Somatic Exercise Cycles -- The Power of Integration

Somatic exercise cycles are sequences of somatic exercises done repeatedly to accomplish a purpose.

Somatic exercises are methodically-done movement patterns that work with so-called "muscle memory" (actually, better stated as "movement memory") to dissolve habitual patterns of movement memory (implanted by trauma and stress, such as pain and stiffness associated with aging) and to replace them with healthier, more variable and free patterns of movement memory.

Now, if you've got that paragraph under your belt,
we may continue . . . . .

If not, better go back and get it, as everything that follows builds upon it.


Now, each somatic exercise works with a single movement pattern -- examples being inhalation, exhalation, backward bending, forward bending, twisting, etc.

In life and movement, at least two movement patterns are always involved with any action.  Every bending movement must have its opposite straightening movement; every twisting, its untwisting.  Without its opposite, we are stuck.  Imagine going through life bent over and twisted.  Know somebody like that?

That's a small clue to the use of somatic exercises to undo unhealthy stuck patterns of movement.  (What makes them unhealthy is the excessive muscular tension and lack of suppleness that's involved -- leading to nerve impingement, joint degeneration, chronic pain.)  Movement patterns assemble into patterns of coordination.

Hence, the array of somatic exercises found in Thomas Hanna's "Myth of Aging" series and in my own "special purpose" somatic exercise programs.  They fit together like the pieces of a jigsaw puzzle to constitute patterns of coordination for activity in daily life.

Somatic exercises work two ways:
  1. to undo the habituation we might have in a posture or movement pattern
  2. to develop healthier patterns of posture and better control of movement -- generally free-er and better-functioning
To do so, somatic exercises awaken awareness of how we are habituated/stuck and develop voluntary control of those habituated patterns (generally, simultaneously) so that we can either do habitual movements more freely or move differently, freely and at-will.

So far, so good.  Still with me?


Now, just as visual depth perception requires two viewpoints (left eye and right eye), and just as visual depth perception gives us more and different visual information than sight through one eye, more than one somatic exercise can address a habituated/stuck movement pattern or posture, and when more than one is used, we get a kind of kinesthetic depth perception that gives us both more sensory information and more control than we can get by one somatic exercise, alone.

Here's where somatic exercise cycles come into play.

There exists a way of using more than one (and more than two) somatic exercises to address especially stuck conditions or to get larger changes faster with not-so-stuck conditions.

The steps are these:
  1. Identify two or more related somatic exercises that either belong to the same larger coordination pattern or that address the same muscle groups in different ways.
  2. Practice each exercise until well-internalized (remembered and fruitful in producing its specifically-intended change.  (rule of thumb:  seven cycles or until "milked for all it's worth")
  3. Cycle through the identified exercises, one after the other.
I'll give you some examples of related somatic exercises that can be assembled in this way.


example:  Lesson 1 of The Myth of Aging series
Landau Reaction is a movement/action pattern involved in sitting, standing, and walking.  It involves the backs of the shoulders, spinal erector muscles, buttocks, and hamstrings.  Its purpose is to bring the person erect through the action of backward extension.

Lesson 1 of this series, therefore, involves movement elements for each of these places, first done individually, then assembled into a single, larger pattern.

This exercise, when followed by Lesson 2 of The Myth of Aging series (which addresses the movement of curling forward), constitutes a "unit of movement" -- straightening and bending.

That understood, I can now identify four entire somatic exercise lessons that, when learned and then put into a cycle, get more done than any one of the exercises can, by itself:
  1. Lesson 1 of The Myth of Aging series
  2. Somatic Exercise for Hip Joint Pain (posterior)
  3. Free Your Hamstrings
  4. The Athletes' Prayer for Loose Calves
Each of these exercises gets something done that is not done well by the others; each addresses an element of Landau Reaction; each provides its piece of the "jigsaw puzzle".  I've noted four movements; you could do three or two, but more movements provide higher integration.

The proper approach is to learn each of these exercises well and to get the result of each, then to cycle through them, (1.) - (4.), repeatedly.

Of course, other sequences of exercises, related by function, exist.

In the program, Free Your Psoas, the first exercise, "Locating the Center of Breathing", produces system-wide changes in the direction of greater freedom.  The second exercise, "Slide and Turn", disarms muscular restrictions that force legs into a knee-out or knee-in twist that would interfere with the third exercise, Walking into the Floor, which requires that freedom (and awakening of sensory awareness) to reach the psoas muscles.  The exercises that follow integrate the freedom resulting from the earlier exercises into a well-coordinated pattern.

So, I've just outlined two different approaches to using more than one somatic exercise to accomplish a single purpose.

There exist situations where the trauma of an injury is so great that a person contracts (involuntarily) a single muscle or muscle group so strongly (with the physiological intention to immobilize), and in entanglement with other muscular actions that no one somatic exercise is sufficient to disarm the situation.

