brain as well as your body. arms. an Israeli scientist. . The program is progressive and gradual. it is important to practice each movement pattern with your maximum conscious attention. it offers specific procedures for making changes in the sensory-motor areas of the brain in order to maintain internal control of the muscle system. This program consists not of physical exercises but of Somatic Exercises. The first four Somatic Exercises train you in sensitivity and control of the muscles in the middle of your body. his revolutionary method of body reeducation has been taught worldwide. The next two deal with the periphery of your body: namely. Moshe Feldenkrais. your legs. and neck. In 1975.PART 3 The Somatic Exercise Program I designed these Somatic Exercises specifically to reduce the effects of sensorymotor amnesia that normally occur by middle age. The final two exercises focus on two major functions of your body: breathing and walking. Since that time. I sponsored and directed the first Feldenkrais training course in the United States. centering on the areas of the body where SMA occurs. They are based on the ingenious work of Dr.

the more you can discover about yourself through these exercises. You will discover that certain passages and chapters take on more and more meaning as you come to understand your body better. the instructions on performing each individual movement are immediately followed by instructions for sensing each one. the initial effect of these movement patterns "feels like" magic as their bodies relax and regain their suppleness. You will receive the maximum benefit from the eight movement patterns that make up the Somatic Exercises if you do the following: 1. But the "real" magic comes from learning how to maintain your suppleness and how to continue developing it. and where it occurs in your body. your primary task is to focus your attention on the internal sensations of movement. by reading and reviewing Part 2. And the more you understand about your body. If you do not remember this important fact. 2. 95 . These movement patterns highlight those areas of the body most commonly affected by sensory-motor amnesia. concentrate on developing a careful sensory awareness of the movements in these body areas as a direct way to maintain control over them.Chapter 13 How to Give Yourself the Maximum Benefit of Somatic Exercises The most important thing for you to remember is that Somatic Exercises change your muscular system by changing your central nervous system. While doing the Somatic Exercises. As your internal sensitivity and control grow. In this way. look back from time to time at the information contained in different sections of Somatics. you will know what to look for in the feelings of sensory feedback that these movement patterns evoke. To this end. their effectiveness will be diminished for you. Understanding your brain and body and how they are affected by stress and trauma is essential for the benefits of Somatic Exercises to last. For most people. As you perform the exercises. Learn the nature of sensory-motor amnesia. how it occurs in your brain.

96 Somatics 3. Somatic Exercises are programmed at progressive levels. but actually. although you will experience bodily changes almost from the beginning of the first exercise. If you have a tape recorder. you should do your Somatic Exercises while lying on a rug or mat. Moving slowly. When you experience excessive effort and strain-as is usually the case in doing calisthenics-then your brain is cluttered by sensory feedback that is irrelevant to what you are relearning to control. so that successful learning depends on having mastered the movements at the previous levels. and they should move to a rug or mat as soon as possible. People whose movement or strength is extremely limited may do their Somatic Exercises in bed. again. record the lessons on a tape at the right speed so that they are always handy. It is more important to perceive the movements through your sensory-motor system than through your eyes. it might mislead you. 4. is so that your brain can receive precise and uncluttered sensory feedback from the exercises. Finally. the more effective the exercises will be. the more you perceive. there's no need for athletic gear. On the other hand. It is best to repeat each lesson at least once before going to the next. It is better for you to feel that you are doing "too little" than to risk doing too much and undermining the somatic learning process. This allows you to be more precise in performing the movement and more precise in perceiving it. The firmer their mattresses. and being away from all distractions. you should avoid areas of your home where you will be interrupted or distracted. wearing loose clothing. and can become part of your regular pattern of movements. You might think that a mirror will help you position your body correctly. Furthermore. Therefore. A rug or mat allows comfort while providing a firm support for your body. Ideally. This. being in a room where a television is on. You will need to concentrate on the movement patterns and how they feel inside your body. do not go on to the next until your mind is completely clear about what you are doing and until you can do it with ease and comfort. 5. so that you do not have to stop to read each one. or even where music is playing. . Always move slowly. Slow-motion films are essential in sports training because they allow athletes to study the details of a movement or play. Always move gently and with the least possible effort. You're not supposed to work up a sweat doing Somatic Exercises. The object of Somatic Exercises is to loosen your body from constricted muscles. so it makes no sense to wear constricting clothing while you do them. One way to preserve your concentration is to have the instructions for your Somatic Exercises read aloud to you as you do them. In this way your mastery is solid. will interfere with your learning. you give your brain the chance to notice all that is happening in your body as you move. The same goes for focusing attention on the internal sensations of your own movements: The slower you go.

In such cases. envisaging and aiming for the improvement you know your somatic system is capable of. People who are already suffering from sensory-motor amnesia. Do not force any movement. and keep in mind that this is the normal direction of movement that you are trying to reestablish. but. range of movement. Often people with tight. harmful. automatically brings a constantly alternating pressure on your spine. you should seek medical advice and follow it. The act of breathing. patient. Remember that life is movement.How to Give Yourself the Maximum Benefit of Somatic Exercises 6. The movement patterns of these exercises are the normal movements of the musculoskeletal system. This is to be expected. You must be persistent-determined in your practice of these movement patterns. no fun at all. never forcing your movements. and general functioning. of course. lasting change in your comfort. Your learning grows steadily and solidly. 97 . but for a genuine. we should be sure to move in directions that are. Pushing against your muscles is from the old tradition of physical training. no amount of force and effort will release the involuntary contractions in your body. Remember: If you want to untie a knot. will sometimes feel soreness when these muscles first begin to lengthen. especially those with severely contracted lower back muscles. Somatic Exercises change your body by teaching your brain. Somatic Exercises help you maintain sensitivity and control. which always fails to release the hold of sensory-motor amnesia. Somatic Exercises are not painful. and positive. 7. It will contract even tighter. Because movement is unavoidable. You must be patient-looking not for a "quick fix" on your body. Most importantly. if you feel some pain doing the exercises. sore muscles make matters worse by protectively tightening their muscles even further so as to avoid moving them at all. and once their muscles lengthen. Be persistent. once they have relaxed to their natural length and blood has circulated through the muscle fibers. you must look at the cord carefully and then gently undo the tangle. for example. the soreness will disappear. There are always unusual situations where normal musculoskeletal movement patterns are impossible because of an observable obstacle. Even very painful lower back muscles become comfortable after about three days of Somatic Exercises. move gently and slowly. Thus. you must be positive in your expectations. 8. until your brain learns how to move your muscles. Yanking on the cord will only make the knot tighter. and. If you attempt to voluntarily force a muscle that is involuntarily contracted. the least harmful-that is how Somatic Exercises are designed. and no one can avoid moving. If you perform them slowly and gently. you will cause an equal and opposite resistance of that muscle. Hurting yourself while exercising is unnecessary. posture. Physicians usually agree that Somatic Exercises are anatomically harmless when done properly. anatomically and neurologically. finally to the point of spasm. they are completely harmless.

and it helps them sleep more soundly. The Daily "Cat Stretch" Like all Somatic Exercises. to remind the sensory-motor tracts of your brain how to do them. making your muscles tight and fatigued. these maintenance movements should be done slowly. "How many years must a cat continue to stretch after it wakes up?" The answer for cats is the same as for humans: at least once a day. . and with maximum awareness. Carefully go through each lesson. Most animals stretch when they awaken in order to maintain their full range of muscular control. That way they go to sleep with the movement patterns freshly reinforced in their brains. Doing your Daily "Cat Stretch" for five minutes each day upon awakening is sufficient to reinforce what your brain has learned so that you will never suffer sensory-motor amnesia. catlike manner so that they give you pleasure.98 Somatics Interlude: The Daily "Cat Stretch" After you have mastered bodily control. preferably just after waking up. If you suffer a traumatic event-an injury. one by one. Hence. Because a cat's muscles and connective tissue shorten while it sleeps. I am often asked. surgery. your maintenance movements are not to be thought of as "exercises" any more than a cat thinks of them as such-they are the natural way of preparing your body to feel good throughout the day. after waking up it stretches them back to their previous length. Do them in an easygoing. you will find that a "Cat Stretch" automatically relieves your tension. "How long must I continue doing these maintenance movements?" My reply is. or a tragic personal experience-it is advisable to return to the basic program of Somatic Exercises. If your day has been stressful. You must preserve what you have learned as a normal and permanent aspect of your bodily habits without any loss or erosion due to the daily stresses to which you may be subjected. Therefore. Then return to your "Cat Stretch" each day. All that is required is a brief repetition of your basic movement patterns. Our muscles and brains are no different in this respect from those of other animals. gently. the maintenance stage requires only a short time each day to reinforce what you have learned. Many people prefer to do the same routine for five minutes at night just before retiring. you will arrive at a new stage of your Somatic Exercises: maintenance of your sensory-motor control. While the learning stage requires patient attention. to be sure you overcome any involuntary constrictions caused by your trauma. your Daily "Cat Stretch" consists of the most important movements from your Somatic Exercises.

leg.B for both sides. Lesson Two: 3. exhale slowly while coming down. Do the same for the other side of your body three times. hand. Turn your head in the direction opposite your knees to make a full spinal twist. Lying on your back.How to Give Yourself the Maximum Benefit of Somatic Exercises 99 1.A. Sitting with your right hand on your left shoulder and with both knees bent and facing left.E.B. and 4. and right elbow while simultaneously lifting your left leg. This will take about thirty seconds. lift your head. Repeat five times over thirty seconds. rotate your trunk to the left three times.A and 4.A and 4. alternately dropping your knees each time to the side of the arm rolling down the floor. Lying on your back. turn your head to the right and back three times. Lesson Four: B. Move both legs simultaneously in alternating bow-Iegged/knock-kneed positions five times. Repeat three times. Lying on your back with both hands interlaced behind your head. twist your right foot. Holding your trunk motionless at full left turn. inhale.A.A and 1. This will take about sixty seconds. Lesson One: 2.A.E and 3. so as to enjoy the stretch. Lying on your back. lift your head and right elbow to your left knee while exhaling and flattening your back. and hip in and out five times. . This will take about sixty seconds. Inhale slowly while lifting. lift your face to the ceiling while dropping your eyes to the floor and vice versa three times.A. Turn both your head and your trunk in alternate directions three times for the full spinal twist. being sure to lift and arch each side of your back alternately without lifting your shoulders. Do the same with your left side. and 7. Les- son One: S. Lying on your back with your left knee held by your left hand. 7. Lesson Six: 1. arching your back up. Repeat five times over thirty seconds. Lesson One: 1. Do the same for the other side of your body.A. 6. This will take about sixty seconds. 3. 2.B. inhaling while going up and exhaling while going down. 4. 6. Lower your head while inhaling and arching your back. lift your head while exhaling and flattening your back. Lying on your stomach with your left cheek on the back of your right hand. 3. As your head comes down.A. Do this two times. then together in skiing motions five times. 7. roll your arms in opposite directions on the floor. 5.B for both sides.A for both sides. Move slowly and lazily. Lesson Five: 3. Repeat six times over thirty seconds. Still holding your trunk to the left. arch and flatten your lower back. then do the same for the other side of your body.

