Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Ideal Posture, Spinal Health and Psychological Well Being

The posture that we hold is the ultimate factor in deciding how much of our spine we use and how strong our spine is. Having good posture while standing, sitting, sleeping and exercising is very important and helps to ensure that the spine is resilient and hearty. Bad posture leads to weak points in the spine that can limit mobility, worsen appearance, make you susceptible to injury and also cause stress and mental hardship. Poor posture is a physical as well as an emotional problem. Poor posture has been documented to decrease approachability and as a key aspect of body language it dictates how one is viewed by others. It affects mood, confidence, and through interactions with a number of neurological systems it affects our subconscious appraisals of the environment. To gain good posture it is imperative to practice spine and core strengthening exercises, and in my opinion these are the most important exercises one can engage in. I have spent the last year working on my spinal posture and it has slowly transformed me into a happier, calmer, more outgoing person.

Weak Points in the Spine
The human spine is made up of a complex chain of ligaments, fascia, bone, and inter-vertebral discs, and their health is dependent on the tone and strength of the surrounding spinal muscles. There is a whole system of muscles that runs up and down your spine and sits in between your vertebrae. By pushing and pulling against individual vertebral bones, and other surrounding bones, spinal muscles help your core bend, twist and turn and when they are strong they help you to move nimbly and gracefully. Envision an “inner snake” that wants to stretch out, move, slither and squirm in all directions. Your normal posture is like a straitjacket that restricts its movement. A snake’s body is composed of vertebrae and vertebral muscles (and ribs) with no limbs – just like our spine. There is a metaphorical, limbless snake that makes up your spinal column. This is your true core, and this is what you want to make flexible, coordinated and strong. For most people the spine is inflexible, restricted, clumsy and debilitated. It is very difficult for any athlete to perform properly without a strong and balanced spine because the neck, shoulders and hips are actually anchored in the spine, where they provide a base for the head, arms and legs. Joseph Pilates called these core body segments the “powerhouse” of the body and insisted that they are integral for a stable foundation for all movements. Most yogis insist that “you are only as old and decrepit as your spine.” A weak spine is probably the primary limiting factor for people trying to build strength in their arms and legs. For this reason, the first thing I would recommend to an aspiring body builder is yoga and Pilates. You may not have noticed it but your spine has strong points and weak points, and the weak points may be affecting you more than you know. In fact, many of the weak points themselves are very difficult to notice.

We all underuse certain muscles in our trunk. Holding your back, neck and shoulders in firmly upright positions probably feels tight, and kind of intense. It’s a brittle, aching pain almost as if the muscles are asking you to leave them alone – warning you that excessive use will lead to injury. These are signs of muscle weakness, but these areas can be opened up with prolonged practice, and are best explored during a hot shower or bath, or in “hot” yoga. At one extreme these weakened areas can be responsible for spinal deformities and at another they can lead to mildly uncomfortable dislocation (subluxation) of vertebrae. This happens because the spinal muscles are not strong enough in certain areas to hold the vertebrae in an ideal posture relative to the force of gravity. People go to a chiropractor in order to have these dislocations aligned. The dislocations or subluxations can be very slight but still cause discomfort. When a chiropractor performs an alignment the spine becomes neutral again but because this does not actually strengthen the muscles in the back, the vertebrae fall quickly back out of alignment, sometimes within hours. The cracking associated with chiropractic is often a sign of degenerative activity stemming from disuse and muscle atrophy. Traumatic accidents to the spine often cause disuse of injured spinal segments and these areas are more likely to crack, become weak and painful and are susceptible to recurring injury. The cracking does produce endogenous morphine, temporarily relieving pain and brining patients back for future adjustments. Most chiropractors do not insist that their patients exercise the “opened” areas after adjustments and this is why there is no solid evidence for the efficacy of chiropractic and why it has not been shown to be better than physical therapy. Any joints in your spine that feel tight, weak or that crack should be attended to. I don’t think it is necessary to crack these joints, but cracking them gives you a good idea for where the weakness is, and what areas need to be targeted. Once you can locate where the cracking or tightness is coming from, try to hold that posture so that the adjoining muscles can be exercised. You will be surprised by how quickly these tight and sore muscles “open up” in response to exercise.

