Reflex Integration Exercises

Breathing Technique


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There are 3 different exercises in here. You can do all of them, some of them, or just one of them, depending on where you are or what feels right for you. 

  1.  Sit on the floor if you can, feeling the weight of your sits bones against the ground.
  2. Take a second to intentionally pause, wherever you are. You might be coming into this practice with uncomfortable sensations, emotions, or thoughts, and I'm here to remind you that this is okay. This is a nervous system response - and we can maybe thank our nervous system for trying to protect us, and just spend the next few minutes being curious about trying something new. 
  3. Making an X: 
    •  With your hands in fists, place your arms across your chest to make the shape of an 'X', with one arm over the other, and your hands on either side of your neck below the jaw.
    • Slowly drag your fists down and along your chest until they come to either side of your lower rib cage.
    • Then cross your arms back up to the top again, this time placing the opposite  arm over the other. Make sure your fists are making contact with your body the whole time.
    • Repeat this 10 times, alternating which arm is on top each time. 
  4. Exploding rocks:
    • Sit on the floor with your knees up and your right leg crossed over your left leg. Cross your arms over your chest with your right arm over your left arm. Tuck your chin in so that you are kind of curled over into a protective ball.
    • Next, slowly "explode" your arms and legs outward, with your arms making a wide cactus shape, your palms and fingers open, your chest and chin facing up, and looking up at the ceiling if you can.
    • Slowly return back to the closed position, crossing the opposite  arm and leg over this time.
    • Repeat this 10 times, alternating which arm and leg is on top each time. If you need more stability you can do this exercise with a soft couch, bean bag or cushion behind you for support. 
  5. Hook ups:
    • Cross the left ankle over the right ankle.
    • Extend your arms in front of you, cross your left wrist over the right with both thumbs pointing downward, and then interlace fingers. 
    • Draw your clasped hands down and then up through the middle, and gently hold against your chest.
    •  Stay like this and breathe evenly for 30-60 seconds, with your tongue pressed against the roof of your mouth.
    • Notice if you feel a calming sensation or a settling to the nervous system as you do this. 
    • Swap and repeat the same steps, this time with right ankle and right wrist crossed over the left. 
  6. Once you’ve finished, notice if anything is different from just a few moments ago. Are there any shifts, however tiny or subtle, in how your body feels? Remember that whatever comes up is okay, and if you can, just check in with yourself and see if there’s anything else you need in this moment.

( i )      These exercises were developed by occupational therapists as a way to integrate primitive reflexes known as the 'fear paralysis reflex' and the 'moro reflex' - these are reflexes that babies and infants have as an earlier and more primitive version of the fight/flight/freeze response of the nervous system.

Sometimes these reflexes don't integrate during infancy, or can get turned back on due to factors like trauma, which means that we can startle and go into a stress response more easily. Doing these exercises can help re-integrate these reflexes, which gives us better access to our cortex and brings more calm and stability to the nervous system.

To learn more about integrating reflexes, please check out the programs from InTheCortex or see my list of references and further reading here.