What is the Green Light Reflex and why must we be able to recognize it??
The Green Light Reflex is an automatic brain reflex that is triggered every time we are called to action, .ie; when our phone rings, when someone calls our name, when we have a deadline looming, when we notice a new email in our inbox etc. The job of Green Light Reflex is to contract all the major muscles of the back of our body so as to enable us to move forwards (see image below). When this reflex is triggered the muscles of the back extend the spine, the shoulders are pulled back, the lower back is pulled into an arch, the head is pulled back somewhat, the glutes, hamstrings and calves tighten, straightening the legs and rotating the legs outward. It is a very positive reflex, it is this reflex which enabled us to learn how to roll, crawl, walk, run and move out into the world. However, if it is activated too frequently, or too much, it can become habituated. What does this mean?
Well, the brain gets very good at what it does repeatedly, repetition of actions is the method by which the brain LEARNS. So if a reflex is activated REPEATEDLY the brain LEARNS to be ready to perform that action (activating all the muscles of the back of the body) at all times. The brain will then hold those muscles at a low level of contraction ALL THE TIME. At this point it becomes an involuntary action, in that you are no longer aware that you are doing it. What you will be aware of though is the result of the habitual contraction namely, fatigue and pain in your lower back, neck and hips or any combination thereof.
Habituated Green Light Reflex can lead to back pain, herniated discs, sciatica, hip pain and knee pain. You will also notice that you cannot bend forward easily any more, as in order to bend forward, your back muscles need to relax and lengthen, but as you have habituated contraction of all the muscles of the back of your body, you cannot do that. So now you have lost voluntary control of the muscles of your back. In Somatic Education we would say you have developed Sensory Motor Amnesia (SMA) in relation to the Green Light Reflex. You can activate the reflex still, in fact you are really good at that, but you have forgotten how to turn it off. The wooden mannequinn below approximates the posture of Green Light Reflex.
If you’re past 30 years of age, you put it down to aging. But let’s be clear, habituation of the Green Light Reflex has nothing to do with aging and everything to do with how you respond to the many different stresses you experience in your life. It is a neurological event that results in a FUNCTIONAL problem. If you regain control over the neurological (brain) event, you can resolve the functional muscle problem.
The Green Light Reflex is just one of three sub cortical brain reflexes that are of concern to Somatic Educators. Check back soon to learn about the other two…
- The Green Light Reflex is an automatic brain reflex.
- Green Light Reflex helps us to move forward by contracting the muscles of the back of our bodies.
- It is activated many times during the day.
- If we activate it too much without turning it off, we forget HOW to turn it off.
- When this happens we develop back pain, stiffness, and restricted movement.
- Habituated Green Light Reflex can cause herniated discs, back pain, neck pain, sciatica and knee pain among others.
You can start learning how to regain control of the Green Light Reflex right now by practicing the Somatic Movement known as Arch & Flatten, it will release and relax your lower back fast. Give it a try to enjoy a freer more comfortable back!
As always, thanks for reading.
Photo by Jason Hogan on Unsplash