Lesson #2: The Dark Vice

Move Without Pain 5-Day Course  •  Completion time: 15 minutes


Welcome to the second lesson of the Move Without Pain 5-day Course.

You may not have realized it, but in Lesson #1 I had you spend time in the Green Light Reflex by performing Arch & Flatten

Today, we’ll explore the Red Light Reflex with a movement called The Flower, but let’s dive deeper into the Green Light and Red Light Reflexes first. 

The Green Light Reflex involves the large muscles of the back responsible for moving you forward in walking, running and standing. When those muscles remain overly-contracted, they pull the back into an exaggerated arch like a soldier standing at attention. 
When you’re running for the train, sitting at the computer for hours, picking up a child, or standing all day, these "green light" muscles are working to help you "get the job done." 

But, if the Green Light Reflex becomes habituated, conditions such as herniated disks, neck pain, shoulder pain, and sciatica can develop. 

Green Light Reflex

Green Light Reflex

Red Light Reflex

Red Light Reflex

On the other hand, the Red Light Reflex involves the muscles on the front of the body tightening to pull you forward, which presents itself with rounded shoulders, a depressed chest and the head jutting forward. 

This slumping reflex is a protective mechanism found in all vertebrate animals as a response to fear, anxiety, prolonged distress or negativity. For example, an unexpected loud noise can cause the muscles of the front of the body to contract suddenly as it pulls inward into a slumping posture. 

If the Red Light Reflex becomes habituated, it can lead to chronic neck pain, jaw pain (as with TMJ), a “widow’s hump," hip pain, mid-back pain and shallow breathing. 

Many cases of muscular pain—sciatica, scoliosis, frozen shoulder, uneven leg length or plantar fasciitis—are viewed by most doctors as structural problems. However, Hanna Somatic Educators view these conditions as functional problems that can be treated by improving the sensory motor system. 

That’s what this free course will teach you how to do. 

While most pain relief methods—such as physical therapy, massage therapy, surgery, stretching, acupuncture or drugs—focus on the one specific area of pain (e.g. the neck, hip, shoulder, back), Hanna Somatic Education understands that pain in one part of the body is part of a larger pattern of muscular dysfunction. 

That means SMA (Sensory Motor Amnesia) cannot be reversed through passive bodywork such as massage, Rolfing, chiropractic work or stretching.  

The good news is that SMA is learned through habituation, which means it can, thankfully, be unlearned by practicing a new way of sensing and moving. 
HSE not only actively teaches you how to retrain your brain using movements called pandiculations—more on that later—but it also helps you become aware of how your posture adapts to habits and stress.  

Anyway, enough studying for today—it’s time for your movement practice! 

Let’s once again prepare by making sure you’re in a cozy spot wearing comfortable clothes and are free from distractions for the next 10 minutes. 

Once you settle into your spot on the floor, begin your Soma Scan.


You may have observed different sensations today than you did yesterday. 

That’s okay. 

It’s important to listen to what your body is telling you right now, so you can give it the attention it needs.
So carry those observations with you as I teach you the Somatic movement called The Flower.  As you perform this movement, remember that HSE focuses on full-body patterns. You’ll feel this during The Flower as your attention moves like a wave between the front and back of your body. 

Press play and enjoy feeling The Dark Vice slowly melting away with only your conscious efforts.


That concludes your second lesson! 

Here’s what you learned today: 

  • Green Light Reflex:  propels us forward in life, but contributes to chronic muscle pain in the back of your body if it becomes habituated.
  • Red Light Reflex: protects us in life, but contributes to chronic muscle pain in the front of your body if it becomes habituated.
  • The Dark Vice: a condition that occurs when the Green Light and Red Light Reflexes become simultaneously habituated over time preventing fluid movement of the spine.
  • The Flower: a Somatic movement that can reverse the effects of The Dark Vice.

HSE works because it is an active practice that involves you

By actively retraining your sensory motor system, you improve your ability to breathe and supply your muscles with the fresh blood and oxygen they need to function properly. 

Hopefully, you’re beginning to realize how much control you have when it comes to responding to stress, shaping your habits and managing your chronic muscle pain. 

If you decide to try The Flower again today, remember to limit your practice to only a few minutes so your sensory motor system has time to adjust. 

I’ll see you tomorrow when we discuss how to relieve chronic muscle pain in your sides and hips.

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