DWIGHT'S TEACHING NOTES

Clarifying the Carriage of the Head

We’ll take some time during this day to study in an experiential way what Moshe called “The Importance of the Carriage of the Head” – the relationships of our teleceptors, righting reflexes, tonic neck reflexes, and how this helps us develop the ability to move our heads in any direction with ease.

  • How does the carriage of the head affects the state of the musculature?
  • How does the coordination of the eyes leads to improvement of the trunk?
  • The eyes are not only for seeing, Coordination of the eyes and fluidity of movement
“All perception and sensation take place on a background of muscular activity. And though we are unaware of it, this activity
is most strictly shaped by gravity. There are several systems cooperating in orientating our bodies, but the vestibular apparatus is the co-ordinating chef d’orchestre. The vestibular apparatus coordinates all sensory impulses that influence muscular tone and
attitudes.”
— M. Feldenkrais
It is noteworthy that these reflexes are most easily evoked from the foremost part of the body, from the head, in which the teleceptive sense organs are situated, so that distance stimuli influencing the position of the head can in this way also impress different attitudes upon the whole body.
— Rudolph Magnus

1. Moshe talks about Magnus – Amherst lecture 6.18.80 “The Importance of the head” – teleceptors, righting reflexes, tonic neck reflexes, Rudolph Magnus and “How can this be useful?”

2. Chapter 7 “The carriage of the head” and Chapter 10 “The movement of the eyes organize the musculature” of Awareness Through Movement are also relevant.

3. ATM #1 Side-lying- laterally flexing trunk; lengthening, turning and swinging leg – source SF evening series Mia/Gaby

  • “The change in the position of the head, through the medium of the vestibular system and the neck proprioceptors, brings about reflex changes in the muscles in the rest of the body.”
  • "The changed distribution of tonus in the extensor muscles of the limbs continues as long as the head retains its specific relation to the trunk, making way for another distribution of tension immediately upon alteration of the position of the head with respect to the trunk. It has been found that for most changes of the relation of the head to the body either the extremities on the right and leftside, or of the fore and hind limbs react in an opposite way.”

4. “Whenever we do something deliberately, we unconsciously bring into play a huge number of reflex responses, varying from subtle balancing adjustments in the tone, or tension, in the muscles in various parts of the body – these are referred to as “tonic reflexes” through to the quick and often effortful movements of limbs that take place, for example, when we brush off a fly or make a dash for a bus. The important point is that whatever deliberate action we perform and no matter how we concentrate on it, the details of the associated supporting and compensatory muscular contractions and releases happen reflexly, independently of any conscious input from the brain.”………

“The ability to twist the body into the appropriate position and get up from the ground is obviously of critical importance to the survival of any animal and this is why it is “doubly ensured” by the reflex system. But among the various systems involved it is particularly notable how changes in the position of the head relative to the rest of the body, through the mediation of the neck, have major effects throughout the whole of the body’s musculature.”
— M. Feldenkrais “Body and Mature Behavior Chapter 9

5. ATM #2 - Transferring groundwork to upright verticality/ Finding standing relationships (reference:AY#263- Bending left and right)

6. Labyrinthine Reflexes 

The righting reflex, also known as the Labyrinthine righting reflex, is a reflex that corrects the orientation of the body when it is taken out of its normal upright position. These automatic postural adjustments can be explained in terms of two reflexes similar to the righting reflex: the vestibulo-ocular reflex (VOR) and the vestibulocollic reflex (VCR). The VOR involves movement of the eyes while the head turns to remain fixated on a stationary image, and the VCR involves control of neck muscles for correction of the head's orientation. During the VOR, the semicircular canals send information to the brain and correct eye movements in the direction opposite head movement by sending excitatory signals to motor neurons on the side opposite to the head rotation. Neurons in the otoliths control not only these signals for control of eye movements, but also signals for head movement correction through the neck muscles. The righting reflex utilizes the VOR and VCR as it brings the body back into position. Visual information under the control of these reflexes creates greater stability for more accurate postural correction.

7. “ORIENTATION in space is an essential function for any living organism. We normally maintain a peculiar vertical alignment quite distinct from all other animals. The precarious mechanical equilibrium is made good by a complex play of muscles that keeps
our constantly shifting body vertical, and as far as our awareness is concerned, practically free from gravitation.”

