Womb of Fire
catalysing cultural somatics research
This is the beginning of an exploration into a method of Somatic Decolonisation. Follow along with the exercises and explore deep sensing as a wellspring of resistance and restoration.
Scroll up and down to move forwards and backwards
If you are on a mobile device, slide your finger up and down to move. Tap on text blocks to scroll through the content, and tap off of the text block to continue your journey.
Sound: Lorenzo Francx | email@example.com | www.linktr.ee/borncreativegroup
Video: Justin Youens
Rotate your device
This artwork is designed to be viewed in landscape mode, please rotate your device to view the work.
Grounding in Sacred Space – The Dikenga (congo)/ Medicine Wheel/ Sacred Circle is a Cosmogram that represents integrated wholeness. Aligning the Body in relationship to the Earth Sacred space in which to challenge racial, sexual and colonial violence on the female body; to figure the imbrication of the artistic, the spiritual and the political. Placing the body in this space recognises that the diseases of the body/ mind/spirit are diseases of culture and history. It is a non-linear space-time that focusses on restoring sacred interconnection between all life.
The Disease is Alienation
This is an experiment that seeks out ways to restore womxn’s bodies to a sense of safety in the midst of ongoing, systemic, intergenerational violence. It frames the body in an intrinsically interrelated field as a decolonial surthrival strategy. It seeks to explore simple organic safety so that organs can simply function. The tools are body/breath/imagination.
The Cause is Colonialism
The cure is Revolution
And the Destiny is Freedom
Fascia as Decolonial Medicine
Fascia – a whole body, continuous 3D, interconnective matrix that permeates the whole Body, gives Structural support and interpenetrates organs, muscles, bones and nerve fibers. Able to change state from solid to liquid, fascia reforms itself and is self-regulating. Human fascia is a direct functional replica of the relational web of land and all living beings. Fascial wareness challenges notions of separateness, of mechanism, of alienation. Imbued with the interconnected life that vitalises all - the body is able to adapt, change, be repaired and restored in relation to other organisms.
The Vagus (Wandering) Nerve is the longest nerve in the Body travelling to and from the Brain through the face, ears throat, heart, lungs, stomach, pancreas gut, liver,kidneys and recently observed, through the uterus and cervix. Most of the information travels from the body to the brain.
Intertwined bundle of nerves that function to detect threat and respond. There are 3 main circuits. Fight/Flight sits on your midback. Social Engagement in your Heart and Lungs. Freeze and Play dead sits below the diaphragm. Prolonged and unprocessed threat of violence (even epigenetically transferred from previous generations) can cause a hypervigilant feedback loop to and from brain and organs.
The ventral vagal is the newer branch of the vagus nerve that travels bidirectionally from the brain through the face, throat, lungs and heart and is related to feelings such as joy and love experienced in the safe company of others. When these methods of co-regulation are not available to us, the exercises are useful in calming anxiety, and recovering a sense of safety. The goal of these taster exercises is to stimulate the ventral branch of the Vagal nerve thereby enhancing feelings of social engagement and a sense of safety so that we are more responsive to the environment no matter what it contains. Make sure before you begin these exercises that you are in a relatively safe environment where you can practice uninterrupted so that you are free to deepen into relaxation. It may be useful to journal about your bodily sensations, thoughts and feelings to observe the effects of the exercises.
Simple Spinal alignment
This first sequence regulates the ventral vagus by repositioning the first two neck vertebrae – this increases bloodflow and has a positive effect on the ventral vagal system. It is interesting to note that something as slight as a fearful thought can put these two vertebrae out of alignment – compromising function all the way through the ventral vagal system – face, throat, lung, heart, diaphragm.
- Lie in constructive rest position.
- First observe the motion of your neck from side to side. Moving your head first to the right. Chin to shoulder and then to the left. Take note of your range of motion.
- Interweave your fingers and place them behind your head. Feel the hardness of your cranium with your fingers. Feel the bones of your fingers on the back of your head.
- Without moving your head. Look to the right as far as you can. Keep looking until you feel a swallow, a yawn or a sigh. This is a sign that your autonomic nervous system is relaxing.
