All Notions of Good Posture are Grossly Incomplete and Obsolete

Why are all notions of good posture grossly incomplete and obsolete?

They’re incomplete because they apply to a non-moving position — and life is altogether about movement.  If it isn’t moving, it’s dead.

So, to take “spinal curves”, for example, the lower-back (or lumbar) curve exists to distribute the weights above (chest, shoulders and head) and below (pelvis and legs) for balance.  When you bend over to pick something up, your curve changes.  If it doesn’t change, you’re stiff.  Same with your neck curve.

Balance-in-movement is the overriding “imperative” (or necessary purpose) of all posture; balance is what makes all other actions possible. If you’re out of balance, you’re unstable — and then what happens to you, whichever movement or activity you are involved in?

Your curves change continually, as you move, to maintain easy balance.

This is not to say that there’s no such thing as too much or too little curvature in the spine. There are such things — but they can’t be corrected in any lasting way by adjustments or by holding on to “good posture”.  Adjustments don’t last and holding on to good posture doesn’t lend itself to good movement.  You can’t go through life holding on to “good posture”; as soon as your attention goes to something else, you forget about posture. So, that approach is entirely impractical.

That’s why notions of “good posture” are obsolete.

What’s the alternative?

Good movement.  Good movement takes care of good posture, automatically.

Improving Movement (“Muscle”) Memory

Good movement isn’t something that you maintain by moment to moment discipline, by efforts to maintain good movement.  That’s no more practical than holding on to “good posture”.  Good movement is “good movement memory” — done automatically and fine-tuned by the movements of the moment.

How do you develop good movement memory?  You develop it the same way as you develop any other memory:  repeated experience until the memory forms.  It’s a temporary discipline.

It’s also a discipline that few undertake.  With movement, as with most other activities, most people stop developing with the minimum learning needed to get by, just as with handwriting, cooking — and walking.

Next time you’re out in public, watch people walk.  How few are a pleasure to watch!  Many people lumber; some plod; some bounce; many lean to one side or come down heavier on one side than the other — or come down heavy on each side, as they walk.  So many are ungainly — and it isn’t genetic; it’s movement memory.

Few efforts to improve movement memory work.  Most involve stretching and strengthening.  Just try stretching or strengthening any other kind of memory and see how far you get, changing it.

To be fair, let’s look at each:  stretching and strengthening.


Stretching muscles generally involves pitting one muscle group against another — even the muscles of one person against the muscles of another (as in assisted stretching, massage, or professional adjustments).

The experience is generally uncomfortable and, if at all successful, is only temporarily so.  Old muscular tensions (and posture) reappear in short order.  (That’s why there’s a term, “chiropractic lifestyle”.)  So, movement memory isn’t changed, but only temporarily overpowered.

Now, apply that to other kinds of memory.  Think of an unpleasant memory.  I’m not suggesting this to torture you, but to illustrated a point more quickly.

Stretching an unpleasant memory would be like trying to avoid remembering it — or practicing denial.  How effective is that?  You tend to react the same old way in a similar situation, don’t you.There’s always a strain, isn’t there?

Movement memory is just that: the memory of the feeling of a movement (how to move) that controls action.

If you want to change movement memory, you need another approach, one that deals with memory the way memory actually works.  I’ll get to that once I’ve dealt with strengthening.


Strengthening muscles to improve posture means only one thing:  that those muscles aren’t strong enough to overpower their opposing muscle groups, which are always tight.  

Generally, those “weaker” muscles aren’t really weaker, but just tired from working against their opposing muscles.  They don’t need strengthening, but refreshment — and that refreshment is possible only when their opposing muscles relax from being tight all the time. 

Another effect of muscles being held tight (by movement memory) is that your brain causes their opposing muscles to slacken to allow the tight muscles to cause movement without counter-interference.  We feel that slackening as weakness, but it isn’t weakness; it’s how coordination works.  Although strengthening muscles to improve posture may be meant to work against that, it doesn’t work.

By the way, tight muscles are usually ticklish, sore to pressure, or painful from muscle fatigue —  so, you’ve got painful muscles on one side and “weak” (tired) muscles on the other.  Tight muscles drag you out of good posture and that make good posturing tiring.

Do you think you’re going to strengthen muscles to correct your posture and have it stay “corrected” under those conditions?  You’ll only make them tighter and sore — and make yourself stiffer.

Good posture is natural only as a condition of freely coordinated balance, not as a condition of effort (which you can’t maintain under ordinary conditions of life because you can’t continually pay attention, to it).  You’ve got to free the tight muscles, not make the tired muscles stronger.

Now, let’s take on memory in terms of strengthening.

That would be like trying to convince yourself that things happened differently than they did, that the old memory wan’t real.  That’s known as self-deception.  You can work really hard to convince yourself, but how effective is that?  You will still tend to have stress and strain in that area of life, won’t you?

So, we’ve dispensed with stretching and strengthening as approaches to good posture (because they don’t effectively deal with movement memory) and with the standard notion of good posture, itself.

We’re in the home stretch, now (pun unintentional, but recognized!)

Improving Movement (“muscle”) Memory

By, “improving”, I mean “developing a more satisfactory experience of something”.

A more satisfactory experience of movement memory is a more satisfactory experience of movement — both in terms of comfort and in terms of motion or action.

There’s an alternative to stretching or strengthening that’s entirely natural and that everybody’s experienced in a simple form.  It involves relaxation, rather than stretching, and refreshment, rather than strengthening.  It’s called, “pandiculation”.

I’ll let the video tell and show you, about it.  Click, below:

If you want good posture, learn pandiculation to free yourself of muscle tensions that drag you down, out of good posture, and that make good posture tiring.  Learn pandiculation to make good posture natural.  Learn pandiculation to refresh yourself.  Learn pandiculation.

So, that’s why all notions of good posture are grossly incomplete and obsolete — and what you can do that feels better and works better at making good posture easy and natural.

Lawrence Gold has practiced clinical somatic education professionally since 1990, with a world-wide clientele composed generally of people needing to get out of pain.  All of his clients end up with better posture and movement, along with being pain-free.  You can free the tight muscles that drag you down, by yourself, with  the general program of somatic education (pandiculation) exercises called, The Cat Stretch Exercises (involves neither a cat, nor stretching).

How to Get Lower Back Pain Relief


If you want to know how to get lower back pain relief, you need to learn how to get your back muscles, which never relax, to relax. That’s exactly what’s necessary and is usually entirely sufficient. I explain, below.

To relax your back is not something someone can do, for you; you have to learn to do it, yourself. It’s not difficult, but you have to do it entirely differently from the usual way you try to relax.

To relax your back this way brings lasting relief faster than the usual therapies and without need for long periods of repeated therapy sessions.  It comes from a new discipline in the field of healthcare, called clinical somatic education.

I explain this new way of getting muscles to relax, and the differences between the usual back pain therapies and clinical somatic education, in this piece.  If you’ve been frustrated by the lack of lasting relief from the usual therapies, you’ll like this approach.

Searching For A Solution

I’ll start with a listing of approaches you may have tried, so you know that I’m taking your experience into account.

There are strengthening and stretching exercises, pain meds, muscle relaxants, skeletal manipulation, spinal decompression devices, acupuncture, bodywork of various sorts, yoga and laser therapy.

You may be familiar with these therapeutic approaches. You may have found that they bring relief that lasts no more than a few days or a few hours. Practitioners end up administering the same treatment again, and again and, if asked, tell you that’s what you should expect.

Of the approaches I listed, the ones that sound like they come closest to relaxing your back muscles are stretching and massage. Neither of these approaches works any better than the others because any relaxation they produce is temporary. It’s temporary because your brain controls your muscle tension and your brain is conditioned to maintain your muscular tension at a “set point” to which your back muscles return: always tight.

So, what you need is a way to change your brain-conditioning to change the resting state of your back muscles to relaxation, instead of to, “always tight.”

Another way of saying, “change your brain-conditioning” is, “relearn control of your muscles.” “Conditioning” and “learning” are the same thing.

If, after reading this article, you still want to explore some of the usual therapeutic approaches, perhaps you’d best bookmark this page. You can come back to it after you’ve finished your tour (and testing) of those other approaches. I expect you’ll be back.


What the usual approaches have in common is that they all attempt to counteract  or oppose symptoms that keep reappearing. They address symptoms, not the causes of those symptoms.  “Symptoms” include back muscle pain, spinal mis-alignment, subluxations, disc bulges, facet joint irritation, muscle spasms and sciatica; these symptoms are effects, not causes. 

For example, misalignment doesn’t cause muscle spasms; it’s the other way around: muscle spasms cause misalignment. Bones (vertebrae) go where muscles pull them.

While counteracting symptoms may seem reasonable (and is all many people care about, as long as they get some relief), it’s ineffective in the long term and leaves you having to limit your activities to protect your back.

That’s what happens when therapy doesn’t address the underlying cause.

What’s necessary is not to counteract, oppose, or suppress symptoms, but to undo their underlying cause, altogether. Counteracting, opposing, and suppressing are different from undoing the underlying cause, as I will explain, shortly.

Let’s slow down, here, and make that point clearer.


People often mistake symptoms for causes. The usual therapies all treat lower back pain symptoms as if they’re a sign of something happening to the body, rather than something that the body is doing to itself that causes the symptoms.

In that view, misalignment and subluxations “just happen”; discs bulge and degenerate because of “degenerative disc disease” (the cause of which, therapists wrongly attribute to aging, to your genes, or can’t explain). Sciatica “just happens”. Lower back pain is supposedly caused by conditions beyond our control.

But these symptoms are within your control — if you take the approach that addresses the underlying cause.

The Underlying Cause

Tight back muscles cause most back pain. The usual causes of tight back muscles are

  • an injury such as an accident or hard fall
  • frequent and ongoing repetition of bending and lifting movements
  • long-term stress (nervous tension).

In an accident, the pain, violent motions, and shock of the accident cause muscular cringing, or tightening, a reaction that sets in long-term.

In repetitive bending and lifting movements, we get so ready to do those movements that we never relax completely, and strain patterns form.

In long-term stress, we get tense and stay tense for so long that we get used to being tense and stay tense, automatically.

These situations lead to abnormal brain conditioning. Muscles stay tight, from then, on.

(A “lifting injury” isn’t an injury, at all, but a sudden spasm triggered by an increase of muscular contraction in already-too-right muscles. Contraction – burn – pain – cringe – tighter contraction – worse pain — sounds like a spasm, doesn’t it?)

Abnormal brain conditioning causes overly tight back muscles. Another term for “abnormal brain conditioning” is “abnormal habit”.

Habit keeps the muscles tight, automatically. Habit is what makes the way we move move different from the way someone else moves. Habit controls posture. Habit controls spinal alignment. Habit keeps the muscles in the state of tension originally triggered by injury, repetitive movement, or stress.

Habitual back muscle tension makes muscle spasms more likely; the tighter the habit, the more likely spasm is to occur.

Habitual back muscle tension causes most back pain.

Relief of  habitual tension can’t be done by stretching, manipulation, or any of the usual approaches I mentioned because those approaches only oppose the habit that keeps muscles tight. They don’t change itdon’t normalize it. They try to counteract it. They “resist” it. The tension habit persists.

Symptoms return shortly after the usual kinds of therapy.

Where muscles are concerned, habitual patterns of muscular tension have a special name: muscle memory (more properly called movement memory).

Ring a bell?


When chronic muscle tension ends, pain ends. Pressure comes off discs. Nerves come free from entrapment. The facet joints of vertebrae no longer rub together. Alignment corrects itself to a healthy flexibility. If tissue healing is needed (such as for irritated facet joints of vertebrae) healing can now occur.

Why Did Your Back Muscles Start To Hurt?

Simple answer: muscle fatigue, “the burn” they say to go for, in athletics. What “the burn” is, is oxygen starvation of the muscles from being too tight for too long.

Make sense?

If you pay attention to what happens in you when you’re in a hurry or in a state of intense attention (“stress”), you’ll notice that your back muscles always tighten up.

Over your lifetime, that kind of situation has happened over and over so often and for such prolonged periods of time (in your “way of life”) that you stayed tense and formed a tension habit.

You may never have noticed that you were tense that way until your back muscles started to hurt — and it may not have occurred to you that your symptoms (i.e., pain, etc.) came from your muscles being tight all the time.

Other Conditions of Low Back Pain

Tight back muscles pull neighboring vertebrae closer together, squeeze the discs in between, and cause a host of problems commonly regarded by therapists as different “disease entities” called by different names, but all from the same cause:

  • disc bulges
  • degenerative disc disease
  • spontaneous fusion of vertebrae
  • disc herniation
  • sciatica (pinched sciatic nerve)

The cure for all is the same.

Clinical Somatic Education

The purpose of clinical somatic education and somatic education exercises is to for you to relearn control of overly tight muscles, to create a new movement memory free of the muscle-tension habit. Your back muscles come free and symptoms disappear. It’s a long-term change that occurs relatively quickly, in this approach.

Clinical somatic education has two forms: clinical techniques and somatic education exercises. You may resort to either or both.

How it Works

What makes somatic education different from the usual therapies is that it uses an action related to yawning to relearn control of muscles. That action is called, pandiculation.

Usually, a person with back pain can relax only so far and no farther. They’re stuck tight. Pandiculation causes a much deeper relaxation, so so rest at true rest — which is to say, relaxed, pliant, strong and comfortable.

By pandiculating, you re-learn control of muscles. As you saw in the video, pandiculation produces results different from the usual therapies. You may have noticed that many of the “before” and “after” changes occurred after one session.

What therapies do you know of that produce that much change after one session — a lasting change? So, clinical somatic education is an exception to the rule.

Re-Learning to Control Your Back Muscles

The word, re-learn, might not quite seem to you, to fit, since you have no memory of learning control of your back muscles to begin with. That learning at first occurred when you were very young, at about three months of age, when you were first learning to lift your head and to sit up and to stand and to walk.

You need to re-learn control because, over the course of your life, you went through situations that made you tense up in ways that involved your back muscles.

You developed the unconscious habit of holding yourself tight (as if to be tight were your normal state).

Eventually, you got stuck with tight back muscles and a diagnosis of low back pain, lumbar pain, subluxation, degenerative disc disease (“DDD“), sciatica, spinal stenosis, ankylosing spondylitis, or something similar and frightening-sounding.

All you really need is to re-learn control of your back muscles.

If that seems too simple, it’s likely that you are in the grip of the memories of your previous experience of therapy or the prognosis of doctors and therapists and expect this to be like that. People often try to understand something new in terms of something they already know. But this isn’t like that.

Clinical Sessions

During clinical somatic education sessions, muscle relax and comfort improves during the session. Usually, a few sessions are required for a complete change. You come to a practitioner of clinical somatic education who guides you through pandiculation actions — which are comfortable-to-do (and which rapidly reprogram muscle/movement memory, long-term).

