When you lie down to do your practice, do you start with the movements you like best even if they’re more complex?
If so, that’s a bit like eating dessert instead of a main meal. Don’t get us wrong, we love dessert, and yet we know that we can’t only eat that every day.
In any Somatic Movement class we almost always begin with Arch and Flatten. There’s a good reason to start there and it all comes back to developmental movement.
As babies we could only curl inward (flexion) until about 4 months. When we lay on the floor the “green light” (Landau) reflex was what helped us lift our heads (extension). To do that we let go of the front of our bodies (the “red light”/startle reflex). Once we learned, through sensing and exploring, to control the relationship between the front and back of our bodies we learned to twist, roll and reach. And from there we learned to crawl, walk, and move forward towards life. It took time for this process to unfold.
As humans we are designed to stand up and move forward. When we stand our back muscles activate to hold us up and the muscles of our front contract just enough that we find our most comfortable position from which to move.
Most people come to their practice with tension in both the back and front of their bodies. Just like babies, the first place to start is the most basic place: the back and front. When we begin our practice with Arch and Flatten we get to address the accumulated tension in the back and encourage the front to let go. Then we go the other way as we shorten and contract the front to further release the back.
Those muscles work very hard to hold us up in gravity, so that’s where we begin. Once we have let go of any excess tension we can more easily move on and release tension in the sides of our body. From there we can build, just as we did as babies, on more complex movements of twisting and rotation.