Because you are just beginning to explore this area of frequent soreness and aching. it causes the most common ailment in industrialized societies: lower back pain. which are activated by the Green Light reflex. At the end. and feet near to buttocks. POSITION Lie on back. A. MOVEMENT Press pelvis down against the floor several times. repeat the lesson one more time to be certain that you understand the movement patterns and that you can do them with awareness and comfort. When this reflex becomes habituated. B. knees bent. start out with small.Chapter 14 The Somatic Exercisesl LESSON 1 Controlling the Extensor Muscles of the Back The first movement pattern deals with the muscles of the back. cautious movements that are done slowly and attentively. 1. This will make the lower back arch up at the belt line . MOVEMENT Now inhale as you arch the lower back and exhale as you flatten the 101 . then begin pressing the tailbone down more firmly than the rest of the pelvis. SENSING Slide one hand under the small of the back to feel how the muscles contract on both sides of your spine as you arch.

and without forcing the movement lower back down toward the floor. placing your left cheek down on the back of your right hand with the left hand lying alongside your body. which slightly lifts the tailbone. which contracts as if to lift the left leg. SENSING Notice how the contraction has now extended through the shoulder girdle down the spine into the left buttocks. B. SENSING Notice the contraction of muscles from the shoulder down the right side of the spine to the pelvis. . C. SENSING Try to feel which muscles in the shoulder are contracting. POSITION Turn over onto your stomach. and then by pressing the lower back down more firmly. MOVEMENT Slowly lift up the right elbow 3 times .102 Remember: Always move slowly. (Do this movement slowly and gently about 20 times . MOVEMENT Simultaneously lift elbow. gently. A. MOVEMENT Slowly lift head to look over right shoulder 3 times . Gradually increase the range of this movement by pressing the tailbone down more firmly to lift the lower back higher.) 2. and head to look over right shoulder 3 times. hand.

lifting both the left leg and the right hand-elbow and head 3 times. i. and shoulder to look over left shoulder 3 times. B.e. MOVEMENT Same as above. POSITION Now turn your head to the left.Remember: Always focus your attention on the internal sensations of the movement D. placing center of forehead on back of left hand. . 3. E. MOVEMENT 103 Now reverse this movement by lifting the left leg a few inches from the floor 3 times. POSITION Put left hand on back of right hand. 4. A. E. placing the right cheek on back of the left hand with the right hand lying alongside your body. lifting both the right leg and the left hand-elbow and head 3 times. Lift head. D. Lift the right leg a few inches from the floor 3 times. Lift head to look over shoulder 3 times . Lift left elbow 3 times. Do both movements simultaneously: Slowly inhale. hand.. SENSING Notice how your brain balances the weight of the left leg by automatically contracting the muscles of both the right spine and shoulder. MOVEMENT Do both movements simultaneously: Slowly inhale. C.

then lowering it as you exhale . back. Inhale. and hamstring muscles of the legs. 3 times. Inhale. Inhale. You are feeling the classic swaybacked posture with belly projected forward and head pulled backward that most adults mistakenly take to be "straight. MOVEMENT Inhale and slowly lift head and eyes up toward ceiling 3 times . MOVEMENTS B. During the next five movements. then lowering it as you exhale . notice the different areas of contraction in the neck. and feet near to buttocks . buttocks. lifting up right leg a few inches. Inhale. 3 times . 5. D. lifting up left leg a few inches. C. SENSING Feel how the muscles contract along both sides of the spine down into the buttocks. lifting right leg and head simultaneously. F. then lowering them as you exhale. Interlace the fingers of both . shoulder.104 Remember: Always move slowly. Inhale. then lowerinB them as you exhale. 3 times. and without forcing the movement A. knees bent." This is the distorted Green Light reflex which causes most adults to have chronic back pain. POSITION Roll over onto your back again. gently. E. 3 times. just slightly lifting both legs and head one time only. lifting left leg and head simultaneously.

then exhale. stretching out hands and legs on the floor. then slip your hand flat under the lower back to feel whether the lower back is lying flatter on the floor.Remember: Always focus your attention on the internal sensations of the movement hands and place them beneath back of head. you have learned four parts of the Daily "Cat Stretch. Please note that the movements you did in LB." These are followed by the movements of 2. SENSING Try to sense how your back feels as you lie in this relaxed position. and in S. B. MOVEMENT Relax now. MOVEMENT 105 Inhale. flattening the lower back down toward the floor as you lift your head. and 3.E. A. . arching your lower back (remember that when you do this the tailbone presses downward as the beltline rises). Sense it from inside your body. The Daily "Cat Stretch" Already." that you will be doing later as part of your maintenance routine.E.A. Repeat 6 times. are the first two parts of the "Cat Stretch.

" you may actually be sitting with a swayback.106 Remember: Always focus your attention on the internal sensations of the movement LESSON 2 Controlling the Flexor Muscles of the Stomach This lesson teaches the rudiments of controlling the Red Light reflex. You will be asked throughout the lesson to be aware of your sensory feedback. When they both pull at the same time. your body is actually reorganizing its posture. they squeeze the entire trunk in what has been called the Dark Vise--a condition directly related to shallow breathing and to distortion of heartbeat rhythm and blood pressure. The flexor muscles pull in the opposite direction of the extensor musclesone group is the agonist. notice the difference in the way the right pelvis and the right shoulder blade lie against the rug. which flexes the muscles in the front of the body. with feet near to buttocks. Learning to control these muscles goes hand in hand with controlling their opposite muscle group: the extensor muscles of the back. . as of Lesson Two. At the end of the lesson. and the other group is the antagonist. Place left hand on pubic bone and place right hand over lower half of chest. And when the back muscles have released enough to anow you to sit truly straight. POSITION Lie on back. slowly lifting lower back as the pelvis rolls down to the tailbone. 1.) A. When you finish the movement of lifting the head toward the right knee while using the right hand. you will. The sensory learning goes together with the motor learning. Repeat 6 times. it is essential that you do the Body Image Training. flattening lower back. knees bent.: The abdominal muscle extends from the pubic bone to the mid-chest. then exhale. feel as if you are slumped forward! At this point you will realize that. B. this is just as important to learn as is improved muscle control. even though you may believe you are sitting "straight. MOVEMENT Inhale. (N. It will reveal to you how sensory-motor amnesia creates a distorted body image: that is. at first.

then. arching back as you did before. the easier it is to bring the elbow to the knee. pull the right knee toward the elbow and point the right elbow toward the right knee 6 times. Continue same pattern as above. MOVEMENT Now raise right knee and hold it in front with left hand. as you exhale. noticing how it feels down the trunk between the right shoulder and the right hip. You are releasing the back muscles even farther now. and without forcing the movement SENSING 107 Feel with your hands how the abdominal muscle contracts when you flatten the lower back. Stretch out arms and legs and relax. SENSING Use your left hand to notice how the abdominal muscle contracts even harder when you lift your head. MOVEMENT Place right hand beneath head. contracting abdominal muscle to flatten lower back toward floor as you lift up head with right hand . C. Repeat 6 times. gently. . then inhale. SENSING Notice how the more you lower the back against the floor.Remember: Always move slowly. B. but now. flattening the back and lifting the head. exhale. The emotions of fear and apprehension will also cause the abdominal muscle to contract-that is the Red Light reflex.

A. the nearer the face and elbow will come to the knee. Then lift left knee and hold it with left hand. MOVEMENT Begin. 6 times. lifting the lower back. Simultaneously. POSITION On back. MOVEMENT Inhale. while pulling left knee toward left elbow. then.108 Remember: Always focus your attention on the internal sensations of the movement 2. pull left knee toward right elbow and face . Stop. SENSING Notice how the head and elbow must point slightly to the left. 6 times. flatten the back and lift the head and right elbow toward the left knee. as you lower the back. slowly lifting the lower back. A. POSITION On back with knees bent. while flattening the lower back . Now. Your back muscles are beginning to release even more. then exhaling... exhaling. Also . as you exhale. knees bent. B. place right hand beneath head. MOVEMENT Place left hand beneath head and hold front of left knee in the air with right hand. once again. the pattern of slowly inhaling. with feet near to buttocks.. simultaneously lift head and elbow to left knee. stretch out arms and legs to rest. SENSING Notice that the more you lower the small of the back. 3.

arching lower back. POSITION Keep hands beneath head. lift up both knees. letting them balance over the stomach. and without forcing the movement feel how the more you round the back downward toward the floor. MOVEMENT Inhale. MOVEMENT Inhale.. you are remembering how to gain voluntary control again of the muscles of the back. . then exhale. 5. 6 times. then lift up the right knee and hold it with the right hand. flattening back as the hands lift the head and both elbows toward both knees. the nearer the elbow comes to the knee. Try to bring the knees toward the elbows. arching up lower back. POSITION Interlace both hands and place them beneath the back of the head. then exhale. 3 times. flattening the back as you lift up the head. A. lift the head and left elbow toward the right knee: while pulling the knee toward the left elbow and face.e. arching lower back. MOVEMENT Inhale. A. POSITION 109 Place left hand beneath head.Remember: Always move slowly. gently. Stretch out legs with arms alongside body and rest. Your back muscles are releasing still further and becoming more supple: i. 4. then. A. 6. as you exhale.

Figure 25a Distorted Body Image: Swayback Seems Straight Figure 25b Straight Back Seems "Slumped" . Because you have held the back for so long in an unnatural (and uncomfortable!) position. it has come to feel "normal" being that way-even though you have had recurrent pains with the swayed back and its contraction of the lumbar muscles. you will feel too far forward. If you have had chronic lower back pains for many years. so that your breathing becomes deep and full.110 Remember: Alwajs focus your attention on the internal sensations of the movement SENSING Notice how you feel inside your body from the middle of the chest down to the pubic bone and in the area between the legs. and when your head is directly over the center of gravity of your body. when your back is relaxed and flat. practice this same movement while you are sitting. allow your lower belly to rise freely with complete relaxation. Body Image Training After repeating Lesson Two and becoming more able to release and flatten the lower back. Because SMA creates a distorted body image. you will have a swayback with very contracted muscles along each side of the lower spine. As you quietly inhale. you will discover-through Body Image Training-how sensory-motor amnesia has caused you to forget what it means for the lower back to be relaxed and more vertical. with the weight resting on the vertebrae. as if you were slumped. If that has been your chronic condition.

