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Hello friends! And welcome to Move Into Coherence. I’m Pamela Stokes. Nice to have you here with me. In today’s episode, we will be learning about the trauma reflex; and what happens in our nervous system; and how we can help ourselves to stay out of the trauma reflex, and maybe even resolve it. So let’s get into it.
I’d like to, first of all, thank the people who have been coming live. It makes it so much more meaningful to me when you can be here in person. So I really do appreciate that. And the reason I wanted to do this podcast live, was for exactly that reason–so that we can feel like we belong in a group; that we are here together; and we’re not alone—for myself and for all of you as well. So I’d like to start with a little bit of heart coherence. It’s a great way to start any event and any day. And then we’ll be doing some Waking and Shaking, like we did last time, to help us get into our thinking brain and learning brain. And we will be doing a little bit of learning, and then we’ll do a motion at the end which allows us to find more ease in our bodies. And we’ll talk about why that’s important. So I’m going to start with my 3 bells, and I let them ring until they are fully “rung out”–all the sound is gone. And then we will go into our Heart Coherence, and I’ll talk you through that. Thanks for being here.
So we’ll start with some Heart Coherence, and just go ahead and bring your awareness to your heart area. And if it helps to put a hand there, over your heart, that is a nice place to rest your hand. And just coming into awareness of your heart. And then we’ll slow the breath down, a little deeper and a little slower than usual. And maybe five or six seconds in and five or six seconds out. And then imagine that the breath is flowing in and out through the heart. And I like to imagine all of the three-dimensionality of the heart—the front, back, and sides, and top, and bottom—breathing. And then if you can bring something to mind that helps you feel gratitude or appreciation. I like to think of a scene in nature. That’s really easy for me to drop into gratitude. And continuing to breathe through the heart. (a couple of minutes of this) And then over the next couple or three breaths, let your hand come to resting, and bring yourself back into your natural breathing. Lovely.
And now I’d like to do Waking and Shaking, which is a three-part motion that allows us to get a little bit softer in our bodies, a little more relaxed, and opens up the possibility for learning to be easy for you. So if you could please come to standing. I’m gonna tilt my camera a little bit so you can see more of me. And come to standing. Thanks for joining in! So this one your feet are going to be lined up with your shoulders. And just feel your feet on the floor. And we’ll notice before we start how you’re feeling right now, and then we’ll notice again afterwards. So Waking Up is the knees come in towards each other—bent knees. Your elbows bend, and your body curls over. Your back rounds. You drop your head. And then s-l-o-w-l-y let the legs get long, let the belly get long, let the arms get long, reach up, tip your head up, and eyes up. And then let your arms float down by your sides. And take a breath and a break. And we’ll do that once again. So the knees come in and bend, the elbows bend, drop your head and curl your back. Get round. Get small. And then s-l-o-w-l-y let the legs get long, the belly gets long, the arms get long, reach up, look up, tip your chin up. And then let the arms float down by your sides. And now we’ll do the Tongue. The Tongue is simple. You’re just gonna press the tip of your tongue up to the roof of your mouth, behind your teeth—the soft, no, the hard palate, in the middle of your roof of your mouth. Pressing up gently and then s-lo-w-l-y release the tongue—takes a few seconds. And if you can feel the tongue softening all the way to the root of the tongue. And you may notice the settling through the digestive tract. And now we’ll do the Quick Shake. You’re going to start wagging your tail, like a happy dog. So just get wiggly. And again thanks for joining in on this. It’s a little silly-looking, but it feels great. So wiggle that tail. Wag that tail. Let your arms and legs be loose and wiggly. And then move that wiggle up the spine, all the way to the crown of the head, and pause there. And then loose lips: brrrrrrrr (motor boat sound). And that’s the end of our Waking and Shaking. Notice how you feel now. Maybe you feel a little calmer. Maybe you feel more enlivened. Maybe you have a little more energy in your body. You might feel some tingling. Tingling, I like to say, is a sign that you’re alive—that’s your aliveness.
So I’m seeing some messages here. Just to take note of some people here. I’ve got someone here saying “cute hair”. Thank you. I did cut it last Sunday after the podcast. I said I think it’s too long, so I pulled it all up. Chopped the top and out come the layers. it’s pretty fast way to cut hair. And I see a friend here from Hawaii. Thank you for being here. And another friend from Africa, from Kenya. I appreciate you being here. Thank you so much.
