Posture and Emotion. Which comes first?

We convey a lot to the world around us by the way we carry ourselves. Our posture can say we are sad and shut down, ready for action, or a bit apprehensive.

Our bodies also contract in to certain full-body patterns when under immediate threat. When startled the belly, chest, inner thighs contract to protect vulnerable bits on the front of the body. This is the startle reflex. We call this the red light reflex. The reflex to make us STOP!

We respond to a threat/call to action with arched backs and puffed up chests, so we can either haul butt from, or attack back against a predator/threat. This is the fight-or-flee reflex. In the somatics world we call it the green light reflex. The reflex to make us GO!

When we experience a physical trauma, such as a sprained ankle, the reflexive response is to bend and twist to protect from further injury. This is what we call the trauma reflex. The reflex to WATCH OUT AND PROTECT YOURSELF!

These reflexes are meant to keep us alive as a species. As an example, eons ago, back on the savanna the green light reflex would either get us out of harm (or we would get eaten), but either way the threat was short lived. If we got away, our bodies would relax and rest after the immediate threat had passed, returning to a state of ease or homeostasis. 

In today's world we are being triggered by events that aren't truly life threatening, but our nervous systems don't know the difference between a saber tooth tiger vs constant pressures of living in a overly stimulating world of social media, traffic, work, politics, family etc. By reacting over and over again to stressors of modern life, we get really good at staying in the contracted patterns of freeze, fight-or-flight or trauma reflexes.

Try it on for yourself. Walk around your space in the startle reflex. Close up your chest and belly. Let your knees bend a bit. Go ahead and lift your face up a bit, because you still need to take care of some of your basic needs, right?

How does this posture feel to you physically? Is it hard to breathe? What do you feel in your gut? How would this pattern impact your digestion if you were doing this with your body all the time? Notice how you shuffle more than walk.

Lastly, how does this pattern feel to you emotionally? I often hear the words sad, depressed, lacking motivation, "easy target," just plain yucky.

But if you sit a lot and tuck your bum under and jut your head forward towards your devices all day long, this alignment of the startle reflex becomes the "normal" way you carry yourself around in life. Your brain and nervous system never settle out of the tension patterns of this posture. You're learning to shut down and withdraw from the world.

You could try this with the flight-or-flee reflex and trauma reflexes as well. Try walking around with an arched back and ask yourself how it feels in your body. And how it feels emotionally. People often report feeling amped up, a bit aggressive, agitated. 

Then try it with a bend and twist to one side. Again what does it feel like physically and emotionally? Often people feel apprehensive, not standing on their own two feet, ambivalent. 

Which brings me back full circle. Which comes first? The emotion or the posture? Or are they just two sides of the same coin? Can you change your mood by letting go of the tension patterns you are habituating day in and day out?

With a Somatic practice, you can become better aware of how the stressors of the world trigger reflexive contractions in your body. AND you can learn how to let go of the tension patterns with pandiculations, the all-natural tension reliever for all vertebrates, including us humans.

People typically come to Somatics for pain relief. But once they start their personal Somatics practice, they often report that their outlook on life, their relationships with family and coworkers, overall mood change too.

If this sounds like something you want to explore please join me for class. I offer live online classes via Zoom and in person when there is no pandemic :-). 

Can't make the live classes? No problem! Subscribe to the Think Somatics Members Library, a huge, ever-expanding compendium of recorded Somatics lessons I create for the whole world to enjoy. Sweet! 

peace to all,


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