It is essential that you deal directly with the distorted body image caused by SMA. because your vertebrae will be a vertical column of support for the trunk-exactly as the mirror shows it to be. unstressed posture. When they internally sense that they have relaxed their backs. when I ask them to open their eyes and look at their image in the mirror. your way of sitting will be permanently changed. And.A. in addition. you will be taller. Otherwise. notice how "abnormal" it feels at first. lead to a permanent change in your comfort and height or in the way you habitually sit. and without forcing the movement Hence. I ask my clients to practice relaxing and flattening their lower back while sitting. It is a simple and fascinating example of biofeedback. they will-while in a sitting posture-feel abnormally "slumped forward. learning how to release the chronically held muscles of the lower back will not. they are astonished to discover that their back is both tall and verticaland also that the belly is flat. This is only a transient experience that will pass away within a week or so as the relaxed posture begins to feel normal. When your internal sense of back position and your visual sense of back position finally adjust to one another. Please make use of this mirror technique. You will be able to sit for hours without soreness or fatigue. . with their eyes closed in a chair that is turned sideways to a mirror. It is just a matter of getting used to a new body image. when your back now begins to relax and your upper trunk can come forward again to a natural." But then. and 4. by itself. Why? Because a straight line is longer than a curved line! 111 The Daily "Cat Stretch" Please note that you have now learned two more parts of your Daily "Cat Stretch" routine: 3.Remember: Always move slowly.A. gently.

You may also notice that there is more movement in the waist when you inhale. Then exhale. letting the head slowly come back down. be sensitive to the feeling of length that has come into this side. so that left ear can rest on it. placing the palm of the right hand against left ear. using right arm.112 Remember: Always focus your attention on the internal sensations of the movement LESSON 3 Controlling the Muscles of the Waist If you are short-waisted. these movement patterns will help make you visibly longer-waisted. letting the foot slowly come back down. Extend left arm on floor. Pretend that you are lifting up the right hip to touch the right armpit. 3 times. C. rolling (but not lifting) right thigh . knees folded on top of each other at right angles to the body. Reach right hand over top of head. B. A. Lesson Three will bring you more toward verticality. MOVEMENT Inhale and very slowly lift up right lower leg and foot. 3 times. POSITION Lie on left side. MOVEMENT Inhale and. 1. If your trunk tends to tilt to one side. very slowly lift the head into the air. Then exhale. like a cushion. You are cultivating greater somatic self-awareness. and this sensory ability allows you to be more capable of self-monitoring what is happening in your body. . When you have finished the movements on the right side. Then exhale. MOVEMENT Inhale and very slowly lift both head and right foot in air. letting them both come down simultaneously. 3 times . Pretend that you are lifting the right armpit to place over the right hip.

using left arm. 3 times. MOVEMENT Inhale and very slowly lift both head and left foot in air as high as is comfortable. Let the thigh roll but do not lift it. letting them come back down slowly. Does it go up more easily than the right side? Or less easily? B. Extend the right arm on the floor. with arms alongside body and feet slightly apart. 3 times . MOVEMENT Inhale and very slowly lift left foot in the air as high as is comfortable. gently. SENSING 113 As you rest. C. Pretend that you are bringing the left hip up to fit into the hollow of the left armpit. Reach left arm over top of head. 3 times. Can you notice any difference between the left and right sides? 2. sense within your body how it feels in the mid-section. A. and without forcing the movement Lie on your back and rest one minute. POSITION Tum over onto right side with knees folded on top of each other at right angles to the body. Exhale. MOVEMENT Inhale and. placing the palm against the right ear.Remember: Always move slowly. Your left hip will contract and lift toward the left shoulder. letting the foot come back down slowly. . so that the right ear can rest on it like a cushion. very slowly lift up head in the air as high as is comfortable. Then exhale.

Your body will be like a large X lying on the rug with a straight line from the right arm do"wn to the left leg and from the left arm down to the right leg. MOVEMENT Slowly lengthen your right leg. sliding it along the rug. SENSING Notice how your waist and rib cage on both sides change back and forth as you alternate stretching the right leg and left arm. so that you can compare the feelings in the right leg with the left and the feelings in the left arm and rib cage with that of the right. A. with the arms alongside body and the feet slightly apart. spread the feet a little wider than your hip joints. 3. Repeat this leg-arm movement 10 times. POSITION Lying on your back. Sense how your ability to reach depends on how freely you can move your waist and rib cage. slowly lengthen your left arm above the head. B. stretching the heel down the floor. Stop and relax. spreading them wider than your shoulders. Then reach both arms straight above top of head against rug. MOVEMENT Relaxing the right leg. You can see that a tight waist automatically restricts the movement of the leg in walking and the arm in reaching. .114 Remember: Always focus your attention on the internal sensations of the movement Turn over onto your back and rest.

then left leg. then relax. This prepares you for the next lesson. MOVEMENT Now put together these four movement directions in a rounded fashion: Stretch the left arm upward. E. Stretch the right leg downward. stretching the heel down the floor. Stretch the right arm upward. then relax. and notice the greater feeling of similarity between the two sides. which involves using all of these muscles by rotating the body. Repeat this 4-point cycle 10 times. then relax. gently. and without forcing the movement C.Remember: Always move slowly. Then the right leg. then relax. Stretch the left arm upward. then right arm. Stretch the left leg downward. MOVEMENT 115 Slowly lengthen your left leg. sliding it along the rug. . Stop and relax. Relax. Repeat this leg-arm movement 10 times. in addition to what you learned earlier about the back and front of the body. You have now learned greater control and awareness of the muscles on the sides of the body. slowly lengthen your right arm above the head. MOVEMENT Relaxing the left leg. D. then relax. and so on.

then. A. the entire body is twirled. the flexor muscles of the abdomen. you will begin to perceive how similar these movement patterns are to what a cat is doing when it stretches. your sensorymotor tracts can simultaneously experience the lengthening of all three muscle groups. 1. Then inhale and slowly lift them back to vertical. During the spiral twisting you will be doing in this lesson. mastering this twist is essential to an easy stride in walking. allow the legs to tilt slowly down to the left as far as they will naturally fall. and the lateral muscles of the waist. twisting one end clockwise and the other end counterclockwise. exactly the way a washrag is spirally twisted when we wring it out. As you will learn in Lesson Eight. the body begins to reshape itself. As your chest. Not only is the pelvis now beginning to move more freely. then exhale once again and allow the legs to slowly tilt back down to the left. as you gain control of these areas. Note that when the knees are dropped to one side and the head is turned to the opposite side. for example. MOVEMENT Cross the left leg fully over the right leg. Repeat this movement 10 times. the entire spine and the rib cage are also. You will notice the special pleasure that is sensed when the trunk stretches more freely. as you exhale. . This movement is a full spiral twist. At this stage of your neuromuscular training. it lifts and expands. and it allows the trunk to stretch to its fullest length. This lesson ends with an easy-to-do resume movement that involves inverse rotation of the arms and legs. Inhale. is released from the depressing effect of the Red Light reflex. You will notice that. POSITION Lie on your back with knees bent and feet near to buttocks . you can include this in your Daily "Cat Stretch" routine.116 Remember: Always focus your attention on the internal sensations of the movement LESSON 4 Controlling the Muscles Involving Trunk Rotation This Somatic Exercise takes full advantage of the growing sensitivity and control you have now attained in all three sections of the center of the body: the extensor muscles of the back. Be sure that your right shoulder stays on the floor and does not lift as the legs drop left. Later on.

B. repeating this 5 times . Roll your head to the right as you do this. Then inhale and slowly lift the arms back to vertical. with the elbows straight and the palms pressed firmly together. MOVEMENT Now. allowing the legs to tilt down to the left. See if the right side of your chest feels more open than the left side. then exhale and tilt the arms down again to the right. MOVEMENT Inhale. The knees will remain in the vertical position. Then. gently. as you exhale. tilt the arms slowly to the right as far as is comfortable-also turning the eyes and head to the right. A. repeating this movement 5 times. Stretch out your arms and legs and rest. lifting legs vertical. make certain that the elbows do not bend nor the palms slip. once again.Remember: Always move slowly. . 2. As you do the next movement. and without forcing the movement Stretch out your arms and legs and rest. The arms will be making the shape of a tall steeple. then exhale. Inhale. and reach your arm up on the rug above the head. stretching as the knees drop. hold up both hands in the air. SENSING 117 Compare the feelings in the right hip and leg with those in the left. POSITION Still lying on your back with knees bent. dropping them down left again as you tum your head and stretch the arm. cross the left knee over the right (the arms remain down at your side) and exhale.

SENSING By turning the head. Repeat 5 times. 4. POSITION On back with arms by side and knees bent. but this time cross the right leg over the left. then inhale. Inhale. tilting the arms slowly to left. letting the legs drop right again.118 Remember: Always focus your attention on the internal sensatiolls of the movement SENSING Is it easier to drop the legs this second time? Do they seem to go farther? Think of how your upper body has been twisting to the right and your lower body to the left: Your body is forming a spiral. The knees are bent and remain vertical. 3. A. A. Each time. Be sure the elbows and hands maintain their positions . roll the head left and stretch the left arm up on the rug over your head. Then exhale again. Repeat 10 times . bringing the arms back to vertical. your neck vertebrae rotate to left. bringing them back to vertical. MOVEMENT Exhale. . letting the legs tilt slowly down to the right. and your body is lengthening. with elbows straight and palms pressed firmly together. making it easier for the vertebrae and ribs in the middle of your trunk to space themselves and form the spiral twist. MOVEMENT Exhale. POSITION Hold both hands straight up in the air. making a steeple.

as you remember the delight you had stretching when you were a child. before releasing legs to tilt over to the right. like squeezing the water out of a washrag. SENSING Notice the full spiral twist of the body-as if two giant hands were gently twisting the lower part of the body one way and the upper part the other.) Then inhale. A. while rolling your head to the left and stretching the left arm upward on the rug. POSITION Leave your right leg crossed over the left as you hold both hands up in the steeple position. letting your arms and head tilt halfway over to the left. 5 times. SENSING Notice the catlike grace of this stretching movement. Repeat 5 times. . 119 POSITION Once again. MOVEMENT Exhale. Make it feel as pleasant as possible. gently. cross the right leg over the left. (The arms go first because the upper half of the body is much lighter than the lower half. bringing both arms and legs slowly back to vertical. 6. A.Remember: Always move slowly. and without forcing the movement 5. MOVEMENT Exhale. tilting the legs slowly to the right.