So what I’d like to do now is to talk about trauma. And what it is and what happens and so forth. So trauma we defined as a perceived threat, so this can vary between people because of your age or what you’ve been through in the past, and what is considered to be perceived a threat. So for an infant, for example, a loud sound can be trauma. So it’s really very highly variable. Oh, great. And someone is here from Winston-Salem, NC. Thanks for joining in. So with that perceived threat, we have the possibility of different things happening in the body. And this is based on our nervous system. The nervous system is broken down—just checking my notes to make sure I say this exactly correct—the nervous system is broken down into two parts: the central, which is the brain and spinal cord, and the peripheral, which is all the other nerves. We’re going to be looking at the peripheral in the trauma reflex. The peripheral is then broken down further into sensory and motor neurons. And now we’re gonna focus on the motor neurons. Within that group, there’s two kinds: voluntary, which means we tell those things what to do—move your arm, wave your hand—those kinds of things. That’s a voluntary motor neuron information. And then we have the involuntary, and that’s where we’re going to be focusing today. The involuntary, you’re not telling it to happen. It’s just happening for you, so this is things like our digestion, our heart rate—things like that. So that’s the involuntary. The involuntary is broken down further. We can divide it into two parts: the sympathetic, which is the “increasing action” and the parasympathetic, which is the “decreasing action”. And when we have the sympathetic and parasympathetic in balance, we are in our natural state, We call this calm confidence or soft power. There’s a combination of both activation—you can get action done. And then there’s also a calm around it, which is the parasympathetic. So you can kind of think of it as the gas and the brake. Now the parasympathetic decreases action, and sometimes that’s important. But also it can be so slow—we can put too much of a break on—and then that’s when we have some issues in the body. The other thing about the parasympathetic that I wanted to make clear is we have two sort of pathways. One is we can have it decrease like a full stop. That’s what we would call the dorsal vagal, or the vagus nerve is involved here. And the dorsal part of that is just basically stop. OK it’s the full brake. We also have the ventral vagal, which is part of the vagus nerve, and this is part of a slowing down. So it’s not a full stop; it’s just an easing off, kind of a coast, light braking. And within that ventral vagal, or because it does this slowing down, there are parts of the body that can help us go into this state. This is what’s so beautiful about certain animals and humans included is that we have something called the Social Engagement System. This was coined by Stephen Porges who wrote the Polyvagal Theory. There are other animals that use this as well. But I wanted to talk about what are these things that we can do for ourselves that can help to either prevent the full-on trauma response from happening, or we can resolve it using these pieces. So the ventral vagal, or the Social Engagement System, includes five parts: the breath, or the respiratory rate; the heart, which is, again, these are involuntary right? the heart rate; and the ears, which is very interesting. The inner ear has a tiny little muscle called the stapedius. It’s the tiniest muscle in the body. It’s just a few millimeters long. I just imagine it being so cute! That is in the inner ear, and that’s affected by this system. We also have the voice—through the larynx and pharynx—it’s innervated, and this is another part of this social engagement system—voice, and also head turning, like turning the head left and right. So those five pieces in combination can be very helpful for preventing the trauma reflex from happening—the trauma response.
