Somato Respiratory Integration Exercises
Written by Donald Epstein, DC
TAC, Volume 27, Issue 5
A patient calls in the middle of your weekend feeling great distress about their experience under your care; what do you tell them? You have a patient who seems to be so unresponsive to care, you feel lost. You are looking for your practice members to take more responsibility for their health, wellness and healing processes. If you have ever encountered any of these experiences, I am about to share with you something so powerful that it will absolutely transform your practice and patients.
The single most important exercise a patient or practice member should do to feel greater safety in his/her body, and take the “charge” off symptoms, consists of turning the attention within. How do we get the patient to trust this innate healing ability enough when feeling stressed or in pain? How do we recognize and promote a greater self-responsibility in care?
We wear our stress response in our bodies as what I call “defense postures.” The structural distortion, tension patterns and subluxations are a testimony to, and physical anchor for, events that overwhelm our body-minds.
Somato Respiratory Integration™ (SRI) exercises (based on my book, The 12 Stages of Healing) are designed to help the brain reconnect with the body and its experience. These exercises reconnect breathing with awareness of the body and its natural rhythms. They help the individual experience his/her body more fully, instantly shift the individual’s state of consciousness to one that supports trust for the body-mind and healing process, as well as promote increased peace and ease.
These exercises appear to consistently reverse the process of defense physiology, spinal distortion and the disconnection that hinders the progression in chiropractic care. They can provide the acute patient with a tool to help dispel fear and encourage trust in the body or his/her experience of the body. The exercises can also be helpful to the practitioner in communicating the brain/body/emotion/stress connection.
Introducing Somato Respiratory Integration™ Exercises: Stage One
This exercise is recommended anytime an individual is overwhelmed by his body, experience or symptom, and also if he feels helpless, fearful of his body, is difficult to adjust, or just needs more internal connection and a greater degree of internal safety. When an area of the spine does not adjust easily, or has recurring defense patterns, this exercise can be performed as a means of developing connection in the region directly anterior to the spinal tension pattern. It can be magical in its result.
Lie on your back or be seated. Touch your upper chest at the top of the ribs with both hands, palms facing downward, and breathe slowly and gently in through your nose and out through your mouth. Inhale just deeply enough to feel your breath meet the rhythm of your chest rising. Exhale just enough to feel the rhythm of your chest falling. Localize the area of motion and breath to just the zone under your hands. Do not allow other areas of the body to recruit motion. Repeat this process for a few respiration cycles. Now, do the same exercise with your hands placed at the bottom of your breastbone and breathe the same way. Then place your hands on your abdomen (near your navel) and repeat. Remember to breathe gently just into the area where your hands are placed.
If this exercise is very difficult to do in one of these regions, move to a different region that feels more comfortable and at which you can focus the breath and movement with greater ease. Let the peace you experience there spread to the region where you felt discomfort. Once the individual has found the “connection” in peace and can focus the breath and motion into just that area, then the practice member can alternate between this area and the area of distress. When he holds the area of distress, he should attempt to get breath as close to that area of the body as possible and moan or make the sound of that area—the sound that area would want to make if it could speak. This technique requires the brain to hook up to the area again.
After the sound is made in this area (no more than 30 seconds on this area of distress), have the practice member bring both hands back to the area of connection or peace of the SRI Stage One exercise. At this point have the practice member sigh or make a sound of peace, ease, or relief at this area. Alternate between the area of connection or peace and distress for a few minutes (usually up to 10 minutes). Notice if there is more comfort, or if the practice member has greater wellness, or if the sounds between both areas seem to merge.
This is actually only the first of twelve exercises encompassed within the SRI exercises. Each of the exercises in a series of twelve represents a unique state of awareness and different somatic-respiratory rhythm. As an individual advances in his/her own healing journey, there are exercises to support that growth and development. For those seeking evolutionary strategies for the future of their practices, look no further; Somato Respiratory Integration™ exercises lie waiting to serve you.