Below, you see a video that shows part of a typical clinical session for clearing up lower back pain.

Some practitioners offer a money-back guarantee of satisfaction.

Somatic Education Exercises

If you can’t get to a practitioner, you can get lasting relief (more gradually) by somatic education (pandiculation) exercises.

Unlike strengthening exercises or stretching, somatic education exercises work by improving control of your own muscle tension. Your muscles lengthen as you relax, accomplishing the hoped-for result of stretching. As you relax, your muscles get refreshed, again, and being refreshed, are stronger, accomplishing the hoped-for result of strengthening exercises. Pandiculation accomplishes the hoped-for result of strengthening exercises and stretching — only better.

In both cases, clinical sessions and somatic education exercises, back muscle tension virtually never returns to the painful level, but increases or decreases within a normal range under life’s stresses.

The exercises enable you to keep yourself free and comfortable so that a recurrence of symptoms is unlikely.

There is an exception. If someone’s back has been so tight for so long that discs have ruptured, or spontaneous fusion of vertebrae has started to occur, or narrowing of nerve channels (stenosis) has occurred, it’s too late. Then, it’s surgery. After that, it’s clinical somatic education to prevent a recurrence.

Clinical somatic education is a highly personalized process, not a one size fits all process, so you will have a functional assessment done of your condition before starting sessions and you’ll know, with a high degree of accuracy, how many sessions will be required (generally, a small number). You can expect relief that lasts because the underlying cause — the muscular tension habit — has been undone.

The most common question I hear from clients after a session is, “Why isn’t this better known?”

How To Get Lower Back Pain Relief

You relearn control of your back muscles and the pain disappears. This result stands in stark contrast to the approach and result of the usual therapies.

So now I’ve told you something new about back pain and how to get lower back pain relief. Consider it fully and choose what you will do. If you’re serious about getting relief from low back pain, you’ll like clinical somatic education.

Lawrence Gold is a Hanna Somatic Educator in clinical practice since 1990.  He spent 1997-1999 on-staff at The Wellness and Rehabilitation Center of the Watsonville Community Hospital, in California, before returning to private practice for a worldwide clientele. Reach him, here, if you’d like to consult him about your back pain; note the free consultation option.

Why I Like the Program, Comforting Your S-I Joints — and Enjoy My Work

Facebook: Lawrence.Gold.Somatics | 505 819-0858

Sacroiliitis (sacro-iliac joint dysfunction) CAN be cleared up without surgery, RFA (nerve ablation), drugs or (yes, get this:) manipulation.

A completely different approach (clinical somatic education, using the L.E.A.R.N. sequence of self-rehabilitation) uses the muscular system, itself, to cause the pelvis to reshape and the sacrum to center, taking pressure or strain off the S-I joints. Learn more at the page linked, above.

the program:
the explanation:

Clinical Somatic Education | a New Discipline in the Field of Health Care
#somatic education
#intelligent-self empowerment
#personal development Why I Enjoy My Work and Like the Program, Comforting Your S-I Joints Lawrence Gold

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The Gyroscopic Walk, Comforting Your S-I Joints 2015 11 25 | Lawrence Gold

The Gyroscopic Walk, Comforting Your S-I Joints 2015 11 25

Clinical Somatic Education | a New Discipline in the Field of Health Care The Gyroscopic Walk, Comfort Your S I Joints 2015 11 25 Lawrence Gold

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The Old Scottish Geezer’s Walk, Comforting Your S-I Joints | 2015 11 25 Lawrence Gold

This is one of two action patterns used to integrate the changes produced by  Comforting Your S-I Joints.

The Old Scottish Geezer’s Walk | Comforting Your S-I Joints 2015 11 25

Clinical Somatic Education | a New Discipline in the Field of Health Care The Old Scottish Geezer’s Walk, Comfort Your S I Joints 2015 11 25 Lawrence Gold

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Your Psoas Muscles – Healthy and Unhealthy – And How to Get Them Healthy

Your Psoas Muscles — Healthy and Unhealthy — How to Get Your Psoas Muscles Healthy, Again

The psoas muscles are easy to understand when you consider the basic movements in which they are involved: sitting, standing, and walking — and how those movements are controlled: movement (muscle) memory.

This article explains healthy and unhealthy psoas muscle functioning and how to get your psoas muscles healthy, again.

What Your Psoas Muscles Do

When functioning right, your psoas muscles maintain your uprightness in sitting, your spinal alignment and balanced equilibrium when standing, and your efficiency of movement bending, twisting, walking and running. Your psoas muscles are core stabilizers that lend balance to movement.

Tight psoas muscles show up as groin pain, deep pelvic pain, and as a deep belly ache.

Postural effects include a butt that sticks out too much, in back, and a protruding belly, as pelvic position shifts top-forward.

Leg movement is restricted, in walking, in their freedom to move backward; tight hamstrings often develop to compensate for the extra drag.

Awkwardness and poor balance result. Chronic constipation also develops, in some people, due to the effect of an overactive psoas on the neighboring nerve plexus that regulates intestinal activity.

To Free Tight Psoas Muscles
Three basic approaches exist. One is much more effective than the others.

  1. stretching
  2. massage/manipulation
  3. movement training

First basic understanding: Muscle/movement memory controls your psoas muscles.

If your psoas muscles are tight, your muscle/movement memory keeps them that way. Muscle/movement memory comes from a deeper level of the nervous system than voluntary movement does; it’s conditioning that “runs the show”.

You can’t stretch or manipulate away conditioning; you can’t stretch or manipulate away muscle/movement memory. Because muscle/movement memory develops by conditioning, stretching and manipulation produce, at best, temporary and partial results.

The pattern of remembered movement and tension quickly returns. That understanding explains your experience with therapy for tight psoas muscles.

Since muscle/movement memory runs the show, you need an approach that re-conditions muscle/movement memory — and that’s where movement education comes in.

Movement education isn’t “knowing how to move” or “maintaining good posture”. It’s developing new patterns of coordination by actions that reach the depth at which movement/memory lives — the kind of movement memory involved in riding a bicycle, for example. How did you learn to ride a bicycle (or swim, for that matter)? Practice: development of new patterns of movement until they become habitual.







The development of new control and new movement involves not just freeing muscles, but
also integrating them into movement patterns with other movers and stabilizers of the body. Movement training also involves awakening our ability to sense the actions of our muscles in movement and balance.Without the integration step, your psoas muscles are likely to revert to their tight state. I’ll say more, as we go on.

Understanding how psoas muscles play in movement simplifies our approach to setting things right. Having made such a statement, I will, of course support it. But first, I have to lay some groundwork.


psoas and iliacus musclesThe psoas muscles share a tendon with the iliacus muscles, which line the inside of the pelvis, so the combination is called, the “iliopsoas” muscle. For brevity, I use the term, “psoas muscle”.

The psoas muscles are our deepest core muscles.

When people speak of the “core”, they usually mean the muscles of the abdominal wall. But how is that the “core”? The core of anything, such as the Earth or an apple, is its centermost part. The psoas is a core muscle (as are the diaphragm, quadratus lumborum, iliacus and other muscles closest to bone); the abdominal muscles are “sleeve”, outside
the core.

The psoas muscles, being most centrally located as the deepest muscles in the body, help control the shape of the spine. By controlling the shape of the spine, they control our balance — how the centers of gravity of our major segments – head, thorax (or chest), abdomen and legs – line up.

