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Everything starts at birth, or almost. Western society cuts the physical connection between mother and child prematurely. The little human is not constantly in contact with the mother’s body. While he should be sleeping beside the mother, he soon has to go sleep alone. This is a source of immense anguish for the baby. He is deprived of a mean of internal regulation which affects his autonomous nervous system and his endocrine system. At the moment when his need of the maternal presence is still vital, he is placed for hours in a cradle in the midst of strangers. He has to confront his anxiety and discontent at a time when he only needs one thing, immediate unconditional love. Thus, his first steps in life are marked by anger and distress. This will be deeply inscribed in his body. The response to stress, the immune system, his entire self-regulation are shifted from the beginning in the depths of his being.

The need to compensate

The little human must then confront a long series of constraints which force him to adopt some compensations to adapt and survive: these turn out to be unhealthy. Some examples that we don’t always think about: a child has naturally perfect posture: when he is seated his legs stretch out in front, while his trunk forms a right angle to them. If he reaches for an object on the ground when he is standing, his knees bend effortlessly, following a perfectly functional angle. But, in fact, he must soon learn to sit in order to eat in a chair and conform his body to immobility, while the normal biological response to physical stress is always movement. He has to wear shoes which are rigid and sometimes have heels. His feet, his ankles, his knees, his hips, his pelvis, his spinal column, and the other body parts, marvelously elaborated throughout millions of years of evolution, are forced to adapt themselves to this without the ability to respond by any salvific movement.

Learning powerlessness

The child cannot lower his heels or stretch out his foot. While his whole body urges him to escape this alienation, he must restrain his movements. The body will naturally compensate by various muscular distortions which adapt his posture to this violence. His muscles retrain themselves to different unnatural patterns. Sitting on a chair, especially for school work, aggravates these postural problems, which are even reinforced by the latent anxiety buried in his nervous system, activated by the punitive character of school.

The child learns powerlessness: this is imprinted in our bodies and in our most fundamental learning. We are hindered by anxiety even in the way we move.

Freedom in the body

To rediscover a more human life, we must first learn how to be free, primarily through the body. Your neck is not meant to bend towards the ground, your back to be hunched over, your shoulders to be pulled in, your chest to be sunken, your lumbar zone to be arched, your pelvis to be decentered ... Posture, walking, even breathing should fit our human genetic structure: these are where stress leaves its mark. The results are pain, fear, aggression which find no release. They bind our bodies and sap our energy. Digestion, sleep, heartbeat, reactions to real or fancied aggressions, the endocrine, immune, and nervous systems, all are intimately linked together.

The path to a more human life starts from the ground up by working on the muscle tissues to relax the tensions which are inscribed there, then by dynamic correction of our posture and our movements. Running like a human is one of the essentials for a truly human life ... But we live also through symbols and stories, as well as the welcoming company of our peers. Curing the structural defects bred into our bodies is not an option if we want to live a truly human life. We shall return to this subject.

Matthieu Smyth


photo : Sauvageonne©claudiaturfauquex


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