What I wanted to do next was to describe the three possible outcomes when we do have a perceived threat. So what’s happening in the body? How are these parasympathetic and sympathetic parts of us responding? Well, when we have danger and there is an opportunity to move—so we have danger, and we can get out of there or we could do something about it—with an opportunity to move, we will have a sympathetic activation. So that means we’re going to get activated where—this is fight/flight—so we can either fight, or push our way out of a situation, or push back against a bad situation, or we can get out of there. So when the sympathetic activation happens for us—again, this is a reflex, this isn’t something we’re choosing to do—when that happens, we get more blood flow to the arms and the legs. Imagine, we can use our arms to fight. We can use our legs to kick or run, and so that’s where the blood and the energy is going when we have a sympathetic response like that. So that’s danger and we do have the opportunity to move. It feels safe enough to do that. Now if we have a danger that is there, but we’re not able to move–so now we’ve been, let’s say we’ve been held down or it doesn’t feel safe to do that; we’ve made a decision, a split-second decision, this is not a situation where I can fight or flee—now what will happen is we will have the sympathetic activation but nowhere to go, and at the same time the parasympathetic comes online and says stop. So we’ve got both things. We’ve got the gas on and the brake on at the same time. And this is when we develop the symptomology that is labeled PTSD—Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. It’s not a disorder, it’s just something that they’ve labeled as such. Basically, our body goes through this so that we can be safe. Thank you, body. Thank you, body. But it can get stuck there. And when we get stuck in that—PTSD symptoms—and this can affect us in lots of ways. We’ll talk about more of the symptomology and all of the things to recognize it. Are you/do you have PTSD. A lot of people do. It’s very common. It’s nothing to be afraid of. It’s something that actually can be adjustable, and that’s one of the things we’re gonna be doing today. We’ll be doing a motion that will help. The third thing that happens… So the perceived threat, we’ll review again: danger with an opportunity to move, we get sympathetic activation. Danger/no opportunity to move, we get sympathetic activation and parasympathetic activation. So both are happening—gas and brake at the same time—and we can also call that burnout. It’s actually been labeled in the same way, as far as the nervous system goes, it’s this very similar to the PTSD symptoms. Now the third situation is it’s life threatening—absolutely doesn’t feel like there’s any way out of the situation. We are in full danger. It feels like our life might be over. What animals do, they drop on the ground and they look like they’re dead. So different animals do this, but one of the famous ones—for some reason it’s leaving my brain right now, so I don’t know, I can’t think of what it is—but they feign death. They go into this response, and this is the dorsal vagal—full brake—drop on the ground and look like you’re dead. Oh! Opossum. Playing possum. You may have heard that term before. That’s what animals do when they are feeling that there’s a life-threatening situation. Now, how does this help? Well, certain predators will go after prey if the prey is moving. That’s what alerts them. And they say oh, something’s moving. I’m gonna go after that prey. Well, if you’re looking like you’re dead, then the predator is gonna walk away and say oh that’s not worth my time. Or, it’s not motivated by the movement, because there is none. So we call this feigned death, or this is the trauma reflex that we can call withdrawal or just shut down, basically. What I wanted to say about those three things then, is after the threat has gone, after the threat has left, and we’re feeling safe again, our body will go through some discharge. So we talked about this in the first episode. There’s sort of an equation of life. We have tension, we increase the charge in our body, then we discharge, and now we can go into relaxation. So that discharge part of the equation of life happens after a trauma reflex, and we will tremble and shake, maybe, a little bit. Maybe there’ll be some temperature changes—hot/cold flashes. Our breath will change. We’ll slow down the breath. So we’re discharging all the energy, and now we can get back into our balanced state, which is our natural state, where this sympathetic activation and parasympathetic deactivation are in balance. If we, however, don’t have the opportunity to go through the full reflex and complete it—resolve it—we can get stuck. We can get stuck somewhere along the way. So we can get stuck in the sympathetic activation where you feel tension. Maybe there’s pain, maybe your heart rate is up, maybe there is a faster breathing/shallow breathing. Those kinds of symptoms can be there for that stuckness. If we get stuck in the competing—the brake and the gas; that parasympathetic and sympathetic—when they are stuck there, we can get other symptoms that we call PTSD. So this can be maybe you’ve got nightmares, maybe you’ve got things that kind of, thoughts that keep rolling through you. They just keep repeating. Ruminating thoughts, and digestive issues, there’s all kinds of things that can happen. We’ll talk more about symptomology next week. I would like to do another episode because trauma is a big thing in my life, and how I work with people. And I think it’s really helpful to know is this me? does this apply to me? So we’ll get we’ll get into more of that next time. So the other thing that can happen because it’s getting stuck, now we have a place in our body maybe that has pain or tension, or it’s kind of a chronic thing. It’s become a problem, and this constriction or tension can also lead to numbness or pain, and our body responds. And so I’ll show you, and this is how it works in the motion. So when we go into sympathetic activation, we tend to lift our chest, lift our chin, our eyes maybe even lift. We’re kind of more exposed or open like this. Maybe the back arches, tailbone lifts a little bit. You might feel more tension in the arms and the legs. So that’s a sympathetic activation. In the world of Feldenkrais and Hanna Somatics, they call this the green light reflex. So you’re ready for action. You’re opening up, and you’re getting ready. We can also have the parasympathetic or that shutdown, and this would collapse our chest, we would maybe roll the shoulders in, our chin would come forward—our face comes forward—and we would have a tightness through the belly and a rounded spine/curved spine—slumped, basically. And we might feel loose in the muscles and sort of flaccid—we don’t have a lot of muscular definition. This is the shutdown. And that’s called the red light reflex. OK, so we have the green light/sympathetic activation, the red light, which is the parasympathetic or shut down/dorsal vagal, really. It’s the full stop. We can also have a combination of the two. And in the world of Feldenkrais and Hanna Somatics, they call that the trauma reflex. So they don’t call the activated or the deactivated trauma, they call the combination of the two the trauma reflex. And this can create twists. So we would get maybe a twist through the waist, maybe a constriction through the ribs, maybe it’s hard to take a good breath—those kinds of things can happen with that combination of the two.