Tight psoas muscles distort the spinal curves, shorten the spine, change pelvic balance and cause ungainly (chunky, heavy, labored, awkward) movement. To the degree that the spinal curves are distorted, our alignment is distorted and to that degree, we are out of balance and our movement is un-economical/wasteful of effort.

Muscles never work alone; they always work in concert with other muscles. What
any muscle does affects our entire balance. Other muscles have to compensate for those effects on balance by tightening or relaxing. Your brain controls these entire patterns of movement and compensation with memories of movement (“muscle/movement memory”).

Because your nervous system and muscular system cooperate as a whole, to try to change the movement and tension behavior of tight psoas muscles without changing the larger movement pattern of which they are a part is to work against the rest of the system and its (our) memory of how movements go and feel. That’s why methods of muscle manipulation (e.g., massage, myofascial release, stretching) produce changes that are either temporary or slow in coming – and why psoas release by manipulation is painful: it works directly on sore, contracted psoas muscles against the conditioning of the entire movement system.

The term, “tone”, refers to the level of muscle tension: complete rest means zero  muscle tone; complete activation means maximum muscle tone.  Some people believe that the higher the tone, the better; others believe that complete relaxation is better. As you will see, where tone is concerned, it’s neither; better-integrated is better, and
better-integrated means more freedom to adjust accurately to changing conditions — freedom and balance.

Your brain coordinates the movements and tone of muscles; tone changes as position changes in movement. That’s what is meant by “supple.” Supple psoas muscles have the sensation of spaciousness, support, freedom and length at your body core. The term rolfers use is, “open core.” When psoas muscles do their job of stabilizing the spine, they relieve the abdominal wall muscles of some of that task; your abdominal muscles have the sensation of relaxation and free breathing. The term rolfers use is, “free sleeve.” Healthy psoas functioning gives the experience of “open core, free sleeve.” Open core/free sleeve is the feeling of trunk/spine length, flexibility and stability.


“Healthy”, in this sense means, “getting the intended result with the least effort.” Where movement is concerned, the word, “graceful”, applies. Graceful movement is economical movement; awkward movement is uneconomical or ungainly movement. Graceful movement conserves effort; ungainly movement wastes effort. For movement to be economical, it must be well-balanced and well-coordinated — a matter of integration.

Psoas muscles help regulate our changes of position as we move from rest into activity and from activity into rest by changes in their tone. They help maintain our balance and stability in those positions. They are central to movements from lying to sitting, from sitting to standing, and from standing to walking and running. If their tone is too high, they interfere with balance and stability as we move into different positions; their tone is almost never too low, and if so, usually indicates either neurological damage or a need to learn basic control.

With changes of position, the activity level of your psoas muscles changes, as follows.

From Lying Down to Sitting to Standing to Walking and Running
At rest or in repose, your psoas muscles have no job to do and should be at rest — which means relaxed and comfortable.

Your psoas muscles connect your legs to your trunk. When you move from lying to sitting, they move your pelvis and provide a sufficiently stable core as you move to the upright position. Overly tight psoas muscles create groin pain or deep low back (lumbopelvic) pain when changing position from lying to sitting. You may have the experience of a groin pull or of muscles seizing up in your pelvis.

When Sitting

Your psoas muscles connect your groin to your pelvis and low back and stabilize your balance in the front-to-back direction; your brain adjuststheir tone for the right amount of front-to-back stability under the pull of gravity.

From Sitting to Standing

As you move from sitting to upright standing, your psoas muscles must relax and lengthen to permit you to stand fully upright.

Overly tight psoas muscles, which connect your groin to your spine, prevent you from coming to a fully erect, balanced stand.

When Standing

Your psoas muscles’ well-regulated tone is low enough to allow you to stand at your full stature, with minimal lumbar curve and high enough to stabilize your core. Through your psoas muscles, your brain adjusts your spinal curves (and balance) as you bend forward, lean back, move side-to-side, and twist and turn.

Overly tight psoas muscles don’t lengthen enough as you stand straight; they pull from your groin to your low back, causing lumbopelvic or lumbosacral pain, a “pubes back”
position, and excessive lower back curve. Your belly protrudes and your butt sticks out.

From Standing to Walking

As you step into walking, you first shift your weight onto one foot to free the other leg to come forward; the psoas muscles on the standing side relax and those on the walking side tighten to help you step forward. In healthy walking, your psoas muscles freely alternate, side-to-side, between higher and lower tone as you walk or run.

Overly tight psoas muscles shorten your stride and require your hamstrings and gluteus medius muscles to work harder to bring your “standing” leg back as you step forward. You end up with tight hamstrings and tight gluteus medius muscles (hip pain in back).

You can’t make a lasting change in one without changing the other because your brain maintains habitual patterns of movement among muscles (pattern of coordination); to change one so that it functions differently, you have to reorganize the entire pattern. That kind of change doesn’t occur “by deciding to move differently” or by stretching; when you’re walking, you can’t conveniently put that kind of attention into your movements; you have to make it automatic, and there’s a process for that, mentioned below.

Efforts to free the psoas muscles without also improving their coordination with the rest of
the musculature produce only partial and temporary improvements.

That means that “psoas release” techniques, “psoas stretches”, and psoas strengthening approaches need movement education (which changes brain-conditioning of muscular control) to produce a stable shift to healthy psoas

Economical movement (least effort, good result) and easy balance are the goal — attributes you can develop by movement training that first frees the psoas muscles and then integrates them into economical movement patterns. First free, then integrate.

The name for that kind of training process is, “clinical somatic education.”


Overview of Free Your Psoas Program


Releasing your psoas muscles, by whatever means, is just the start. Integration is necessary for a satisfactory outcome to any approach to freeing muscles. The somatic education exercise program, Free Your Psoas, provides exercise (action) patterns that integrate and coordinate the psoas muscles with other stabilizing muscles of the body.

“Once You Have Released Your Psoas Muscles” || Note the link to a preview of the full, Free Your Psoas program on that page.

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This page is primarily for people who have chosen to get started, for free, as an overview. You can use it to get started, yourself — or you may get bite-size steps sent to you, by email, one at a time. Use the form, below:

When you do the program, it’s all bite-size. The program guides you, step-by-step.

Relief that lasts: It’s like finding gold.
(phrase coined by a client)

Google ranking of this entry has made this entry more visible than the entry that should have preceded it, Understanding Sacro-iliac Joint Pain | Stopping the Pains and Weird Symptoms, so I’m giving it to you, here. Read it to understand sacroiliac joint dysfunction and why this regimen works.

This program, Comforting Your S-I Joints, which you may start immediately without cost, clears up sacro-iliac joint pain and attendant weird symptoms more completely than joint fusion surgery, more effectively than cortisone shots, TENS (electrical stimulation), pain meds or manipulative therapies, and more lastingly than RFA (burning the nerve). It dissolves pains and makes movement easy, better balanced, and more efficient. Muscle/movement memory changes. Postural changes occur. It’s more cost-effective than any of the alternatives named.


This approach works because bones go where soft-tissue pulls them. This program systematically changes the shape of the pelvis (which includes sacrum) by changing the weight-bearing and postural forces of the soft tissue. Changes accumulate and symptoms disappear, with practice, with feel-able changes during and after each practice session.

With the changes created by this regimen, your health practitioners are likely to notice and to comment with something like, “Whatever you’re doing, keep it up!” 

Face-to-face, live-on-line mentoring, needed by a minority of users of this program, is available. The email address to request a mentoring consultation exists at the end of every section of the program, Comforting Your S-I Joints.

