Summary: Move Into Resilience host Pamela Stokes teaches us In today’s episode about an important part of being human—our alignment—and how it affects our ability to create a felt sense of calm readiness, soft power, or also called peaceful alertness. We will experience ARCH AND CURL, to find easy alignment, and CALMING HAND, to calm our nervous system so we can process emotions more easily.
- [00:00] Introduction to alignment
- [04:54] E-motion is Energy in Motion
- [07:25] Green Light and Red Light reflexes
- [11:16] Alignment
- [15:27] Movement – ARCH AND CURL
- [17:00] Motion – CALMING HAND
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Hello, friends! In today’s episode of Move Into Resilience, we will be learning about an important part of being human—our alignment—and how it affects our ability to create a felt sense of calm readiness, soft power, or also called peaceful alertness. So let’s begin.
Hello. Pamela here. Welcome to Move Into Resilience. Today we’re talking about alignment. There’s been a popular meme on the Internet with alignment and Dungeons and Dragons. That’s not what we’re talking about today. In the alignment chart for Dungeons and Dragons they have good and evil and chaotic and lawful. The only thing that is similar here is we’re going to be attempting to establish a, what they would call a true neutral, and in my world, we call it calm readiness, and it’s also called soft power. Another term could be peaceful alertness. In a previous episode, Mindfulness Through Movement, we talked about how movement is defining if something is alive or not. And we’re in a pandemic right now and there is a virus. And some people actually consider viruses to not be alive because they don’t move on their own. Just thought I’d throw that in there ’cause it’s pretty interesting.
When we move we are moving in many ways. Not only just on the outside as far as walking or running, but also inside. We have movement of our cells and our tissues and our organs. And this movement, when it’s in harmony, or what we call coherence, then our body works optimally. We learned about coherence in the previous episode, Stress and Our Brain. Coherence is something that we can come into and go out of. It’s a natural happening. We go into coherence and then we go out. The ability to come back to coherence helps us to develop resilience because when we can come back into coherence after some upset then we are sending a signal of wellness to our nervous system that everything is OK. In that episode, Stress and Our Brain, I introduced something called heart coherence or heart brain coherence, I like to call it. In fact I just released a simple guided meditation so that you can do this on your own without having to find it in that episode. So it’s a standalone guided meditation. And I hope you’ll practice it, try it, and maybe even bring it to your children, if you have children, because it’s something that everybody can do, whatever age you are.
Now perhaps guided meditation isn’t your thing and that’s OK. You can do the practice that we’re going to be doing today. And both of these, the heart coherence meditation and what we’re going to be doing today, will help you to come more into alignment. So I’d like to talk about the benefits of being in alignment. Our body is meant to move. It’s built for movement. But if we’re sitting still or standing or lying, is there movement? Well, yes, there is in our cells, in our tissues, and our organs. And when these are all moving in harmony (interesting the word organ and harmony—sidenote) these things coming into balance like this, send the signal of wellness to our nervous system. So it’s a really great thing to be in alignment. Being in proper alignment, allowing the coherence to happen, can help us in many ways. It can help us in our mental state; in our physical state; and also in our emotional state.
[04:54] “E-motion is energy in motion.”
And I wanted to talk about emotions a little bit. The word “emotion” “E-motion” was coined in the early 19th century to represent two words: “energy” “motion”. So “E” is for “energy” and “motion”. So the definition of “emotion” is “energy in motion”. Now we may have forgotten that this is something that we need to do is to allow our emotions to move through us, or to allow the energy of the emotion to move through us. But we can still hear this relationship between movement and emotions in some of our expressions and turns of phrase such as “pushing things down” or “stuffing them down”. And I feel “up” or I feel “down”. I’m “going through something”. And then also when we are not allowing the emotions to pass through us, we can say we’re “stuck”, so these are all relating to movement. And in our last episode, Stress and Our Brain, we learned that when we get stuck, the microglial cells, these little tiny cells in our brain will actually destroy our brain cells. So it’s very important that we allow our emotions to move through us, and the energy of them to move. And we’ll be doing a practice today that will help you with that as well.
