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Is Your Back Pain Getting You Down?

Does your back pain make you feel miserable? Are you frustrated by the endless pain and discomfort? Does it make you feel hopeless? Are you petrified by the thought that your back pain might never end?

I’m not surprised, I felt the same way. Back pain sucks big time! And it can really take over your whole life!

You wake up in the morning already exhausted, why? Because your back pain was so bad you couldn’t get comfortable, so you lay there, sore, aching and exhausted. You pray for the sweet embrace of sleep. But it never really comes, you may doze for a while, but deep sleep evades you. You just can’t get comfortable enough to sleep well. So morning rolls around and you start another day tired, frustrated and in pain.

When the alarm goes off you are faced with your first challenge of the day; How am I going to get out of bed? Which will be swiftly followed by challenge #2, how am I going to get my socks on?

Sound familiar?

So you somehow manage to get out of bed and get dressed, grimacing in pain throughout the whole ordeal. But now it’s time for challenge #3, walking downstairs. Will I go down sideways? Or one step at a time? Or maybe backwards? But they all hurt! You struggle down the stairs holding on to the banister for dear life.

Sound like your experience?

Finally downstairs, you shuffle to the kitchen and prepare and eat your breakfast standing, of course. Not that you really enjoy it or have much appetite, because all your attention is consumed by your constant back pain.

Does this ring any bells?

Now its time for back pain challenge #4, sitting at your desk trying to get comfortable for your days work. (Pre pandemic this might have been a slightly different challenge, getting into your car, or on to public transport, or maybe mounting your bike) But now you’re working from home. So you head to your “office” and desperately try to find a sitting position in your chair that allows you to pay attention to your work, and not the constant aching pain in your back. You tried standing at the desk, but that just made your back hurt even more. Eventually you get into a position that is somewhat tolerable and start working. But its hard to concentrate when you have back pain.

You do your best tho, because you have to keep going right?

When lunchtime rolls around you consider taking some painkillers AGAIN but deep down you know they are not the answer, and you worry about taking them long term. Your mind briefly asks, surely theres’ got to be a solution. But there’s no time to think about that right now. You need to get some lunch. But that means now
you have to stand up, Challenge #5; “Hmmm… how am I going to get out of this chair?”

Sound like you?

During your lunch you wonder how long you can carry on like this.

In the afternoon, work gets busy, the pressure mounts a little. And you notice that the busier you are, the more intense you back pain becomes.

What’s that about?

But you grit your teeth and finally make it through to the end of your work day. You used to enjoy going for a run a few evenings per week after work to blow of the cobwebs. But since you developed this back pain you haven’t been able to run at all. In fact even walking for any distance is a challenge now, and afterwards your back pain seems to increase.

You really miss going for that run…

During dinner you snap at your partner, they were just asking you a question, but you feel so exhausted from the constant pain that it’s really beginning to affect your mood. You think back to your work day and realise you were quite abrupt in conversation with a colleague earlier too. You feel bad about being irritable, it’s just because your back pain is really getting to you now. But you don’t want to complain, and they wouldn’t understand anyway.

So you sit in front of the TV and try to distract yourself from the pain, binging on the latest series. And it kinda works, but eventually you have to go to bed. Which means you have to navigate the stairs again, undress, wash, and get into bed. Repeating all the challenges you started your day with in reverse order.

Sound familiar?

And to finish your day you are left with the prospect of another restless, painful and sleepless night, before you have to repeat it all tomorrow. With back pain. Again.

No wonder your back pain is getting you down.

If any of this sounds familiar to you, if you are currently living this reality, I’d like you to consider a possibility:

Imagine your life without chronic back pain.
What would it be like?
What would you do?
How would you feel?
Who would you be?

If you are interested in exploring the possibility of a comfortable pain free back, click the link below and sign up for my free Back Pain Relief Video Tutorial. I want to help you because I had chronic back pain too. But it doesn’t have to be permanent. I want to share with you a simple Somatic Movement sequence I use to keep my back feeling comfortable and pain free. Watch it, follow along and experience what happens. Change is possible. Let me know how you get on. I want to help YOU.