So the other thing I’d like to say is that the pelvic floor, which is where our legs come together in the middle there, the pelvic floor is—I kind of like to think of it as the first line of defense. So is it tight? or is it loose? And that can kind of help us to know which of these places we might be stuck in. So if there are things like urinary tract infections—frequent things like that—or vaginitis, that’s something there. Or maybe there’s also a constipation/diarrhea kind of fluctuating. IBS is a familiar symptom here. So the pelvic floor can react to the different situations we’ve been put in. And the pelvic floor and the jaws are kind of like first cousins. They are very similar anatomically. There’s bones, and there’s muscles, and there’s connective tissue, and they’re very similar between the two. So, oftentimes, that pelvic floor constriction can also lead to a jaw problem, so we can have TMJ, grinding the teeth, and things like that.
So what we’re going to do today with our motion is we’re going to be addressing the way that the body would have responded, and we’re gonna bring ourselves into those positions a little bit, and then we’re gonna ease ourselves out. And by doing that, we’re letting the nervous system kind of join in. And we’re saying hey, this is something that you’re really good at. and I’m going to/we’re going to do that in the body. We’re going to show you how this feels again. And the body goes Oh, yeah, that does feel familiar. And then we’re gonna do something that’s different. We’re gonna ease out of that position. And as we ease out of that position, now we’re saying to the body and the brain/the other part of the nervous system—the thinking part—we’re saying so there’s another option here. We’re not just going to be stuck in these involuntary responses. We can actually bring the thinking brain—the cortex—by paying attention. By really noticing and increasing our awareness of where our body is and what feels comfortable and what feels easy, we are allowing ourselves to get out of the vortex of the trauma and into the cortex of our brain—that’s the thinking brain. And what I love about the words here is they rhyme, so I’m thinking there’s a song lyric in here. I’ve been writing songs for children to understand how to do these motions, and what they can do for them, and I know there’s a lyric in here somewhere. “Instead of vortex-ing, we should be cortex-ing”, or something like that. So it’s just it’s a little thought that’s rolling around up there. In the trauma world, when we work with people who have these constrictions or numbness or, basically, you can call it like an offline quality—internet’s down and the communications not happening—we call that the vortex. So that’s a term that we use in the world that I’ve been trained in. And what Thomas Hanna from Hanna Somatics and Moshe Feldenkrais, from his work, the Feldenkrais Method, both were able to realize and to know is that if we use the cortex—the thinking part of the brain—we slow our motions down, we can really pay attention to all the little details of the motion. And we will talk more about this. This is called pandiculation. It’s a natural thing that bodies do. Like when you wake up in the morning, you might do one of these kind of things (like a morning stretch) that’s a pandiculation. It’s a natural thing that our body does to get itself ready for movement. And you will, for sure, if you’ve seen cats and dogs when they get up from a nap, they do a nice body/full body stretch. And it kind of makes them shiver a little bit or tremble. That is what we’re after. It helps to release the tension from the body. So we’re bringing into our cortex—into our awareness—the things that are involuntary that we’re noticing. And by doing that we can make some changes in how the body reacts. So when we go into a slump, for example, just put yourself in this for now. We’re just gonna try something, OK? Put yourself into a slump. So your head juts forward, your shoulders roll in, your belly contracts, your back gets round. You’re just kind of slumped, OK. When we get in that position, that is sending a signal that there’s a problem. That’s telling the nervous system that we’re in a trauma hold here. We’re in the shutdown. Now let yourself just come out of that slowly, slowly, and then pause there, and take a little breath through the nose. And now we’re telling the body no there isn’t a problem. Everything’s OK in this moment. And then we’ll try the opposite. So now we’re going to lift the chest up, we’re going to arch the back, tip the chin up, maybe the shoulders go back a little, you’ve got an arch in your low back. And feel what that feels like. There’s information coming from that OK. And then s-l-o-w-l-y come out of that position, just coming back to neutral. And what you may notice is that when you’re in that arched position, you feel more activated. You feel like oh, wow, I’m getting ready for action. So when we are in that position, that’s actually sending a signal that again there’s a problem—we’re in sympathetic activation. So being aware of body posture, being aware of am I slumping? Am I arching? That’s really helpful. But I don’t want you to just say oh, I’m recognizing I’m slumping and then pop out of it, OK? That’s important not to just pop out. What we want to do is, if we notice that we’re there, s-l-o-w-l-y come out of it. Slowly, slowly coming out of the position so that we’re not upsetting the system again. We’re not putting more pressure on the system, right? The system’s already in a position that’s sending a signal that says yeah, something’s not right. So if we ease ourselves out of that, now we can come into a more neutral way of being.
