Habituation is the reason why forcing yourself upright will not “fix" your slumped posture. A key theme that underlies the neuromuscular re-education work that we teach in our programs is the understanding that anything that we do repetitively in our bodies becomes a learned behaviour.
More accurately, anything that we do repetitively becomes learned in the brain. Our brain is responsible for “muscle memory” – good or bad. There is no such thing as a muscle having memory – muscles are governed and controlled by the brain and the Somatic Nervous System.
“Red Light Reflex” is the term we use to describe that rounded forward, slumped chest strained neck posture that is so prevalent in society today. Above is a great picture of this posture.
Ever tried to sit up tall and you find you just could not do it? - that is Red Light Reflex.
Have you noticed after a very stressful period in your life, you feel rounded forward and heavy, and that sitting up straight, well it feels almost impossible? - this is Red Light Reflex.
Do you notice that your head is always forward of your shoulders and the back of your neck is often sore? - this too is Red Light Reflex.
In Red Light Reflex the brain holds the front body muscles at a level of contraction over and above what they should be as rest, forcing you to slump forward and down, making sitting up feel like a whole lot of work and this affects breathing, emotions and mood.
What is critical to understand is that all of these front body muscles are contracted short and pulling the front body forward, creating this bowed like presentation in the front of the body.
Said another way, the brain has learned to hold these muscles short and contracted, making standing upright difficult feeing like work.
Is this going on for you? And, have you noticed that no matter how many times you draw your shoulders back, you feel your torso and head slowly slumping forward again?
Remember, this pattern is because of a signal coming from the brain telling these muscles to stay contracted. And, this signal will continue running until a new signal replaces it.
QUESTION: So, how on earth is drawing back, forcing ourselves tall, bracing with the back body, and contracting the lat muscles...how is any of this changing the patterning going on at the level of the brain?
ANSWER: It is not.
Let us stress that forcing yourself upright will not “fix your slumped posture and most often creates other co-contractive problems.
What will fix your slumped posture? Teaching the front body muscles to release long. Teaching them to release long using the skills of neuromuscular re-education. How do we restore upright posture? We teach the muscles of the front body to let go and sit long again using a technique called Pandiculation.
It’s an easy 3-step process: Step 1: Conscious contraction of the front body muscles Step 2: Slow, conscious release of the front body muscles, and Step 3 Conscious rest – sensing and feeling the muscles and the new length that starts to return there. To start learning simple somatic movements that you can do for 5-10 minutes per day to target and replace old patterning with new ones.
Check out our YouTube Channel to view the Arch and Flatten and Flower Exercises which are powerful for creating permanent and lasting change to your posture. Interested to learn more? Awesome! Join us for the live (Virtual) Workshop A Dive into Red Light Reflex Sunday March 28th, 2021 where you will learn so much more and be led though a movement re-education practice to begin to correct any Red Light Reflex Patterns showing up in your body.