Click here to access the free Back Pain Relief Tutorial Video

If you know someone who is struggling with back pain, perhaps you could share this blog post with them.

P.S. You can also find this blog post at learnsomatics.ie/blog

If you are a regular reader you might want to head over there and sign up for the Learn Somatics email newsletter. Somatics news, tips, videos, events and blog posts to your inbox.

As always thanks for reading!

learnsomatics.ie

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We’re Moving!

The Somatic Movement Blog is moving to a new home over at;

learnsomatics.ie/blog

If you have enjoyed my posts here and have found them useful, I really hope you will click the link above and join me over at my new home! If you do be sure to sign up for my free Back Pain Relief Video in the side bar or, if on mobile, at the bottom of the post. This will also subscribe you for all my future blog posts at learnsomatics.ie/blog

I look forward to seeing you there, and as always thanks for reading!

Photo by Erda Estremera on Unsplash

3 Easy Ways to Release Your Tight Psoas Fast

Do you have a tight psoas? Have you been stretching it unsuccessfully? Are you tired of being unable to get it to release in any meaningful way? Then you’re in the right place.

A chronically tight psoas can contribute to;
Low back pain, groin pain, hip flexor pain, difficulty/pain when trying to stand in a fully upright posture, buttock pain, radiation of pain down the leg, pelvic pain, limping or shuffling stride when you walk.

Chronic psoas pain and/or tightness is often the result of the muscle (or muscles) simply being in a constant state of contraction. That just means it is constantly tensed to some degree. There are any number of reasons why that might be the case, too much sitting, an injury, a fall or slip, an emotional event, etc.

When any muscle is constantly tense it creates a sensory motor problem, in Somatics we call this Sensory Motor Amnesia (SMA). If you cannot fully contract AND relax a muscle or muscle group you cannot use it properly, as it means you do not have full control over it. Now you have a muscular dysfunction. And if the muscle in question is the psoas, you have a psoas dysfunction.

It’s pretty easy to imagine how any muscle that is constantly tense would eventually feel stiff, sore and make you move less well and less freely.

It’s also easy to imagine that a muscle that is constantly contracted would be tired and fatigued. And a tired muscle is a weak muscle. Anyone who has ever exercised at all can attest to that. At some point, your muscles fatigue and they can no longer exert the same amount of force. They feel weaker.

Now, any muscle that is constantly tensed is being held in that contracted state by your unconscious brain. So stretching it is not going to help. You have to change the order/command/output coming from the brain. Instead of constantly telling the psoas to tense or tighten, you want to tell it to relax and lengthen. Hmmm…. interesting. But how do we do that?

Well you don’t do it by stretching, or foam rolling or painfully pressing on trigger points. While these strategies may provide some temporary relief, they don’t change that output from the brain. So the tightness comes back pretty quick as the brain is still telling the muscles to contract.

Okay, so what else can we do?

Well, what if you contracted/tensed your tight psoas muscle on purpose? Made it even tighter than it already is. By tightening it voluntarily and deliberately, wouldn’t you be re-establishing your conscious control over it? Yep! And then once you had contracted and tightened it deliberately wouldn’t you be able to slowly and carefully CEASE contracting it? Why yes, yes you would. And once you had relaxed the muscle deliberately wouldn’t it feel more comfortable? Absolutely.

In Somatics we call this process, deliberately contracting muscles, then slowly relaxing them; pandiculating. It’s easy to do and it works fast.

You can apply pandiculation to all and any muscles of the body. Including your psoas! To assist you in that regard, I’ve made a playlist of all three of my Somatic Movement tutorial videos that address the psoas (and the low back and hip flexors too!) If you’d like to learn how easy it is to pandiculate your way to a soft, relaxed and comfortable psoas, you can check out the playlist below. Any one of these movements will do a good job of releasing a tight psoas, or you can combine all three for more complete learning. And I’ve added a bonus movement at the end of the playlist that improves control of the hips and legs that should feel really enjoyable to practice after releasing both your psoas.

