Reopening a Closed off Being- How the Red Light Reflex Has Closed off more than just your Physical Body and 3 ways You can Resolve it
This may be exactly what is happening to you whether you are aware of it or not.
Slowly de-evolving into a lesser version of yourself, and if you don't become aware and start to course correct you very well may end up: hunched over, frail, inadequate, incapable and depressed.
Wow! That's an awfully negative way to start an article aimed at assisting people!...
So, I hope you now possess a good understanding of the seriousness of the topic at-hand. Let me clarify first by noting that the "you" I refer to is not meant to be a harsh finger of blame pointed at the "You" I so often refer to. Instead I speak to "you" the vast majority of first-world beings who enjoy the privileges of living in a society that caters to the computer-focused, smartphone-laden, fast-paced, anxiety-filled working man and woman. Even if you feel that you don't fall into this category because you "stay healthy" through many different means, you may be surprised so, LISTEN UP!
- Over 80% of Americans suffer from back pain *1
- 1 in 12 adults suffer from a form of depression *2
- And 18 million Americans suffer from anxiety disorders *3
How in God's name are these un-fun facts all related and why am I sharing them with you?
Endulge me by quickly scrolling your attention back up to the opening lines of this article and strive to actually feel the words…
If you are a conscious human being with a pulse (and without severe Asburgers) then what you just experienced is referred to as what Physiologist Thomas Hanna has termed "The Red-Light Reflex." *4 Physically defined by an individual's hunched over shoulders, forward-jutting head, depressed chest and short breaths. This reflex is actually a defense mechanism found in all vertebral animals in response to stressful situations *5. Some of these situations include things like: coming face to face with a wild grizzly bear, or holding the remnants of your tribe's stolen food supply, or slumping over your keyboard for your 13th hour in your 8 hour work day in order to meet the deadline that your boss plopped on your desk this morning.
Starting to connect a couple of the dots yet?
While we are enjoying the privileges of living in a society in which mortal dangers no longer lurk around each corner, the predator we live among today is equally as deadly- this of course is ourselves.
Consider this last situation for a moment- the one about your boss plopping an inordinate amount of work on your desk leaving you anxious, angry, and hunched over for many long hours. More than likely, this is not the first time your boss has pulled this kind of crap- in fact, you maybe even saw it coming! Well let's trace this situation into our physiology and find out the actual effect it is playing on our mind, hormones, and body mechanics.
This experience of the red light reflex on multiple levels (especially if frequent) will eventually lead to bouts of anxiety which, if continued will slowly begin rerouting your neurokineticsc in a fashion that better suits this familiar feeling of anxiety. Your body has become accustomed to these feelings and eventually begins to crave them as a result of specific neuropeptide up-regulation. *6 So now you are literally addicted to anxiety- you are clinically depressed. This newly acquired disorder will undoubtedly be coupled with the physical body's mirroring of the red light syndrome in what anatomy specialist Thomas Myers would call a "recurrent pattern of contraction." Basically, your body has mechanically started to favor the mechanics that best mirrors its startle response (or in this particular case, "depression response") It doesn’t really matter which comes first- the physical manifestation or the mental- If unchanged and ignored the entire body will eventually respond to this new "normal" way of functioning. This is seen in the motor and fascia systems of the body as the connective tissue and stabilizer muscles drape into a more convenient hunched over position- ready to protect from the threat of a predator. This then goes on to shrink the body cavity that houses your most vital organs- straining and squeezing all of your blood-pumping, bile-producing, oxygen-breathing tools which not only keep you mechanically alive, but biochemically as well! Now, because of your recurrent pattern of the red-light reflex your body is incapable of carrying out proper hormone function and blood circulation, further amalgamating your ensuing or already present depression. This of course, if left untreated can lead to common breaking points such as self-sabotage in the form of excessive drinking, drugs, fighting, and even suicide in the most extreme cases.
The example I just gave is simply one of many different stories that could be told as to how and why people wind up closed off and unhealthy as a product of the red-light reflex. If you can grasp the concept that I am aiming to demonstrate that indeed Body Follows Mind and vise versa then you can quite possibly point out the ways in which you are living in this pattern as well. Consistent feelings of: worry, anxiousness, tension, frustration, over-caution, as well as body mechanics of: slumped shoulders, depressed head, tucked hips, heavy brow are all potential suspects in this unhealthy mystery. (If you suspect you might be suffering from any of these, simply ask a close friend or family member for some brutally honest feedback, sometimes it's difficult to know what parts of your "normal" or not so "normal").
So, what can we do to resolve, or at least better our situation?
Assuming you are not ready to abandon your job and dart into the mountains to live as a hunter-gatherer, how do you resolve the detrimental effects that seem to accompany a life that must be lived in this modern society?