MOVEMENT Roll the left arm up on the surface of the floor (roll-don't slide-the arm) until the shoulder begins to press down on the floor. but stretch out both arms to the side. letting your arms and head tilt halfway to the right.. bringing arms and legs back to vertical 5 times . roll the right arm down and the left arm up as you simultaneously let the two legs drop down to the right. POSITION Cross left leg over the right. UnCross your legs and relax for a moment. Do this slowly and gently several times until you get the feel of it.. Then. Then inhale.120 Remember: Always focus your attention on the internal sensations of the movement 7. before releasing the legs to tilt over to the left. POSITION Leave knees bent. A. by rolling the left arm down the floor and the right arm up. while holding the arms in the steeple position. do the reverse. MOVEMENT Exhale. Now. Then do the reverse: As the right arm rolls back up and the .. A. Now you can put all of this together in a delightful movement pattern: 8. while simultaneously rolling the right arm down the surface of the floor (rolling-not sliding) until the shoulder begins to lift up off the floor .

with a spinal curvature . close your eyes again. stand in front of a mirror. gently. then you have clear evidence that your body image ("what feels like vertical") is distorted and your sense of balance has been disturbed. To correct this distorted body image. not moving. and correct your posture until you think you have it balanced. repeat until you end up balanced. Because this curvature is. lazily stretching. Repeat 10 to 20 times.Remember: Always move slowly. the sensory-motor system learns nothing and your posture will not change. immediately close the eyes again." with the eyes still closed . open your eyes again but do not move. Try to make this movement as pleasurable as possible-like a child. you are off balance. and lengthens. and without forcing the movement left arm rolls down. Stop and rest. regaining control of these muscles makes it possible to correct this curvature. Important: Under no circumstance should you attempt to correct your balance with the eyes open-otherwise." If. then return to "what feels like vertical." Is the head vertical? Are the shoulders horizontal? Are your two hands hanging down at the same level? If you find that you are tilting. drop the legs over to the left. tilt to the right. Body Image Training Traumatic injuries cause many individuals to be scoliotic. SENSING 121 Notice how the entire body twists. Continue this movement slowly. caused by the spinal and trunk muscles being chronically contracted on that side." When you believe you have corrected it. then return to "what feels like vertical. Or like a cat. Then open your eyes and look into the mirror to see if the mirror image matches "what feels like vertical. and try to correct the imbalance purely by sensing your balance "in the dark. Then. do the following procedure: With eyes closed. close your eyes. open your eyes and check again. that is. If still unbalanced. letting your head join in the movement by rolling left when the knees drop to the right and rolling right when the knees drop to the left. stretches. when you open your eyes. Did you rebalance this time? If not. tilted over to one side. . back and forth. in most cases. and tilt briefly to one side. To test whether you are scoliotic.

. except that this time you close the eyes and tilt to the left. when you get it balanced. Then do it once more to the left.A." you know exactly where your head and body are in space. The next day. Then. the movement pattern of B. At the end. repeat the same procedure. At that point. do it once more to the right. your body image will be adjusted and your muscle control restored. go through the same procedure again. This is a classic example of biofeedback self-training-a solidly established scientific method of learning control of bodily functions. is now added to your "Cat Stretch" routine. The Daily "Cat Stretch" In this lesson. Your internal image and the external mirror image will be the same. That is sufficient for one day's training.122 Remember: Always focus your attention on the internal sensations of the movement After getting the correct balance with the eyes closed. and you will discover that you are rapidly becoming more consistently accurate. the correction of the scoliosis will be complete. you will find that while "in the dark. After a week or so. assuming that you have also mastered the muscle releases of the first four Somatic Exercises.

how freeing the muscles first in the center of gravity makes it possible to free the movements of the hips. in your own body. POSITION Lie on your back with the legs stretched out on the floor but with the right knee slightly bent and tilted out to the right side. lifting up the left side of the pelvis. MOVEMENT Invert the right foot. but the left side of the back to lengthen. legs. turning the sole inward. . while dropping the knee. by causing constriction of the muscles between the pelvis and trunk. not only for walking. A. discover that the ability and pleasure of performing these activities become. SENSING Notice how the action of inverting and lifting the foot not only causes the knee to drop down. a normal capacity of their bodies. causes general stiffness in locomotion. You will discover. The right knee will drop down on the right as the foot makes a "scooping" motion upward and a little to the left. and keep turning it until it leads the lower leg to lift up slightly off the floor. once more. Many persons who have not hiked or danced for years. You will discover that the more you lengthen the back and lift the left side of the pelvis. but for all leg movements .Remember: Always focu s your attention on the internal sensations of the movement LESSON 5 123 Controlling the Muscles of the Hip Joints and Legs This lesson allows you to understand why Somatic Exercises must be unrushed and progressive in order to be genuinely successful. and feet . characteristic of what is mistakenly thought of as an inevitable feature of old age. It will also become clear to you how sensory-motor amnesia. the more you will be able to lift the foot. Return the foot to the floor and repeat 10 times. 1. You will now begin to free the muscles.

while letting the right knee drop inward to the left. invert the right foot. stretch out your legs and rest. notice how your movement extends all the way up into the chest and. Go with this movement by allowing the head to gently roll right as you evert the foot. Now.124 Remember: Always move slowly. and without forcing the movement 2. MOVEMENT Evert the right foot. even. A. the neck. turning the sole to the outside and lifting the foot upward and a little to the right. A. and see if this makes the movement easier. gently. put these two movements together: 3. lifting it upward and inward. noticing how different your right leg feels from the left. POSITION Now slide the right foot out to the right side. while letting the knee drop down more to the inside. dropping the knee downward and lifting the right pelvis. MOVEMENT First. Stop. As you repeat this movement of everting the right foot upward. Then return the foot to the floor and repeat 10 times. as the right knee drops outward and the left . Indeed. SENSING Notice what the right hip does and how the right side of the back lengthens to lift up the right side of the pelvis. it may now seem almost graceful. POSITION Have both legs straigh t at this starting position.

but this time with the left knee slightly bent and tilted out to the left side. but the . Your body is becoming supple and beginning to move more supplely as a single unit. A. MOVEMENT Invert the left foot. turning the sole inward. Repeat 10 times. very slowly. POSITION Lie on your back with the legs stretched out on the floor. Secondly. straighten the leg. Then straighten the leg and invert the foot again. SENSING Notice how the action of inverting and lifting the foot not only causes the knee to drop down. and keep turning it until it leads the lower leg to lift up slightly off the floor.Remember: Always focus your attention on the internal sensations of the movement back lifts. and rest. Stop. This is the feeling of synergy. as the foot makes a "scooping" motion upward and a little to the right. The left knee will drop down on the left. SENSING Notice how much "more" of a leg you have on the right in comparison with how the left feels. SENSING 125 Notice how the whole of the body up to the neck will follow this movement of the ankle. Return the foot to the floor. and then evert the right foot. Repeat 10 times. stretch out your legs. 4. lifting it upward and outward as the right knee drops inward and the right back lifts.

5. POSITION Now slide the left foot out to the left side. Go with this movement. by allowing the head to gently roll left as you evert the foot. As you repeat this movement of everting the left foot upward. notice how your movement extends all the way up into the chest. and even the neck. dropping the knee downward. and lifting the left pelvis. MOVEMENT Evert the left foot. turning the sole to the outside and lifting the foot upward and a little to the left. You will discover that the more you lengthen the back and lift the right side of the pelvis. and see if this makes the movement easier and more graceful. while letting the left knee drop inward to the right. lifting up the right side of the pelvis. Then return the foot to the floor and repeat 10 times. and without forcing the movement right side of the back to lengthen. A. stretch out your legs and rest. while letting the knee drop down more to the inside. gently. noticing whether the left leg is already feeling changed.126 Remember: Always move slowly. SENSING Notice what the left hip does and how the left side of the back lengthens to lift up the left side of the pelvis. Now put these two movements together: . the more you will be able to lift the foot while dropping the knee. Stop.

POSITION 127 Have both legs straight at the beginning. Secondly. letting the knees fall outward in a "bow-legged" position. POSITION Continue lying on your back with the legs stretched out on the floor. lifting it upward and inward as the left knee drops outward and the left back lifts. Relax the neck and chest.Remember: Always focus your attention on the internal sensations of the movement 6. then. SENSING Notice that the left leg has caught up with the right leg in its feeling of fullness and aliveness. notice how the whole of the body up to the neck will follow this ankle movement. A. stretch out your legs. and turn both feet into eversion. straighten the legs. Repeat 10 times. very slowly. lifting it upward and outward as the left knee drops inward and the left back lifts. Now use both legs simultaneously: 7. Stop. Then. and the knees will fall inward in a "knock-kneed" . straighten the leg and then evert the left foot. A. straighten the leg and invert the foot again. MOVEMENT Invert both feet simultaneously. and rest. and your head will automatically rotate right then left as you invert and then evert. MOVEMENT First invert the left foot. SENSING Again.

(Keep the knees together as they drop to the left. stretch out.A .) Go back and forth 10 times. MOVEMENT Keep the legs close together. which is now more relaxed than ever.128 Remember: Always move slowly. Go back and forth 10 times. B. and without forcing the movement position.B." the lower back tends to flatten downward. Stop and rest." the lower back tends to arch up into a swayback. and 6.A. ("skiing" movements) .. and relax. and then evert the right foot while inverting the left. gently. you have "more" of a leg on both sides than you had before . Stop. SENSING This is the movement pattern of skiing: The soles of the feet remain parallel. From the point of view of your sensory-motor system. Straighten the legs. ("bow-legged" and "knock-kneed" positions) and 7. SENSING Notice how fully alive your legs now feel. . then 7. When you are "knock-kneed.A . while the hips and back rotate left and right. SENSING Notice that when you are "bowlegged. Notice the suppleness of your body as you go back and forth. And notice how this aliveness extends upward into the whole of your body. The Daily "Cat Stretch" This lesson adds the following movement patterns to your "Cat Stretch" routine: 3. and invert the right foot while everting the left (the knees will drop to the right).

When you have reached your limit of turning. During this lesson. MOVEMENT Very slowly. Extend the left arm downward to the floor at your side. When you have completed learning this left-turning rotational pattern. lets you discover how the act of paying attention to the movements of different parts of your body frees these parts to move more easily. place the palm of your right hand on your left shoulder. Dr. finally. which was invented by my teacher. turn your whole torso to the left. Place the sole of the left foot against the thigh of the right leg. . without leaning your weight back too far. so that both hemispheres of the brain are completely reprogrammed. Moshe Feldenkrais. head. reverse the movement and come back to the front. you will also discover that. elbow. A. Now. Keep your torso erect. Repeat this 5 times. 1. and torso as far as is comfortable. rotating the eyes. shoulder. leaning on it only slightly. then put down your hand to rest a brief moment. Somatic Exercises make the brain more intelligent in sensing and controlling the muscles.Remember: Always focus your attention on the internal sensations of the movement LESSON 6 129 Controlling the Muscles of the Neck and Shoulders This fascinating Somatic Exercise. POSITION Sit on the floor with both knees bent and tilted over to the left onto the floor. whereas traditional body exercises make the muscles stronger. It is the inner change in brain function that makes possible outer change in muscle function. No better example could be found of how sensory awareness can awaken motor control. repeat the pattern on the right side.