[07:25] Green Light and Red Light reflexes
So what is proper alignment? We may look at someone who’s standing very stiff and straight and say they have good posture. But actually with muscle tension and tightness to keep that body that stiff, that sends a signal to the nervous system that there’s a problem. Something’s not right. And conversely a lot of us are working forward these days, looking at our phone and working at the computer, and so we have the tendency to let our face move forward out of alignment with our shoulders. That face forward motion is also sending a signal that there’s something wrong. And when we are curved in our back or curled in the lower back, especially flattening out that natural curve that we have, that also sends a signal to the nervous system that something is not right. There’s an issue. These two body positions, either the very stiff and straight body position, or the slumped body position, have been termed “green light” and “red light”. Green Light—activated, moving forward, getting ready for action—is a flight/fight response body position. The slumped position with the head forward, as we’re doing our work on the computer or writing, whatever we’re doing, that is the Red Light reflex, which means stop or shut down, withdraw. So in either case we are not getting the right message to the nervous system that all is well.
The practice that we’re going to be doing today comes from a body practice, a movement practice, called Hanna Somatics, which is an offshoot of the Feldenkrais Method, and I’ll have some links in the show notes for you to do some research if you’re interested. These are two practices, body practices, that use this idea of the trauma reflex or the trauma response of fight flight and freeze, withdrawal being one of those components of freeze. And the idea is to allow the body to find a more neutral position so that we can turn off those two reflexes. The important part about both of these body practices, these movement practices, is that we are not trying to add another pressure to the system. So the pressure that’s in the system already, by having the head forward and the back curled, for example in the slump or withdrawal, the red light position, if we are then just moving out of that and trying to straighten up from there, we’re adding a pressure to the system that’s already in place. So instead in both of these practices, they have realized that what’s important is to support the body position that’s already there, the slump. So we’ll go a little further into that slump, and then ease ourselves out slowly into a more neutral position. By doing this we are now creating a feeling in the body, a felt sense in the body of ease in finding a more aligned position, rather than just trying to straighten up. Our spine isn’t straight. Our spine has curves in it. And these natural curves are meant to be there and allow us the flexibility for walking and running and even sitting.
I thought it would be interesting to tell you about the logo that I designed for Move Into Resilience. It’s got four parts to it. The image includes the eye, and then two lines which represent the esophagus, there’s a heart there, and then that curved line represents the pelvic floor. I put these into my logo to represent this proper alignment that will allow us to have what I like to call soft power. We called it calm readiness or peaceful alertness, or in the words of the Dungeons and Dragons alignment chart, True Neutral.
[11:16] “It is vitally important to have proper alignment.”
It’s from this place that we can have optimal functioning of our body, our brain, our emotions. So when we can line these parts up—the backs of the eyes, the esophagus, which is the tube that we swallow through, the heart and the pelvic floor—and have them lined up, having them be soft and open an expanded, at that point when all of those pieces are in place, now the signal goes to the nervous system “all as well” and we function optimally. We’ll be able to make decisions and use our intuition. We’ll be able to express ourselves clearly and have our emotions not take us over. And all of our organs and systems will function optimally as well. So it is vitally important to have proper alignment.
And in today’s movement, it’s called Arch and Curl, we will be using those two components, the Green Light reflex and the Red Light reflex, and going between them gently, slowly so that we can find a middle place between them where it’s easy to be. When we find this middle place we can get a felt sense of that alignment and noticing how easy it is to be there. So this makes it so that our posture is actually quite easy to find, without muscle tension without strain. And it’s important when we’re doing this movement to make sure you’re not going into a place of pain or strain or stretch, because that sends a signal that there’s a problem. So we want to make sure we stay away from pain and strain and stretch in this movement. It’s important when we do this movement to do it slowly, so that we give our thinking brain, our cortex, time to learn. The cortex is a very slow part of our brain actually. It’s about a billion times, and I said that with a “B”, billion times slower than our reptile brain or hindbrain. So what we sense in our body happens so quickly but the cortex takes time to catch up and so we want to move slowly when we do this movement.