Here's where two or more somatic exercises that address the involved region can get the job done.  It's a little like having more than one person reassure you that "everything is all right", vs. having just one person reassure you.

example:  The Gluteus Medius Muscles
A condition of having your leg yanked in an accident (such as falling off a horse with your foot caught in the stirrup and being dragged for a quarter mile) provides a protective response of holding on to your leg for dear life.  You prefer to keep your leg attached.  So you (reflexively) contract all of the muscles around your hip joint.

Well and good.  You've kept your leg; but you've lost freedom, as now those muscles are painfully contracted all the time.

It's not about any one muscle, but about an action involving muscle pulls from many directions, at once, but all summating/adding together to hold onto your leg.

The glueus medius muscles have several movement functions:
  1. providing stability during walking or running, as the pelvis turns from side-to-side (i.e., active external rotation of the thigh in the hip joint)
  2. movement of the leg backward (extension)
  3. pulling your hip bone and thigh together (hipbone/iliac crest down) in an action that lifts the opposite hip, in walking
  4. (Note that although these muscles can abduct (move sideways) the leg, that's not their typical function.)
In the situation described, no one somatic exercise addresses all these movements.  However, a combination of exercises can address these movements.

A corresponding combination might be:
  1. Lesson 4 of the Myth of Aging series
  2. Somatic Exercise for Hip Joint Pain (posterior)
  3. Lesson 8 of the Myth of Aging series
You first learn each of these exercises well (memory plus results); then cycle through them repeatedly -- according to your energy level, result obtained, and interest.

So that outlines the principles and practices of cycling through somatic exercises.

Muscle Memory Isn't Muscle Memory
An Entirely New Class of Therapeutic Exercises
All Somatic Exercise Programs | Free Your Psoas | Free Yourself from Back Pain

The Omniverse Dream of Existence

"Row, row, row your boat
gently down the stream.
Merrily, merrily, merrily, merrily,
life is but a dream."

This sagacious verse recapitulates (restates, re-presents) a concept found in Enlightenment philosophy -- the idea that life is illusory (Maya, samsara). It also holds a clue to one of the "hard" questions of neuroscience:  How do nervous impulses, electro-chemical pulses that travel along the length of nerves to, and within, the brain, get experienced as sensation?

It also, however, reinforces an error:  that life is illusory and should not be given credence.  Another term for this error is, irresponsibility.

This piece clarifies the idea and experience of "dreamed reality" and integrates it with the idea and experience of physical reality.

TENET 1:  There is no escape from experience.

TENET 2:  "Mind" and "body" are concepts that artificially and falsely suggest two separate things that are actually two perspectives -- a "field" perspective and a "particle" perspective -- of one thing.  Sensation and mental events are "field" experiences; movements are "particle" experiences.  Particle and field are one, just as sensation and movement are one and just as and mind-and-body are one.

TENET 3:  Dreams have both a tangible (objective) aspect and an intangible (subjective) aspect.

Rapid eye movements (REM) and other changes of physical state during dreams, and moving of the lips and mouth when learning to read show that dreaming and thinking have a tangible component.  It's the basis of the lie-detector test which, though not entirely reliable as a test of truth, is reliable as a way to measure subjective state.

TENET 4:  The Universe is a "dream of many dreams."   Obviously, there is the physical Universe, which, although measurable, we experience via the same kind of narratives and sensory experiences and thought processes by which we experience dreams -- and there are all the persons within that Universe, who, as individuals, have individual perspectives and unique dreams.  So, the Universe is a "dream of many dreams."

TENET 5:  The "physical" universe is a great domain where an indeterminate number of interaccommodating dreams co-exists within it.

TENET 6:  The "physical" universe is a focal-location of converging, but all slightly different, neighboring dream-universes; in their overlap (similarity), these neighboring universes mutually reinforce one-another.  With sufficient mutual reinforcement, matter congeals into tangible patterns, which we call physical reality, and those tangible patterns interact, which we call events. 

An indeterminate number of "physical" universes exists, each being a slightly different focal-location where neighboring, more or less similar, intercommunicating dream-Universes converge and co-exist.  They are all different, more or less.  "Closer" dream-Universes are more similar (a definition of convenience).  They are separated by (interface at) "zones of indeterminacy" (experienced by us as "zones of incomprehensibility").

TENET 7:  Human consciousness is a "tuning" process whose dreams (imaginings or memories) tune in (or match up) to closest-matching "physicality-patterns," giving rise to experiences that seem to confirm the truth of what is remembered or imagined. 

TENET 8:  In physical reality, the statistical probability of any event occurring in the HERE-NOW moment of a local Universe is either 0% or 100%, nothing else.