130 Remember: Always move slowly. this time stopping when you have reached the limit of your rotation. and rest. 5 times. did you notice any trembling of your neck muscles. Stay at this position. back to the right. MOVEMENT Once again tum the whole torso to the left. This time move only your eyes back to the right and then return 5 times. Return to center. MOVEMENT Again. holding the torso in this rotated position. and take notice of the exact direction in which your nose is pointing by remembering a particular spot on the wall. turn the head only back to the right and then. to pre- . it is difficult. put down your hand.) Now. and without forcing the movement B. (Don't forget this spot. because you will be checking it later on to test your progress. again. After 5 repetitions. place your right hand on your left shoulder and rotate your head and torso all the way around to the left. stopping when you reach your limit. Do not lean too heavily on your left arm. alone. Stay there. return to the center and bring the hand down to your lap and rest while sitting. to the left. at first. C. as if they were trying to move? This comes from the learned habit we have of usually moving the head and eyes together. gently. For some persons. SENSING As you moved the eyes.

shoulder. placing your right hand on your shoulder. it will disappear with practice. While resting. stop at your limit. once more. SENSING While doing this. then it drops back down when you return to center.Remember: Always focus your attention on the internal sensations of the movement vent this slight movement in the neck. remember that it is not because of forcing the muscles but of becoming internally more aware of their different functions . each time going to the limit of your tum. and check to see if your nose is pointing at a spot on the wall farther than the original checkpoint. stretch out on your back. E. If you are rotating farther. do a test. Later on. On your last tum. notice what your right hip is doing: It tries to lift up each time you tum left. and you will notice how this improves the movement. D. At the 5th tum. and rest for a full minute. stop and check your point on the wall to see if you have now turned even farther to the left. open your eyes. Stop. rotating the eyes. MOVEMENT 131 Now. you might gently roll your head . and torso around to the left 5 times. Let your awareness help the right hip to do what it wants to do: let it rise as far as it wants. MOVEMENT Again. head. by closing the eyes. and. place the right hand on the left shoulder and slowly rotate around to your new limit 10 times.

the left ribs then compress. repeating 10 times. so that the movement is done purely by the right hand. MOVEMENT Slowly and gently pull the head over toward the right shoulder and then push the head in the opposite direction over toward the left shoulder. Completely relax your neck. gently. The same occurs on the left when you tilt left. A. 2. while gently leaning on the extended left arm. the sole of the left foot against the right thigh. lightly gripping the skull. The rib cage is like an accordion! Allow this alternating rib movement to occur freely. notice how the right ribs compress and the left ribs open up. . Continue doing this. and the head will begin to tilt over farthernot through greater force but through greater awareness.132 Remember: Always move slowly. Now place your right hand on top of your head. while the right ribs open. POSITION Resume same position. sitting on the floor with bent knees dropped down to the left. When the head tilts to the left. Also sense that the right waist shortens and the right pelvis takes on more weight when the head goes to the right. SENSING When the head tilts to the right. and without forcing the movement back and forth a few times to see if it rolls more easily to the left than the right. Again.

stop at your full limit and open your eyes. and torso to the left. On the 5th rotation. MOVEMENT Now do a test again by closing the eyes as you place your right hand on your left shoulder and fully rotate around to the left-being aware this time of the movements of the rib cage. . Have you now turned even farther? You can see how learning new sensory awareness helps us learn new possibilities of movement. except that now you bring the right hand over to the left. checking your original point on the wall. B. and the head will tilt down even more toward the shoulder. POSITION Sit on floor. feeling how much movement there is in the ribs. and the right hip. On the 5th rotation. head. and rest for a full minute. Repeat 5 times. 133 Stop and rest for a moment. and stay there a brief moment. to rest on the floor next to the left hand. the waist.Remember: Always focus your attention on the internal sensations of the movement allow this movement to occur freely. and hips. 3. and stay there. with your hand on your leg. This is your starting position. resuming the same position as before. waist. Now slowly bring only the head back to the right center. so that the right cheek almost touches the right shoulder. stretch out on your back. A. stop at your full left turn. MOVEMENT Slowly rotate eyes. Stop.

out to your full limit. Go very slowly back and forth. Pause a moment: This is your starting position. open your eyes to check if your turn is still farther from your original point on the wall.134 Remember: Always move slowly. Go very slowly at first. Repeat 10 times. Repeat 10 times. reverse this movement. and torso back to the right center as you move the eyes slowly back to the far left. Now move only the eyes back to the right (the head doesn't move). and stay there. Return to the center after this. and without forcing the movement Now. with your hand on your leg. stop at your limit. move the head. at the same time. gently. Rest a brief moment. shoulders. MOVEMENT Now do a test again by closing the eyes and placing the right hand on the left shoulder: Slowly rotate to the left and back 5 times. MOVEMENT With the right hand next to the left hand. your left cheek almost touching your left shoulder and your eyes looking over the left shoulder. bring the trunk back to the right center as you rotate the head to the left. rotate to the left. until the original jerkiness of this movement smooths out. at the same time. and rest for a brief moment. e. Then. Now. until the coordination begins to be smooth. . at the same time. bringing the trunk back to the left as you rotate the head back to the right center. B. On the 5th rotation.

Then. stretch out on your back. POSITION Resume your position of sitting. with the knees tilted left and your right hand next to the left hand. Now. so you must go . on the 5th rotation. slowly lift the face up toward the ceiling. MOVEMENT Rotate all the way to the left 5 times and. B. then drop the head as the eyes float upward. your neck muscles will no longer be under the unconscious tyranny of the eyes. You are creating a new program in the sensory-motor section of the brain. As the movement is smoothed out. SENSING You will. and the head wants to follow the eyes. MOVEMENT Stop. then bring it down toward the floor 5 times. again. stop at your limit . and then lift the eyes only up toward the ceiling. at the same time. . Repeat 5 times . . A. experience an initial jerkiness of the eyes and a hesitation of the head. Stop. This is due to your habit of always turning the eyes and head together in the same direction. with the head down. 4. lift the head as you let the eyes fall downward.Remember: Always focus your attention on the internal sensations of the movement SENSING 135 You will notice at first the difficulty of this coordination-the eyes jerk. and rest for a full minute.

. as at the beginning. better. Sitting. and 4. and l. followed by 3. close your eyes and rotate around to the left 5 times. On the 5th rotation. (or. C. After you have rested for at least several minutes (or. and without forcing the movement very slowly and pay careful attention. feel proud of yourself when you have mastered this coordination. followed by 3. doing the same sequence to the right side. open your eyes. stop at your limit. with the legs tilted to the left. the left hand on the floor at your side. MOVEMENT This is the final test. most likely.B.C. and check a last time to see if your nose is pointing still farther past the original spot on the wall. The Daily "Cat Stretch" This lesson contains the final movement patterns of your Daily "Cat Stretch" routine: Do l. waited until the next day).136 Remember: Always move slowly. your right hand on the floor by your side. with the knees bent and dropped over to the right onto the floor. gently. Stop and rest for a brief moment. to the left.A. You will. perhaps. so as to achieve a maximal turn.A.A.B. and the left hand on your right shoulderas illustrated. when the reverse eye movements become easier). Stop and stretch out on your back and rest. ending with 4. repeat these very same movements in the reverse position: that is. Then take the reverse position. sensing everything you have learned to sense and using all of your body. and the right hand on your shoulder.

pressing the belt line downward to touch against the floor. . Each position you take during this lesson---on the back. you should repeat them from time to time. (Remember: This is what you did in Lesson One. as described in Part 2.Remember: Always focus your attention on the internal sensations of the movement LESSON 7 137 Improving Breathing Once greater awareness and control have been achieved in the muscles at the center of the body and in the upper trunk. Keep the feet slightly apart and the arms alongside your body. SENSING Become aware of the upwarddownward movement of the diaphragm muscle. A. you will discover an improvement in your breathing. and the feet drawn up near to the buttocks. the sides. POSITION Lie on your back. with the knees bent. Although this series of movement patterns is too lengthy to become part of your Daily "Cat Stretch" routine. and the stomach-has its own distinctive sensory feedback and necessitates a slightly different type of motor control each time. that is. It is located at the lower borders of the rib cage from front to back and from side to side. Each time you go through it. 1. MOVEMENT Inhale through the nose and lift the belt line upward as the tailbone tilts slightly downward . This exercise is a lifesaver." This is a Somatic Exercise of major physiological importance. This is because each position is in a different relation to gravity. exhale. Repeat this slowly and gently 15 times.) Then. you will be taking in more and more air with less and less effort. It should be mastered along with a knowledge of the pathological effects of the Red Light reflex on both breathing and heart function. it is then possible to learn the art of deeper breathing-namely "diaphragmatic breathing.

relax your belly as you inhale and let it swell out. which draws fresh air into the lungs. So. downward movement creates a partial vacuum. Do not resist this natural swelling of the lower belly. you block the pumplike descent of the diaphragm. making the lower belly swell outward slightly like a balloon. the diaphragm contracts. arching like an umbrella. allowing the belly to swell. When you inhale. This pumplike. but only the belly. "Tight guts" are deadly: They cause shallow breathing and increase the heartbeat and blood pressure. The more you relax the abdominal muscle. As . making the umbrella shape collapse downward. But be very aware of this: When the diaphragm contracts downward. you hold the abdominal muscle tight to prevent the belly from swelling outward. it must push the viscera of the lower abdomen downward and outward. and without forcing the movement The diaphragm stretches across this entire area. gently. it is not the upper chest that lifts. completely separating the thoracic cavity from the abdominal cavity. for whatever reason. the greater will be the quantity of air drawn into the lungs. deep breathing. this unusual muscle relaxes upward into the vault of the thoracic cavity. If. and you will not be creating a large belly. as its elasticity pushes out the used air from the lungs. causing shallow breathing. In relaxed.138 Remember: Always move slowly. It will come back by its own elasticity. When you exhale. inhaling.

