In my last post I wrote about "David," who came into his first Somatics class with back pain, tight shoulders and rigid posture. Here's what he looked like. It's what Thomas Hanna called the Green Light Reflex also known referred to as the Landau Response. This reflex is a major contributor to chronic back pain and is prevalent in urban industrial societies. This reflex is a "call to action" response to the need to get things done: standing all day as a teacher, sitting at a desk writing emails, driving, traveling, handling myriad tasks that must be done right away! The back muscles tighten to get us ready to move. There’s nothing wrong with that reflex - you just don't want to get stuck in it. If you live in a society where this reflex is constantly evoked, you will begin to habituate to it. This is where, in my clinical experience, most cases of chronic back pain originate.
The muscles involved in this reflex are the deep muscles of the back that extend from the base of the skull down to the sacrum, the neck and shoulder muscles, buttocks, hamstrings and calf muscles.
What David realized was that he'd gotten stuck and "frozen" in a posture of contracted back muscles, pinned back shoulders and rigid neck. He had forgotten how to sit without tightening his back. Through Somatic Movement classes he learned gentle, easy movement patterns that taught him to regain both sensation, and control of this back muscles. The payoff was that he also learned how to voluntarily relax his back muscles so he would never have to get stuck like that again!
But he also understands that anything you do consistently becomes a habit. This is why he not only takes the time to do 15 minutes of Somatic Movement every day, but also comes to class in order to reinforce and strengthen awareness, control and coordination of his entire body. This is why his back pain is gone and he can travel, sit at his computer, and deal with a stressful job without allowing his stress to take control over him. He's taken control over his stress!