Other seeming statistical probabilities than 0% or 100% come from a mathematical way of looking at remembered things, a way of integrating memories of past occurrences in a single, abstract (mental and general, not physically specific) view.  Mathematical, statistical probability defines the position (probability) of this apparent universe in relation to the position (probability) of neighboring universes, in a balancing act of forces among them.  But the actuality of anything is either 0% or 100%.

TENET 9:  More fixated, less changeable forms of consciousness give rise to a "One Universe" experience, the way it gave rise to the "flat Earth" perception of the world.  Most human consciousness is a leaky "One Universe" experience, where dreams and alternate possibilities may encroach, but cannot "anchor" and become tangible, and so deflect.

TENET 10:  As consciousness (or somatic development) becomes more complex and flexible, it gives rise to more options for sensation and behavior, at first leading to development of new behaviors (and technology) drawn from closely neighboring universes, and eventually leading to the ability to attune to other "dreamed/actual" universes with different histories and futures (memories and imaginings, both tangible and intangible, objective and subjective).

TENET 11: With sufficient freedom to attune to neighboring universes ("non-attachment"), consciousness becomes able to shift its "center of gravity" by attuning to the feel of a neighboring universe, a phenomenon I call, "side-slipping".  The first step is to "lift anchor" by dissolving the grip of memory; the second step is to attune to an imagining.  Practically speaking, the old memory may serve as a "pushing off" point toward an imagining.  Lifting anchor and pushing off lead to a shift -- but only if escape velocity from the attraction of the old memory is achieved (anchor really lifted).  Death is a really good way for lifting anchor for a shift.

In such a shift, memories of the previous universe may persist ("I don't remember things being this way." "Something's changed.") or previous memories may dissolve (unnoticed side-slipping).  Memories either persisting or dissolving set the relative degree of availability of the previous memory of "how things were."  It's not that old experiences are "gone"; it's that they're improbable or hard to reach from the universe to which we are momentarily attuned.  In other words, "You may not (or no longer) be able to "get there from here" -- but there are neighboring universes closer to "there" to which you can attune, and from one of those neighboring universes, "get there" from the new "here".  Stepwise.

Alternately, instead of side-slipping, one may bring in information and capacities from a dream-universe into ones local universe. It may go either way.

"Row, row, row your boat
gently down the stream
-- any.
Merrily, merrily, merrily, merrily,
life is but a dream
-- one among many."

So, Life is a dreamed reality -- one among many -- but a dream with sufficient organizing forces (integrating forces of probability, or tendency) to give pattern to matter (the "sub-dream", substrate, or first-order creation), and to create patterns of higher order, such as objects or living somas (e.g., persons) or relationships (life events).

The first-order dream -- physical, inanimate reality -- consists of balancings of opposing physical forces and oscillations into-and-out-of existence (primal "vibration"), which goes on throughout the sub-atomic world.  The sub-atomic world scintillates.  That's the nature of electron fields, why they have the shapes that they do.

Atoms are equilibrium vortices where scintillations are sufficiently synchronized in balance to define a stable pattern of function that doesn't just disappear, and sufficiently a-synchronously unbalanced to show up as activity. Synchronization/balance are functions of the field, the dreamed-probability field.  (Don't bother asking, "Who is the dreamer?"  None is needed.  Dreaming is an emergent universal, or trans-universal, process, most primordial.  "Dreamers" are third-order manifestations that occur, developmentally, long after the first-order dream of "materiality" occurs, with the appearance of somas).

During the "out of existence" phase, the local-universe balancing-of-opposing-forces (at specific locations) disappears and the changing forces of tendency (dream-forces) of neighboring universes prevail.  The out-of-phase location of the universe comes back into existence instantaneously different -- as there exists no inertia in non-existence  -  influenced both by its own larger pattern-in-motion and by the pattern-in-motion of neighboring universes, in a kind of "Continental Drift" of the Universes. The drift occurs during the "out of existence" moments and then the local universe comes back into existence more-or-less changed or reshaped.  It's a kind of Universe side-slipping.  We call the alternation between in-existence (play of forces) and out-of-existence (no forces), "the dynamic of freedom", "activity", or "fundamental motion", or "fundamental time" -- Kosmic Foam, or Kosmic Alka-Seltzer -- relief for Existential Heartburn.

That side-slipping of the Universes, before the appearance of sentient beings with imagination, was the first form of side-slipping.  The whole universe went as a whole.

With the appearance of somas (incarnate, sentient beings with memory and imagination), a new kind of vortex appeared at 100% probability :  dream-vortices with the dream of autonomy, dream vortices that first perpetuated very primitive, consistent patterns of behavior (instincts), then more complex vortices able to perpetuate adaptive patterns of behavior (learning), and then, with humans, even more complex vortices with sufficient added capacity for attention-memory-imagination (visionary imagining), so that they could exceed learning, dream a new dream, and side-slip individually, in addition to the side-slipping of the local universe, into forms and conditions not ordinarily dominant in their recent local universe.  Another degree of freedom appeared.