forcing the air back down into the rounded. SENSING As you rest. . so that the chest swells up. MOVEMENT 139 Now inhale and. Do the movement vigorously and decisively like a piston stroking upward and downward. flatten your back and belly. abruptly. (Be careful: Don't let the air come out your nose or mouth!) Then flatten your chest. or as you flatten the chest.Remember: Always focus your attention on the internal sensations of the movement you take these 15 breaths. pushing the ball of air back down into the belly. and let it be flatter and hollower with each exhalation. stop. arched belly. Stop and rest a moment. being sure you do not let the air out as you flatten the back. forcing this balloon of air upward into your chest. while arching the back again. forcing the air up into the chest. let the balloon of the abdomen swell higher and higher with each inhalation. can you feel more space for breathing in the abdomen and rib cage? Does the trunk seem less tight? Does everything in the trunk move more easily and softly as you breathe? C. Then. with the belly round and full like a balloon. Continue this pumplike up-down movement until you need to take a breath. breathing normally. holding your breath and locking it in. MOVEMENT Repeat this pumplike breathing pattern 2 more times. THE PUMP B.

and then shoot the balloon of air up into the chest.140 Remember: Always move slowly. Let your left arm lie stretched downward alongside your body. then back down into the belly. A. Let the right arm lie stretched downward alongside your body. 3. once beginning with the belly inhalation and once with the chest. gently. letting it swell out downward against the floor. POSITION Tum over and lie on your stomach. until you must take a new breath. . inhale deeply into the belly. then down. the right cheek resting on the back of your left hand. then shoot the air balloon from the chest down into the belly and arched back. and without forcing the movement D. this time inhaling first into the chest. A. then shoot it back up. MOVEMENT Repeat the same pattern. Do this 2 times. Repeat once more. by inhaling first into the chest (the back remains flat). until you need to take a new breath. Stop and rest. MOVEMENT Keeping your torso loose and relaxed. 2. and so on. POSITION Change over with the head turned to the left. with your head turned to the right. and the left cheek lying on the back of the right hand. MOVEMENT Now reverse the pattern. locking in the air. hold your breath. and so on.

SENSING When you finish the two movements. Keep your knees bent and on top of one another. Repeat once more. Then.Remember: Always focus your attention on the internal sensations of the movement SENSING 141 Can you sense a stretching and opening in the back of the ribs and in the lower back? 4. arranging your arms and legs as before. . inhaling first into the chest. so that the pressure of the air is forced up into the right rib cage. send the air balloon down into the belly again. then shoot this balloon of air up into the chest. Make this movement precise and pistonlike. pause and see if you can sense more breathing space in the right side of the rib cage and waist. MOVEMENT Inhale into the belly. flattening the back. A.) 5. with your right arm lying across the right hip and the left arm stretched upward on the floor. posmON Roll over onto your right side. POSITION Roll over onto your left side. to serve as a cushion for your left ear. arching the back and swelling the belly. Does the right side move more freely? (Remember: Your left ribs are pressed against the floor.

MOVEMENT Repeat the same two pumplike breaths. As you swell out the left abdomen. turn over onto your back. shove the balloon of air back up into the right chest. shove it down again. MOVEMENT Tighten your left rib cage. Try to make it smoother the second time. POSITION Lie on your back with the knees bent and raised and with the feet drawn up near the buttocks. It will become easier. so that the right rib cage opens up broadly. Pause and rest before repeating this movement once more. and rest. . the back will arch and the left side of the pelvis will tilt down a bit. When your right chest is filled up like a balloon. and without forcing the movement A. gently. keeping the back flat. SENSING Do you feel more space in your left side? More ease in movement as you breathe? Stop. push the balloon of air downward into the left abdomen! You can do it. Then. Then. flattening the back and tightening the left rib cage. inhale deeply only into the right chest.142 Remember: Always move slowly. A. THE DIAGONAL PUMP 6. Keep the torso very loose and supple as you perform this unusual movement. then.

until you have to take a fresh breath. S. A. Rest a moment before repeating this one more time. and so on. Stop and rest. Then.Remember: Always focus your attention on the internal sensations of the movement 143 7 . do the opposite diagonal pattern. POSITION Remain lying on your back with the chest relaxed on both sides. as you shoot the balloon of air downward into both sides of the abdomen. as it descends into . preparing for it by tightening the right rib cage to open up the left side and by flattening the lower back. SENSING As you relax and breathe easily and naturally. Continue this pistonlike movement. MOVEMENT End this lesson by inhaling deeply and slowly into both sides of the chest. then. A. notice how much softer and fuller and looser your entire trunk and abdomen feel. and the right side of the pelvis will drop down a bit. filling up the left lung like a balloon. The back will arch. POSITION Still lying on your back. Sense the downward movement of the abdominal muscle. then back down. until you have to take a fresh breath. MOVEMENT Inhale deeply up into the left chest. hold the breath. hold in your breath and shoot the balloon of air downward into the right side of the abdomen. then back up again.

144 Remember: Always move slowly. Also notice the quiet feeling of calmness and relaxation that has now come into your body. gently. . softly lifting and swelling the belly in full deep breathing. and without forcing the movement the lower abdominal area.

In the previous seven lessons. Let your feet be slightly separated to about the width of your hip joints.) Then. the ability to walk is gradually diminished. Sensory-motor amnesia occurs. Repeat this 20 times. MOVEMENT Slowly lengthen the right leg by sliding the right heel downward on the floor." What you will learn in this Somatic Exercise is enormously important for human existence: Humans are the only creatures on earth that walk on two legs with the arms swinging freely in counterbalance. with the arms alongside your body. As this stiffness in the center of the body increases. the right hip goes upward. and so on. (Notice that your left hip goes upward as you do this. lengthen the right leg. The pelvis does not rotate horizontally as you step forward. Achieving this efficient pattern will be your graduation present to yourself for completing the Somatic Exercises. you learned greater awareness and control of the entire bodily musculature. so that the right arm and shoulder come forward as the left hip and leg come forward (the contralateral walking pattern). and one cannot help walking like an "old person. and as a person becomes accustomed to this diminished ability in moving the pelvis and trunk. then the left leg." efficient walking. POSITION Lie on your back. nor does the trunk twist. the art of walking is forgotten. again. nor does it move upward and downward as the weight comes off and onto the leg. (And this time. That is why you will find it so deeply satisfying to experience the wonderful circular movement of the hip that occurs in smooth. which makes it now possible for you to learn the pattern of "well-oiled. effortless walking.) Then. . THE VERTICAL DIMENSION OF WALKING A.Remember: Always focus your attention on the internal sensations of the movement LESSON 8 145 Improving Walking If the muscles in the center of the body gradually become stiff. slowly lengthen the left leg by sliding the left heel downward on the floor. 1. and with the legs stretched out on the floor.

Feel how the large muscles and vertebrae of the lower back adjust to receive the weight of the leg's upward movement. In this way. Then bring the knee back up to vertical and repeat. Notice how the lower spine curves left and right in response to the foot touching the imaginary ground: The spine hollows inward on the left side as the left hip rises. It is the vertical dimension of walking and running. back.146 Remember: Always move slowly. Be sure your hips. and rib cage are relaxed and supple. A. MOVEMENT Let the right knee drop to the left. . the knee will go nearer to the floor. the other leg shortens as it touches the ground and receives the weight of the body. POSITION Bend your knees and spread the feet and knees as far apart as is comfortable . making sure that the right side of your back rises to allow the right hip to rise. then. gently. the spine is concave on the right. as the right hip goes upward. as the foot hits the ground. and without forcing the movement SENSING As you do this alternating movement. waist. Repeat 5 times. imagine that you are running in slow motion: As one leg lengthens in a new step. THE HORIZONTAL DIMENSION OF WALKING 2. falling down inside the space left open by the other leg. Stop and rest for a moment. This up-down movement is the north-south aspect of bipedal locomotion.

POSITION Remain on your back with the knees still bent. MOVEMENT Lift up the right side of the pelvis. as the right leg comes for- . push the thigh straight forward . like a barrel. Use all of your torso to help in lifting the pelvis as high as possible on each side. so the left hip will rise. MOVEMENT Now alternate this same movement between the right and left legs. notice how the pelvis rolls left and right on the floor. This is a walking movement: The pelvis is rotating forward. Then. Repeat 5 times. without moving the foot. rolling movement of the pelvis-the torso is rolling but your shoulders remain flat on the floor. and rib cage. by lengthening the right side of the back.Remember: Always focus your attention on the internal sensations of the movement B. MOVEMENT 147 Now let the left knee drop inward to the right. Remember this important action of lengthening and lifting the entire side of the torso when you perform the following movement pattern. C. falling toward the floor. as the back lengthens and lifts on alternate sides of the pelvis. waist. SENSING As you do this alternating movement. Repeat 5 times. Make a large. A. Allow the left side of the back to lengthen. 3. but this time hold them parallel with one another.

COMBINING THE VERTICAL AND HORIZONTAL MOVEMENTS OF THE HIPS 4. as you simultaneously pull up the left hip.148 Remember: Always move slowly. B. and do the same movement 5 times with the left knee. If you were standing. and without forcing the movement ward to take a step. Push the thigh and knee forward. SENSING Notice that this is still the same movement of the pelvis and torso you were doing earlier. lifting the right pelvis. C. and then keep repeating this movement. MOVEMENT Then stop. A. Relax. 5 times. by contracting the left waist and shortening the left leg. POSITION Stretch out the left knee on the floor. MOVEMENT Now alternate the same movement between both legs 10 times. You will discover that the more you lengthen and lift the back. This is the horizontal dimension of walking and running. Then you will be ready for the complete movement: . gently. leaving the right knee bent. until it becomes easy to do. MOVEMENT Push the right thigh straight forward. except that now the knee is pointing straight forward rather than dropping downward and inward. the farther the knee moves forward. you would be swinging the hips to take a big step forward.

and sliding back. SENSING Stop and clarify what it is you are doing: This is an exaggeration of the movement of walking! Especially notice that the right hip makes a slow circle by rising. Make the movement smooth and even . Then the left hip makes the same circle. as you now bend the left knee. shorten the right leg by contracting the right waist and pulling up the right leg. once your back . Remember that the ball of your hip joint is perfectly round.Remember: Always focus your attention on the internal sensations of the movement Push the right thigh forward. making both of them move in a circular pattern. B. walking in slow motion. then imagine the same thing as the other leg pulls upward. At the same time. You have now combined the vertical and horizontal movements of the hips. It is designed to go in a perfect circle. SENSING Imagine that the straight leg that pulls up is touching the ground. Take your time in doing this. pushing the left thigh forward. pretending that you are a giant. causing the hip to rise from the upward force of the weight. MOVEMENT Continue doing this walking pattern of the hips and legs very slowly 20 times. falling. going forward. One leg bends and pushes forward as the other leg simultaneously straightens and pulls back up . Then slowly 149 straighten the right leg flat onto the floor. shortening the left leg.