  • “All perception and sensation take place on a background of muscular activity. And though we are unaware of it, this activity is most strictly shaped by gravity. There are several systems cooperating in orientating our bodies, but the vestibular apparatus is the co-ordinating chef d'orchestre. The vestibular apparatus coordinates all sensory impulses that influence muscular tone and attitudes.”
  • “The vestibular branch of the VI lIth cranial nerve innervates the semicircular canals and the otolithic apparatus. It is the former that senses any change in acceleration, while the otolithic apparatus senses slow movements of the head relative to the vertical.”
  • “The eyes constantly correct the appreciation of space due to kinaesthetic incitations. Without them the horizontal and vertical reference are a function of the tone prevalent in the body segments, and do not coincide with the true vertical and horizontal."
  • “We cannot conceive consciousness without fixing the position of our body in relation to the outside world. More precisely, we cannot appreciate any sensory experience, emotion or feeling without presenting to ourselves our relation to the vertical. On awakening, before we know "where" we are, i.e., before we resume the habitual relation to gravity or know how we could assume it, all signals coming from the outside world are blurred, distorted and meaningless. Opening the eyes gives us at once the orientation in space. But without the incitations from the vestibular apparatus the opening of the eyes is not sufficient.”
  • “In the appreciation of sensory experience, the vestibular apparatus, though by no means the only mechanism, is essential. For it co-ordinates the sensory motor impressions into a coherent picture with the image and orientation of our body in space. The vestibular apparatus derives its importance from the fact that it co-ordinates motility, which is at the bottom of all  configurations of sensations." – Feldenkrais “Body and Mature Behavior Chapter 9

8. The vestibulo-ocular reflex (VOR) is a reflex eye movement that stabilizes images on the retina during head movement by producing an eye movement in the direction opposite to head movement, thus preserving the image on the center of the visual field. For example, when the head moves to the right, the eyes move to the left, and vice versa. Since slight head movement is present all the time, the VOR is very important for stabilizing vision:. Humans have semicircular canals, neck muscle "stretch" receptors, and the utricle (gravity organ). Though the semicircular canals cause most of the reflexes which are responsive to acceleration, the maintaining of balance is mediated by the stretch of neck muscles and the pull of gravity on the utricle (otolith organ) of the inner ear.

The VOR has both rotational and translational aspects. When the head rotates about any axis (horizontal, vertical, or torsional) distant visual images are stabilized by rotating the eyes about the same axis, but in the opposite direction. When the head translates, for example during walking, the visual fixation point is maintained by rotating gaze direction in the opposite direction, by an amount that depends on distance.

9. . Functional Integration Demo and practice – in pairs, explore in your own way, using both atm’s as a template/reference

  • A good traveler has no fixed plans, and is not intent on arriving. -Lao Tzu

10.FM Principles addressed

  • The carriage of the head serves to tonify the body. 
  • What is good posture? The state from where a person is able to move in any direction, at any time, without hesitation or preparation. It is the absence of unnecessary muscular contraction. As a starting point for our movements and actions, posture, or more accurately “acture” dictates our movement potential.
  • Balance/counter balance: Improved balance is achieved when the center of the body mass is clearly organized above the base of support.
  • Evenly distributed muscular tone: No place works harder than any other place. A well organized person experiences lightness and ease in movement
  • Proportional distribution of muscular effort: The big muscles do the big work and the small muscles do small work
  • Good Action is determined by the capacity of the person to move the eyes, the head and the breath in a differentiated or coordinated manner.
  • Learning by doing: Experiential learning is the process of making meaning from direct experience. Knowledge may be continuously gained through personal, exploratory interaction with the environment
  • Orientation is a biological necessity and is essential to all action: Spatial relationships and coordination are determined by orientation.
  • “ORIENTATION in space is an essential function for any living organism. We normally maintain a peculiar vertical alignment quite distinct from all other animals. The precarious mechanical equilibrium is made good by a complex play of muscles that keeps our constantly shifting body vertical, and as far as our awareness is concerned, practically free from gravitation.”
  • The nonlinear nature of change: Differences in action or environment may trigger nonlinear changes. By varying the environment of familiar task demands, it is possible to destabilize postural habits and help new ones to emerge.

Further resources: