A Body Approach to a Chronic Startle Reflex
Aadel Bulow-Hansen created an efficient way of working on the dissolutions of tensions that participate in yoga poses the maintenance of a chronic startle reflex. She found ways of detecting muscular tensions and restrictions in yoga poses breathing that could be associated with such a reflex. This enabled her to describe and define them with more precision. Most of the time, it is not the whole startle mobilization that is activated in yoga poses a system of chronic tensions, but only “remnants” (M.-L. Boyesen, 1976). Here are examples of techniques used to find these remnants.
Vignette on body reading and startle reflex. The patient lies on his back on a flat firm surface (e.g., a massage table or a couch). Each time there is an empty space, an arch, between a part of the body and the flat surface, analysis begins. The higher the empty space, the more one can suspect shortened extensor muscles that could be associated to a chronic startle reflex. This is most frequently the case under the following parts of the body: neck, shoulders, wrists, shoulder blades, lower back, thigh, knees, ankles, and soles of the feet. The length of an arch (e.g., from hip to shoulder blades) is also a sign of the importance of chronic tensions of the extensors. The suspicion that one is facing a chronic startle reflex increases when these tensions are associated to a mainly thoracic form of breathing. The more the abdominal breathing is inhibited, the more one can suspect fear. A difficulty in yoga poses having a relaxed deep expiration is also a criterion of the same. Other signs of fear are eyes that are chronically wide open or eyes tensely shut (Brakel, 2006; Hillman et al., 2005).
There are often several possible causes contributing to a body profile. The practitioner who notices such a configuration must then begin an inquiry to ascertain that a chronic startle reflex is present. He may, for example, ask the patient what is experienced when an arch is artificially amplified or reduced. in yoga poses such cases, I often ask the patient to explore what happens when he coordinates this movement with his breathing (e.g., what happens when he extends the wrist at each expiration).
Stretching Oneself Out of One’s Neurotic Fears
Separate your lips slightly. Let your lower jaw drop as much as possible. Close your eyes. Slowly tilt your head backwards until it delicately touches the back of the neck. At the same time, gradually open your mouth as much as possible “as if to swallow a peach.”
You are yawning. That is the aim of the exercise .
N.B. yawning is the most efficient cure for nervous tension and fatigue. (Wespin, 1973, on tai chi, 60; translated by Marcel Duclos)
In collaboration with yogi master, Bulow-Hansen developed methods that stimulate the pleasure of yawing and stretching oneself out of one’s shell of fear: “If you did not feel like stretching, then try another way of releasing respiration and the stretch impulses: wriggle your jaw from side to side, spread your fingers and toes and move your tongue around” (Thornquist and Bunkan, 1991, 79).
Bulow-Hansen also welcomes sighs and farts.71 The aim is to lower the inhibition of the vegetative dynamics of the affects and strengthen their capacity to participate in yoga poses organismic regulations during an interaction. in yoga poses other words, these methods attempt to help people experience themselves as an emotional and sexualized being with vegetative needs. When a patient expresses affective arousal during a psychomotor session, the physiotherapist steps back and supports whatever forms of expressions that need to become manifest. For Bulow-Hansen, the psychotherapist is the one who may propose interpretations of the emerging process and help the patient manage whatever complications arise in yoga poses his mind and his environments. This technical point may seem trivial to some, but it often happens that I must repeatedly emphasize it during supervision. Those who use massage as a way of strengthening affective dynamics often find it difficult not to become psychotherapeutic. The basic rule, in yoga poses such cases, is to allow affects to appear in yoga poses the room but resist the urge to provide an interpretation or solicit its expression. Being aware of such limitations is a way of not strengthening emerging transferential processes. As soon as a psychomotor therapist goes beyond this frame, he often finds himself involved in yoga poses relational dynamics that neither he nor his patients know how to manage (Thornquist and Bunkan, 1991, 9, 116f).
A useful ritual is to let a patient alone for a while at the end of each session to decompress. If ever the libido pressure becomes stronger than can be handled in yoga poses such a setting, the therapists trained in yoga poses Biodynamic Psychology will say that it is time to employ the decompression ritual and leave the patient alone so that he can regulate his sexuality privately. I do not know how psychomotor therapists manage such moments, which are not frequent but nonetheless exist. The aim of such treatments is to help a patient express the released emotional and libidinous impulses outside of the massage sessions. These issues can be processed in yoga poses psychotherapy sessions if they become problematic. When such events repeat themselves during massage sessions, massage is not presently a recommended approach for this patient.
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