Spinal medical experts have noted that segments of the spine, from the bottom to top (coccyx to atlas), that go underused resemble, and have many of the same physiological properties of cadaver spine. I believe that the main reason that some segments of the spine go into disuse is because we have lost conscious control of them. This is another side effect of disuse and happens because the muscles do not receive signals from or send signals to association cortex. Basically, the only time these muscles becomes active is when they are signaled by subconscious motor systems. Whenever we fail to use muscles in our body the muscles shrink and go through a process called muscle atrophy. Unfortunately we are forced compensate for these weak muscles by becoming tense in other areas. The muscles that we use to compensate become excessively tense and tight and go through a process called “muscle shortening.” I realized that muscles throughout my spine, and my shoulder girdle (pectoral, scapular, collar bone, and rotator cuff) had become weak, stiff and painful. We engineer the use of the weak muscles out of our lives and find ways to get around having to use them and this leads to a physique that is poorly balanced and ungainly. Because of muscle atrophy and muscle shortening they can become dangerously weak and contribute to both diffuse bodily discomfort and psychological angst. My own anxiety is much improved from attending to my posture and stretching and strengthening the many postural muscles in my back and shoulder girdle.

Spinal Weakness and Psychological Stress

Bad posture is a social signal that communicates defeat. Slouching forward, bowed head, rounded shoulders and looking down constitute a mode of operation for many mammals (especially monkeys and apes) to signify their inferiority and to defer or subordinate themselves to the dominant or alpha animals. I believe that subordination goes hand in hand with anxiety for evolutionary reasons. Acting anxious keeps you from being perceived as a threatening competitor. If we adopt this syndrome of defensive postures we will inevitably develop the concomitant psychological symptoms too. In other words, if we do not attend to and improve our posture we are conditioning our nervous system to operate on nervous energy and forcing it to assume that our environment is oppressive and hostile. All in all, monkeys use poor posture to keep from getting attacked. They are sending a signal that they are already defeated (possibly handicapped) and are not trying to challenge others. It can be the same with humans. When I first went out on long walks exaggerating my posture, standing tall and looking upwards, I could tell that other pedestrians questioned my motives and were even moved to suspicion and anger. My posture looked fake because I was standing straight without the postural musculature that should accompany it. The point is – you can’t develop this musculature unless you work on it. Some people got genuinely angry seeing me standing erect and looking upwards. This is why I chose to walk and stretch after dark, outdoors, by myself at first. Once the postural muscles become stronger, standing erect looks genuine and people aren’t offended by it and don’t question it. I believe that in classrooms, in the workplace and even within families we are constantly sending each other nonverbal feedback, practically bullying each other into slouching. When someone else stands straight we have a natural inclination to be offended. We feel we must either stand straighter, or try to pull them back down. What we should do is applaud and support them while being reminded to monitor our own posture.

I personally think that vertebral subluxations interfere with the proper functioning of the parasympathetic nervous system which is responsible for calming various organ systems and “resting and digesting” in general. In fact, many parasympathetic nuclei are closely integrated with the spine. It has been shown that most calming drugs and neurochemicals such as opiates and oxytocin act on receptors in regions of the spinal cord that regulate the autonomic nervous system, especially the parasympathetic branch. An explicit link between spinal weakness and inactive spinal parasympathetic nuclei has not yet been established, but I believe it is there. There is solid evidence to link spine weakness to stress though. It has been well-documented that poor posture raises the diaphragm preventing the lungs from being able to take a full breath. Shallow breathing activates the other branch of the autonomic nervous system, the sympathetic branch, which is responsible for “fight or flight." For this reason bad posture puts us in a continual mode of defensiveness, and anxiety. Slumping posture is also known to impede the ability of the lungs to expand and inflate fully. Shallow breathing is a cause of anxiety and it exacerbates other psychological disorders. I think that well-researched and well-produced programs or regimens of postural exercises should be readily accessible to psychiatric patients and to the broader community at large so that people can open up their breathing passageways and experience more calmness. I am currently developing such a program using stretches and exercises that I think are best using anatomical and “psychoneuroendocrinological” criteria - so stay tuned.

Types of Poor Posture that Promote Spinal Weakness

An ideal posture is normally defined as one where the body’s segments are aligned so that the least amount of energy is required to maintain a desired position. A “neutral” or properly aligned spine shows three curves from the profile:

 1) A backward curve (convex anteriorly) in the neck region known as “cervical lordosis.” To reduce excessive cervical lordosis, make sure that your head is pushed backwards and your chin is tucked down toward your chest. You don’t want your head hanging forwards and your jaw jutting out.