- Look straight ahead.
- Now repeat on the left. Without moving your head. Look to the left as far as you can.
- Keep looking until you feel a swallow, a yawn or a sigh.
- Now observe the motion of your neck from side to side. Has your range of motion increased?
Exercise for Ventral Vagal innervation in your chest
We are working on the vagus nerve as it goes into the pace maker of our heart, our lung tissue and the fascial tissue of the diaphragm. There are three stages to this exercise: on the back; the side and the belly.
On the Back
- Lying in constructive rest position. Take a pillow rolled up and place it under your hips or pelvis so that your pelvis is higher than your chest and neck. This produces a response in your carotid artery that encourages ventral vagal relaxation.
- Inhale until you are full. Once you are full – swallow. Just simulate a swallowing action.
- Exhale for longer than your inhale.
- Then hold out the breath or wait until you have to breathe.
- Repeat this exercise as many times as you like. Inhale till you are full. Swallow. Exhale for longer than your inhale. Then wait until you need to breathe. Do as many rounds as you like.
On the Side
- Lie on your side – with a pillow under your chest. Your head on another pillow or block.
- Be comfortable and at ease.
- Put your upper hand on your ribs. Breathe in to full. Make the action as if you were going to cough – you don’t need to actually cough. This action will also relax your diaphragm.
- Breathe out and hold the breath out for as long as you can.
- Now try that on the other side. Lie on your side – with a pillow under your chest. Your head on another pillow or block. Put your upper hand on your ribs. Breathe in to full. Make the action as if you were going to cough –. Breathe out and hold the breath out for as long as you can.
On the Belly
- Now lie on your belly – with the pillow rolled up under your sternum.
- Breathe in to full.
- Make the action as if you were going to cough.
- Breathe out and hold the breath out for as long as you can.
- Repeat as many rounds as you need.
FitzMaurice Vocal Release
In this exercise we will employ a soft outward breath through the lips with fluffy sound –fffv. Once you are in the position – try to find a tremor as the limbs struggle between conflicting instructions of relaxing and engaging.
- Begin on your back – stretch, scrunch, shake and surrender.
- Practice a few rounds of the soft fluffy breath.
- Roll over onto your belly.
- lace your hands under your shoulders. Push up into a modified cobra. Simultaneously relax and engage your arms. Keep exhaling on the fluffy relaxed
- Feel the involuntary tremor. It can be very small.
- Allow the tremor to travel up into your chest. Relax your belly, keep breathing. Let your head go. Try and melt your organs – the only engagement is in your arms. Relax your belly. Let your head go.
- Allow the breath to fall out on the fluffy sound.
- Allow whatever sound emerges to emerge, laughter, tears, whatever emerges allow it without attaching a story.
Continue until you feel the need to stop - move into child’s pose. Rest your forehead on the floor and restore your breath to normal. Now would be a good time to free right or journal.
The dorsal vagal branch is the older of the two branches of the Vagus Nerve. It travels bidirectionally from the brain into the pelvis and through the gut, stomach, liver, spleen and reproductive organs. It is present in all vertebrates and is the first part of the nervous system to develop in utero. It’s survival strategy is metabolic shutdown. We utilise this state to cope with extreme danger and imminent destruction in order to conserve energy and avoid the attention of predators. Ideally, we should come out of this state when the threat passes, our bodies may hold on to this state when threats to our safety are pervasive
The following taster exercises are to intended to address the dorsal vagal nerve in the pelvis. Remember that you are free to pause the video and journal if you feel moved to. Please do the exercises at your own pace. The accompanying video is meant as a guideline only. The Pelvic Fascial Massage described below is not included in the video.
FitzMaurice Vocal Release
We begin with a few Fitzmaurice vocal release exercises for the pelvic region. In this exercise we will employ a soft outward breath through the lips with fluffy sound –fffv. Once you are in the position – try to find a tremor as the limbs struggle between conflicting instructions of relaxing and engaging. It doesn’t have to be big. Allow the tremor to travel through your body as much as your body will allow.
