In this article I’m going to share two very simple exercises to break (or “melt”) your muscular armoring. Muscular armoring is a term introduced by Wilhelm Reich and refers to muscular rigidity that builds up as a self-protective mechanism when we repel or suppress our emotions. There’s usually a lot of muscular armoring in the belly and solar plexus (especially when suppressing fear), but also in the pelvis, chest, neck and face.
How To Break Muscular Armoring
Let me clarify the term muscular armoring with a simple example: Look at how the Nazis were walking around and marching in their uniforms. That might be the most prototype example of muscular armoring. If you look at Nazis who are marching, their entire body was tense. Their stomach was pulled in, their ass cheeks tucked in, their shoulders were tight, their face was rigid and dead and their legs were marching mechanically.
In terms of Alexander Lowen, one could say that the Nazis had particularly low motility. Motility is the ability of the body to express emotions spontaneously and freely through a healthy and energetic body. A person with almost no motility at all turns into a rigid machine, all emotional impulses are held back and the muscles of the body turn into a self-protective shield by tensing up (that’s why Reich called it armoring). On the other hand, a person with a lot of motility is able to express emotions freely through spontaneous and appropriate body-impulses (this can be observed in most healthy babies).
A Society Of Suppressed Emotions And Rigid Bodies
Now, although we’re nothing as rigid as the Nazis were, we are definitively living in a muscular armored society. Society tells us that it’s bad to cry or to be angry and aggressive. Crying, anger, aggression and sadness are all associated with weakness. To quote rapper Eminem in his song Toy Soldiers: “Straighten up little soldier – stiffen up that upper lip. What you cryin about?” Although these are just the lyrics of a rap song, this attitude is very common in our society. However, by holding back our emotions our motility decreases and our muscular tissue becomes tense and rigid.
The result can be a feeling of tightness in the chest, a feeling of choking in the neck, headache, theatrical movements, clinched shoulders and so on. Further, by neurotically holding our belly muscles our diaphragmatic breathing is disrupted. Our breath becomes very shallow which means that our life-energy can’t flow freely throughout our body. These are just some of the more common symptoms of muscular armoring.
Exercise Nr.1 – The Ball Dance
Anyway – As promised I’m going to share two exercises that will help you reduce your muscular armoring. The first exercise is a more “soft” approach which will help you to literally melt your muscular armoring through free and expressive dancing. The second exercise is a bit more intense and will help you break your muscular armoring. If you can chose between melting or breaking your muscular rigidity, you should always chose the first option. Tearing down a protective wall can be a bad idea if you don’t know with what you’re going to replace it. So if you’re traumatized in some way or are a borderline personality, don’t use the second exercise. However, if you’re young, fit and generally mentally healthy, you can utilize this more extreme and intense exercise to break your muscular armoring.
Here’s a short conclusion: Turn on some music and then playfully dance with a basketball. If you’re already free enough to do this without a basketball, do it. The idea is to follow your body-impulse while you’re dancing. Don’t perform some sort of classical dance or what your mind believes you should do. Let your body lead and just follow your body-impulses freely. This will allow your body to express what it wants (what you’ve suppressed subconsciously through your rigid armoring). As a result of you letting go, suppressed emotions like fear, anger and sadness might come to the surface. Just follow those feelings and express them through your dance. If you feel sad, cry. If you feel angry, you can kneel on your bed and beat on a pillow while imagining that you’re holding an axe.
Exercise Nr.2 – Ball Rolling Massage
The second exercise is pretty self-explanatory. Just follow the instructions in the video.
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