2) A forward curve (convex posteriorly) in the upper back called “thoracic kyphosis.” To reduce excessive thoracic kyphosis pull your shoulders back, and then lean backwards instead of slumping forwards. Proper neck posture complements and reinforces this curve.
3) A backward curve (convex anteriorly) in the lower back called “lumbar lordosis.” To reduce lumbar lordosis tilt your hips backward and tighten your buttocks, rather than tilting your hips forward and sticking out your butt.

These curves can be excessively pronounced, or not pronounced enough. For most people, they are excessively pronounced. Viewed from the front or back the spine should be totally straight, any curvature to the right or left side is called scoliosis. Scoliosis is rare, but side bending is important to strengthen the lateral spinal muscles. Look at your posture in a mirror and look for the three curves in your profile. Do any look unnatural or excessively pronounced? A neutral spine with no excessive curvature is likely a healthy spine but not necessarily a strong one.

The two main types of poor posture are:

1)      Rounded and elevated shoulders and a jutting-forward head position.

2)      Forward tilting of the hips, increase curve of the lumbar spine and protruding of the stomach.

Exercises that Helped Me:

My main problem is that I developed misalignments from sitting long hours in front of my computer keyboard. Keyboard use is a major cause and contributor to “shoulder impingement syndrome,” where the shoulders, shoulder girdle, neck and back can be significantly thrown out of alignment from sustained reaching for the keyboard and mouse. When poor posture begins to feel normal, the muscle memory for good posture can be lost. Thus awareness of my posture at the computer was the first major obstacle. I bought a new computer chair, pulled the mouse and keyboard to the end of the desk near my stomach and I stopped slouching down in the chair by adding pillow. I found a cylindrical pillow that I placed vertically to support my lower back that allowed me to push my shoulders back.

If I were to have targeted and engaged these muscles, such as my rotator cuff, during heavy weight lifting, I would have damaged them badly. In fact, the weakness in these areas made it uncomfortable to lift weights. Many people go to the gym to work out their biceps, chest and triceps, but they neglect the weakened core muscles that are far more important aesthetically and functionally. Case in point, I badly injured a scapular muscle and a collar bone muscle 3 years ago when wrestling a friend despite the fact that I had been lifting weights. The injuries kept me from exercising, and stretching further exacerbating the problem. When my posture was at its worst, lifting weights was so uncomfortable that it was outright stressful. I took the last 6 months off to work on strength, range of movement, and flexibility in my spine and shoulder girdle and now weight lifting is exhilarating. During those six months I focused on fluid stretching movements in specific, tight muscles, while lightly flexing closely connected muscles.

In order to strengthen the affected muscles, you want to use very light weights, or no weights at all. I chose to go on long walks, working on standing straight and often on keeping my arms in the air, forcing them to work against gravity. I was focusing on using the postural muscles that felt tight and uncomfortable. At first, the uncomfortable positions were everywhere. They take trial and error, and ingenuity to pinpoint. I also started yoga, pilates, gymnastics, martial arts and swimming and these exercises helped me better locate and target my weak points.

Probably the most significant weakness that I had was in between my shoulder blades. The core upper back muscles opposite my chest were severely atrophic and were painful every morning upon waking. A number of back exercises, and stretches in this area profoundly improved this. Pulling my shoulders back and pushing my chest out during walks contributed. Changing a two-decades old mattress that I slumped down into throughout the night helped as well.

· -I used to walk around with my shoulders elevated, continually using my trapezius to raise them. This is a terrible habit (and a symptom of shoulder impingement syndrome). Instead, focus on pressing the shoulders down as if you were carrying a heavy load in the hands. This is difficult and painful at first but it is truly a body builder’s posture. Significant chest, back and shoulder girdle strength can be attained by building these muscles into this posture. To kick start the posture walk around your block with a weight in each hand and focus on pulling the shoulders down and slightly rotating the shoulders flexing and incorporating all of the muscles in the upper torso (the entire back and chest). Eventually you will be able to flex all of these muscles tonically (all the time) simply by pressing down on the shoulders.

