Somatic Exercises – Rewiring Our Brain for Better Movement

Over the years I have worked with people of different age groups & body types. All of them, regardless of their fitness level, had areas of their body that were tight & holding tension to some degree.  

For some it was a mild irritation that they lived with & tolerated.

Many of them felt powerless & didn’t know how to free themselves of this nagging discomfort in their bodies.

For people in chronic pain this can create more anxiety & tension in their system. Perpetuating the terrible cycle of pain, tension & worry, that wears a person down physically & emotionally.

So then a person often resorts to health disrupting pain medication, or expensive time consuming appointments with various types of medical practioners. (which all have their place & can be very necessary to get us back on track)

But ultimately, no-one knows your body like you do.  No-one can experience your body like you can. 

The discomfort in your body may be due to:

  • a lack of healthy movement, 
  • incorrect posture & alignment, 
  • a lack of understanding of how we should be sitting, standing, walking or bending 

So how can we change this?  How can we rediscover a healthy connection to our body & how it moves? 

The problem is, that if we have a limited range of movements we employ to get us through our day, there will be large areas of our body & very importantly our brain, that are not being used. This results in Sensory Motor Amnesia.

This is when the brain & our muscles are no longer communicating. 

We are no longer able to ‘sense’ integral parts of our movement stucture, and therefore have no control over recruiting them effectively to do their job in moving us around.  Our brain literally forgets how to connect with our muscles.

There can be many reasons for this:

  •  It can occur due to non-use. This is the ‘use it or lose it’ scenerio.
  •  It can be a reaction to a trauma, either physical and/or mental.
  • Or it can be from serious overuse, due to compensating for another part of the body which isn’t doing its job effectively.

And there are many grey areas in between of course.

Every body is unique, & so are the things which can set off a pain response. 

If tension & trauma is allowed to settle into our nervous system it can, over time, become chronic.

The good news is that with some guidance using gentle somatic movements, we can re-awaken dormant muscle-brain connections & start building a new awareness of our bodies somatically.

Somatic Exercises where develped by Thomas Hanna. Using the action of Pandiculation (what we do when we awake & stretch & yawn) we can consciously contract, release & lengthen muscles anywhere in the body. 

A key element of these gentle, accessible movements, is that they are done slowly & consciously, allowing the brain to fully engage in the process.

Why is this so important? Because the brain controls our muscles. 

If our muscles are locked in a trama induced contraction (ie; tight, weak & painful), it is the brain which is controlling that holding pattern. 

Traditional stretching is just a temporary relief, but doesn’t change the pattern at the source.

For that to happen, we need to re build the brain-muscle connection by creating a dialogue. 

This re-education of our mind-body maps can be powerful & far reaching in changing our quality of life. Not just physically, but mentally & emotionally too.

Somatic Movement or SomaYoga can;

  • Empower you to know & understand your body.
  • Teach you movements to release tension when you need too. 
  • Help you become more aware of pain inducing movement habits & postures.  
  • Enable you to understand the connection between anxiety, stress and your bodies pain & have the tools to deal with it simply & constuctively.

Remember, EVERYONE can do these movements and experience immediate results. 

Many people have said to me over the years, ‘Oh I can’t do Yoga’.  I say, ‘Great, then this is for you!’

Many who have a regular practise in yoga, pilates, gym, athletics or various sporting activities have found these movements have enhanced & added a new dimension of strength, balance & mobility to their chosen field of interest. 

Thanks for reading.

Move well, Be well.

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