Archetypal movements, rooted memories of the body: Interview with Cristina Cuomo

Translated Interview of Ms Cristina Cuomo author of the books: “Walking, a vital movement” and “The walk and its benefits. Original article on


Dr. Temple Fay, an American neurosurgeon, cared for brain injured children in the 1950s. He was very observant and passionate. He went around the world, camera in hand, to observe the spontaneous movements of babies. He realised that they all made the same movements and that after doing so they could appropriate the bipedal posture and walk.

Cristina Cuomo has taken up this work and proposes a rhythmic and hierarchical sequence of these twelve archetypal movements to rewrite the history of our body by allowing all our body potentials to express themselves.

According to her, the human walk is special because it requires to cross the two “belts”, that of the pelvis and that of the shoulders. It’s a huge work in terms of motor organization and neurological patterns. These movements will put in place the interaction of the joints of the legs and arms, the synchronisation between the upper and lower parts of the body and the tension of the fascia, the muscular chains that allow us to move and ensure our verticality.

Archetypal movements are therefore a kind of biological gymnastics that is part of the genetic memory of the human. They are the ones who will solicit the organization of the central nervous system and eventually allow voluntary movement and walking.

Dr. Temple Fay discovered the power of these initial movements and tried to impose these movements on the children he cared for who were mostly in wheelchairs: one person for each arm and each leg, one for the head. He noted that after repeating these movements many times, the brain recorded the stimulation and there were motor responses in these children.

He did not write anything but transmitted orally these movements to speech therapists, osteopaths, physiotherapists so that they can be used in rehabilitation, especially for children with learning difficulties.

Dyslexic children for example?

Cristina Cuomo : Indeed, these movements also give results with children who have learning difficulties such as dyspraxia, dyslexia, etc … By recapitulating these archetypal movements, many learning difficulties disappear.

It reminds me of the Brain gym …

Cristina Cuomo : There are several pieces of research in this direction. There is also the Feldenkraïs method. Feldenkrais was a Russian engineer; he had developed a method that was intended to improve the coordination of the gesture and sometimes he was walking his students to “four legs” to develop it.

For my part, I worked with many researchers on the information contained in these movements, I chained them rhythmically, following the hierarchy that connects them. A person who will only work on the four-legged movement will not have all the previous information, which are necessary for them to reach this motor step.

What are the first 5 movements?

Cristina Cuomo: The 5 initial archetypal movements are those that babies do without moving in space, such as catching the big toe in the mouth, opening the chest when they are on the stomach or opening the pelvis when they are on the back. If a step is missing, the information is not complete and the re-coding of the motor sequence will not start.

Do these movements treat other pathologies?

Cristina Cuomo: Archetypal movements are very beneficial to the central nervous system. They can also be used for example when you have a weak knee, or you regularly spring your ankle, you have a weakness in the shoulder, a painful hip …

We can practice these movements from the first signal of weakness or during a re-education to reinvigorate the body’s evolving memories, restore it in all its integrity. The body is a complex system, you can not separate anything: the hip is in relation to the knee and the shoulder. The goal is to give it back his fluid interactions.

There are also dancers who attend my courses to obtain more joint flexibility, osteopaths who want to best meet the problems of their client. Also people with learning problems or clumsy people who do not have all the coordination. Archetypal movements work at different levels. Everyone goes through this same joint and muscle “run-in period”, so the body remembers well!

You also work with the Human Voice Association, do archetypal movements have an impact on the voice?

Cristina Cuomo : I also have in my clientele singers, actors, radio journalists, teachers. With these archetypal movements, the voice is naturally placed, it no longer needs to be heated. When the body is stimulated with good information, it is able to do everything.

Quantum physics teaches us that everything is information and that it is instantaneous, our cells immediately capture vibrations and frequencies. During its growth, the baby makes these archetypal movements and he pronounces at the same time sounds (aoo, bou, uhh, pa …) and this produces vibrations that will “carve” from within his muscular chains. In addition, a baby hears the voice of his parents and relatives, he is subject to the many stimuli of the environment, essential for its evolution.

In a family environment where one does not speak much, he will undoubtedly have fewer facilities, his language will be more limited and his listening less developed. The latest discoveries of epigenetics show that a gene without stimuli is nothing because to activate it needs information from the environment.