· -I had a loud cracking sensation whenever I laid on my back and pulled my head up, chin to my chest. After taking yoga I found out that weakness in the muscles of my lower cervical vertebrae were responsible. After class these muscles were always sore. Doing yoga once a week and targeting these muscles on walks, and before bed helped significantly. Walking with the head erect and the chin tucked to the chest helped as well. These exercises actually removed a hunch (an “s”) in my neck that I had for years. I had cervical vertebrae that stuck out of the back of my neck in a pronounced way that became straight again though strengthening. I thought that the hunched neck would have to be mechanically manipulated back into place; however, all that was needed was to strengthen the surrounding muscles.

 · - My lower back was also very weak. Watching television or reading while lying on the stomach, with the head and chest off of the ground is effective in strengthening the lower back (thanks to my Mom for this tip). Standing while placing the hands on the lower back and pushing the stomach forward is helpful. These stretches can cause the lower back to tighten up so it is very important to stretch forward after stretching backward. Tight hamstrings place a lot of pressure on the lower back and so it is very important to stretch and exercise these first. Buying a “foam roller” and doing the recommended exercises with it helps as well. Sleeping on the side while trying to curve the neck and feet backwards, forming the letter “c” helps as well – you do not want to sleep hunched over all night (another tip from my Mom).
-Strong abdominals help to build a strong back. Aside from sit ups and crunches, try walking around the neighborhood while flexing the stomach muscles. This should be done flexing all of  the abdominals - from chest to groin. Alternatively walk around with your gut sucked in, using Pilates’ navel to spine posture. After a few walks these muscles learn to remain flexed while walking and thus become stronger and burn more central fat on their own. Of course this is the idea with everything else mentioned here - to build the muscle memory and strength necessary to maintain proper and healthy posture without having to think about it.

Here are my 5 favorite books on posture, the ones that have helped me the most:

Sensory and Association Cortex Make Different Kinds of Inferences

Sensory neurons belonging to early sensory cortex in the back of the brain are responsible for creating mental imagery but only hold information for very brief periods. They stop firing rather quickly after being stimulated and thus quickly lose the many detailed relationships that they have the capacity to hold. Only some of these relationships between lower-order features of the environment are preserved and only because they are shuttled up to association neurons (like those in the PFC) in the front of the brain where neurons can fire for sustained periods. These association neurons can then send this information back to earlier sensory cortex allowing them to rerepresent what they have forgotten. This is done constantly during the thinking process. However, what the sensory areas are directed to rerepresent is rarely identical to what they represented earlier. This is because association areas don’t just hand back the same information organized in the same way. Association areas actually hold information from multiple, successive instances of sensory imagery, recombine the elements that they think are important and then ask sensory areas to build an unique image using the new set of elements. This process allows conscious thought, but only really evolved in mammals because it is capable of making mistakes, unless it has the luxury of a good amount of early trial and error. Mammals, and especially humans, with their protracted childhoods and doting mothers, have this opportunity. Thus mammals are capable of carefully programming their association cortices to understand relationship that are spread apart in time, whereas other animals (from reptiles to invertebrates) really only have a chance to program their sensory cortices to understand relationships between stimuli that present at the same time. This allows lower-order sensory areas to build imagery that combines features that have never been actually witnessed before, and to simultaneously represent subjects that are always removed in time, within the same image.

Sensory neurons generally hold veridical information, true relationships between lower-order features in the environment. In other words, they are less susceptible to certain kinds of mistakes. They might combine simultaneously presented features in the wrong way, and thus misrepresent what they are perceiving, and they do this from time to time resulting in illusions or hallucinations. They are much less likely than higher-order areas though, to make faulty generalizations across time. In other words, their activity alone could not be responsible for a delusion. Lower order sensory areas hold snapshots of environmental imagery and because these neurons do not fire for very long they can usually safely infer that they are representing existing relationships between coocurring features. When you look down and see a glass of milk spilled across the floor your early sensory areas safely know exactly what they are looking at. There is no ambiguity. When you notice that your glass of milk has been moved to the sink and you see wet towels in the trash, you can only infer that your milk was spilled and cleaned up. This kind of inference requires the persistent firing seen in association area neurons that are capable of bridging across multiple early sensory images. How is this inference generated? The PFC unconsciously picks representations that have proven to be reinforced in similar scenarios in the past. Neurons in association and sensory areas do something very similar. They are experts at determining which of their neurons should be converged on by their inputs. In other words, when we find ourselves thrust into a new and unexpected situation, association areas, taking in to consideration all of their inputs (as well as their current activity) choose for us what aspect should be taken through time. This is based on prior probability and is intended to arm us with the microrepresentations necessary for us to act adeptly in our current scenario.

