by Edmund Knighton, PhD
In Early Childhood
Let’s take a look at childhood. Let’s take a look at when the baby is first born. What do you naturally want to do? You want to cuddle this baby. it’s the earliest form of this kind of touch that we intentionally do. We hug this child, and the infant that is newly on the planet gets a sense of compression and expansion through that hugging. That’s the earliest form of wrestling that takes place: compression and then relaxation.
We have to learn throughout life is what’s the balance of tension that we carry in the body, for example, for me to stand here right now. How is it that I can have my muscles just tense enough in order to remain upright but not to tense so that I begin to overuse energy and not too slack so that I don’t have a sense of bearing and uprightness that actually begins to influence my thinking?
So this is what we teach in the earliest days of the infant coming home and we do it naturally, we do it unconsciously. Part of what this seminar is about is how to make that more and more conscious.
View the entire video program Roughhousing, Wrestling, and Tussling here.
Qualities of Touch for Morning and Evening
There is a big great big difference between a light touch called effleurage, for example, or a more firm touch. That’s a squeezing touch that you give to an infant’s limbs. A light touch actually creates a kind of sensitivity and awareness for that epidermal surface, that skin that is the largest organ that infant has. She learns through that touch. Where do I begin and where do I end? She’s just learning to come into her body, to really incarnate for the first time. That compression, whether it’s light or heavier, allows her to do that.
In the morning you want to provide a little bit more of that softer touch from the periphery toward the center, from the hands and feet towards the center of the body. In the evening you want to provide more of a firm touch because what that does is allow relaxation of the parasympathetic nervous system that comes online rather than the sympathetic nervous system where you start the day. When that parasympathetic system is met with a more firm or heavy touch of full body compression this invites relaxation. Ancient cultures have known about this for millennia: we can see the kinds of binding that were used. How do we restrict the movement and give a sense of compression so that young being feels safe and can relax and leave her body for the evening and go to sleep?
Universal Reality of the Balance Between
This is a universal reality for us: to find the balance between compression and expansion. In the middle of that lies not just physical health but human health. The relational capacity that you want to have is somewhere in the middle, balanced between the two polarities. If I have a little bit of tense relationships with people and I walk around a little bit tight and tense people aren’t going to get to know me. They aren’t going to get to sense me.
On the other extreme if I walk around so relaxed and so slack people also don’t really get to know me. In the middle of that there’s a proper amount of tension.
All of the tussling and wrestling activities are seeking that right amount of tension. You have to have enough stress in the body that’s actually healthy for the human being. The challenge with today’s world is we have we have so much stress and we go unconscious about the level of that stress.
Wrestling is an antidote to holding onto too much stress. In wrestling, I am sensing how much stress I’m actually holding in my body and in which body parts, and I explore how I can relax those through the activity with another human being.
You’re teaching that to your infant from the earliest days when you bring her home or maybe you’ve already had her at home. Those principles of compression and expansion are what you’re looking for when you’re working with
The weaving between those two things is one of the basic kinds of soul breathing or thinking breathing that takes place. You help that child with when you work on this basic wrestling activity which is giving a hug, giving compression, then releasing: then that child eventually feels a sense of playfulness with that and she will start to interact with you. She starts to hold your finger and then she starts to release. She starts to hold tension in the legs when you give her a little compression and then release.
The essential thing for you to do is make sure you’re doing those things yourself when you’re offering it to the child. If you’re holding tension in your legs and then you release the tension she’ll follow that movement naturally, unconsciously. You want that infant to follow those things unconsciously for a very long time until you get into the primary grades and then slowly they’ll wake up to consciousness.
c. 2017 Edmund Knighton.