At least two orders of Drift exist in any local universe:  (1) Universal Drift (of the whole physical universe limited by the expanding sphere of the "light-front" originating at the Big Flash (thought I was going to say, "Big Bang", didn't you?)) and (2) Individual Drift of the individual vortices (somatic local-consciousnesses) existing within it, as they attune to different probabilities, at first through dreams and memories, and then through deliberate imagination.

Even so, to any of those somas, even as they/we undergo Individual Drift, everything tangible is either 100% or 0%, even if, in mind, things may seem something in between.   (NOTE: never more than 100% -- that's an improper use of "%", sort of like saying, "very unique", when "unique" means "one of a kind").

Within a more stable situation, somas play with probabilities within the scope of their remembered experience of Life.  They play with existing alternatives, known things and known processes, and when they do, they create artifacts that have more-or-less stable existence -- objects of all sorts -- which are gatherings together of some of the "first-order dream" (matter and energy flow) into patterns that reflect and conform to the second-order dream (life-forms) to the third-order dream (conceptions, plans, designs, formulas).  They create things that they keep or leave behind, the way the snail and the nautilus grow their shells as they live, then leave them behind when they die.

But through the encroachment of dreams into the waking state, new information is brought in, new information comes in and shows up as new behaviors and as new artifacts.

In either case, the dream pattern shows up tangibly, in material physical form.

That's a clue about how electro-chemical impulses in the nervous system show up as sensory/mental experience.  Those electro-chemical impulses have a dream-component, the subtle field that shaped (during gestation) and shapes (during life) the organization of the biological person.  There is a field, a "dream field".  It is "the dream of body", or "the dream of soma".  It's an outgrowth of the Universal "first-order dream" of physical reality and the "second-order dream of self-moving life".  The outgrowth is a "super-dream" of somatic vortices, physically existing selves, self-perpetuating, locally conscious (always "here" to ourselves) with memory and the ability carry out, in actions, what is remembered and imagined; a "super-dream" of somatic vortices (conscious, individual selves) in both "sub-" (inanimate) and "super-(animate)", but generally subconscious and subliminal communication with somatic vortices in neighboring universes -- alternate selves, relatively similar or different, more or less accessible from our "local universe", or from more or less similar neighboring universes.  Hence, the unpredictable and sometimes exotic nature of dreams.

The body is dreamed, all its parts are dreamed and remembered in the subtle organizing field, which is what gives pattern to matter and energy (particle and field).  The physicality "remembers" the dream-field, physiologically, not just in the cells, but in the larger patterns of physiological state and behavior.  It's dreamed, and the dream-field that gives rise to 100% actuality is the integrated probability focus of all more-or-less neighboring dream universes, ever-changing in Universal Drift and Individual Drift.  Drifting dream, tangibly congealed and changing.

In cases of physical injury or drastic changes of life, a discontinuity occurs in memory that may displace the individual too far from his or her familiar dream-configuration to return without extraordinary measures -- a kind of amnesia with both physical and psychological manifestations.

Thus, the illusory (dream) nature of existence is the inner side of the material pattern and the material pattern is the outer side of the dream nature of existence.  Both the inner side and the material pattern are at 100% probability --  actual --  the product of the changing equilibrium of Universal Drift and Individual Drift.  For you Buddhists, this is an expansion of the doctrine of Interdependent (or Dependent) Origination.

The dream of self includes a sense of "local hereness" (wherever we are and however fast or slow we move, we are always, "here", to ourselves), a changing field of memory, an encroaching field of imagination (fantasy), a changing field of sensation, and the odd sense that what we are doing is happening "now", even though we sense our actions after they are underway.  (It is the mysterious act of self-initiative, self-direction, and self-correction guided by imagination, enacted via intention, materially actual, and sensed again  -- the feedback between action, sensation and ongoing action -- that gives the illusion of the "now-ness" of our actions and perceptions.)

The dream of self is a dream of movements between rest and activity involving various things and moving in various ways, dreams of accelerating ourselves into action and decelerating into rest -- moving toward things and interacting with them, or away from or around them, avoiding them -- life remembered, more or less, and imagined and enacted, leaving artifacts and evidence behind in an expanding, tangible trail of dreamed influence.

Those acts of acceleration and deceleration constitute a development beyond the Universe's developmental momentum, a new development. In the universe, gravity is an acceleration, but only lifeforms accelerate, decelerate, and accelerate again in new directions, and in more and more ways and more and more degrees -- just as the physical universe is expanding and accelerating in its expansion, as the omni-Universal Dream flowers in Universal Drift, with Individual Drift flowering within it.