We are all so wonderfully unique, yet the interesting thing is that we all follow the same pathways of development. From a tiny helpless being to an all-encompassing human powerhouse, we are guided through complex developmental stages by our primitive reﬂex system.
Your primitive reﬂexes get you from embryo to foetus, from womb to birth, from birth to earth, from lying to sitting, to standing, running, jumping, feeling, understanding, learning, and an integration of all this as ‘you’.
Our first block of reﬂexes is vital for survival; the next set for us to become upright, cognitive and emotionally balanced.
Primitive reﬂexes emerge in a specific order in infants, and indicate ‘on track’ development of the nervous system. One early example is the Plantar Grasp Reﬂex, usually present from birth to one year, whereby the toes fan out when pressure is applied to the ball of the foot. Crucially though, babies cannot walk until this reﬂex is suppressed. If these building blocks of our being do not develop in sequence and at the crucial times, are slightly oﬀ-centre (retained) or are interrupted (unintegrated) there will be a long-lasting eﬀect that we may not even notice. Yet we may be aware that we have consistent muscle holding, postural tightness, tension, automatic emotional responses or sensitivities that rear their head even when we feel undisturbed – for example, when doing yoga.
Reﬂex Yoga can help to rehabilitate and align the postural, nervous and sensory systems. The power of subtle pattern breaking and pattern making, as we call it in this type of yoga, can have profound eﬀects.
For example, now you can do that Forward Bend or sit with your legs out straight with a new muscle connectivity, and finally reach your toes with no strain. There is now no thought or eﬀort taken when deep breathing. You can sit to meditate without all that postural interruption and your upper trunk/head is fully held, eﬀortlessly. Or the way you respond to everyday dramas and life’s curve balls that may previously have resulted in out of balance nervous system reaction (fight, ﬂight, fright or freeze), may suddenly take on a new conscious, rather than automatic, response.
Introducing reﬂex integration into your yoga practice adds a new somatic dimension and can be a great way of preventing recurring injuries,
as well as oﬀering you a deeper, very practical therapeutic connection with the intuition of your body, brain and emotions.
Introducing reﬂex integration into your yoga practice adds a new somatic dimension and can be a great way of preventing recurring injuries, as well as oﬀering you a deeper, very practical therapeutic connection with the intuition of your body, brain and emotions. Once you source these holding patterns and feel them release, your nervous system immediately calms down, and there is no doubt that there is a significant diﬀerence. For instance, it might be that every time you perform a motor action with your hands, subtly your mouth and feet are doing something as well – an automatic response that you might not have noticed, and no longer need for your healthy being.
Rest & reorganise
Research shows (and it is observable) that people on the Autistic Spectrum will normally have an interrupted primitive reﬂex system. This can be why their walking gait may be diﬀerent, why they walk on their toes, or why their nervous system is on higher alert, breathing is more rapid or reversed, or responses are highly automatic and patterned.
I have seen many people totally relax for the first time in their lives by integrating some of the unique movements of Reﬂex Yoga into their practice. You can literally see their nervous system – that has been on constant automatic response mode – reset and reorganise.
In the words of one workshop participant: “Through many years of physical activity I have found yoga is my sanctuary. It grounds me and allows me to express myself. Having worked in special needs education for many years, I just had to bring this style of yoga to my students to allow them to feel the magic. Everybody can do it and it’s a perfect way to integrate the reﬂexes, mind and body and feel a sense of calm.”
And that is the magic behind Reﬂex Yoga.
By Sarah Hopwood | Om Yoga & Lifestyle