Saturday, November 07, 2020

what means remember yourself! (originally posted 9/15/15)

feldenkrais |  Relaxation: a concept that is often misunderstood
Let us look at the lower half of the jaw. Most people keep their mouths closed when they are not speaking, eating, or doing something else with it. What keeps the lower half of the jaw drawn up against the upper half? If the relaxation that has now become so fashionable were the correct condition, then the lower jaw would hang down freely and the mouth remain wide open. But this ultimate state of relaxation is found only among individuals born idiots, or in cases of paralyzing shocks.

It is important to understand how an essential part of the body such as the jaw can be in this permanent state of being held up, supported by muscles that work ceaselessly while we are awake; yet we do not sense that we are doing anything to hold up our jaw. In order to let our jaw drop freely we actually have to learn to inhibit the muscles involved. If you try to relax the lower jaw until its own weight opens the mouth fully you will find that it is not easy. When you have succeeded you will observe that there are also changes in the expression of the face and in the eyes. It is likely that you will discover at the end of this experiment that your jaw is normally shut too tightly.

Perhaps you will also discover the origin of this excessive tension. Watch for the return of the tension after the jaw has been relaxed, and you will at least discover how infinitely little man knows about his own powers and about himself in general.

The results of this small experiment can be important for a sensible person, more important even than attending to his business, because his ability to make a livelihood may improve when he discovers what is reducing the efficiency of most of his activities.

No awareness of action in antigravity muscles
The lower jaw is not the only part of the body that does not drop down as far as it can. The head itself does not drop forward. Its center of gravity is well in front of the point at which it is supported by the spine (it lies approximately between the ears), for the face and front part of the skull are heavier than the back of the head. Despite this structure the head does not fall forward, so obviously there must be some organization in the system that keeps it up.

If we relax the muscles at the back of the neck completely, then the head will drop to the lowest possible position, with the chin resting on the breastbone. Yet there is no consciousness of effort while these muscles at the back of the neck are contracted to hold up the head. If you finger the calf muscles (at the back of the leg, at about the middle) while standing, you will find them strongly contracted. If they were entirely relaxed the body would fall forward. In good posture the bones of the lower leg are at a small angle forward from the vertical, and the contraction of the muscles of the calves prevents the body from falling forward on its face.

We stand without knowing how
We are thus not aware of any effort or activity in the muscles that work against gravity. We become aware of the antigravity muscles only when we either interrupt or reinforce them, that is, when the voluntary change is made in clear awareness. The permanent contraction that is normally present before any intentional act is done is not registered by our senses. The electrical impulses, which derive from different sources within the nervous system, are involved. One group of these produces deliberate action; the other group causes contraction in the antigravity muscles until the work done by them exactly balances the pull of gravity.