The following are principles and terms that I have thus far focused on in the Summer Series. This may be helpful for you, especially if you are not familiar with Body-Mind Centering® or English is not your mother tongue.
TONE is vibration and has many faces, such as:
- Auditory tone, tone of the universe, earth, nature.
- Each person has their own unique tone underneath all the fluctuating overtones and undertones.
- Cellular tone, tissue tone, body system tone, emotional tone, cultural tone, tone of day, month, year...
We have been focused on muscles and postural tone.
MUSCLE TONE is the resting state of a muscle or muscle group, and its readiness to respond.
- It has two kinds of contractions: shortening/concentric and lengthening/eccentric contractions.
- When the muscle on one side of a joint shortens, the muscles on the opposite side lengthen. The opposite sides are traditionally called antagonists but they are really complements in naturally flowing movement.
The science of anatomy, kinesiology, physiology, neurology, psychology, sociology… are personal, cultural, political, philosophical, sociological. They are defined by people.
- The muscles are named according to their shortening/concentric contraction. However, when we move toward or away from gravity, what goes up also comes down, and what comes down also goes up.
- The muscles on the top of a joint in relation to the earth are the necessary muscle for an action to take place. They shorten to lift the bones and lengthen to lower the bones.
- It is only when the movement occurs parallel to the earth that muscles on both sides of a joint need to shorten for the movement to occur in both directions.
Whichever side of the joint is necessary for a movement to occur, actively engaging the opposite side will transform the movement from a local, isolated action into an integrated whole body movement.
To fully understand the muscle principles I have just described requires intense curiosity and many hours of personal research, exploring different joints through movement in different relationships to gravity and space with yourself and others. It takes desire and perseverance.
POSTURAL TONE is the overall body tone as experienced through the muscles. It is relative and fluctuates with movement, emotions, health, culture, etc. and expresses in two ways:
- Condensing postural tone is a fluid, spiralic weaving together of the muscles and underlying tissues. This is a gathering and yielding into the earth and self. It provides density and strength. Condensing postural tone increases on the underside of the body in relation to the earth.
- Expanding postural tone is a fluid, spiralic weaving apart of the muscles and underlying tissue. This is a spreading, opening into space and other. It provides lightness and spaciousness. Expanding postural tone increases on the upper side of the body in relation to the earth.
REFLEXES are organized patterns of tonal flow. They are handed down as potential through the ancestors since before the big bang. However, they must be stimulated into existence. Once stimulated and integrated, they can exist without the stimulus and the stimulus can occur without the response.
Reflexes underline our survival. However, they can manifest in opposite ways. For example, through the Tonic Labyrinthine Reflex, we can bond to the earth’s gravity or fight the earth’s force. We can bond to heaven’s spaciousness or we can reject heaven’s spaciousness. We can be overcome by the heaviness of gravity or by the vastness of space or we can become a bridge - a child of heaven and earth. All reflexes have this possible dual response.
TONIC LABYRINTHINE REFLEX occurs due to our relationship to the earth and contact with a supporting surface. There is a condensing postural tone on the underside of the body and an expanding postural tone on the upperside of the body:
- When lying on the belly (prone), the muscles on the front side of the body (frontbody) increase in condensing postural tone, and the muscles on the back of the body (backbody) increase in expanding postural tone.
- When lying on the back (supine), the backbody muscles increase in condensing postural tone, and the frontbody muscles increase in expanding tone.
- When sidelying on the right side, the muscles on the right side increase in condensing tone, and the muscles on the left side increase in expanding tone.
- When sidelying on the left side, the muscles on the left side increase in condensing tone, and the muscles on the right side increase in expanding tone. When in an upright vertical posture, condensing tone increases in the flexor muscles of the body and expanding tone increases in the extensor muscles. (Note: the flexors are on the front of the body except for the legs, where the flexors are on the back due to rotation of the legs in the embryo.)
- When in an upright inverted posture, condensing tone is increased in the extensor muscles of the body and expanding tone is increased in the flexor muscles. (Note: the extensors are on the back of the body except for the legs, where the extensors are on the front because of rotation of the legs in the embryo.)
POSITIVE SUPPORTING REFLEX occurs due to contact with a supporting surface. The part of the body in contact with the supporting surface increases in condensing tone and the opposite side increases in expanding tone. For example:
- When the soles of our feet are in contact with a supporting surface, there is an increase of condensing tone in our feet and tail, and an increase and expanding tone in the top of our head and palms of our hands. This is active in standing postures.
- When the top of our head is in contact with a supporting surface, there is an increase in condensing tone in the top of our head and the palms of our hands, and an increase in expanding tone in our tail and the soles of our feet. This is active in headstands.
- When the palms of our hands are in contact with a supporting surface, there is an increase in condensing tone in the palms of our hands and top of our head, and an increase in expanding tone in our tail and soles of our feet. This is active in transitioning from a hands and knees posture to a hands and feet posture (table to downward dog asanas).
- When the tail/perineum is in contact with a supporting surface, there is an increase in condensing tone in the tail/perineum and soles of the feet, and there is an increase in expanding tone in the top of our head and palms of our hands. This is active when sitting and engaged in hand activities, such as writing, reading, typing.
MIDLINE AND LATERAL LINE
- Lying on the belly (prone) and on the back (supine) are oriented around the midline of the body.
- Sidelying on each side is oriented around the lateral lines on both sides. The lateral line in fish orients them to the other fish. When we join together in a circle, we are orienting through our lateral line around the circle and through our midline with those who are across from us.
Remember that once a reflex is activated by a stimulus and integrated, the stimuli is no longer necessary for the response to occur. Also the stimulus can occur without the response appearing.
This is a beginning. In exploring this material, remember that what I am presenting here is about embodiment rather than thinking. This way of learning is a big shift from the way most of us have been taught to learn. In my book, Sensing, Feeling, and Action, I wrote about nervous system learning and cellular experience learning:
Your questions are important and I hope you will continue sharing them with me. I encourage you to explore your questions within your own body. Allow your cells to learn in a way they may not have been empowered to experience before. This is a process and a lifelong journey. Thank you for sharing this process with me.
You can find the Summer Series Resource page here.