Basic Grounding Exercises
Exercise 2 / Flexing the knees
Stand with your feet about 8" apart in your normal position. Observe whether your knees are locked or bent, whether your feet are parallel or turned outward, whether your weight is forward on the balls of your feet or backward on your heels.
Now bend your knees slightly. Turn your feet so that they are absolutely parallel. Pitch your weight forward without raising your heels so that it rests on the balls of your feet. Slowly bend and straighten the knees six times, and then hold the position for about thirty seconds, breathing easily.
* Does this position feel unnatural to you? If it does, you have not been standing correctly.
* Do your legs feel shaky? Do you feel insecure on them?
* Do you have a better sense of your feet on the ground?
* Are you aware of the flexibility the knees provide when they are not locked or held tight?
The second commandment is to let the belly out. Many people find this hard to do at first. It violates their image of correct posture and good appearance. They have been brainwashed with the dictum for proper bearing: “belly in, chest out, shoulders up.” Perhaps this bearing is proper for a soldier who must function like an automaton, but it is the epitome of rigidity. It denies a person autonomy, spontaneity, and sexuality. The sucked-in belly makes abdominal breathing very difficult and forces one to overinflate the chest to get enough air. The continued overinflation of the chest is one of the factors responsible for emphysema. In the next chapter we will describe the healthy or correct breathing pattern more fully. As we shall see, it is dependent upon a relaxed abdominal musculature.
By holding your belly in and your shoulders up, you are using a lot of energy to fight your basic animal nature. And you will not succeed, although you will tire yourself. If someone ordered you to walk around holding your right hand up like the Statue of Liberty as a symbol of freedom, you would regard such a pose as an unnecessary strain. This is equally true of any posture that is forced or willed. It is work to assume any body attitude that requires effort, unnecessary and wasteful work which only serves to create an image.
Letting the belly out seems to offend women especially. They see it as sloppy and unattractive. Their image of feminine beauty is the Playboy bunny, with her tightly sucked-in belly and stuck-out breasts. This is supposed to be sexually exciting to men. Perhaps it is to some men, those who are repelled and afraid of a woman with a belly whom they see as a mother figure. However, a belly is an indication of a mature woman, the absence of a belly of an adolescent girl. The sexual appeal of an adolescent girl is to an adolescent boy (of whatever age), not to a man.
The fact is that the sucked-in belly cuts off all sexual feelings in the pelvis, those lovely melting sensations which transform sex from mere performance and release into an expression of love. What many women really feel about letting the belly out is that it is too sexual. Sloppy means loose, and loose implies a loose woman. In Victorian days women wore corsets to contain their sexuality; they literally could not be regarded as loose women. While we have rejected the physical corset, we have adopted a psychological corset that is even more effective because we cannot take it off at will.
Many men also object to letting the belly out. They are afraid that they will develop a big “pot,” which admittedly is unattractive. But when you look at people with a pot you find that the belly is not let out there either. It is tightly contracted and the muscles of the abdominal wall are drawn taut and spastic. There is a constricting band at the level of the navel or the pelvic crests. The pot protrudes above this constricting band, which functions like a dam preventing the downward flow of feeling and excitation. Energy in the form of fat piles up above the dam, producing the bulge so commonly seen in middle-aged men. In time, the tight abdominal muscles also tend to collapse, increasing the bulge.
The following figures show how the bulge develops. Figure 3 shows the natural belly-out posture of an adult person. In figure 4 a pot has developed as a result of damming the downward flow of excitation by tension in the lower abdominal wall. In figure 5 the pot has turned into a paunch as the upper abdominal muscles weakened and stretched under the pressure of the bulge.
If the dam can be broken, that is, if the band of tension can be released, the pot will slowly disappear. I have seen this happen to many men. It can only be done if the person can become aware of the constriction and tightness.
The surprising thing is that most people cannot let their bellies out. The holding in has become part of their way of being and cannot be overcome easily. When they try to let it out (lower abdomen), they find that it goes out only very slightly. Then as soon as their attention is directed elsewhere, it gets sucked in again. The same is true of the locked knees. One can keep them slightly bent when one is conscious of the knees, but they tend to lock up again when one isn’t thinking of them. It takes a lot of practice to break these bad habits.
Exercise 3 / Letting the belly out
Stand with your feet about 8" apart and as straight as possible. Bend the knees slightly. Without raising the heels from the floor, lean forward so that the weight of your body is on the balls of the feet. Keep your body straight but not stiff (see figure 3). Now let the belly (lower abdomen) out as far as it will go. Breathe easily for one minute. The purpose of this exercise is to enable you to sense the tensions in the lower part of the body.
* Can you let your belly out?
* Does it stay out or do you find that it gets pulled in again?
* Does this posture make you feel “sloppy” or “let down”?
* Do your legs feel shaky? Are you afraid they won’t hold you up?
* Do your breathing movements extend into the lower abdomen? Are you breathing into your belly?
Exercise 4 / The bow or arch
This exercise is similar to the preceding one except that it puts the body under stress to open up the breathing more fully and to place more strain on the legs. If done correctly, it helps to release the tension in the belly that causes the pot. A similar exercise is done by practitioners of T’ai chi.
Stand with feet about 18" apart, toes slightly turned inward.Now place both fists with the knuckles facing upward into the small of your back.Bend both knees as much as you can without lifting the heels off the floor. Arch backward over your fists, but make sure that your weight remains forward on the balls of your feet.Breathe deeply into your belly.
* Do you feel any strain in your lower back? If you do, it indicates that there is considerable tension in this area of your body.
* Do you feel any pain or tension in the front of the thighs or above the knees? If your legs are relaxed, you should feel no strain except in the ankles and feet where the weight of the body is supported.
*Are your legs beginning to vibrate?
* Are you able to maintain a perfect arch?
* Is your ass pulled back or is it pushed forward? In either case, you have broken the bow and your energy and feeling will not flow fully into your feet.
Repeat Exercise 1 / Basic vibratory and grounding exercise
All exercises in which a person arches backward either in the bow position or over the bioenergetic stool (see chapter 10) are regularly followed by one in which the person bends forward. This not only relieves the stress and increases the flexibility of the body, it also promotes the discharge of the excitation built up in the preceding exercise. The vibrations in the legs is such a discharge.
Repeat the exercise described in the preceding chapter. Bend forward and let the fingertips touch the floor without putting any weight on them. Start with bent knees, then slowly straighten your legs until you feel the vibrations start. Do not lock your knees backward as this immobilizes the legs. Breathe easily and deeply. Hold the position for about one minute.
* Do you feel the vibrations in your legs?
* Are they stronger than when you did the exercise earlier? Let yourself come up to a standing position with your knees slightly bent. Relax as you did during the first exercise in this series, letting the belly out and breathing easily.
* Are your legs still vibrating?
* How do you sense your feet in relation to the floor? Do you feel more connected to the floor or more grounded, as we say?
* Are you more aware of your legs and feet? Do they feel more “there” for you?
Grounding is the key to bioenergetic work. If you are well grounded, your body will be naturally balanced, upright, and firm. Your energy will flow freely. You may even notice that your eyes are clearer and your vision better.Grounding is closely related to breathing, as you may have observed while doing the exercises. The more you let down inside yourself, the deeper is your breathing. It is important, however, to become aware of your breathing pattern and to learn how you “hold” against free and full respiration. That will be the subject of the next chapter.
Excerpt from Lowen & Lowen, The Way to Vibrant Health (1977)