Updated: Jan 28, 2021
The following exercise is called the Salimander
Let's begin by identifying three regions in the brain:
1) Reptilian or Primal (Basal Ganglia), also known as the brainstem
2) Paleomammalian or Emotional Brain (Limbic system)
3) Neomammalian or Rational Brain (Neocortex).
The Salimander Exercise affects the Reptillian, (Brain Stem) or Primal Brain Circuitry. We know that the Vagus Nerve is the largest cranial nerve that runs through the brainstem. There are other small nerves running beside the Vagus Nerve.
It is called the Salimander because it helps to unlock what we call the Reptilian or Primal brain circuitry, that keeps you locked into a freeze, fight or flight physical response. The primal brain is in control of our innate and automatic self-preserving behavior patterns, which ensure our survival and that of our species.
There are three steps to this exercise.
Proceed as comfortably and tolerably as feels safe for you, it may look quite benign, but it can actually be quite effective. Take your time. Take a nice break in between each exercise.
Here is my video demonstration of the Salimander and the written instructions and explanations are below.
Begin by taking 3 deep cleansing breaths, through your nose, and out your mouth.
Step 1 - Lateral Flexion - Left Ear to Shoulder – tilt the head to the left side, not to the front and not to the back but purely to the side. Your ear will likely not touch your shoulder and that’s perfectly fine. Resist bringing your shoulder up to your ear, but, rather, take the ear toward the shoulder.
Step 2 - Eye Movement to the Side - Shift your eyes, your gaze, toward the tilt and the ear. Don’t shift your head, only shift your eyes. Imagine there is a clock around your head. If you are gazing to the left, you are gazing to the 9:00 position.
Step 3 - Combining Step (Lateral Flexion) with Step 2, Eye Movement to the Side. Keep your eyes at the 9:00 position, while you keep your head tilted toward your shoulder, to the left. Your eyes may gaze in downward trajectory toward your left shoulder. Hold that position and that gaze, until you hear yourself do one of the following: a “sigh”, “yawn”, “swallow”, a “deeper breath” or just a feeling of a release and a relaxation. Some people have reported they feel emotional. Any of these are appropriate.
What are the Mechanics?
What’s happening is, you are untangling an established brain pattern from a protective body pattern. So, by untangling the eyes and the neck, you are, in essence, jumping out of a feedback loop, known as ‘fight-flight-freeze’.
This is a protect and defend mode, that yields pain patterns felt in both the body and in the mind. Pain patterns in the mind, may surface as being more irritable, a less-clear mind, and relationships that are tricky, challenging or strained.
Celebrate in the fact that you are breaking free from that.
Take 5 to 30 seconds after you have done this exercise on the left side. Sit and think about how you are feeling. Breathe deeply.
Repeat steps 1, 2 and 3 on the right side. This time you may or may not hear the sigh, the yawn, or have a swallow, and that’s quite normal but, you should feel that sense of calm.
Take another 30 seconds to a minute after you complete the exercise on the right side, to breathe and become aware of how you are feeling.
Feel the sense of calm, relaxation, and peace. It’s both enjoyable and healthy. Try to do this twice a day and more if you can. It's easy to do it even if you are stuck in your office for hours at a time.