Your research also leads to language?

Cristina Cuomo : Yes, I’m also working on the relationship between sensory awakening and language. Talking is also a “gesture” that is organised around an axis: all the small muscles around the larynx, teamed with the language, can coordinate the “vocal gesture” to pronounce words.

When a baby places his big toe in the mouth it will also activate the lingual chain, the taste, in relation with the stomach, the pancreas but also the uterus in the woman, the prostate in the man. In the body, the interactions are multiple and occur, in real time, at different levels.

To consciously repeat these archetypal movements is to revisit our early childhood. Can this have psychological repercussions?

Cristina Cuomo : Indeed, there are memories that are reactivated. I recently hosted a group in Italy. Among the participants was a young woman. After a short time, she stopped making the first movement: she did not feel good at all, she absolutely had to eat something.

In the evening she goes to see her mother and asks her questions about her eating habits when she was a baby. It turns out that her mother had entrusted her to a nurse who did not have enough milk and she did not notice it right away. These movements reminded her of the hunger she had at that time. It is as if the body was in another space-time, it brought out all those emotions, these sensations that had limited the development of her body. This shows that through these movements we can become aware of certain events that have marked our history, we can “update” information vital to our architecture, awaken the potentials that have not been expressed until now.

From that moment this young woman had another relationship to food?

Cristina Cuomo : Yes, plus she was allergic to lactose, she had never felt the pleasure of being well fed, to be full. When I saw her a few months later, I hardly recognized her! She had become another woman, fulfilled and more “vertical”.

Everyone can work at the symbolic level of their own story. I also remember another woman who could not coordinate the movements of her arms and legs. She began to cry, she was overwhelmed by feelings of loneliness, sadness. She had been an only child. But it would be too long to tell you the behind the scenes of her story…

What are the other factors that affect walking?

Cristina Cuomo : There is “family mimetism”: we all have the instinct to imitate the attitudes of mom or dad. These archetypal movements are full of memories that have been imprinted through trans-generations. But it is fundamental that these movements belong to us, that they are exclusively ours, that is to say, driven by our unique personality. Not a legacy of our parents or grandparents. They must be adopted and then projected in their own way. It’s a job full of pitfalls, but very rewarding!

Do you give courses or training?

Cristina Cuomo: I propose weekend workshops during which I show the rhythmic sequence of the first 5 movements. These are the most coding, it is the alphabet from which all the more complex movements can be composed. I reveal to everyone his/her limits, why he/ she has difficulties with certain movements, what are the stakes and what impact this work will have in their way of walking.

Everyone will practice these movements at home at their own pace, then we find ourselves in the second weekend where we check the integration of these movements, how they are managed, what are the limits that we have exceeded. Once the first 5 movements are well integrated we will practice the 7 others that correspond to the various stages of learning to move in a space: rolling, crawling, crawling, lifting the knees, squatting, walking homolateral and contra-lateral walk.

We also discuss the gendered aspect of walking from the second archetypal movement, which corresponds to the opening of the pelvis. We find there all the experience of sexuality. The pelvis is the engine for walking, it will give a completely different impulse according to its form. The way a man walks is not that of a woman because their pelvis is structurally different. Moreover, the woman walks more with her pelvis, the man projects more his shoulders. I help people to strengthen the integrity of their gendered body in accordance with their identity. I also propose an analysis of the movements of the walk, to learn to walk with all his body, from the head to the feet, and not with only his legs or his pelvis.

Walking is not an automatism, it tells the whole story of a person, his state of mind, his emotions of the moment … in short, it is a language that everyone declines with his sensitivity and grace the quality of the “break-in” of its osteomuscular structure. At any age, one can awaken unexplored potential and especially establish a more authentic relationship with one’s body

About Cristina Cuomo

Cristina Cuomo gives training in France, Belgium, Switzerland, Italy and Canada. She is the author of the books: “Walking, a vital movement” and “The walk and its benefits”, Editions Dauphin and co-author of “Body Architecture and Psychomotricity” at Éditions Human-Voices.



Interviewed by Florence – Translated from original article on
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