* Who This Program is For
* Program Overview
* How and Why I Developed, Comforting Your S-I Joints
* How to …
* Getting Started (for free — yes, it’s Unit 1 of the actual program)
* Promised Results of Unit 2 (for which you may invest)


I recommend this program for people who have two or more of the following symptoms:

  • groin pain that has persisted despite therapy for tight psoas muscles
  • testicular pain or vulvar pain
  • pelvic floor dysfunction
  • bladder pain
  • deep pain in the pelvis
  • a gripping sensation at the bottom of the abdomen
  • deep pain at the waist in back, on one side
  • pain around the rim of the pelvis
  • pain deep in one hip joint
  • a feeling like a tight wire going down the low back and into the pelvis
  • pain, numbness, or “lightning like” shooting/burning pain at the side or front of the thighs or in the pelvis

The general approach of therapy is to regard the cause of a symptom as being at the location of the symptom. With the symptoms named above, when they occur in combination, that’s not the case. The cause is elsewhere — in this case, from the sacrum being twisted with one sacro-iliac joint being jammed, and sometimes (more rarely) both sacro-iliac joints.

The symptoms consist of radiating pain, nerve pain, muscular pain, and unnatural patterns of joint and spinal compression, all of which come from the twisted sacrum. The pain of the twisted sacrum triggers muscular cringing responses, potentially anywhere in the body, and untraceable (i.e., undiagnosable) by looking at the locations of the pains.

Addressing symptoms as if their cause is at their location is generally unsuccessful; the successful approach involves correcting the position of the sacrum.

Manipulation of the sacrum is a case of “addressing the symptom at its location” and is a limited benefit.

Normalizing the muscular and weight-bearing forces that are keeping the sacrum twisted causes it to straighten and to resume its healthy mobility. As the sacrum straightens, symptoms decrease and disappear. The shape of the whole pelvis — and mobility — normalize.


You don’t need to keep any of this in your mind or make any effort at all to remember it. Just understand it, once. You may find yourself imagining what I’m describing or remembering it, in yourself. 

The design of the program does the remembering, for you.

Each exercise produces specific effects, described in the introduction to each exercise. These effects become obvious after some repetition and movement-learning — usually one or two practice sessions.

The exercises combine like the pieces of a jigsaw puzzle to produce the result. Expect relief from particular symptom when they’re specifically noted in that exercise’s introduction. Expect a general trend of improvements with some “ebb and flow”. You’re dealing with muscular tension habits that you must deconstruct and then reconstruct into a healthy pattern. It’s a process that reprograms muscle/movement memory, for better muscular control that lasts, rather than a series of quick mechanical adjustments (that don’t last).



ANSWER: no, definitely not

These are programmed movements — action patterns — that reprogram muscle/movement memory in ways you can distinctly feel. Never stretch. Never do these exercises as stretches. Avoid stretching. Always work within your range of comfort short of any cringe response.


ANSWER: “no” and “no”

For a person in good condition, these exercises are entirely comfortable, to do. Pain is a sign of the trouble you’re in — and the difference between pain (as I use the term), and “intense sensation”, is the cringe response.

If you find an exercise pattern painful enough to make you cringe, you’re not ready for it. Skip it, for now, and continue through the rest of the program. Working with these exercise patterns while cringing and forcing through pain is counterproductive. As you cycle through the program, the other exercises will prepare you so that you are comfortable enough to do the previously painful exercise without cringing. Never force or “work through the pain”; cultivate control within your non-cringing comfort zone.

You will feel changes in movement and balance almost from the beginning.  If you don’t feel improvements from a given exercise in one or two practice sessions, either you don’t particularly need that exercise, you need preparation from the other exercises, or you were doing it differently than as described in the instructions.  It doesn’t matter; do the whole program, as given. Mentoring helps to speed your improvement.


The strategy for this program is:

  1. to remove forces that simultaneously twist and compress the sacrum or twist the ilium (side-hip bone) in relation to the sacrum.
  2. to repattern coordination of muscular and weight-bearing forces for symmetry between right and left sides to cause the pelvis — and the position of the sacrum — to become symmetrical and centered, right-to-left.

First note: It’s best to do this program last-thing in the day, so sleep is next. You’ll sleep better and tissue growth that occurs at night will be in the better pattern brought about by the exercises.

This program consists of somatic education exercises done in a specific order. You don’t do all the exercises in one sweep (which is why I divide the instruction into sections of practice); you do the exercises in entire sections, as described, below.


The exercises are entirely comfortable to do for anyone in good condition; pain is a sign of a movement problem that the program will correct. As you work through the program, if a certain exercise feels too painful to do because of your condition and makes you cringe, skip to the next section; you’ll return to the too-painful exercise as you cycle through the program and likely find that you can now do it comfortably — and if not, skip it, again.

Each exercise sets changes in motion that progress for some time after practice.  Some decompress your S-I joints, so the other exercises can work; some self-correct your coordination, so the forces that position your sacrum change direction; some flush up existing problems so you can correct them as you cycle through the program; and some integrate and consolidate the improvements that have occurred.

As in a recipe, no one ingredient constitutes the entire recipe, no one ingredient, but the whole recipe, produces the result, and there are steps of preparation.  Each somatic education exercise may be viewed as an ingredient and the program, as the recipe.

The program takes you, step-by-step, through your self-renewal, back to life free of pain and in robust condition.


Too tired to do them? That’s a sign you need them. Do them, anyway. You’ll finish more refreshed — not more tired.

You do the exercises in sections for the number of practice days stated at the opening screen of each section — unless you find it necessary to skip an exercise due to pain, as stated above.

You begin each practice session with all of the exercises of Unit 1, Part 1 and finish each practice session with all of the exercises of Unit 1, Part 2.

Here’s a summary of the program:

    • Unit 1: Preparation
    • Unit 2: Self-Corrections and Integrations
    • Unit 3: Higher Integration Movements That Consolidate the Improvements

Unit 1: Preparation

The Tongue Mudra

Very Powerful, the Tongue Mudra is an evolved form of an ancient yogic technique. It involves positioning the tongue and lower jaw in a particular way along with special breathing. This positioning creates internal feeling-connections that cause spontaneous self-corrections of tension, feeling, and posture. It may seem odd that positioning the tongue in some way can cause these effects, but cause them, it does — and I have often felt the effects all the way into my sacrum, as changes of tension and position.

It’s very handy and the first thing you should learn in the program. An instructional video follows, below. Start your practice of The Tongue Mudra when you reach that video, on this page.

You might do the exercises in this program without The Tongue Mudra and get results, but results occur much more quickly and easily if you use the Mudra during or immediately after practice. There is an exception: the somatic education exercises that involve the jaws (Unit 2, Section F.2); it’s rather impossible to do both at the same time, so you follow the exercise with a few minutes of The Tongue Mudra.

Some people have residue from neck injuries. If that’s you, The Tongue Mudra is essential, for you.


You determine your own sacral position before each practice session; people’s sacrum changes position and you may want to make sure you are doing the exercises for the correct side. A video-tutorial provides instructions.

How Much Time Does It Take?

Once you know the Unit 1 exercises, most practice sessions take about 1/2 to 3/4 hour; some take less, some take more. Working from the video tutorials takes longer; when you know the exercises by feel, practice goes quicker because you can get more done with fewer repetitions. You’ll know, by feel.

If you get too sore to want to practice, take a break and pick up where you left off, after the soreness abates.

Until you’re familiar with the exercises, it’s best to follow the practice guidelines given for each section.



