Everyday, we are required to react and adapt to our changing environment. Our bodies react to protect us and to help us leap into action. For the purpose of Somatic Education, Thomas Hanna named these three basic responses Green Light, Red Light, and Trauma. The cat stretch explorations help us to avoid remaining in one or more of these reflexes when they are not needed.

Green Light (Landau Response)

In our fast moving society, we are constantly placing demands on our bodies to move, move, move: go, go, go!! The phone rings, an employer asks for a report, a child tugs at your hand- we allow ourselves to react to all of these demands. Our backs are constantly called to attention in order to attend to all of these daily tasks. The “green light” reflex is activated everyday, allowing us to leap into action. Imagine a soldier standing at attention: shoulders pulled back and down, chin up, pelvis tipped forward, legs turned out slightly. These are all activated green light muscles. Habituated contractions of our green light muscles can lead to back and shoulder pain, herniated discs, lower back pain, and TMJ issues.

Red Light (Withdrawal or Startle Response)

All animals have this protective reflex to withdraw from a dangerous or threatening situation. Our backs round, shoulders curl forward, pelvis tucks under to protect our very vulnerable underbellies. Rarely do we humans have to protect ourselves from a lion or bear attack, so our red light reflex will engage when we hear a loud noise, become scared, or have a sudden shock. It will also engage when we feel emotionally threatened. The red light posture has shoulders slumping forward, pelvis tucking under, chin jutting forward, knees pointing in toward each other. Repeated red light contractions can lead to long term issues such as neck and shoulder pain, shallow breath, respiratory issues, reproductive issues, and knee problems.


The trauma reflex is related to side and waist issues in order for the body to avoid an injury. These side muscles become engaged to protect the body to compensate for the injury. Once the injury has healed, if these muscles do not eventually release they can lead to more permanent postural deviations, which then can lead to other issues such as sleep disorders, fatigue, and respiratory problems. Long term trauma muscle issues include “long or short leg syndrome”, or one shoulder lower or higher than the other. These issues are easily corrected with Somatic exercises.