The Moro Reflex is a primitive reflex that emerges in utero and integrates at four months after birth. It is involuntary reaction to what is perceived as a threat. The Moro reflex is activated by the sensory systems – it is the only reflex connected to all other senses. It is most sensitive to sudden loud noises and the over-stimulation of the balance mechanism.
How is the Moro Reflex Linked to Anxiety?
The Moro Reflex activates the flight/fight reaction in the nervous system and stimulates the breathing center in the brain. If it is not integrated, the body reacts to sudden unexpected stimuli such as loss of balance or unexpected stimulation from one of the senses. When the Moro is active it doesn’t allow the higher brain centers to analyze the situation and form a conscious response. Instead, it sends the body into emergency mode or flight/fight. The child will react without conscious thought, which can be perceived as impulsive or inappropriate behavior. But in actuality it is anxiety or a constant heightened state of awareness due to a retained Moro.
The Moro is a building block to other reflexes and overall development. The Moro activates the sympathetic nervous, which, in turn, affects the adrenal glands (glands that create and release hormones), and stress hormone production. These changes manifest in emotional and physical changes in your child as their body is in a constant state of fight or flight. When the body remains in fight or flight it not only leads to significant anxiety, but secondary health symptoms as a result of a depressed immune system.
If your child has a retained Moro Reflex you may see some of the following symptoms:
Poor impulse control
Significant mood swings
Sensitivity to light
Difficulty making decisions
Decreased social skills
Depressed immune system (allergies, food sensitivities, adrenal fatigue, and more)
How Do You Integrate the Moro Reflex?
One way to reintegrate an active reflex is help your child recreate movements the typically developing infant would have completed to integrate the Moro in the first few months of life. Repeating the Moro exercises will provide your child with an opportunity to rewire the brain-body connection and integrate the reflex.
How does Aerial Yoga Help with the Moro?
In general, the aerial hammock provides deep touch pressure (DTP) through proprioceptive (sensory receptors in muscles, skin & joints) input to the whole body. DTP has a calming and organizing effect on the nervous system.
Additionally, I’ve developed a series of exercises using the aerial hammock that target Moro integration. The exercises can be done on the ground and in the air. All of our exercises are play-based – when children play, dopamine is released resulting in improved brain function and a higher probability of learning the desired skill.
Integrate the Moro Reflex in the Aerial Hammock with these exercises:
Pac-Man. Step over the hammock, have a seat and spread the hammock out to cover your legs. Your legs are the pac-man’s mouth looking for dots to chomp. Use a large exercise ball as the dot, having your child hold the ball with only their legs for 5-7 seconds. Repeat three times. Add some variation and fun by making the hammock go in a circle or swing. Kids love movement and challenges.
Seed to Tree. Stand in your aerial hammock. Next, bend your knees and curl into a tiny little ball – you are seed. Tighten all of your muscles as you hold your seed for 5-4-3-2-1. Now your seed it starting to grow. Slowly begin to stand in your hammock. Kick your leg back and around the hammock pole to make a low branch. Move the same shoulder in front of the hammock pole. Raise your arms above your head – you are a tree. Hold your tree for 5-4-3-2-1. Now begin to shrink down to a seed again. Hold it for 5 seconds and then grow to a tree on your opposite leg.
For young children, who lack stability to stand in the hammock, have them lay on their back in the aerial hammock and do the exercise laying down.