Association neurons are apprised of sensory information but because they fire for longer periods, they generate inferences based on multiple appraisals that have arrived at different times. In some ways these time-delayed inferences are more tenuous, but on the other hand they allow complex and abstract thought. Association neurons create subjective inferences about relationships between objective topics. Because they fire for extended periods, they have the capacity to misrepresent the environment in misleading ways. For instance, we could infer that the milk cleaned up itself or that the milk and the paper towels fell directly into the trash. We don’t make these kinds of absurd inferences though, because we have sufficient early experiences to have a sense for how improbable such occurrences would be. Our previous experiences, and common sense gained in our childhood keeps us from activating the neurons that would be responsible for these kinds of inferences. Sensory areas make records saying, I know that the sequence of scenes that I just saw are possible in my world but I don’t know how or why they might be related to each other. The association areas, on the other hand, are actively trying to make sense of these scenes by perpetuating the salient features, across many scenes, in the mind’s eye. They do this hoping that the features that they selected as salient will converge on the sensory circuits that will result in imagery that represent the proper inference. It is surprising how well this works for us in today’s world especially considering that this process was engineered to help humans make inferences about hunting and gathering.

Read an article that I published on this issue here:

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

We Have Pelvic Muscles Involved in Assertiveness that can be Strengthened and Toned

I believe that there are abdominal/pelvic muscles that when tonically flexed can stimulate increased blood flow to the sacrum, perineum, and lower spine, increasing approach behavior, surgency and general confidence. I believe that people that are traumatized or forced to subordinate themselves over a long duration are inclined to lose natural tonicity in this area, but it can be recovered by exercising and strengthening the muscles. Most people have an untapped reservoir of muscle here that has atrophied but can be strengthened. I believe that tonicity in these muscles allows the genitals increased vascular blood flow (vasocongestion) and increases the prominence of genital arousal and the accompanying sensations in conscious experience. These muscles include the lower abdominals and the bladder detrusor muscle.  These muscles are separate from the pubococcygeus muscles (which are strengthened in “Kegel” exercises and act to constrict the urethra and anus rather than dilate them). The muscles are continuous with the lower abdominals and in order to incorporate the muscles into standing posture it is necessary to incorporate the lower abdominals as well. This means that you need to practice walking around in day to day life with your lower abs engaged.

It is easy to pinpoint these muscles because they are the same muscles that flex during excretory evacuation. These muscles include the abdominal muscles that aid in the expulsion of urine by increasing the pressure applied to the urinary bladder wall. If you want to engage the muscles, you can pinpoint them during urination. The stream of urine will cease when the bladder has been voided but the muscles themselves can still be flexed. Continue to very firmly squeeze the expulsive muscles near the end of urination and you will notice that these muscles can be flexed much more than they are usually flexed. At first the muscles will feel very tender and underused, but within a few days they can become much stronger. Once you find the muscles, know how to activate and habituate them to constant activity, you can then walk around with them flexed all of the time. After the muscles become stronger and muscle memory starts to build they will become tonically and unconsciously active.  Keeping these muscles flexed all of the time may be beneficial for some forms of abdominal and psychological health. As major muscles that anchor in the pelvic floor, they are integral for core strength and stability. I first discovered that these muscles were largely underused when I was concentrating on flexing my abdominals during long walks. I realized that to really tie the stomach muscles into your stride you must first strengthen the lowest segments of the abdominals, the segments closest to the thighs. I personally was completely unaware of the muscle until I began taking tae kwon do. The muscles may be difficult to locate and strengthen if the area is rarely stretched, but may be more accessible for people that practice high kicking, groin stretches and lower-body workouts.

