(Adapted from Thomas Hanna of the Somatics Institute) In the middle of work with a client

Dick: So just let yourself sit there. Be comfortable. Close your eyes. Now what I am going to teach you is: how to breathe, and you can all do this (said to the group). Just sit there and feel the way you are supported by the chair, or some of you are sitting or lying on the floor, whatever is your support. Under your feet, under your fanny, on your back, feel the support. Feel how the structure under you reaches up and pushes up and supports you. And feel yourself being supported and allow yourself to accept that support. You don't have to cling to that support; just let go of everything and it is there. Now as you do that, as you do that, have your feel flat on the floor. Now, I will tell you the secret of breathing. The secret of breathing lies in the small of your back. Everything relates to that. I want you to imagine that your are in a position so that you can lay the palm of your hand on your back. Lay it right where the lumbar curve is, where it bends inward. It is right above the crest of the ileum. And it is under the palm of your hand. Get in touch with that, and try to feel that, or at least visualize it while you are breathing. And see whether or not you feel any movement back there. Now as you breathe in and out, you might be aware of your breath moving so that you feel your chest rising. And you may feel your abdomen stretching out and down. But people almost never pay any attention to their back, as if the back is not involved. They think of breathing as of the chest, and the more sophisticated ones think of it as being as of the abdomen. They think of the difference between thoracic breathing of the chest and diaphragmatic breathing with the belly. What I am talking about is the part that the back plays: the forgotten part.

There is that part of your back. Get in touch with that small part that is about the size of the palm of your hand. And now as you slowly breathe in, push that area forward so that your lumbar area is accentuated and your belly is pushed forward. This is the way the Zen students are taught to breathe when they are sitting zazen in the monastery, or in the zendo. They are told to push their spine against their bellybutton. And so as you inhale, push your spine against your belly button, and as you exhale, let it drop backwards, away from your belly button. And so, attending to just this part of your body, the small of your back, an area the size of the palm of your hand; watch that move forward toward the front of your body, up against your belly button as you inhale, and let it just drop back as you exhale.

Now as you do this, notice how it relates to the front of your body. As you inhale, your back is pushing forward against your belly button. But meanwhile your belly is pushing outwards also. So just for a moment, think of it merely as breathing with your belly and watch it go out and in. Watch your belly going out and in. But now it is not, the concentration that I am asking you to bring in is not in the belly, but into the back, which is synchronized with this outward movement of the belly. In other words, your belly swells out in front of you, and at the same time your back is pushing forward from the back. And then as you exhale, your belly flattens down, and the small of your back also flattens back.

Now begin to watch that, and simply experience it, and simply experience it, and you can begin to orient yourself by noticing your belly pushing out in front, but what I really want you to do is to get in touch with the movement in your back and isolate that. In other words, pay attention to that. The other movements are also happening. Feel that happening. Are you able to feel that? Good, just keep breathing. Now, as you are doing this, continue to breath like this and listen to me with part of your awareness and with the other part of your awareness continue to focus on the movement of your back, in and out, in and out, forward and back, forward and back.

The muscles in the front of the body are called the body flexors and when those muscles are tightened, they cause your body to flex, your tail tucks under from up, your chest is pulled forward and down, and you are being pulled, (you don't go all the way) but you are being pulled into a fetal position. The reason for that is one big muscle, which is I believe the longest muscle of the body: it starts at your pubic bone, you know where that is, put your hand there, on your pubic bone, that is where your pubic bone starts. It goes all the way, the length of your body, and it inserts into your ribs right at the height at the middle of your chest. So put your hand up there. That is where, on either side of your sternum, the breast bone of the spine, on either side it attaches, so it comes from where the lower hand is, this long muscle, this sheet of muscle that attaches on either side of the sternum. Now when that muscle contracts, (keep your hands where they are), it shortens, and when that contracts, it pulls you down. Now contract that muscle deliberately with your next exhalation, and as you keep contracting in and squeezing more and more air out, it starts to pull you down into the fetal position. You don't go into the fetal position all the way.

And when you inhale that muscle relaxes and you move back and up. Give yourself several experiences of breathing like that. As you exhale, feel how that muscle contracts and really tighten it in your belly and feel how it pulls you down. And then when you inhale, let it relax, and feel how it lengthens. So, you got that.

Now in the reverse part of your body, you have a whole bunch of muscles, but muscles that are primary there are the rectus spinalis, they run up either side of the spine: all the way from your pelvis all the way up to the back of your skull, behind your ears. And when you inhale deeply, you feel your back arching backwards and straightening you up.

Now, that means that those muscles in your back when you inhale, they are shortening and pulling you; they are shortening and they pull your shoulders back and they cause the curve in your spine to accentuate. As they shorten it is as if your body is a bow and as you string the bow, it makes that bend in the bow, have you got that?

So experience that a few times. Now go back and feel the small of your back going back and forth again as you breathe. Focus on that so that your body begins to remember this, because your body knew this very well when you were a year old, but we tend to forget. And I'll tell you why we forget. The flexors when they pull at the same time as the flexors, you are locked. And if you will just hold yourself in the dark vice with both of them activated so that you cannot on the one hand bend forward when you exhale and on the other hand you can't go into the extensor position when you inhale, and try to breathe right now and see how much breathing you can do.