I did want to talk about the Social Engagement System a little bit more in depth. So we said there were five pieces: the breath, the heart, the ears, the voice, and head turning—these five pieces. So examples of what you can do for yourself, if you feel like either I’m stuck in the trauma reflex. I feel it in my body. I feel some tension somewhere. These things can help to resolve that, OK. These are helpful tools that you can use for yourself to help resolve that. The other time that they are helpful is if there is a situation where it feels like it’s going to be/we’re going to go into trauma reflex here. We’re going to have some activation either of the sympathetic or the parasympathetic, and something’s going to happen. And you know that it feels strong for you. These are things that you can do for yourself to help prevent further cascade of this reflex. And we can do this for others, too. This is really, I think, vital information for teachers and firefighters and anyone—first responders—anyone that’s around people who might be having these reflexes. First aid workers, Red Cross, those kinds of people, FEMA. All those people should know these things so that they are helping people rather than just sitting quietly with them. They can actually be doing some things to help them process through what just happened for them, and they can not get stuck in the trauma reflex.
So one of the things is we can hear pleasant voices and sounds. We can make our own. We can talk quietly to ourselves. We can make a nice humming sound, or we can do that for another person. And this is called prosody, when we have a nice pleasant tone to the voice. It’s kind of a sing-songy quality kind of goes up and down in pitch, and it’s gentle, and it’s soothing and calming. So that sends a signal through that little part of the ear, the teeny tiny muscle—that’s the stapedius muscle—will respond to these nice sounds. That nice easy voice from ourselves and also from others. So we’re using the voice, which is innervated with the vagus nerve, we’re using the inner ear muscle, again, innervated with the vagus nerve. So we are talking directly to this trauma reflex. So this is one really easy and lovely way to help someone prevent going further into the trauma reflex and also possibly coming out of it. So hearing them; making those sounds; vocalizing those sounds. When I work with people, we use sound. We vocalize so that we can get these stuck places free and loose. And that’s one of the reasons why we use sound, and why I ask people to do a Sigh of Relief—mmmmm. We’re making sound. We can feel the sound vibrating our lips and so forth, so those are how we could use that.
Feeling gentle touch on our face is also very helpful for calming the nervous system and letting it know everything’s OK. So I like to tell people bringing your hands to your face, giving a little pat here, and then just holding yourself—holding your face. And the left side of your face talks to the right side of your brain, so if you’re going to use one hand, use your left one so that it’s talking to the right brain. The right brain is actually what we call the “emotional brain”, and it kind of shuts down after a traumatic event, and we kind of get free of our emotions. And we try to focus, but it’s not easy to focus. So this can really help to talk to the right side of the brain.
So the question just came in that’s asking can you give a a sample of the sound ? Sure, yeah. So when we’re working with the person, let’s say the area of the body in the chest. And we notice/I notice that there’s some place where it’s feeling tense or it’s offline, we would both—the client and myself—be bringing in an aah vowel, at the mid-range of the voice. So we would just direct that sound. Imagining directing itself into a certain part of the body. Aaaaaaaaaahhh, just like that. And by bringing that sound in, we’re creating vibration. We’re hearing the sound of our own voice. We’re feeling it through our throat—our pharynx and larynx—and all of those reasons are why it’s supportive to releasing any kind of stuckness that’s/that might be there.
OK, so we talked about feeling gentle touch on our face. And this also makes oxytocin. Now we’ll talk more about brain chemistry, and what the chemicals that we can make. We make our own drugs. It’s pretty cool. But oxytocin, when you feel touch, and you feel the warmth of touch—even your own or imaginary—you can even just imagine the hug, and you’ll get the oxytocin. And oxytocin actually speaks directly to the amygdala. The amygdala, we call it kind of the alarm bell, or the first responder in the body where it says oh, there’s a problem. You know we have a problem. Perceived threat. Perceived threat. So when we send the oxytocin—we create the oxytocin, and it gets sent. It goes to the amygdala. And it actually has some places where it can receive that oxytocin. So that’s pretty cool. We can do this ourselves. We can calm our nervous system just by creating more oxytocin, such as touching her face here.