If you find these videos helpful, please like, comment and share.

Need help with a specific problem? Want to Learn Somatics faster? Book an online appointment with me here: Online 1-1

Thanks for reading and I’ll see you next time!

Feel Better And Move Better In Just 15 Minutes!

I’ve got something special for you today to help you feel better and move better. I have put together a short video of 7 Somatic Movements, that makes up a simple but effective daily Somatic Movement routine. You can find it at the end of this post.

I’ve really enjoyed sharing individual Somatic Movement tutorials on my YouTube (and Odysee) Channel. But I know and understand that for many people the real challenge is knowing which movements to practice regularly. 

Well you don’t have to wonder any more. In this free video I will guide you through a standard daily Somatic Movement routine in just 15 minutes! That means in just 15 minutes you can;

  • 1. Reduce muscular tension throughout your entire body
  • 2. Relieve the physical effects of stress
  • 3. Increase comfort and feel better
  • 4. Move better and more freely
  • 5. Improve your sleep

Whilst this sequence is designed as a daily reset of sorts, you can also use it as a warm up, or cool down for any sport or activity, or to set you up for a good night’s sleep. All the movements in this sequence are fundamental Somatic Movements that I personally use pretty much every day to keep myself feeling loose limber and relaxed. I dread to think where I would be without them really.

Somatic Movements are designed to be used every day, or at least most days. The reason for that is because every day we can potentially accumulate excess muscular tension as an involuntary response to stress. And we do not want to let that tension build up over days, weeks, months or even years and become a problem.

So we can use a Somatic Movement practice every day (or almost every day) to release the tension and stress built up during the day, and allow us to feel relaxed, comfortable and at ease again. And of course the more regularly you practice the better the results

Furthermore, by practicing regularly, we can become proficient at the movements more quickly. The more proficient you become at pandiculating, the less repetitions of each movement you will need to perform to attain a state of relaxation, and therefore the shorter and ore efficient your practice can become. Once the muscles are relaxed you can move on to the next movement or if its your last movement, finish up and carry on with your day.

So why not follow along to the video below and reap the benefits of a simple but amazingly effective Somatic Movement practice. If you find the video helpful please leave a comment and/or share it with anyone you think might benefit from it.

If you haven’t already you can subscribe to my YouTube/Odysee channel so you don’t miss out on my regular Somatic Movement tutorial videos.

Thanks for reading, and until next time, keep on moving!

Featured photo by Timon Studler on Unsplash

Learn Somatics

Enjoy Freer and More Comfortable Walking Right Now!

I don’t know about you but I love a good walk. There’s something deeply calming and soothing about the simple act of taking a walk. And of course it’s even better if you’re able to take that walk out in nature.

I consider myself extremely lucky to live a short drive from the sea. So I try to get out there for a walk at least a couple of times a week. I love how even though I walk the same route more or less, it always feel different. Sometimes the sea is calm or rough, sometimes the tide is very high or very low, sometimes the skies are clear or gloomy. So it’s always the same, but always different.

Bliss!

One thing that might make your walk less enjoyable though is if you can’t walk comfortably, or if you’re feeling stiff and tight in your body. Then a walk can become a bit of a struggle, and that’s no fun for anyone, regardless of the scenery.

So with that in mind, check out my latest Somatic Movement tutorial below. In this video we address the Oblique muscles. These are the muscles that make up your waist. When these waist muscles get stiff and tight, they can make walking feel clunky, laboured and uncomfortable. A stiff waist can also cause you to put more pressure on your hips, knees and ankles than is necessary.

Why not explore how to pandiculate these oblique muscles? The result: improved rotation of the trunk for smoother, freer and more comfortable walking and even running.

If you enjoyed this movement, leave a comment here or on the Learn Somatics YouTube Channel.