See, all you can do is breathe just a little bit at the top of your lungs. Even if you push your belly out, it is not functioning. Now in order to have your breathing functioning, go back to the small of your back. As you inhale, at the small of your back make a very deep indentation and you go back into the "lets go" position. And when you have finished that, you exhale, and let the muscles in the front of your body, the flexor muscles, squeeze the air out.

Now the reason that this alternation works so beautifully, these muscles are antagonist muscles, and when you are squeezing it out in the front, the back is relaxing. so that the back muscles relax and relax and relax, and lengthen, lengthen. And then you inhale, and the back starts to pull together: the muscles shorten, shorten and are pulling you back. But the muscles in the front let go, let go, let go, let go: relax, relax, relax.

So now breathe like this. Breath conscious of the rectus muscles in your back all the way from the base of your spine to the base of your skull. Feel all those muscles engage. And there are other muscles contracting other than the rectus muscles, so that each time you inhale, feel your pelvis tilt. If you are lying on the floor, you can feel that easily. If you are sitting, you can still feel it. Feel it! And each time you exhale, feel your pelvis tilt the other way, and feel the small of your back straightening up: the deep curve now becomes more flat. Here is a good image to keep in mind as you are breathing right now. Imagine your pelvis is a big bell, instead of having a pelvis, you have a bell. And as you inhale and exhale, the bell swings back and forth, back and forth. When you inhale, the bell swings backwards and that deepens the curve in your back. When you exhale, the bell swings the other way and tilts up in front. And that presses in on your belly and squeezes the air out. So visualize, N. right now that your pelvis is a bell swinging as you breathe. Let it swing as you breathe. And those of you who can see her face; her face is becoming very smooth, and her face is taking on a lovely healthy glow, which wasn't there before. She is looking very serene. Some of you can see it. How are you feeling?

Cl: Serene.

Dick: Serene, right. Keep breathing like this, so that each time you inhale, you are aware, from the pubic bone where you had your hand, up to your chest, where you had your insert, that long muscle, this whole distance here, it is two and a half feet, it is a long muscle. That whole muscle, as you inhale, is letting go and lengthening this way, and when you exhale, it is pulling together like this. So experience your breathing like this: first one side of the body, and then the other as being an alternate tightening and letting go of the muscles. Now as you exhale, feel the muscles in the front of the body pulling down and tightening, and the muscles in the back are letting go to allow the back to lengthen. Now as you inhale, feel how the muscles in the back begin to tighten and shorten into the "let's go" position. And in order to allow that fully, the abdominals, the rectus abdominus in front, has got to stretch and stretch and stretch, and you don't stretch that forcibly by pulling on your back muscles to make that stretch. You allow it to stretch by allowing it to relax.

See, this is the cause of lower back pain. When that muscle in the front has got you down there, and you are constantly trying to pull yourself back up straight by tightening the muscles in the back, and constantly tightening them, and you injure them. There is no injury if there is an alternation of tightening and letting go and tightening and letting go. That alternation of tightening and letting go is exactly what drives the blood through your body because: what is your heart beat? Thump, thump, thump, thump, thump. Between the thumps, there is silence, silence, silence. So you have thump, silence, thump, silence, thump, silence. Energetically, that is clench, relax, clench, relax, clench, relax. With each thump, your heart contracts and sends a surge of blood through the body. And with each thump it lets go and recovers. In my case, my heart has been doing this without interruption for over 78 years. If you allow for the time inside my mother's body, it has been 79 years. And no sign of its giving up. The same should be true of the muscles of your back and belly, they shouldn't be wearing out. But they wear out if you get caught in the dark vice.

What are you experiencing right now, N?

Cl: I am having a little trouble not going into trance.

Dick: That is all right. You can go into trance.

Cl: I am being amused at how helpful this is. Real enjoyable, like doors opening.

Dick: It is O.K. to go into trance because we are going to do more now. This is just the start. But in order for you to handle these surges of energy you are talking about, this is the exercise you must do. And you can do this sitting when you are driving your car, sitting at your desk when you are working, you can do it lying down, you can do it watching television, or you can do it lying down in bed. You can feel your pelvis swinging like a bell. Think of the pelvis hanging. Here is the spine, here is the upper part of the body, and my fist here is the pelvis, ding, dong. That is what is going on: ding, dong, inhale, exhale, inhale, exhale. Each time I exhale, it swings back.

If you will do this every day, every time you think of it, your body will have recovered it, and you won't have to think about it anymore. Do it all the time whenever you think of it. Say for two weeks, whenever you think of it. Put your attention there, all the time, whenever you think of it, say for two weeks, every chance you get put your attention there and say, "Am I doing it?" And deliberately start the alternate arching and flattening of the back. And the key is in the small of your back. And when you do this, feel how when you inhale, you are like a long bow bent all the way..... it is as if your body is a long slender piece of wood, like a bow you know, and it is as if somebody is holding it at the top and at the bottom and they are alternately bending it back and forth.

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