All right, another thing that’s going to help with the preventing the trauma reflex from happening, is that we if we lower our heart rate and our respiration rate. So that’s when people say well, just breathe. Breathe slowly. Slow down your breath. We do this in heart coherence. That’s one of the reasons why. And when we slow our… This is what’s really cool about the breath. OK, so we talked about voluntary and involuntary. The breath is one place in our body that we can say breathe, or it can also just be involuntarily breathing for us. And that’s pretty cool. So we have some say in how we feel by directing our breath—by knowing that if I slow my breath down, or if I increase my breath, if I need more activation. So there’s different ways to play with that. We’re in control. We can say I wanna breathe now. I wanna breathe this way. I wanna breathe this long. I wanna try to slow it down. So things like doing the Heart Coherence breath, where we’re breathing in at the same number of seconds as we’re breathing out, we’re telling the nervous system to balance. OK we’re coming into balance. Because when we breathe in, that’s sympathetic activation; when we breathe out, that’s parasympathetic activation. So by keeping them balanced, we can balance those two parts of the nervous system. So that’s what we can do with the breath. And when we slow the breath down, the heart will naturally slow down. So decreasing the heart rate, decreasing the breathing rate, slowing everything down, that’s going to help to resolve the trauma reflex as well.
OK, another thing that’s not in the list of five—the eyes are not one of these things. But the soft gaze. A soft gaze actually creates some hormones. Again, we’re talking about these different chemicals that get made in the body. But one of the things that a soft gaze does is it helps us to feel more nurturing. So this is like looking at an infant. Mother-infant, there will be a soft gaze in the mother’s eyes. And this is a way that we have the ability to connect. So what I mean by a soft gaze is when you’re looking with your eyes, and you’re seeking something, you are in a more focused gaze or a staring gaze. Instead…we can just try this little experiment: So when you want to see something, and you want to look at the details, you’re going to be more focused with your eyes. You’re going to kind of turn off your peripheral vision a little bit, and get kind of tunnel vision. That’s part of the trauma reflex, because we want to focus, right? Instead, we’re gonna try to see if we can soften the gaze, so that we’re not so directing the look, we’re receiving the information. So go ahead and just try this with something in your room, and give it a hard stare—looking for details. Give it a focused eyes. So we’ll just try this together. Focused eyes first. OK. And then just wipe that clean. Now we’ll try it with a soft gaze. We’re just going to close the eyes gently, and then open them to soft gaze, and allow the information to come in to you. Allow the information to come into your eyes—just receiving information. Soft. And you may notice that you feel different, when the eyes are soft like that. So that’s just a nice little way that we can communicate. Again, we’re in charge here, right? We have some say in what happens to us. When we use our eyes in the soft gaze, we’re allowing the nervous system to know we’re not in that tunnel vision, and we can resolve the trauma this way too.
Another question has come in—the balanced breathing. So in the Heart Coherence that we do, we do the even breaths—we have the same in as out, ideally. We don’t have to be too precise about it, but ideally that does help to balance these two parts of our nervous system. Certainly, if we want more parasympathetic or more relaxation, we could slow the out-breath even longer. So there is another way to do it. That’s why I’m saying the breath is just amazing, because it’s not just involuntary and breathing for us, it actually is a voluntary part of us as well. So we can choose how to breathe. So, yeah, that longer extended exhale can slow the nervous system down, and the parasympathetic comes online. So that is also a great tool to use for yourself.