- Begin on your back – stretch, scrunch, shake and surrender. Practice a few rounds of the soft fluffy breath.
- Place your knees up in the constructive rest position with your spine along the floor.
- Press the soles of your feet your feet together. Slowly let your knees fall open while at the same time trying to push them up and pressing your feet together.
- Locate the tremor in the conflict of dropping and raising the knees.
- Continue to breath out with a fluffy sound.
- Allow the rest of your body to relax. Relax your belly. Allow the tremor to travel through your lower abdomen.
- Allow whatever sound emerges to emerge, laughter, tears, whatever emerges allow it.
- There is no need to attach a story.
- Continue until you feel the need to stop.
- Allow your breath to return to normal.
- Begin again to engage the fluffy breath.
- Place a pillow under your hips so that your belly is relaxed.
- Raise up your legs and your arms. In between the tension of straightening and bending your legs – find the tremor.
- Continue with the fluffy breath. Allow sound to emerge. Keep your belly soft. Relax your face, forehead and neck.
- Now imagine that you are reaching for something that you want that is just out of reach.
- Continue to breath while you imagine that feeling. Fluffy breath, relaxed belly as the tremor travels through your pelvis.
- Holding the position of your arms and legs, now imagine that you have the thing that you want. Continue to breath out in fluffy sounds. Keep your belly soft, relax and allow the tremor to travel.
- Switch back to imagining something you want that is just out of reach. Breath the fluffy sound. Allow the tremor and the feelings to move through your pelvis. Alternate between wanting and having until you are ready to stop.
- Turn over into child’s pose. Rest and recover.
Fascial Massage of the Pelvis (additional to the video)
The fascial web interconnects all tissue. Particularly responsive to threat and GBV is the Psoas Muscle which connects the legs to the torso. Survivors of Sexual Violence are noted to suffer with extremely constricted Psoas Muscles. Stress in the musculature and fascia effect the organs and can lead to long term issues in the reproductive or other gut organs. For eg. BIPOC women in SA have unusually high incidences of Uterine Fibroids.
- Lie on your back in the constructive rest position with your knees up. Breathe fully in and out through the nose.
- With three fingers of your dominant hand move your hand over your belly feeling into the fascia just below your layer of fat.
- Begin to feel in the fascia for knots. Use your other hand to assist. When you have found a knot massage gently for about 10 or 20 seconds – you may feel the knot break up.
- Move your hand around your belly – gently massaging.
- Allow sound to fall out of you. Remain relaxed.
- Avoid your belly button it is very full of nerve endings and very sensitive – do not massage there. Move your hands gently around your belly locating and massaging more spots. Breathe fully in and out.
If what you’re doing hurts, back off. This should feel slightly uncomfortable, and if your belly isn’t relaxed it might be more uncomfortable than it should be, but it shouldn’t HURT.
If you find you have an extremely tight/knotted up belly, then try this once a day for a week.
This is a little visceral massage that helps the vagus nerves that go into your organs below the diaphragm.
- Lie on your right side with a rolled up small pillow or rounded towel under your belly.
- Place another pillow or block propping up your head so that you are comfortable and at ease. Allow your organs to spill over the pillow. Loose and floppy and soft. With your other hand, guide your gut bag to soften and spill. Massage your belly allowing the organs to soften and fall.
- Allow yourself to get quiet and listen to your organs. Listen for gurgles, allow gas to move. Breathe deeply through your nose.
- On the left side allow your top hand to move downward following the journey of your colon.
Swap sides and repeat.
- Allow your organs to spill over the pillow. Loose and floppy and soft. With your other hand, guide your gut bag to soften and spill. Massage your belly allowing the organs to soften and fall.
- Allow yourself to get quiet and listen to your organs. Listen for gurgles, allow gas to move. Breathe deeply through your nose. On this side allow your top hand to move upward following the journey of your colon.
The vagus nerve send information to and from the brain to the viscera – this is your gut brain connection. Most of the information travels from the organs to the brain. Be soft, slow and listen
When you feel the need to stop, slowly move into child’s pose. Breathe and slowly return to seated. Journal or rest and recover as you need.