The “Getting Started” Part



The Tongue Mudra


Done as instructed in the tutorial above, even by itself, The Tongue Mudra is very powerful at triggering self-adjustments to posture and movement — if you do it correctly — meaning in the correct position so that you get the sensations described.

The use of The Tongue Mudra when practicing these exercise patterns increases their potency, making larger self-corrections occur more quickly.

The use of The Tongue Mudra after practice increases the changes caused by the exercise patterns.

You’ll like it.


Self-assessment is not optional or occasional. You assess yourself each time you do a practice session, and, if you are really meticulous, before and after each exercise (so you can feel the change). Self-assessment is required in order to know on which side to do certain exercises — and that will probably change unpredictably as you do the program. So, check yourself.

If You Can’t Confidently (and Competently) Assess Yourself

Get a therapist to teach you how and to confirm your accuracy.

If you feel worse after practice, you may have mis-assessed yourself. However, remember that even if you did the correct side, soreness sometimes happens after practice.  It may last a few hours before subsiding.  If it doesn’t subside within a day, do the exercise for your other side, next.

Determining Sacral Position

Determine which way your sacrum is turned (left or right side jammed forward) to determine which side is your working side; the introductions to the exercises explain. You’re manually measuring the depression or “dimple” next to the ridges. If one side of your sacrum is “high” or closer to the surface, the other side is jammed. The exercise patterns are designed to correct twists, up-and-down displacements and rotations of the pelvic bones.


You do the sections of the program in the order described, below.

1.   “Unit 1” (seven cycles, or so — or until you have accurately memorized the movements and no new changes occur.)

2.  “Abbreviated Unit 1” + “Unit 2”
(subject to personal coaching recommendations)

In “abbreviated Unit 1” (once you’ve practiced the action patterns enough to remember them), you do two repetitions of each movement (instead of five), from memory.

You prepare for the Unit 2 exercises with Unit 1, PART 1 and finish the Unit 2 exercises with Unit 1, PART 2, “AFTER EVERY UNIT 2 or UNIT 3 PRACTICE SESSION”. 


3.  “Unit 3”

UNIT 1 | Unlocking the Situation
From the Unit 1 preparatory exercises, expect relaxation and lengthening of the spine of the whole side worked, feel-able as you lie in repose after practice; it prepares you so the other exercises can do their work. What you will feel is a lengthening of the “working” side and decompression of that side’s S-I Joint — preparation for what is to follow.

Do seven cycles, or so, through all of Unit 1 (parts 1 and 2), using the video tutorial until you remember the movements well enough to do them from memory. (A “cycle” is a practice session of all of the exercises in a section.)

Then, combine Unit 1 with one section from Unit 2, as instructed, above.

Unit 1.1.1.  Gentle Spine Waves
Gentle Spine Waves is an “unlocking” step that loosens your back tension so you can make other changes.  The additional looseness makes it easier for things to shift to a new position.





Unit 1.1.2. Sidelying Sacral Decompression


Start with the deeper side up; this instruction will make sense once you’ve followed the video-tutorial, the first time, not from reading these instructions or just viewing the tutorial video.

When working Unit 2, you do Unit 1 as preparation for each Unit 2 section. You are unlocking the situation so the Unit 2 exercises work.

Section C.  Gentle Spine Waves, PART 2


1.  Gentle Spine Waves, PART 2 (two minutes or so)



2.  Freeing Hamstrings, Standing Position (twelve-minute tutorial, two-to-three minutes to do when you know the exercise)


3.  Standing Side-Sway (one minute)


4.  a 5-10 minute walk to integrate the changes:

The Power Walks




The exercise instruction videos you’ve seen, above, are enough to get you started on the program, so you can evaluate its effectiveness, for you.

On the rest of this page, you find the exercises that constitute the rest of this program, what to expect from each exercise, and links to the access page for the entire program.

UNIT 2 | Normalizing Movement: Self-Corrections and Integration


  • relief from pain in the S-I joint
  • relief of various pains and weird symptoms, elsewhere
  • freedom to bend forward (without abdominal muscles ttightening)
  • freedom to straighten up
  • easy walking
  • better overall movement — balance, flexibility, coordination
  • relief from (so-called) “piriformis muscle pain” (actually, it’s nerve pain)
  • relief from burning / numbness in the thigh
  • others, detailed below


  • untwisting of pelvis, correction of tilt, better right:left pelvic symmetry
  • relief of deep abdominal tensions
  • relief from “deep gripping” feeling in your lower abdomen
  • easing of “tight wire” feeling in lumbar spine and pelvis
  • easier walking



  • relief of sciatica-like pain down the back of the leg
  • more space where your spine meets your sacrum
  • relief from stress in your trunk
  • reduce compression where the low back meets the sacrum (lumbo-sacral junction)
  • add fluidity to walking





  • release trunk tensions that keep you from twisting, freely
  • makes walking easier
  • better balance


  • relieves the “grip” of muscles of the lumbar spine (at the waist)
  • straightens the sacrum and align the pelvis
  • untwist trunk
  • smoother, easier, more comfortable walking
  • better linkage of your shoulders and pelvis


  • makes legs feel better
  • relief of tightness where the legs meet the pelvis
  • grace, comfort and power in walking
  • better ground contact standing and walking
  • better balance
  • comfort through your trunk
  • easier walking





  • deep releases in pelvis and back, improved comfort
  • comforting releases in your upper back, shoulders and neck
  • more erect stature
  • easier, more spacious breathing
  • easing of emotional stress
  • decompression of sacrum

UNIT 3 | Integration Movements: Refining Movements and Consolidating Improvements

By now, you are much more comfortable and mobile. You may notice that it’s hard to tell which side of your sacrum is deeper or which side moves more easily.

That’s when you start UNIT 3.


  • smoother, more fluid connection of legs, pelvis and trunk
    disappearance of residual tensions and discomforts


Two surgical alternatives exist to this regimen:

  1. radio-frequency nerve ablation (RFA): $2,100, or so
  2. joint fusion surgery: $23,000, or so
Alternative 1: uses electromagnetic (radio) energy to burn/cook the nerve to kill the pain, but does nothing to correct the cause of the pain. Nerves usually regenerate, so this procedure must be redone every 6-9 months.
Alternative 2:  makes permanent changes to (usually one) sacroiliac joint and alters movement, with no guarantee of relief. Expense, post-surgical pain and recovery time are involved.
This regimen is an alternative to surgery with no negative side effects. It sufficiently improves comfort and function to make you fit and comfortable for all activities, including heavy lifting. Improvements are long-lasting.

However, it does have side effects: positive side effects. You end up feeling better put-together, more robust, stronger and more agile than before the symptoms set in.

So you have two general options: costly options with negative side-effects or which need to be redone, periodically — and — a cost-effective option with no negative side effects and with positive side-benefits beyond mere recovery. It’s your choice.



Consultation and Mentoring Options

If you get stuck, don’t worry.  Mentoring options — both one-time and ongoing — are available (paid, with a satisfaction guarantee). Visit to learn more and to schedule.

Lawrence Gold

The Institute for Somatic Study and Development

Santa Fe, NM 87508
505 819-0858
SKYPE: lawrencegold

Lawrence Gold is a certified clinical somatic educator who has been in practice since 1990. His clients are typically people in pain who have not gotten help from standard therapies. Contact Lawrence Gold, here. Read about his background, here.

This article was originally published at Full-Spectrum Somatics. Reprinted with permission from the author.

Twitter: @somatic_healing
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Add your comment — what you would like to ask or tell.