Need help with your movement? Got chronic pain? I offer online 1-1s that can help you get moving comfortably again fast. You can book your session here.

And in the meantime get outside and enjoy your next walk!

Until next time!

The Simple Secret to Releasing Muscle Tension FAST!

If there was a really quick and easy way to release muscle tension, wouldn’t you want to know about it?

Well I’ve got some good news for you! There IS a really quick way to release muscle tension, but it’s kind of counter intuitive. Which is why most people don’t know how to do it. Check out my latest video to learn how:

If you found this video helpful, let me know and share it around. You can also leave a comment below or on my YouTube channel, I would love to hear your experiences with these movements. And if there’s something you’d like me to address in a future video, again just let me know.

I want to help you release muscle tension, move better and manage stress, so help me help you!

Until next time!

P.S. You can also read all my blog posts over at learnsomatics.ie

Start to Learn Somatics Right Now on YouTube!

What Are You Really Feeling When You’re Stressed?

April is Stress Awareness Month 2021 so let’s take this opportunity to talk a little bit about stress. Perhaps you’re feeling stressed right now. If you are, consider this question, ask yourself what does it ‘feel’ like to be stressed? What are you really feeling when you are stressed? What happens in your mind when you are stressed? And what happens in your body when you are stressed? What emotions do you associate with feeling stressed?

Continue reading…

Photo by Ryan Snaadt on Unsplash

3 Simple Reasons Why You Have Back Pain

Today I want to share with you, 3 simple reasons why you have back pain. So without further ado…

No. 1. Your Back Muscles Are Too Tense

Yep, it’s that simple. Your back muscles are achey, sore and painful because they are way more tense and contracted than they need to be. Don’t believe me? Press on them, Are they rock hard and tender to touch? If they are, then they are too tense.

Tense muscles are muscles that are constantly working. Muscles that are constantly working, are constantly tight. And muscles that are constantly tight eventually start to feel painful. Well of course they do, they never get a chance to rest. The result: Back pain!

You can learn how to release this muscle tension during my upcoming Back Pain Relief Workshop on April 3rd.

Now onto reason no. 2…

No. 2. You Cannot Move Your Back Freely

Another simple reason your back hurts is because you are not able to move it freely. Can you bend forward comfortably at all times? Say to pick up something from the floor? Or put on your socks and tie your shoes.

Can you twist easily? Can you trot upstairs freely? Can you get out of a chair easily? Or does you tight back make these kinds of activities feel like a struggle?

If you are unable to perform simple movements with your back, you are eventually going to end up with a sore back or you already have one.

I’ll also be teaching how to move your back with freedom and ease during the Back Pain Relief Workshop.

And finally…

No. 3: You Are Stressed

Muscles get tense in response to stress, whether thats work stress, family difficulties, relationships etc.

When the body is stressed, muscles tense up. Muscle tension is almost a reflex reaction to stress*

https://www.apa.org/topics/stress/body

It’s that simple. If you are under constant stress, you will end up constantly tense, tight, achey and sore.

And now you’re saying, “Well that’s great, but what can I do about it?”

Here’s what you can do about it

You can learn how to relax your muscles. And the good news is, it’s really easy to do. And the even better news is that when you learn how to relax your muscles, you will also be learning how to move your back freely AND relieving the tension you accumulate in response to stress. Because of course we can’t avoid stress entirely. But we can learn how to manage our responses to it!

So even though we’ve looked at 3 simple reasons you have back pain, you only need 1 solution; Somatic Movements!

If you’d like to learn everything you need to know to make your back pain a thing of the past, sign up for my Back Pain Relief Online Workshop. During this workshop you will learn how to actually regain control of your back muscles, release all that muscular tension, move freely and easily and feel less stressed. Who wouldnt want that?

Increased comfort and relaxation are guaranteed when you Learn Somatics.

If you know someone who is struggling with back pain, maybe you could share this post with them.

As always thanks for reading.

