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    “What I love about regulation science is that it says "observe the phenomena, and only create a theory about what you observe."
        Dr. Jim Fadiman

n. Pathology. An abnormal increase in the excitability of nerves and muscles resulting in spasms of the arms and legs, caused by a deficiency of parathyroid secretion. [from French tetanie.]

The above quote may point out a limit of science but, it can also be helpful for the direct observations of what the body is displaying. When an interpretation about a body somatic gets imaginative then the theories can become likewise imaginative.

I found and example of this creative description in Dr. Alexander Lowen's book Bioenergetics. The basic stance of the alignment work will start the leg muscles trembling, be it slight or very active, in about 60 percent of body sessions. Dr. Lowen on pg. 95 described this as the person working off support issues. Such as being afraid they can not support themselves! I have found this to be too psychological for a description of what is really going on. When I have presented the stance to football players the trembling can be quite active. The end result is they feel released in the legs after 15 or twenty minutes of trembling. Stiff or locked legs can be a result of conditioning literally, and is workable.

We are familiar with the commands; Stand still, stop moving so much, stop shaking, and the military command, ATTENTION. We lock our legs to comply with the outer. Then there are the self-conditioning situations where we tell our selves we should be able to stay here even though we want to leave. Or we might hurt someone’s feeling if we just got up and walked out. The natural or spontaneous actions of the body are sacrificed to the culture and we then have to reunite with the body to be more physically spontaneous in life or to discover the dynamic of listening to the body.

It is true that many somatics of the body have a psychological association and these can be of value when speculatively viewed but the release of conditioned tensions are what we are after, yes?

Tetany is a term that I first came across when working with Leonard Orr, developer of Rebirthing. Then I came across it in reading about
Holotropic Breathwork. It refers to the somatics that can occur when people do a breathing practice for a specified period of time. These somatics are a tingling in the arms and hands, which can also travel to the face and upper body. As one continues in session this can turn in to a numbing of the hands and even across the mouth. Generally this will release by the end of the session. If not a few claps of the hands or vigorous shaking of the hands will release it.

The trembling and numbness will change as you continue the breathing practice. This may occur to some and not others but, it is generally encountered in  beginning sessions of Breathwork. After a period if time trembling may start which is the continuation of releasing actions.

The term Tetany is fine for a communication between practitioners to understand what went on in a session, but when some one asks me why did my hands and face get numb, saying that is Tetany, I feel, doesn’t really answer the question. So I will interpret what I feel intuitively is going on and why.

My basic observation is that the hands are getting numb while a person is breathing and expanding the body open. Since the practice of breathing starts the body on a releasing journey then what needs to be released will show up. If the hands are getting numb, perhaps the hands were already numb and the client is feeling that numbness. In the process of experiencing the numbness it will start to release and the blood flowing in to the hands will be less restricted. This is seen by better skin tone and a freer feeling in the hands.

How did the hands get numb? Well I can only surmise that our hands are conditioned from early childhood and there are so many things we are not to touch or reach for. Many people even have trouble touching themselves and might be interested in a
workshop to develop lovingly touching their own body. So it is easy to see that energy or attention gets withdrawn from the hands and they become used less and become less sensitive to the external. I would say that arthritis is probably a condition that shows up late in life from so many years of this holding or pulling in of energy instead of letting energy flow out of the fingers.

You can observe this easily in the world. Observe how still people keep the hands and how people carry the arms and hands as if they are holding energy still. Conversely, there are many cultures where this may not be such a hang up. The energy work of many healers are practices to free up the bodies energy flows and open our awareness to the constant play of energy in the space. The Chinese morning exercises are a natural bodywork form in freeing up energy flows. There can be a feeling of a connection with the intuitive as we allow our fingers and hands to move as though dancing in space.

In many cultures dance forms teach the expressiveness of the fingers and the hands, where the hands and fingers are treated as sensors for feeling the vibrational changes in the space as well a creating changes. The hands and fingers are transmitters of energy which can be felt as we feel the fingers and let them freely move without restriction. In sessions, allowing the fingers to freely move starts an action of unpredictable motion from the hands as they shake off limits to any possible motion.

Now on to the face and an interpretation of why it gets tingly and numb and eventually trembles. We could say the same things about the face and mouth. We have become so condition or limited with what we can say, the sounds we can make and the expressions we can display that some numbness of all the muscles of the face may be inevitable. The results of feeling different after a session indicate that there is a freeing up of the facial muscles since people start to look younger and have better color as they work in breathing sessions.

Looking at the standard definition of Tetany in the dictionary we may want to develop a more integrative definition based on the data that is accumulating in the healing arts.

An abnormal condition characterized by periodic painful muscular spasms and tremors, caused by faulty calcium metabolism and associated with diminished function of the parathyroid glands.
Online Dictionary

In view of what we just discussed the medical definition could use a more enlightened definition. I will qualify this by saying that I am talking about a definition for people who are working with an alternative health practice and encounter the above-characterized condition. If a doctor where to come across these conditions in a patient, recommending breathing would be a reasonable first step towards freeing up the condition.

“An abnormal condition” What is normal? What the general notion of normal might mean is that the body is always hunky dory and any quirks, pains, aches, twitches, spasms, coughs, etc. are suspect and shouldn’t occur in the normal body. Therefore abnormal would be the opposite? The norm for the body seems to me to be a vast subject in light of the integral climate we are now in. Michael Murphy’s book The Future of the Body is an extensive book that enlightens us on the current modalities of the physical body and possibilities for many different frames of reference for what is a healthy individual and body. This would also include developmental evolutionary changes for the body that either are potentials unrealized or by earth changes that work the form.

“painful muscular spasms” I have not found that painful is a very useful descriptive term for what a person experiences in Breathwork sessions. “Interesting” might be more descriptive of the many things that can occur to our body in a session. That interest is like that of the explorers’ who sees something new and unexpected. How interesting, wonder where the body will go with this. Bottom line, does it subside and release? Is there a definite feeling of “something is gone”?

“caused by faulty calcium metabolism and associated with diminished function of the parathyroid glands.” We must pay homage to the researches whom in earnest came to this conclusion. Their efforts are appreciated. Now as we move on, our direct observation and treatment of physical somatics will change and “faulty calcium metabolism” could change to something like a lack of activity due to somatic cultural conditioning of the muscles and in turn the whole metabolic system.

Since Tetany shows up early in sessions and seems to subside within one or two sessions we can assume that what is viewed in allopathic medicine as a warning of future body difficulties, is not the monster that it is portrayed to be in the dictionary.


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© 2002 Harmon Hathaway