Somatic Movement

Somatic Movement

What is “Somatics” Anyway?

You’ve heard me mention it before but if you haven’t taken a movement class with me yet you may be asking yourself “What is Somatics anyway?”  Great question.  I’ll start by telling you what it’s not; it’s not exercise or yoga.  It’s not about balancing, acrobatics, cardio or strength.  Somatics do, however, slide very nicely into a yoga practice, and they benefit people who like to exercise, as well as people who do not like to exercise.  

Somatics are small, subtle movements that are done slowly, with great awareness, usually lying on the floor.  These movements help us to release muscle tightness from habituated postures, injuries, life stressors and yes, also from exercise.  For example, it is quite common these days for people to spend hours sitting at a desk/computer.  Typically these people are in a position where their back is somewhat rounded and shoulders are forward, which means the shoulder blades are further apart and the back is longer than when in neutral.  

The muscles of the front and back of the torso are designed to work together–when one side is  long, the other is short and vice versa.  So if the muscles of the back are long (rounded forward), that means the muscles of the front of the torso are shortened (contracted, tight).  This is fine for short periods so that we can bend over and tie our shoes, etc. but what if we are spending most of our days in this position?  Well, we develop a default pattern and the brain begins to lose control of the entire length of the muscles of the front (SMA).  We have pain in the neck and shoulders. Our breathing is affected, as well as digestion, elimination and more. 

This chronic contraction of the muscles of the front of the body, which we call the Red Light Reflex, causes a chain reaction which affects other systems in the body.  Thomas Hanna (founder of Hanna Somatics) refers to it as the “posture of old age” and he believes it's responsible for a host of conditions that we typically believe to be synonymous with getting older, including bladder issues and discomfort in walking.  Hanna doesn’t believe that these are an inevitable progression in life; instead, he believes that we have the capacity to improve with age, like fine wine.  I like that.

How do we continue to improve?  Through Somatic Movements, of course.  These movements are designed to engage the brain so that we purposefully go into our default patterns (such as hunching/slouching forward), and then we slowly, intentionally release out and come to a place of neutral or zero effort.  The process is called pandiculation (not stretching) and this is how we train the brain to take back control of the entire length of the muscles and move out of our default patterns.  Taking a few minutes each day (even 10 minutes) to practice somatic movements can make a huge difference to ease of movement, freedom from pain and discomfort and aging well.

How do you learn Somatic Movements?  It’s really best to try a class, or a personal session with an Essential Somatics Movement Teacher.  I happen to be a certified instructor and I would be happy to welcome you into a class or a personal session.  In October, I am offering a 3 class session on Wednesdays from 6-7 p.m.  The class will focus on Sore Neck & Shoulders so it's perfect for people who are stressed, work at computers, drive a lot, and also estheticians, hairdressers, dentists, dental hygienists, dog groomers, students and more.  This class will  be on Zoom but there is an option for 2 people to attend in person.  Please check the Yoga page for details here.  In addition, I plan to offer an in-person session in Lindsay (details tba).

There is so much more that I could say about Somatics, the other Reflexes and so on but I’ll save that for another blog.  And honestly, Somatic Movements  are really something that need to be experienced.  For now, I’ll leave you with this:

Do you have pain or discomfort in your body? 
Things like hip pain, neck/shoulder/back pain, hand/wrist pain, TMJ, leg length discrepancy, one hip or shoulder higher than the other?  
Do you want to feel better, move better, and age well?

If the answer is Yes, please contact me asap so we can start exploring somatics together.

Breathe and be well. ♥️


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