P.S. Don’t forget the blog is moving to it’s new home at learnsomatics.ie. So if you want to keep up to date, visit me there and sign up for my newsletter!

Until next time!

learnsomatics.ie

Making Somatics Part of Your Routine – Part 5

Trouble shoot your Somatic movement practice…

In the final part of this series, I’d like to share with you what is maybe the most important point to consider when learning Somatics. And that is; attending a regular Somatic Movement class!

Just before I get into that though, here are the previous posts in this series, in case you missed them; Part 1, Part 2, Part 3 & Part 4.

The most effective way to learn any new activity or skill is to attend a regular class. Somatic movement is no different in this regard. Whilst it is certainly possible to learn Somatics by yourself from all the many online resources now freely available, attending a weekly class will accelerate your progress tremendously.

So, what are the advantages of attending a regular online Somatic movement class?

  1. A regular class will hold you accountable. You won’t want to miss a class you have commited to and paid for.
  2. By attending classes you will ensure that you are getting at least an hour of high quality Somatic Movement practice regularly.
  3. It allows you to be observed by a teacher who can then help you modify, or correct your movements as necessary, thus accelerating your understanding progress and learning.
  4. You get to experience different movements or variations of movements, and different sequencing of movements.
  5. Real time feedback on what you are doing.
  6. More learning about anatomy, pandiculation, somatic theory, the three reflexes, and the nuances of all the movements woven into your classes.
  7. The opportunity to ask questions, share your experiences, and give feedback
  8. Access to Somatic Movement education from anywhere in the world.

If you like the sound of attending a regular online Somatic Movement group class, why not sign up for my Learn Somatics Beginners classes. I have three time options available, all beginning this coming January 2021. These are 6 week courses of weekly classes that will cover all the fundamental Somatic movements and everything else you will need to develop an effective and rewarding Somatic movement practice.

One more thing, if you find the thoughts of another Zoom meeting/class off putting, consider that during an online Somatic Movement class, you do not need to look at the screen. For the online class you can simply relax on the floor, close your eyes, and enjoy the class. You can forget there is a screen there at all! So with all that in mind why not make 2021 the year you Learn Somatics!

Book your place in class here: Learn Somatics Beginners Classes

Now onto the final Somatic movement in this series; the Washrag. This gentle twisting movement is a great way to close out your practice. Rotation of the trunk, spine, hips, shoulders and neck like this allows you to release tension and improve sensory motor control throughout the entire body. The ability to twist and rotate freely and comfortably is essential for pain free walking and running. It also helps to integrate all the movement patterns addressed by the previous movements in this series, namely; extension and flexion, of the trunk/spine and hips.

So that concludes this 5 part series, I hope you have found it helpful and have begun to practice some of the Somatic movements I have shared with you here. If a group class is not for you but you’d still like some more help getting to grips with your Somatic movement practice, or you have a particular movement issue, or muscular pain you’re struggling to resolve, you can book a 1-1 online session with me and get an individualised lessons tailored specifically for you.

Or if you are enjoying learning by yourself, don’t forget to subscribe to the Learn Somatics YouTube Channel for a regular helping of Somatic Movement tutorial videos.

As always thanks for reading. Until next time!

learnsomatics.ie

Making Somatics Part of Your Routine – Part 4

Trouble shoot your Somatic movement practice…

In Part 4 of this series I want to talk about course corrections or making adjustments so you can continue making progress with your Somatic movement practice. If you want to recap on the previous entries here they are, Part 1, Part 2 & Part 3 .

When it comes to course corrections and making adjustments. This is where your note taking becomes invaluable. Hopefully you have been keeping some brief notes about your practice. If you have, you now have a record that you can look back on to help you make sense of what is working for you, and perhaps what isn’t working for you.

So before we get into that we need to clarify something. When it comes to a Somatic movement practice, what IS progress?