Well, abundant are the ways in which we can lift you from the throes of your deadly brain-body patterns that have tied you up in seeming bondage. But in order to save you time and to keep you from having to slump over any longer as you read this from your laptop, smartphone or tablet allow me to break down this abundance into a few simple practices that if performed regularly can become your body's new recurrent patterns to follow. Expecting to see immediate change and relief overnight is obviously an unreasonable idea- after all, you have been working at creating these patterns for quite likely years and years. The good news is- with a targeted intentional approach to reversing the red-light reflex you can start seeing the benefits far sooner than it took to get you here. Follow these three instructions regularly, and for a more specific protocol that fits in congruence with your routine, give me a holler.
Three ways of reopening a closed off being:
- Decompression breathing- Dr. Eric Goodman makes one of the best cases I have seen to date for his battle against back and hip pain as a product of poor recurrent patterns. Throughout his two books "Foundation Training" and "True to Form" he teaches and instructs readers through a number of different poses and static exercises to perform in an effort to decompress and stabilize the deep core, back and butt muscles. But, at the heart of all of these exercises is the way in which you do them- with lungs completely filled, head retracted back and rib cage expanded to its largest volume possible. Try it right now. You're demonstrating exactly why this is my first instruction listed- you can do it anywhere! And I suggest doing exactly that. Now, I could easily write a lengthy article on this one concept alone, so I suggest reading or looking further into "Foundation Training" or reach out for a customized Foundation Training protocol; but in the meantime, try to find new positions and activities to complete with a hinge at the hips (not the back), head back and slightly lifted, shoulders open and rib cage pulled as far away from the hips as possible. Try it while sitting at your desk, try it while stooping over the copy machine, in the garden while digging up weeds. The action of breathing this way allows your axial skeleton (skull, spine rib-cage) to pull up and away from its anchoring appendicular skeleton (limbs, shoulders, hips) and back into proper decompressed alignment. Try expanding through the nose for 4-5 seconds with a pause on top before exhaling for 5-6 seconds through the mouth while maintaining a high sternum throughout. Ahh, feeling better already!
- Take regular breaks- You hear it all the time from all the health professionals in your life- your doctor, your trainer, therapist, and even that healthy annoying neighbor. So, listen! The more time you spend in your recurrent red-light reflex the more you demonstrate to your body that "this is what is normal, adapt to life like this." By now, I hope you are more than aware that THIS IS NOT THE MESSAGE YOU WANT TO SEND. So, unless your very health-conscious office has adopted treadmill work stations and regular required stretch breaks then it is up to you! You are the sole person responsible for seeing to it that your body is not furthering its unhealthy habits. Make your breaks intentional and often, a walk to the water cooler where you can perform a few decompression breaths, a hamstring stretching bend to tie your shoe (who cares if it's already tied, double-knot that thing!) You get my point. If we are striving to pull your being out of this red-light reflex then we have to take command of the little things. For it is a lot of little things strung together that create a day, a month, a decade of recurrent patterns. So, take a break!
- Live life more open- I've broken this last instruction into two parts because it is needed. I mean, can we imagine someone for a moment who is tied up in an extreme case of red-light reflex? What do you see? Hunched over, timid, anxious, unhealthy! So what would be the opposite of this then?
A. Physically- Ever hear of a power stance? One of my favorite ways of opening up to life and re-capturing control (read more on it here at Have a Good Day Every Day). Just imagine the next time your stressed out, opening up into the biggest version of yourself- throw your head back, open your arms wide and take up as much space as possible. Own it! Whatever it is. No more time for this hunched over, shy, timid, hardly alive and functioning being! You’re the ambassador of your being- Take control!!
Okay, okay I may be getting a bit carried away in my power stance here.
B. Emotionally- What makes you feel opened up to life? For me it comes from new experiences. Travel is great, but even locally we can find a variety of ways to open up to a new experience. Go explore outside, maybe try a hike or a swim in a random river, start a conversation with an interesting stranger (don't be stupid here, I'm not telling you to cozy up next to a tweaker in the park). And if nothing else, force a smile- feel the way your entire body chemistry begins to change as you hold a cheerful face for ten seconds. You'll be happy you did.
So there you have it! 3 simple ways to start chipping away at the recurrent patterns that have begun to, or have continued to keep you in a constant state of (at least on some level) stress, anxiety, poor posture, faulty biomechanics and less than optimal biochemistry. This battle will not be one that is won in a day, or even a year most likely. But, with consistent practice and adoption of a healthy curiosity to improve your life and take back control of a being that has an infinite amount of potential, I implore you- Open up and LIVE! And for more structured, custom programming drop me a line. And of course, Stay Elevated.
- "Somatics" (Hanna, Thomas)
- "You are the Placebo" (DeSpenza, Dr. Joe)