Let’s go ahead and try Arch and Curl. It’s important that you are sitting on a surface that’s not too squishy. We want to have sort of a hard surface with no armrests, and sitting forward on the seat so that your back isn’t touching anything. And then you’ll rest your palms on your thighs and have your feet flat on the floor. And when we do this motion I want you to notice what sensations you’re feeling through your body when there’s ease and comfort. What does that feel like to you? What do you notice about what comfort feels like, what ease feels like to you? It’s important to recognize these sensations so that we have a kind of a marker to show us when we have something that’s good in our life. When something feels good in our life we know, oh, that’s sending a signal of wellness. So we need to practice noticing what it’s like to feel comfort and ease.
[15:00] Movement – ARCH AND CURL
So let’s go ahead and do Arch and Curl together. Please join in.
As you inhale, arch your back, keeping your belly soft, and lift your chin up. And then as you exhale, slowly pass through the middle to curl your back, jet your face forward, and contract your belly. And then inhale, passing through the middle, noticing where middle is, coming only halfway into the arch now. Belly is soft. And then as you exhale, slowly moving yourself through that middle place, and coming into the curl just halfway as far this time. Your face is forward, your belly’s contracted, and your back is curled. And then as you inhale, passing through that middle place, coming into the arch just a little bit. And then on your exhale, passing through middle, and coming into the curl just a little bit. And then bring yourself back into that middle place where it’s easy to be, and notice how you feel. This is what being in alignment feels like. Notice the sensations in your body. (pause) Great. That was Arch and Curl from my Mindful Motion program, and you can learn more at Move Into Resilience.com. Thank yourself for doing that.
[17:00] And now we’ll move on to the next motion for today. This one is very simple and it’s using an adaptation from EFT which is Emotional Freedom Techniques, also called Tapping. And instead of tapping we’re just going to hold in this place. So what you’ll do is you’ll begin by spreading your thumb away from your fingers and then placing your open hand below your collarbones. And when you do that, you’re touching some of the acupoints in your body that send a signal through your nervous system that all is well. When we hold here, we can do this anytime. But we can also do it if there is something that has come up that doesn’t feel so good. So if we’re having a tough time with a particular emotion. So as I said before emotion means “energy in motion”. By placing your hand here below your collarbones, with your thumb on one side and your fingers on the other, you are speaking directly to your nervous system and telling it all as well. So you’re allowed to feel the difficult emotion but at the same time sending a signal that says, yeah, but we’re going to be OK. Everything’s OK. Even though there’s this tough emotion that you’re feeling. So I would invite you to practice this whenever you feel; show it to your kids; share it with other people. This is a very helpful motion to calm us when we need it and to connect with ourselves.
So as you’re holding your hand here, try it with me, place your hand on your chest just below your collarbones, with the thumb on one side and the fingers on the other, and feel the warmth of your hand; feel the connection between your hand and your body. This lets your nervous system know; it lets your brain know; let’s your body know that you’re here for it, that you’re on the same team. It’s a very easy, comforting handhold. I like to call it Calming Hand. And then you can go ahead and just take your hand away now, and notice how you feel. That was another motion from my program Mindful Motion, and I love to use it. I use it all the time. And you may notice that it is kind of a familiar place to put your hand. It feels sort of natural, and it makes me think that we intuitively know that we can touch our acupoints this way. And acupoints are just places where there’s higher electrical conductivity in the body than other places. But when we touch acupoints this way, or tap them, or in acupuncture they use needles, but in any case, whenever you’re making contact there, that is sending a signal of wellness. And it’s pretty great. So thank you for joining in on that, and thank yourself for doing that motion too. Give yourself some gratitude and appreciation. That’s always a nice thing.
So today we have talked about alignment; finding our soft power or calm readiness or otherwise called peaceful alertness, by using a motion called Arch and Curl, which allows us to go easily from the Green Light through the center and to the Red Light reflexes, so that we find that neutral place, that easy place right in the middle, where we are really not using much effort to stay in alignment. And that alignment will line up the backs of your eyes, your esophagus, your heart, and your pelvic floor, so that your body works optimally; your brain works optimally; your emotions; and you’re sensing or awareness is all available to you. The more we are aware of our whole body, our body as a whole ,the easier it is for our nervous system to know that we are well. Everything’s OK.
That’s what we have for today. Thank you for joining me. I hope that you will come again and see what we have to learn together. This has been Move Into Resilience. You can find more at Move Into Resilience.com. I’m Pamela Stokes. Take it easy!