Well, with the holidays and a very busy time just around the corner, I want to give you the gift of understanding how tension can develop in one’s body to help you prepare for and release the tension that this beautiful time of year can sometimes bring to one’s soma.
Green Lights and Red Lights of the holidays make me also think of three innate reflexes the body responds to stress with – Red Light Reflex, Green Light Reflex and the Trauma Reflex. These reflexes can cause involuntary muscle tension (Sensory Motor Amnesia) when the brain can no longer access the voluntary control of the muscle to release the tension.
Red Light Reflex
So, you’ve been in the process of writing your to do list for the upcoming holidays. So much to do… Perhaps you’ve written or typed your annual Christmas letter. How are your neck, shoulders and the space between your shoulder blades feeling after sitting a while at the computer? The Red Light Reflex is a natural way the body responds to stress, anxiety or fear (freeze or flight response) and these days it also happens as we sit in our cars in traffic, in front of our computers typing or reading emails, and more. We collapse with our head and neck forward, shoulders rounded and pelvis tucked under, tightening and shortening our front line of muscles. Can you feel it? I know I’ve been there!
Green Light Reflex
You’ve completed your to do list and have been putting it in to action (fight response). We are determined to get it all done! This call to action can also be felt when someone calls our name, when the phone rings, when the alarm goes off in the morning. Our lower back arches, our head, neck and shoulders come back, our pelvis is tilted. We have now tightened and shortened our back line of muscles.
We’ve made it out the door to the mall and the shopping begins. Do you carry your purchases slung over one shoulder? The Trauma Reflex occurs when our body responds to a recurring stress on one side of our body. It could be recovering from knee or hip surgery, a slip on the ice, using the mouse at the computer, carrying a child on the same hip. The muscles along one side of your body become tight and shortened.
How can you tell if you are carrying extra tension in your body?
- Lay down on your back with your arms by your side and legs extended (if it is comfortable to extend your legs, if not, feel free to bend them – note being able to comfortably extend your legs speaks to tension in your body.) No Pain, All Gain is key.
- Simply be curious and spend a few moments exploring what you sense and feel in your body.
- Bring awareness to how your head is resting – crown, middle, base, side to side?
- How are your shoulders resting – similar or a little different on each side – is one more settled than the other?
- What does the arch of your lower back feel like? Is there tension or is it comfortable?
- Do your hips feel similar or a little different from side to side?
- Bring awareness down the back of your legs to your heels and notice how they are each resting.
The sensations that arise will tell you a story about what movements your body may need to explore to release tension it may be habitually holding.
To help us return to that sparkle in our eyes and glow to our flow, the wonderful news is that we can re-educate our brain to voluntarily release the muscle tension that builds up from day to day through Somatics and SomaYoga.
Let’s break down the word Somatics. Soma is a Greek word meaning the living body. The Soma is you, the living body. You can feel the internal sensations present in your body. We sometimes lose that ability to be aware of the sensations of chronic tension – the brain begins to read it as a baseline of relax and not a level of tension. Somatics helps us to feel these sensations through pandiculation (contract, lengthen, relax) of the chronically tense or painful muscles. When we focus on the sensations of pandiculating the specific muscles involved in the Green Light, Red Light or Trauma Reflex we are able to re-educate the brain and release the Sensory Motor Amnesia and the tension and pain that are present with it.