150 Remember: Always move slowly. with your feet directly under your two hip joints. by holding your weight. MOVEMENT Now do the reverse: Straighten the left knee. A. allowing the left knee to relax and bend. as you allow the left knee to bend. MOVEMENT Hold the right knee straight. e. . then straighten the left knee. will naturally slide outward and upward. relaxing the right knee so that it bends. 5. making the lower spine curve in on that side. This will cause your right hip to drop down and your left hip to slide to the left. The straight leg. allowing the right knee to relax and bend. MOVEMENT Again. and without forcing the movement and torso become supple enough to allow your hip to do so. straighten the right knee. Keep your spine supple. All of your weight has now been transferred to the left leg. which will cause your left hip to drop down and your right hip to slide partially to the side. so that its participation in the movement is easy and smooth. SENSING Notice the circling of the hips in the full movement of efficient walking. All of your weight is resting on your right leg as you do this. POSITION Now stand up. gently. B. Continue this weight transfer movement smoothly and evenly 20 times.

Remember: Always focus your attention on the internal sensations of the movement Do not be ashamed of moving your hips freely. efficient movement seems. to take a small step . the movement feels embarrassingly free. Bring it forward. Let it slide all the way. sliding the left foot forward on the floor. SENSING If the knee is straight. you will see that it is not exaggerated. The ligaments and muscles of the hip will hold all your weight without any effort on your part. D. and the left hip will slide a little out to the side. the hip responds by sliding out to the side. you can relax all of your weight on that leg. sliding the right foot forward on the floor. And. and in your normal walking will have just exactly the amount of natural movement that is proper to your skeletal structure. Then. As you begin to make use of this automatic locking of the knee and hip . exaggerated. The left knee now bends. MOVEMENT 151 Stop with your weight on the left leg and bring your right knee forward. it is because you have forgotten what efficient walking feels like. as soon as you do so. but if you look at yourself in a mirror as you do it. take a small step. until it stops. let your weight transfer over to your straight right knee. If this free. As you do so. The left knee straightens as it receives the weight. at first. At first. but is actually graceful. Relax all of your weight on this solid support. sliding outward to the side. allowing the right hip to relax. You will soon become used to it.

Now. and then bring the right side of the pelvis forward by lengthening and rotating the back-just as you had been doing on the floor. bring the left pelvis forward. Next. with your weight on the straightened left leg. pull back the . with the left knee and foot coming straight ahead to take a step. and the left knee then straightening to take the weight. let the right knee and foot also come straight forward. earlier. your weight relaxing down on that straight leg and the right hip moving out to the side. Instead. as the right hip goes forward . you do not unconsciously bring the right shoulder forward. MOVEMENT Now emphasize the horizontal swing of the hips by stopping. you will notice that the effort of walking is greatly reducedwalking becomes easy. with the pelvis brought forward. When the left hip goes forward. E. because you are using the bones and ligamental structure to hold your weight. pull the right shoulder backward slightly.152 Remember: Always move slowly. rather than unconsciously contracted muscles. and so on. Practice this movement until it is as smooth as a lion's gait: The pelvis and hips move freely as the weight shifts from one side to the other. SENSING Be sure that. and without forcing the movement joint. as your right hip and leg go forward. gently. but the head and upper trunk remain quietly stable and in balance.

because it is absorbed and cushioned by the springlike movements of the large vertebrae and muscles of the lower back. This is the feeling of the contralateral walking pattern-it is the feeling of free. youthful walking! You will also notice that this relaxed movement of the hips takes the shock out of the foot's contact with the floor: that is. As you do this. or pelvis--they can accept the weight. knee.Remember: Always focus your attention on the internal sensations of the movement left shoulder. there is no "fighting against gravity" on the part of the foot. ankle. as they rotate left and right. hip. 153 . you will feel a supple twist occurring in the middle of your trunk.

(Ed. and work electrocardiogram.. II. "Studies in the limbic system (visceral brain) and their bearing on psychological problems." Journal of Gerontology 21(1966). Ibid. R. 1981) pp. 126(1976). pp. Muscles Alive: Their Functions Revealed by Electromyography. 2. Page.). 1982. J. See John W. I. Kahn. Budzynski." Journal of Gerontology 24(1970). 5. 9. 10. W. 2. pp. Vol. Bernard." Science 237 Ouly 10. pp. Gore. 1974." The Physician and Sports Medicine (October 1978). c. The Aging Motor System. H. The Alexander Technique. E.. "Effect of the type of exercise upon the work of the heart in older men. 41-46. Mortimer. and Rodahl. Wilfred. "Physiological effects of an exercise training regimen upon men aged 52--88. p.. 182-191." American Journal of Roentgenology. Chapter 2 1.. Steinmetz. 84. L. Spring-Summer 1983. Researchers in gerontology have finally begun to recognize that humans age in very different ways: "Usual" aging moves toward decrepitude. H. pp." Journal of Sports Medicine 17(1977). New York: Knopf. 1973.: Duke University Press. pp. and DeVries. pp. "Functional Integration: A Literal Position Statement. 99-107. 7. J. 66--77. Basmajian. Gabe J. Chapter 4 1. "Proceedings-Physical activity-A modality for bone accretion in the aged. Bassey. The Trunk and Vertebral Column.. but some people "successfully" age and maintain their functions undiminished. p. 24(1978). 1987). and Adams. "Age. DeVries. circulatory-respiratory function. Rowe and Robert L. 118--119. c. Lake. 8--9.). 1954. W. A. Ibid.References Introduction 1. Daly. Barry. E." Soma tics 4 (2). "Physical activity and aging-A survey of Soviet literature. 65--85. and Reddan. Paul." In Wittkower and Cleghorn (Eds.. N. p. Vol. J. p. p. inactivity and some physiological responses to exercises. J. 110. 8. N. James A. pp. 6. Smith. Pirozzolo. Pruett. 325--336. 4 ff. 4. 2. A. N. Philadelphia: Lippincott.. D. G. Y. Barlow. 3." Soma tics 3(2) (Spring. D. E. Kapandji. Erickson. New York: Churchill Livingstone. Ibid. p. Reports from the Duke Longitudinal Studies. Research Developments in Psychosomatic Medicine. pp. Baltimore: Williams & Wilkins. 81.. 143149.. "Human Aging: Usual and successful. Francis J. E. Palmore." Gerontology. 155 . "Brain lateralization and rescripting. 1297. 2. 1974. I. H. "Exercise for the older adult. "The effects of physical conditioning on older individuals. 3. F. Work capacity." Geronologica Clinica 14(1972). III. K. Durham. and Matetta. pp. 9. I. 1979. v... Normal Aging. J.. Thomas H. A.. A. The Physiology of the Joints. 101-125. 13. New York: Praeger. 6. J. MacLean. pp. 11. Birkhead. p. Chapter 6 1.

Brown.. New York: Plenum. "Breathing to the heart of the matter: Effects of respiratory influences upon cardiovascular phenomena. Ibid. (Italics my own. Ibid. A. Rinehart & Winston. Selye. 1962. p. pp. The Stress of Life. 1975. Washington. K. Chapter 9 1. New York: Holt. p. 346.. p. 1985. The Stress of Life.) 3. (Ed. Caillet.156 Soma tics Chapter 7 1. 6. Longitudinal Studies of Adult Psychological Development. New York: Morrow.. Needs. 22 ff. Hans. 1983. and Defares. 3. 83. 4.).. Handbook of Diseases of Aging. 4.. 2. Vol. Ibid. p. B. Low Back Pain Syndrome. pp. 5. Jerrold Scott. 9. 159. 129. Hymes.: Thomas. p.. 58. Selye. pp. pp.. 3. Selye. 5. Philadelphia: Davis. The Stress of Life. Love. XV-XIII. p. Ibid. P.. op. Caillet.. Robert B. 12. "Breathing patterns found in heart attack patients. 10. c.). Philadelphia: Lippincott.). Ibid. cit. and Our Archaic Brain. 1984. D. p. cit. Schaie. 9. Ibid.). 1983. Defares (Ed. Chapter 8 1." In Peter B. xi ff. Ibid.. Eaton." Research Bulletin of the Himalayan International Institute 2(2) (1980).. (Ed. Ibid. and Aging: A Consumers Union Report. 97. Grossman and Defares. My Aching Back. cit. 11. P. Neural Mechanisms of Startle Behavior. 4. Rene. p. 1984. 3. Grossman. Ibid. pp.. pp. 154-155. Springfield. Spano. Beacher. 127. John. 1. On Emotions. Warner (Ed.5. pp. Oh. Sex. 7. Ibid. 4. Ibid. p. Isometric Exercise and Its Clinical Implications. XVI. 150-151. 4. 295-296. 128-129. p. pp. 1982. 8. Ill. pp. Boston: Little. Petrofsky. 2. Robert C. 1975. p. v.. P. 159. p. Root. Ibid.: Hemisphere Publishing Corporation. op. p.. (Ed. 2. New York: Guilford Press. and Stress Without Distress. Leon.. 10-12.. Ibid. 7. 313. p.. Malmo. 151-152. . Ibid. New York: McGraw-Hill. 1974. v-vi. Herman T.. 2.. pp.). 6. Ibid.291. Blumenthal. 2. Edward M. 9. Chapter 11 1. 10-11. p. p. New York: New American Library. and Neurenberger. 1978. Mind over Back Pain. 125. op. 1984. pp. 128. Stress and Anxiety. 3. p. Chapter 10 1. New York: Van Nostrand Reinhold.

Chapter 14 1. pp. Somatics: Magazine-Journal of the Bodily Arts and Sciences can also be ordered from this address. 1516 Grant Avenue. Ibid. F. 11. Suite 220. p. p.References Chapter 12 1. (Italics my own)." Advances 1(3) (Summer 1984)." Psychology Today 7(1947). 3." Journal of the American Medical Association 176(1961). 16. H. Wickramasekera. F. 4. narrated by Thomas Hanna. 5. Ian. J. "The power of the sugar pill. is available through Somatic Educational Resources. 157 . Evans. p. 2. 25. "Surgery as a placebo. pp. Novato. California 94945. 55-59. "The placebo as a conditioned response. "Unravelling placebo effects: Expectations and the placebo response. J. Evans. Beecher. An audio cassette version of these same eight somatic exercises." Advances 1(3) (Summer 1984).. 1102-1107. The Myth of Aging.