OK just looking at my notes here. OK. Well, one of the things that Moshe Feldenkrais talked about—and then we’re gonna do the motion, OK? We’re going to get there. I promise. But one of the things that Moshe Feldenkrais talked about was that when we have these—when we’re stuck in these—trauma reflexes, (I’m just gonna get a drink of water real quick OK.), when we’re stuck in these trauma reflexes, we get used to a certain feeling. We might get used to the tension. We might get used to the constrictions, and we think of these as normal, because they’re familiar. So we would seek out situations that might encourage that feeling. So, for example, if you’re stuck in the sympathetic activation, you might be one of those people who has to have adrenaline rush activities, like you jump out of airplanes for fun, and/or perhaps you are a really aggressive exerciser, and you do aggressive kinds of workouts. That could be because you’re stuck in a sympathetic activation, and it feels familiar to you, so that you’re going to be seeking out things that would help to make that feel more normal. Our distinction between is this/does this feel good? Do I feel OK? Is my body able to really come into that natural state of calm confidence, or am I just keep seeking more and more and more input more and more and more stress? So what Moshe Feldenkrais said—and I I love this—is he says, “We’re attempting to put pleasure and pain in their rightful places as behavior modifiers.” And that’s what these motions can do. They can help us to find ease and comfort, which maybe feel very unfamiliar—they can feel kind of dangerous to feel OK, and that’s why we learned the Receiving Hands, so that we can really let ourselves feel oh, it’s OK to feel OK. Because it feels different, it can feel a little/can throw you off a little. Like ooh, this feels good. Am I allowed to feel good? Is it OK? Is it safe, or is it just unfamiliar? So with these motions, we’re recognizing when something feels good— something feels OK—and we’re not putting any more pressure in the system. So, compared to most movement and exercise, there is no pain in these. We’re doing them gently. We’re also not going to our maximum—potentially farthest movement of the pattern. We’re trying to keep it small, because all we really need is just enough information to have the hind brain, which is actually the fastest part of the brain—it’s our reptile brain—but it’s super-fast. It’s like a billion, with a B, times faster than our thinking brain. So where the vortex is, that’s the fast part. Where the cortex is—the thinking brain—that’s the slow part. It’s actually kind of like a billion times slower processing speed. But when we can recognize for ourselves whoa, that actually feels pretty easy. My body feels more open. We’ve talked about expansion last week, right. Our body feels more expanded. Now we have the ability to create. And that’s that calm confidence. That’s that soft power. That’s our natural state. When we can recognize does this feel OK? and I’m letting that come in—receiving that. And this does not feel OK, I’m gonna choose to recognize oh, this actually makes me feel/it’s kind of tight and kind of tense, and there’s pain, and it’s not comfortable, right? Noticing what’s uncomfortable. When we have the information more clear for ourselves, this distinction— “putting pain and pleasure in their rightful places as behavior modifiers”—that’s gonna tell us Oh, well, if I sit in that position and my body starts to feel cramped up, I’m gonna recognize that. The more I practice recognizing what is easy, comfortable, and pain free, now I can adjust the way that my body moves. And this actually builds up our self-confidence as well, because we’re not putting ourselves into positions of danger. We’re not putting ourselves into positions that hurt us. We’re choosing to find ease and comfort. So, yes, receive the good. Find the good when you can. Feel good. Those are all really helpful pieces of information. And what’s very interesting too about the body is 80% of the information that travels through our body—from our body and brain—80% of it travels up to the brain. Only 20% travels to the body, so who’s in charge here? I like to think the body. And Bessel van der Kolk wrote a book called “The Body Keeps the Score”. The body has the information that is going to help us to know am I OK? And if the body feels good, and there’s ease and there’s comfort, and pleasure even, all that information is going up, and the brain gets it. The brain goes oh, I’m/I don’t need to keep making these trauma reflex chemicals and put you into a danger. So that’s the behavior modification. Listening. Noticing what’s happening for me. What’s the information I’m receiving? And then sending that—having it be sent up—so that we can come out of the vortex, go into the cortex, and get ourselves all squared away.