Managing Ageing Successfully Means Continuing to Mature Well

Somatic Education Exercises for Aging Exceptionally Well

by Lawrence Gold

Personal Page

Certified Hanna somatic educator


Popular belief holds that the pains and stiffness of aging are inevitable and to be expected: that aging results from time passing. “You’re just getting older,” your doctor and your family say, and there the conversation usually stops.

The thinking is that your parts are wearing out, and that they’re supposed to. It’s how people think of the human body — as a “marvelous machine.”

Don’t buy it. There’s more to it than the passage of time and the human body is more than a marvelous machine. You are more than a marvelous machine, aren’t you?

While certain aspects of aging are linked to our genetic destiny, other changes have nothing to do with our genetic destiny, but with how injuries and stress leave their marks upon us as changes of movement-memory, of muscular tension, and of posture. Those changes are, in most cases, within our power to to reverse, normalize, and improve to superior levels.

Is there a hidden and larger significance to the observation that active people age better than relatively inactive people? There is. (It goes along with the saying, “Retirement is the waiting room for death.”)

There exists a seemingly innocent condition that underlies much of the pain and stiffness attributed to aging: accumulated muscular tension. Accumulated muscular tension underlies the joint compression and breakdown diagnosed as osteoarthritis.

Accumulated muscular tension often goes unnoticed because it builds so gradually that we get used to it, because we don’t recognize the significance of poor posture, and because medical practitioners are not trained to recognize its larger significance — other than at the sites of pain or grossly restricted movement. Desensitized as we are to our own condition, muscular tension accumulates and so do the consequences: being off balance and prone to falls, feeling tired all the time, depressed mood, and the appearance of chronic ailments. Accumulated muscular tension is a drain, an inconvenience, a degradation of life, and ultimately, a hazard.

By dispelling accumulated muscular tension and preventing tension from accumulating, you can prevent your joints from degenerating, improve your movement and balance, and feel more energetic; you can reclaim much of your flexibility. You can forego the cane, get off the walker, or avoid the wheelchair.

It takes more than massage. It takes self-grooming of a particular kind — the kind that removes the lingering effects of injuries (the limp), purges the stresses of life (the stoop or bad back), and liberates you from the ten thousand shocks flesh is heir to (pain).

This entry talks exactly about that form of self-grooming (it’s not strengthening, stretching, or cardiovascular exercise, not diet — but something rather more direct and immediately effective). Because it’s new, you’ll learn something, here.


Here’s a leading question: How can you tell an “aged” person at a distance? It’s by their posture and movement, isn’t it? Our posture goes into our habitual way of moving.

Much has been attributed to osteoporosis and osteopenia — loss of bone density — as causing changes of posture. While true to some degree, it’s largely a “red herring”; muscular tensions cause much more postural change than does osteoporosis. Muscle tension shapes our posture, limits our flexibility, and affects our comfort. The posture of aging reveals accumulated muscular tensions that you may have carried for years, largely without knowing it.Does this seem all too obvious? Then why don’t most people do something about it? Why do so many people resign themselves to the cane, the walker, the wheelchair?

Maybe, it’s because the usual methods of muscular conditioning and therapy don’t work very well; maybe it’s because people get so tight and stay so tight that their joints break down. Have yours?


When muscles get tight and stay tight, they cease to be elastic; they restrict movement. That sense of restriction is what people confuse with stiff joints and call “stiff muscles”. (Muscles can’t get stiff; they can only tense or relax.)Muscles held tight for more than a few seconds get sore and prone to spasm (cramp) — the proverbial “burn” of exercise that athletic trainers say to go for. It’s muscle fatigue, nothing more glamorous than that. It’s the product of tight muscles, an unhealthy sign, when it persists.

Muscles held tight days, weeks, and years compress the joints they pass across; joint pain, breakdown, inflammation and dissolution follow. The name for cartilage breakdown and inflammation is, arthritis (literally translated from Latin: “inflammation of a joint”). Even if there were a genetic origin to arthritis, it would be in addition to this compression process, which causes joint breakdown all by itself.

The combination of muscle fatigue (soreness) and joint compression create much of the chronic pain and stiffness of aging.

“Sore to the Touch”

Most people are sore to the touch in one place or another — not because they are “old”, but because they are tight, and their muscles, fatigued.The problem exists, however, not in the muscles themselves, but in the brain that controls them. The problem is one of “muscle/movement memory”, which controls movement, tension level, and posture.

The reason why skeletal adjustments, massage and stretching so often provide only temporary relief is that muscle/movement memory runs the show. You may temporarily force muscles to relax with massage or a quick stretch, but of muscle/movement memory is set to a high tension level, we get tense, again, in short order — whether hours or days.

Forming Tension Habits

People go through a lifetime doing either one of two things: tensing or relaxing.Think back to a time in your life when you were in a stressful situation — one that you knew might last a while or that lasted longer than you expected. Notice how you feel when thinking about it. Do you tense or relax, thinking about it? How were you, then?

Did you manage your tension or ignore it? Did you turn your attention to “more important things”? Did you get used to your tension? If so, you probably lost some of your ability to relax (in the muscular sense, as well as the emotional sense). Over your lifetime, did you get more flexible, or more stiff? Sudden onset of stiffness or an episode of pain is how you know it’s muscle/movement memory. Joints don’t change that quickly.

Another way tension habits form is through physical injury. It’s not the injury, but the reaction to it, that triggers tension habits. When we get hurt, we guard the injured part by cringing — pulling out of action. Many injuries make such an impression upon us that we continue the cringe for decades, automatically and without awareness. We may not notice low-level cringing, but as tension accumulates, a low-level cringe often becomes a high-level of contraction that at last surfaces as a mysterious episode of pain — the cause having occurred years ago.

Even physical fitness programs can lead to chronic tension. Many kinds of fitness training emphasize strength and firming (tightening) up. Rarely do they teach a person to relax. More often, they teach a person to stretch and “warm up”, which is not the same as teaching relaxation. So many fitness programs (or at least the way some people do them) cause them to form tension habits.

Thus form tension habits that lead to chronic pain, stiffness, inflammation and joint damage. Even without arthritis, accumulated tension adds drag to movement. The combination of drag and pain drains us and makes us feel tired all the time, “old”.

It’s not age; it’s pain and fatigue. Seem familiar?

So, it’s not so much our years as the tension that accumulates over the years that causes the pain and stiffness of aging and the loss of the agility of youth.


The pain and stiffness of aging start out as temporary tensions that become learned habits. Those habits can be unlearned, pain dispelled, comfort restored, stiffness softened, mobility improved.

The odd thing is that our tension often seems to be “happening to us” — rather than something we are doing. Much of it exists below our “threshold of consciousness”. We’re “used to it”; we don’t notice it.

“Somatic education exercises” effectively soften the grip of tension — not merely temporarily, but cumulatively, progressively, durably.

The word, “somatic”, refers to your sense of yourself, as you are to yourself. It means “self-sensing, self-activating and self-relaxing” — the way you sense and control chewing.

Somatic education exercises are an entirely different class of exercises from strengthening exercises or stretching exercises (whether athletic stretches or yoga). They have a quality to them akin to yawning. By instilling healthier patterns of muscle/movement memory, they improve posture, flexibility, and coordination. Tension eases and pains disappear. They make movement without pain possible, again.