I believe that I have suppressed these muscles during my lifetime though acquiescent, self-handicapping behavior. I have always been averse to dirty jokes, and overt sexual behavior and this may have led to less sexualized posture growing up. In order to get along with people I often try not to act dominant and I maintain an orderly, inhibited, accommodating and self-effacing demeanor. I believe that I unconsciously allowed these muscles to atrophy because I was submissive, sexually repressive, and anal-retentive. Again, these muscles work antagonistically with the pubococcygeus muscles and anal sphincter muscles which are involved in the retention of feces and urine meaning that they may be especially weak in “retentive” people. The muscles include and work synergistically with the muscles involved in the expulsion of wastes and secretions and thus may be more toned in “anal expulsive” personalities.

I believe that I have suppressed these muscles during my lifetime though acquiescent, self-handicapping behavior. I have always been averse to dirty jokes, and overt sexual behavior and this may have led to less sexualized posture growing up. In order to get along with people I often try not to act dominant and  Imaintain an orderly, inhibited, accommodating and self-effacing demeanor. I believe that I unconsciously allowed these muscles to atrophy because I was relatively submissive, sexually repressive, and anal-retentive. Again, these muscles work antagonistically with the pubococcygeus muscles and anal sphincter muscles which are involved in the retention of feces and urine meaning that they may be especially weak in “retentive” people. The muscles include and work synergistically with the muscles involved in the expulsion of wastes and secretions and thus may be more toned in “anal expulsive” personalities.

Strengthening the muscles “masculinizes” behavior and thought and makes one feel less cautious. Activity and tone in this area may be associated with approach and seizing opportunity. Additionally, I think that it is difficult to stay calm and centered if tone here is low. In fact, as with the visceral muscles, the brain changes the muscle tone here from second to second depending on environmental inputs. You might notice that worry or sudden fear makes these muscles go limp and reduced activity may be associated with withdrawal and subordination. I have noticed that coming into contact with something sharp or experiencing a fear of height causes these muscles to go limp immediately and involuntarily. When you take an ego blow or get upset or flustered they similarly drop out of flexion. If your machismo is questioned but you have the gumption to reassert yourself you might notice the activity here waver and come back stronger. For many depressed and anxious men, this muscle drops out of tonicity during social encounters. For some it drops out of tonicity around women, for other men it may only drop out around highly attractive women. Activity here may partly account for what “shrivels up” in guys when they get their “balls busted.” Losing tonicity in these muscles is akin to castration and gaining it is related to genital sexual arousal and plethysmographic response. Tonicity here may be related to the reflex that keeps the testicles in the low, “hanging” or “dropped” position and thus there may be a specific developmental course for these muscles that plateaus during adolescence. I think that muscle tone can be diminished here when the serotonergic systems are altered artificially and this is why life-long lowered libido is a common side effect from antidepressant therapy. Also, tonic and phasic activity in these muscles leads to increased blood flow and genital turgidity, suggesting that a formal type of physical therapy centered around the muscles could help to treat both diminished sex drive and erectile dysfunction.

Once these muscles are sufficiently exercised it becomes possible to maintain this flexion during intercourse (as long as the lower back muscles are strong enough). If you can maintain tone in this area during sex your erections will become more solid and it will change the quality of your orgasms, I guarantee it. You may have noticed that if you hold a kegel during sex the penis will temporarily inflate and solidify for a few seconds and then subsequently deflate. Engaging the muscles described here (as if you were urinating during sex) will do the opposite; after 4-5 seconds the erection will become stronger and this effect can persist throughout coitus.

Because the muscle can be voluntarily flexed it must have efferent nerves from the motor cortex, and because both voluntary and involuntary changes in its tone can be sensed, it must have afferents to the somatosensory cortex. Tonicity causes the genitals and surrounding erogenous areas to project their arousal responses to the cortex as a form of sensory input. This type of sensory input is key to sexual socialization and reproductive success in mammals. When these muscles generate tone they send arousal signals to the cortex which are capable of entering working memory and thus can be reconciled (consciously or unconsciously) with other environmental inputs. Importantly, this feedback allows animals to learn about the important relationships between its own genital blood flow and exogenous environmental variables. This type of learning allows the animal to understand when to inhibit, when to promote and how to regulate its sexual impulses. I believe that these muscles, because they receive afferents from the motor cortex, may be the somatic incarnation of Freund’s sex instinct. I also believe that the activity and behavior of this area influences the cortex on a global (potentially conscious) level and thus it should be considered a “somatic marker.”