Somatics is all about improving our sensory awareness (our ability to feel our muscles) and our motor control (our ability to contract and relax our muscles voluntarily). So how do we measure that? Well, when we can sense ourselves better and control our muscles better we should begin to experience at least some of the following improvements;

  1. Less muscle pain
  2. Deeper and more restful sleep
  3. Freer Breathing
  4. Improved mobility (walking, sitting, standing should all be feeling more comfortable)
  5. Reduced feelings of anxiety and/or stress

If you are not experiencing some or all of the benefits liste above, try the following adjustments;

  1. Make sure you are doing the movements correctly, sometimes what we think are doing and what we are actually doing are quite different. Watch the videos again, listen to the instructions and cues very carefully, and pay close attention to which muscles you can feel as you do the movements, particularly in your trunk. If you cannot feel the correct muscles contracting when you do a movement, you will not be able to get the intended muscular release.
  2. Perform the movements slower, it’s really important to go slow, particularly on the relaxation phase of each movement as that is when you are literally releasing the tension and lengthening the muscles back to their proper resting length. When we move slowly we engage the part of the brain that is responsible for voluntary movement, the sensory motor cortex. Going slowly allows time for the sensory motor cortex to sense what is happening during the movement. When we don’t have good control of a particuclar group of muscles we will experience jumps, jerks, or shakes in the movement as we relax back to rest. If this happens, simply repeat the movement, but go more slowly through the jerky portion of the relaxation phase. In doing so, you allow your sensory motor cortex the time to smooth out the movement. When the movement is smooth you know voluntary control has been re-established.
  3. Do less. This may sound somewhat counter intuitive but favour quality over quantity. Do just 3 or 4 repetitions of each movement you practice, but slow it right down and put all your focus on what you can sense and feel before, during and after each movement, applying what you learned from point 2 above.
  4. Make sure you are not holding your breath during the movements. This is a common one and something that we can do without realising. If we are holding anything, then we are using more tension than is necessary. Generally with Somatic movements, we inhale on the effort and exhale on the release. But if you find that challenging just breathe however feels most comfortable. But ensure you are breathing in and out and not holding your breath.
  5. Pause at rest. Be sure to pause at complete rest for a full in and out breath between each repetition. You need to allow you sensory motor cortex time to sense what ‘at rest’ feels like. Don’t be in a hurry to rush through your practice.
  6. Use you own hands. Use your own hands to help you sense more clearly what you are doing during the movement. For example; In Arch & Curl put one hand on your belly so you can clearly feel your belly muscles contracting and relaxing. In Arch & Flatten, feel your lower back muscles with your fingers as you do the movement, feel the lower back muscles contract and stiffen as you arch and soften and lengthen as you flatten.
  7. Change the order you do the movements. This is a simple strategy that often really helps. I have presented the movements in the standardised order but you are free to modify that order. Experiment to find what order of movements works best for you.
  8. Remove a movement. Look back at your notes and see what happened after adding each new movement. It may be that just one movement is problematic for you, if you know which one it is you can either remove it for a while, or give it more focused attention, see point 1.
  9. Allow more time for sensing changes. After each movement, lay out flat and really focus intently on any changes you can sense in your body, where is tense, where is less tense, has you comfort changed, has the resting position of your legs or arms changed, has you comfort increased. Sensing like this is a skill, and the more your practice it the better you will get at it and the more you will begin to notice. This sensing is just as important as the doing of the movements. Sensing and moving are two sides of the same coin.

Implement a couple of these tips next time, and see if it doesn’t improve the quality of your practice and facilitate greater or more noticable changes for you.

Below is the video with the next two movements to add to your burgeoning Somatic movement practice. Lateral and Diagonal Arch & Curls. These movements build on the previous movements in this series.

We’ll conclude this series with Part 5 next week. In the meantime keep up your practice! If you’d like some more help getting to grips with your Somatic movement practice, or you have a particular movement issue you’re struggling to resolve, you can book a 1-1 online session with me and Learn Somatics from the comfort of your own home.

Until next time!

learnsomatics.ie

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