9 Barry. 72. 36 weak. 9-12. 101105 Barlow. 79 Arrhythmia. Wilfred. 36. 41. 5. 68-69. 106. neurological research on. 86 Atlas. 86 Age defined. 74 Aging Motor System. 25 adaptation of. H. 111 Bipedalism. 53. 36 Antagonists. The (Mortimer... 106. 86. 72 rheumatoid. 6. 75.138 Somatic Exercise for improving. 58. 36 Alzheimer's disease. 73--74 Body Image Training. 41. 88-89 and brain. 75-78.110 Somatic Exercises for.77 and withdrawal response. 67. Charles.. 86 Binet intelligence tests. 57-58. effects of withdrawal response on. 57. 49. 86 Blood pressure. 86 Aspirin. 68-69. E. J. 23--24 Blood cell counts. 56 Anxiety. 88. 36. Stephen J. 91 and mental competence. Pirozzolo. 40 Aneurysms. 83. 110-111. ruptured. 40-41 Acupuncturist.58. 73 Angina. 6163 pain. respiratory sinus. 26. 46 Allergic reactions. 56. 42 159 . 86 Asthma. 6366 See also Green Light reflex Activity. A. 52. 92-94 viewed as neutral term. 49-51 Action response (Green Light reflex). 57. 73 Arteriosclerosis. 97 and action response. 82. 52. 41-43 fear of. physiological and anatomical research on aging and physical. 86.Index Abdominal muscles. 33 neurological research on aging and. 121-122 Bone spur. 91. and Matetta). 86 Ankles sprained. 89 pride in. 90 and sexuality. 57. 42-43 Agonists. 83 Biofeedback. 82-83 syndrome. 3 Adrenal gland secretion. 21. 86 Archer's bow posture. 106 Alarm reaction. 36 Brain. 40-41 as process of growth. 41 Bassey. 63. 87. 26. 64. 41-43 triune. 73 Atrophy. 55. physiological and anatomical research on. 104 lower. 62. 3.101. 81 stiff. 27 unconscious levels of. 72 back muscles and. 106 Anus.106 chronic high. 97. 35 Aging ambiguity of. 84 Andrus Gerontology Center (Los Angeles). 74 Arthritis. 61-63 Landau reaction and.83--84 myth of. 3. 137-144 thoracic. 75-78. 2628 Breathing diaphragmatic. 137 and heart functions. J. 47. 92 and physical activity. 58 Buell. 39-43 Back muscles. 73. 39. 61-63. 56-59 shallow.. 40. 41 Beecher.

36 subluxated. 73. Moshe. 86 Flexor muscles of stomach.86 Defares. 72 Catheter insertion. 116. 32. Sex. 5455 Emesis. 75 slipped. 52 Ears. oral. 53-56 Hands.. 116. 78.36 Headaches. 73. 79. 116-121 controlling muscles of neck and shoulders. 36 Fatigue. 98-99. 63 Gastric secretion and motility. 129-136 controlling muscles of waist. 101 defined. 42 Cybernetic process. 86 DeVries. 81 Cat Stretch. 128. 27 Feldenkrais. 74 Cardiovascular function. 86 Coleman. 75-78. A. 10. 62 Cancer. stage of. 138 Habituation. Paul D. restricted movement of. 4 Glycogen. 36 Bursitis. 36 Caillet. 65 Evans. 85-88. and Aging. 77. 101105 controlling flexor muscles of stomach. 58-59 Depression.. 75. 86 Curcio. 13-15 Codeine. 86 Dowager's hump. 40 Diabetes. 53. 112-115 Daily Cat Stretch. 61. 55 Double-blind arrangement. ringing in. F. 3. controlling.95 motor division of.. 111. 128.S. 46 Erickson. 25. 89. 36. 92 Extensor muscles of back. 72. 85-86 Exercise(s). 105. 81 Chronic muscular tension. 47. common. 72 Feedback loop system. 19.51-52 Gluteus medius muscle. 78. 86 Epinephrine. 25. see Arteriosclerosis Head. P. 58-59 Gut. 67-71. B. 3. 88. Christine A. 83 Contraceptives. 49. 64 Chiropractors. 36 degenerated. 111. 52. 101-105 Eye aches. 86 Coronary disease.53 Consumers Union. 106-110 Flight-or-fight response. 86 . 136.81 Disks bulging." 29 Dark Vise. 36 Distress. 74 Constipation. 36.36 herniated. 74. 47. 61 See also Action response Grossman. numbness in. 53. 86 Electromyograms (EMG). 136. 81. 106-110 controlling muscles of hip joints and legs. 86 General adaptation syndrome (GAS). Somatic. 54. J. 13-14 Green Light reflex. 43. 5-7 sensory division of. 36 Edema. 123128 controlling muscles involving trunk rotation. 98-99. 86 Cold. 93. 5-7 Cerebral cortex. 42 Conditioned reflexes... 36 Hardening of the arteries. Daily. 106 Darvon. 46. D.. 47. 50 Eustress.87. Love. 26. 137144 improving walking. 86 chronic tension. 75 compressed. 73 physical conditioning and. 74. 105. 122. 36. 54. J. danger of tight. 7. 91 controlling extensor muscles of back. chronic. controlling.160 Index Diseases of adaptation. 86 Cardiovascular disease. 40-41 Carpal tunnel syndrome. 95-97 improving breathing. 59. 36. 145153 Exhaustion. 137 Central nervous system. structural problems. 62 Cerebral palsy. 137 giving yourself maximum benefit of. H. 91 "Dance of the Little Old Men. 122. 10. P. Rene. 57 Functional vs. 41 Escape response. 129 Fever. 4547. 46 Expectation.. 73 Cough reflex. 12.

role of. 10 Parkinsonism. 139-142 diagonal. 84 Lordosis. 86 Pump. 72. 74 stooped. 36 Page. stiff and limited. 27-28 Mastectomies. controlling muscles of. 9. 17 Petrofsky. 63--66. 56 Hesiod. 58 Heart surgery. 46 Respiration. 36 Journal of Gerontology. 72 Neuralgia. Ivan. 5. 36 sciatic pains in. 81 Hemorrhoids. 74.81 combining vertical and horizontal dimensions of. controlling muscles of. 41 161 Pain chronic. 87 Impotence. 84 Sciatica. 28 Nerve. K. Leon. 86 Ischemia. 55-56 Injury. 36 Posture archer's bow. 86 See also Breathing Rheumatoid arthritis. 53 pain and swelling in. see Static muscle contraction Jogging. 41 Journal of the American Geriatrics Society. F. 42 Humerus. 71 Larsson. 86 Seattle Longitudinal study.. 46 Osteoarthritis. 52. J. 49-51 See also Withdrawal response Resistance. 123-128 pain. 18. 71. 14 Landau reaction. 58. 13-15 Neck. 40 Palpation. 81 controlling muscles of. 71-72 undiagnosable. 73 Hypochondria.20 Hip(s). 67-70. 83-84 Mirror technique. 41. 24-26 Knee-jerk reflex. 5-7 Movements. 82 Knee(s) aching. K. 123-128 cramps. Paul. 3 Hodge. 27 Kyphosis. 111 Morphine. 129-136 Neocortex. 69-71. 36 Lactic acid. Alfred c. 81 Maturation. 79-82 Insomnia. 56-59 Heart attack. 81 Kinsey. 36. aging and. due to fall. 36 Osteoporosis. 36 Longitudinal Studies of Adult Psychological Development.19 Leg(s) aching. 36 Palmore. 8588 Mental competence. 53 broken. 28. 55.. 86 Motor nerves. 42-43 Latissimus dorsi muscle. 17 Hypertension. 39 Mental attitude. effects of withdrawal response on.. 41 Kidney surgery. pinched.Index Heart and breathing functions. 41 joints. 148--153 fractures. 47. essential. 81-82 Scoliosis. role of. 36 Nitroglycerine. E. 29-30. H. 79. 70-71 Multiple sclerosis. 86 Pavlov. 36 MacLean. 41 Root. 116 defined. 70 Psychoneuroimmunology. F. Lars.. 73-74 Phobias.. inflamed.. 75-78. 79 senile. 10 Joints. C. Warner. 41 Red Light reflex. 58 Isometric contraction. stage of. 17. 86 Muscle tonicity. 86-87 Psychotherapy. 86 Rodahl. 53-54. 82. 63 Schaie. 72. 58 See also Blood pressure Hyperventilation. 74 Pectoralis. 104. 86 Norepinephrine. 80. 26. 106. 36 Immune system.. 142-144 Pupil dilation and constriction. 73. W. 84 . 85-87 Postsurgical trauma. 86 Placebo effect. 86 Reddan. 121-122 Seasickness.

53-56 malfunctions caused by. 26 Tension EMG. 79. 13-15 Trauma reflex. negative. 67 general adaptation syndrome (GAS) of. 15 muscular reflexes of. 45-47 neuromuscular response to. 1. 52 X rays. Somatic) learning from cases about. 123 combining vertical and horizontal dimensions of. 72 Selye.92 cases of.. 56-59 habituation of. 129-136 frozen. power of. 106. J. 77. 55 Tilting. 17-19. 65. 87 Self-image. 65 Strokes. 54-55 Static muscle contraction. 81 Swayback. 75-78. 32. 46 muscular reactions to. 53.67. 55 residual. 36. muscle. 87 Withdrawal response (Red Light reflex). 74 Steinmetz. 49~51 Self-awareness. 80. 74 in response to good things. 36 Vasoconstriction. 86 Waist. 110 Tachycardia. 74. 19-21 Sphincter muscles. 56 Sphinx. skin. 41 Spinal cord. 86 trauma reflex and. need for soft.148-153 horizontal dimension of. 92 worship of. 65. 10. 47. 41 Software. 79-81 Trunk rotation. 74-75 Self-fulfilling prophecy. 10 definition of. 110-111 exercises for. 85. 84 Vaccines. 45-47. 47.. L. 123 Sensory nerves. 6 Spinal stenosis. 86 Varicose veins.162 Index Stress and chronic lower back pain. controlling muscles involving. 83 Wickramasekera.52 Smith. 86 Urethra contractions of. 69. 112-115 Walking. 56 spasms of. 53 Wrinkling. 5-7. 3-5. 97 (see also Exercise(s). 91 Tendonitis. 90-91 . 5.91. 14. 145-153 vertical dimension of. 56-57. controlling muscles of. 41 Stomach. 23-26. 53 Use-it-or-Iose-it principle. 61. 95. 116-121 Ulcers. 36 Urination. Hans. 93. E. 145146 Warts. 82-83 Shoulder(s) controlling muscles of. Ian. in our bodies. frequent. 51-52 Sensory-motor amnesia (SMA). aging and. 39. 29-32 distorted body image caused by. 146-148 Somatic Exercise for improving. 9-12. 50. 10-11 Youth attitude of. 47. 66. riddle of.54-55 muscular. 57. definition of. 81 Tonus. 51-53 secondary effects of. 86 Wechsler tests. controlling flexor muscles of. 36 Startle response. on breathing and heart functions. 81 Sexuality. 73. 17-19 stooped. 51.72 abdominal muscles and. 86 Technologies. 86 Vasomotor function. R. 73 Surgery placebo effect and. 91 Somatic. 53. 32-36 stiffness caused by. 106-110 effects of.

Sign up to vote on this title
UsefulNot useful