I think that it is very likely that genital retraction is an innate defense mechanism protecting subordinates from sexually dominant individuals, yet another display that is equivalent to collapsed posture. I believe that losing tone and gaining strain in the pelvic region is a self-handicapping mechanism that assumes that it is safer to conceal, and dangerous to advertise one’s level of sexual arousal.Most people are aware that the penis and clitoris shrink in size when exposed to cold. Penile length decreases by up to 50% in a defensive response to low temperature. The flacid penis also shrinks in response to chronic intimidation and sexual subordination. If you have good tone in these muscles your flaccid penis will increase and decrease in size with your level of arousal. If you have poor tone, the flaccid penis will remain at its smallest possible size despite the level of arousal. In popular terminology men who are far from their erect length when flaccid are called “growers” and those who are closer to their erect length are called “showers.” I think that pairing exercise of the urinary expulsion muscles with diaphragmatic breathing can help you to slide down toward the optimal, “shower” end of this continuum.

Ayurvedic medicine recognizes this area as a chakra (Muladhara: the root chakra), and as a power source (kundalini) but does not reconcile this construct with neuroscience or otherwise identify what it does, how it works or how it can be used or strengthened. In some Japanese Zen meditation there is an emphasis on maintaining strength in the general abdominal area (dantian or tanden) where the abs are used as a focal point for meditative exercise. The specific muscles I am describing are not targeted by this practice or the similar, abdominal “hypopressive exercises” or the “vacuum exercises.” In fact, there is no literature on the effects that these muscles may have on cognition or behavior. Also, there is no documentation of individual differences in the tone of these muscles and their influence on personality although surely it exists. Most medical experts on the topic assume that these muscles operate involuntarily. Conversely, I believe that, with practice, it is easy for anyone to exert control over them and use them to affect their psychology. I think that if a person was always surrounded by plentiful resources, and by a harem of individuals from the opposite sex, these muscles would come back into having a healthy tone naturally. Too bad nobody experiences that these days. However, I think that by consciously building it into our standing posture we can achieve the physiology and mental state of an undisputedly dominant, polygamous gorilla. I imagine that building this muscle may be able to increase sexuality, and some forms of psychological well-being – this might be good for people that have experienced a repressing environment. However, if these muscles are strengthened or attended to excessively, they may also introduce distracting sensations and misleading sexual motivations which can be similarly problematic.

Walk Assertively as if Your Genitals Were On Display
I realized that I usually walk in a way that hides or apologizes for my genitalia. Walking like this involves hunching or crouching of the lower back and obscuring the genitals like a dog hiding its tail between its legs. One day I realized that I should do the exact opposite of this, which would be walking around with the back and hips open as if presenting or displaying the genitalia. It is a completely different style of standing and walking that comes across as much more self-assured and relaxed. It is also actually more fun and more comfortable to walk this way as well. Whether you are male or female, try it.

A Helpful Sex Technique for Her Enjoyment: Increasing Clitoral Stimulation

The following describes a hands-free method that aims to stimulate the clitoris during coitus. During penetration the man wants to attempt to create continuous skin-to-skin contact between the fleshy area below the woman’s pubic bone and his own. In other words, the man is pressed up against her mons pubis, gently pressing on top of it. The idea is to try to pin this area down, so that the clitoris and upper labia majora are constantly stimulated during thrusting. Most people don’t do this, they rely solely on penis/vaginal friction where clitoral stimulation is minimal and indirect. Trial and error will help to fine-tune the man’s orientation and stroke, but he wants to simulate the way her fingers would rub the area above the vagina during masturbation.
You might ask: “how can the penis move in and out of the vagina if the mons pubis on the man and woman are supposed to remain in contact?” Imagine that the mon pubis, the area of constant common contact, is the fulcrum, as in the picture below. Then imagine the penis and vagina on the far side of the teeter totter.


Sexual intercourse generally proceeds normally with the exception being that the fleshy area around the man’s pubic bone is pressed into hers. It may not be possible to slide the penis all the way in and out while using this technique. The range of motion is reduced, so don’t use the technique exclusively. The technique is perhaps best used with circular hip movements in the coronal plane (it is difficult in the sagittal or transverse planes). All in all, the general idea is to use this point of external contact, and the up and down motion that you are already generating, to ensure that the fleshy tissues surrounding the clitoris are constantly moving back and forth. This provides intermittent pressure, a sliding sensation, and constant stimulation for the clitoris.