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Fig. 4.29 The locked long muscles are often the noisy ones in
terms of pain, but the locked short muscles, often silent, are the
ones that need to be opened and stretched for permanent
resolution of the pattern.
a collapsed or 'overburdened' posture. In considering a fully
lengthened, easily maintained posture, it is hard to escape the
idea that the muscles of the SFL are designed to pull 'up'.
Now muscles, as far as is known, show no propensity or even
possibility for determining their direction of pull. They simply
pull on the surrounding fascial net, and physics determines
whether the result pulls origin toward insertion, insertion
toward origin, or neither, as in an isometric or eccentric
Nevertheless, if we consider the SFL from the top down,
we could see that the SCM portion originating from the
mastoid process would be the origin of movement, helping to
pull up on the top of the rib cage via the sternum (see Fig.
4.4). In turn, the rectus abdominis could pull up on the pubic
bone, helping to prevent an anterior tilt of the pelvis. Too often,
however, the very opposite occurs, and the rectus pulls down
on the rib cage, depressing the ribs and restricting breathing.
This pull is conveyed through the sternalis and sternum to the
SCM, which pulls down, in its turn, on the head, bringing it
forward (see Fig. 4.5).
When this occurs, an extra burden is shifted onto the SBL:
in addition to supporting the back of the body in extension, it
must now counteract the downward pull of the SFL. This
often leads to super-tight muscles and to extra fibrotic and
stuck-down fascia along the back line of the body, tissue
which aches and cries out to be worked on. The practitioner
viewing this pattern will, however, be well advised to work up
the front of the body, freeing the SFL so that the SBL can
return to its proper job. Working only the SBL and back in
cases like these will result in only temporary relief and, over
time, a worse posture. How many bodywork clients say, 'Just
work my back and shoulders today, please, that's what's really
aching'? The knowledgeable practitioner turns his or her
attention to other places along the front line, or to postural
Fig. 4.30 A subject (A) just before and (B) just after a blank gun
was fired behind him. The startle response is cross-cultural, and
can be viewed as a sudden contraction of the SFL, which serves
to protect the spine as well as all the sensitive parts on the front of
the body shown in Figure 4.3. (Reproduced with kind permission
from Frank Jones.)
obviously, people protect those sensitive parts: a retraction in
the groin, a tight belly, a pulled-in chest. It is natural enough
that when they feel threatened, humans should return toward
a younger (primary fetal curve) or more protected (quadrupe-
dal) posture.
There is, however, one notable exception to Feldenkrais's
observation: negative emotion regularly produces hyperexten-
sion of the upper neck, not flexion (Fig. 4.30). We can see
this very clearly in the reaction called the startle
response (what Thomas Hanna referred to as the 'red light'
reflex 2 ).
What we can see very clearly is that the startle response is
not, strictly speaking, a total flexion response, but rather a
shortening and tightening along the SFL. The clear indication
of this general response is that the mastoid process is brought
closer to the pubic bone. It acts to protect the organs along
the front, but to retract the neck into hyperextension, bringing
the head forward and down. There have been several theories
put forward as to why this pattern of contraction may have
been evolutionarily advantageous. The most tellingly obvious
is that in the quadruped, where the SFL shows up more or
less in its current form, contracting the SFL would bring the
head closer to the ground without sacrificing the ability to see
and hear (Fig. 4.31).
The muscles of the Superficial Front Arm Line also fre-
quently join in this response, bringing elbow flexion and shoul-
der protraction into this picture. The total posture, then, of the
startled person involves rigidity in the legs, plus trunk and arm
flexion, coupled with upper neck hyperextension.
The problem comes when the startled posture is main-
tained, which humans are perfectly and repeatedly capable of
doing over an extended period (Fig. 4.32). This posture and
its variants can affect nearly every human function negatively,
Discussion 2
The SFL, the neck, and the startle response
'All negative emotion', says Feldenkrais, 'is expressed as
flexion.' 1 The general truth of this simple statement is brought
home to any observer of human behavior every day. We see
the hunch of anger, the slump of depression, or the cringe of
fear many times and in many different forms.
Only humans, as we have noted, rear up on their hind legs,
which takes all their most vulnerable parts and puts them liter-
ally 'up front' for all to see (or bite) (see Fig. 4.3). Subtly or
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