Healthy aging is more likely if you eliminate the causes of aging you can control. Age management involves more than drugs for blood pressure, crossword puzzles for your brain, cardiovascular exercise for your heart, weed which you can buy weed online in Canada if you live there, or stretches for your muscles; it involves grooming yourself of the accumulated effects of injuries and stress — not merely psychologically, but physically. A healthy diet, a rich social life, and pursuing our interests are important aspects of successful aging. So are somatic education exercises — without which, you now know the probable consequences.

You are invited to take a free preview
of the somatic education exercise program, The Cat Stretch Exercises
The Myth of Aging series.

Jaw Pain, TMJ Syndrome and Snoring — Is the Gag on You?


Jaw tension and jaw movement are a very interesting pivotal point in the consideration of balanced movement and stance, but also, of physiological health and emotional well-being.


Our balance depends much upon 

where our jaw (mandible) is 

in relation to our cranium:


clenched or loosely supported

mandible forward, head back

or mandible back, head down and forward

or tighter more on one side than on the other?


or with our cranium well centered and 

moved in a well balanced 

by our free and gently elongated neck?


or pulling our head down and forward

as our lower jaw (mandible) pulls back and up

seemingly by itself

with no doing on our part.



and the position of our jaw reflects our physiological state and shape

our arousal state

our emotional state

our attitude

our readiness for what’s next

or our unreadiness

our “running” old memories

as our best understanding of the present

without also facing the mystery as 

this living moment.


The View from Outside


The upper jaw, part of the cranium, connects most intimately with the spine and back (dorsal aspect) of the body.


The lower jaw, the mandible, connects most intimately with the body-core and front (ventral aspect) of the body.


Miscoordination of the jaws, in biting, chewing, and rest position, causes a misfit between the front and back of the body.  That misfit causes chronic muscular tensions in the trunk and disturbances to breathing, swallowing, balance, posture and movement.  Jaws are a big deal.  I say more about that, below.


But for now, I think it’s time we looked something squarely in the face, viz.,

“the grimace”.


The grimace goes with the gag reflex,

but also with coughing,

revulsion, disgust (pulling back of the tongue),

and suppressed anger (pulling back the mandible in supression of the urge to bite someone),

all involving changes to the face, jaw position, the inside of the mouth, and throat.


And to all that, I say, “Blecch!”

But, there we are. We might as well look at it,

particularly if all that describes us.


So, the first question:


Where does our lower jaw go on such occasions?


Why, up and back.


The teeth clench,

the bones of the face compress and the face gets harder,

the tongue pulls back in and presses against the soft palate.


The head pulls forward and down,

the top of the head tips back

and the neck vertebrae come forward,

closing the throat passage from behind.


It’s a response that says,

“Nothing’s going in

and something may be coming out!”


As I said, “Blecch!”




Back to the jaws.


Clenching the teeth involves the muscles of the sides of the head

pulling the lower jaw (mandible)

up against the teeth of the upper jaw (the maxilla),

so the muscles of clenching pull the sides (and therefore, top) of the head down

and the bottom of the head, up

in a big squeeze.


The face shows it.


More is happening, however.


With the closing of the throat

comes also

depression of the front of the chest —

a cave-in

and compression around the base of the head

where the spinal cord enters (foramen magnum)

producing a sensation registered, somatically,

as shrinking inward along our length

and possibly, queasiness.


The change of mouth, throat, and chest shape

impair breathing at two focal locations

the throat

and the chest.


Well, this is a jolly state to be in.


The question arises:

“What is a more wholesome resting position of the lower jaw?”


I say,

“It is hanging freely, floating beneath the upper teeth

and somewhat forward.”


The exact amount of forward depends upon the inclination of the head

but in the neutral or balanced head position,

my provisional stand is, “the incisors match up”

although it’s an error to think of the jaws having a fixed rest position.

It’s more that they have a floating equilibrium that changes with head movement and position.


When our head is more inclined (forehead up)

the lower jaw hangs back, somewhat

as in the gag reflex

or worry.


When our head is somewhat bowed (forehead forward)

our lower jaw hangs forward, somewhat.


When our head is balanced between forward and back

our lower jaw hangs freely at some floating suspension point,

our facial bones feel the downward pull of the lower jaw

and they separate, somewhat

and our face softens.


Our chest spontaneously rehapes, sternum higher

breathing fuller,


and we sit at a new balance.


Some contrast with the gag reflex, eh?


So when we are revolting against life,

when life seems revolting to us

when “our bodies” are in revolt

or we are confronted with a revolting body,

and the emotion of revulsion closes in

the teeth clench, somewhat,

or maybe a lot. (TMJ Dysfunction/bruxism)


Repressed anger involves a pulling back of the mandible (lower jaw)

and clenching of the teeth,

the proverbial “gnashing of teeth”,

combined with a pasted-on smile

really, a grimace

not a true grin,

which is really the action of repressing rage and the urge

to bite someone.


An alternate cause of tightening the jaws in a held position

is pain in the jaws or teeth, whatever the cause,

which triggers the grimace response

of pulling the lower jaw back and up

or clenching the face.

Pain of sufficient intensity or duration

can cause long-term conditioning that outlasts the pain

and causes lingering pain of its own.


The same emotional and functional physiological changes occur from either cause.

It’s not an all-or-none reaction, either, but a matter of degree

according to the pain or emotional state, involved.


A person may experience manifestations of narrowed air passages:

he may snore

or have sleep apnea

or just grind his teeth at night

frightening his spouse

or the neighbors.


Freeing our jaws to hang more freely

enables us to feel and release accumulated grimace or pain-cringe

and enables us to move toward overall more wholesome health.

Our face shows it.





If you want to know how wholesome your own jaw position is,

take a walk,

and as you walk, slowly nod your head in a “yes” movement

and feel how freely your lower jaw changes hanging position.



articles on TMJ Dysfunction /TMD

Causes of TMJ Dysfunction



instructional video


preparation for the instructional video, above, if needed

self-relief program (video)





Regrow Cartilage

QUESTION from a reader who asks how to regrow/repair cartilage:
“Hi Lawrence. Do you have any information of how to 1) repair or regrow cartilage in the joints, hips specifically, and 2) how to eliminate bone spurs? I’m having great progress with somatics to improve posture and reduce tension and muscle pain, but I still get a sense of a deeper soreness and also grinding in the joint which feels like it could be from the cartilage wear and spurring that was detected in my joints. Any advice on this? Is it indeed possible? 😉 Thanks!”

To regrow cartilage, you need some cartilage in the joint; the remaining cartilage is the “seed” for regrowth.  Then, you need to remove overcompression by freeing the surrounding musculature

If there’s no cartilage left, I don’t know.

Sometimes, muscular soreness near a joint is mistaken as joint pain. In that case, there’s no need to regrow cartilage.

For hip joints, the muscles involved are the gluteals (see The Cat Stretch Exercises, with a modification of Lessons 1 and 5 for the gluteus medius muscles) and Lesson 3, the adductors, hip joint flexors and psoas muscles (Free Your Psoas), and the deep adductors (obturators)(The Magic of Somatics).

With the pressure removed, cartilage can regrow (slowly). I don’t know the value of chondroitin sulphate for growing cartilage, except that when muscular tension around the joint is high, it’s impossible to regrow cartilage.

As to bone spurs (osteophytes), same thing. Bone spurs grow along the line of pull of chronically tight muscles, at their tendonous attachments.

So, bone spurs and cartilage loss come from the same cause:  muscles held tight over a long period.  Bone spurs can dissolve, and cartilage can regrow, when the cause is removed.

Please also see, “Completing Your Recovery from an Injury”.

in your service,
Lawrence Gold