Alright. I guess I’d like to just make a tying up statement that trauma is a perceived threat; doesn’t necessarily have the same thing for everybody; your body reacts—does these different possibilities depending on what the situation is; we can resolve it, complete it; tremble a little bit, and we’re done. Or it can get stuck somewhere. And what we’re doing today is we’re gonna release some of the stuckness for you in easy ways. And this will improve your posture as well as stopping the onslaught of the information that says there’s a problem. OK, so this is a really simple one. Let’s go ahead and get ready for the motion. It’s helpful to have a seat that you’re sitting on that’s not too squishy. So we want something that’s kind of a hard-bottomed chair, and level. So I didn’t make this preparation before the podcast, so if you can’t find it right now, go back and watch this again, and you can do it with the proper seating. But if you/whatever you’ve got, is good for right now. We’ll just learn the motion, and then we’ll take it from there. So what we’re doing in this motion is we are going into two of the trauma reflex positions—the red light reflex and the green light reflex. So as we go into each of these, we’re gonna go in as far as is comfortable the first time. We’re going to do three sets. We’re going to go as far as is comfortable the first set, into a slump position and then into an arch, and we’re going to pass through the middle. And as we pass through the middle, we’re gonna slow it down enough that you can notice what feels neutral. In other words, I’m not arched, and I’m not curled. And then we’ll go to the other end, and we’ll go to the arch, and we’ll come back through the middle. The second set, we’re gonna go just half as far into both of these positions, and passing through center, again, noticing what’s neutral for me. And we’ll go again to the arch, and then come back to neutral. And then we’ll do the third set, where we just barely go into the body position of curl, and then pass through center, and go into—just barely—just a little bit of the arch, and then come back to neutral. So the reason why we’re doing this is to show you how to find the center place where it’s neutral, where you’re not trying anything/not doing anything, you’re just released. We’re also trying to help you to understand the way that these motions really work. We don’t have to go all the way in, we can just go in a little bit, and the pattern that plays will continue. All the neurons will be sending that information, even if we’re not doing the movement as big. Now in Feldenkrais, you can actually end up doing these motions in your mind only. Talk about using your cortex, right? So you can just do the motions in your mind only. And the way that he describes it—Moshe Feldenkrais—describes this as I’m wanting to do a particular pattern, so that want or that imagination of that pattern is happening, and I’m not doing it, so the pattern’s being used again to prevent the movement. So we’re actually using it twice. And if you want to, you can even try this for yourself. You can do a fourth one just in your mind. In fact, let’s do that together. I think that sounds like a good plan. OK, so here’s the motion.
Here’s what we’re doing. We’re going to, on a breath in, we’re going to go into an arch, and the back will get arched, the chest will open up, the chin will tip up. And if you have your eyes closed, you’re going to get a little more information than if you have your eyes open. And then s-l-o-w-l-y bring yourself back through center—what you consider to be center. And then as you exhale, we’re going to come into a slump so that the belly contracts, the back gets round, the head juts forward—we’re not dropping the chin down, we’re actually sticking the face straight forward. OK that’s our slump. And now coming back through neutral s-l-o-w-l-y. We want to do this slowly. We’re using our slow part of our brain, so we need to slow it down. Coming back to what we feel is the center—passing through that center. Now we’re going to go into the arch, just half as far as we did before. So, again, the belly is gonna come forward, and the chest comes forward, the back arches, the chin lifts up—just half as far as we did. And then s-l-o-w-l-y coming back through neutral, breathing as you go. And when you find that middle place, just take note of where the middle is. And now we’re going to go into this slump, just half as far. So the belly will curl, the back will round, the shoulders come forward, the head juts forward—straight out from your face—like you’re putting your face in someone’s business. That’s half as far as you did before. Then s-l-o-w-l-y coming back into that middle place—coming back through middle—just noticing what is middle for you. And then this one we’re going to do an arch again, but just a really small one—so just a tiny little arch. Maybe a little lift of the chin, the back arches, and then we come back through our neutral position—our middle place—finding where it’s easy to be. And then we’ll do the curl. Again, just a tiny, tiny little one. Head forward, belly curled, back is rounded, shoulders forward. And then s-l-o-w-l-y coming back through the neutral place—the middle place. And let’s add a fourth one here, just in your mind/just in your imagination. Imagine you’re going into that arch, but don’t do it. Just imagine it. The brain doesn’t know the difference. And then s-l-o-w-l-y imagine coming back through neutral, finding that middle place where it’s easy to be. And then imagine going into the slump again. We’re not doing it, we’re just imagining it. Breathing as you go. And then imagine coming out of that and coming into our middle place again. And then you can open your eyes, and you can turn all your efforts off and breathe. Take a break, take a breath.
So you may have noticed that you’re sitting straighter or more easily. You’ve got easy posture. It’s easy for you to be there—not having to try to do anything. Maybe you notice that you’re breathing a little bit better. Noticing the pelvic floor. We talked about the pelvic floor being the sort of first line of defense. And so you may notice your pelvic floor softer. Anything that you notice. And if you’d like to put in the chat what you did notice, that would be great.
OK well that’s what I have to share with you today. I thank you so much for joining in. And send yourself some appreciation for doing so. We will be learning more about trauma and the symptoms of the getting stuck here in next week’s gathering. And I’m, again, so grateful that you’re here with me. I’m Pamela Stokes. This has been Move Into Coherence. Take it easy.