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?
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!
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?
- A regular class will hold you accountable. You won’t want to miss a class you have commited to and paid for.
- By attending classes you will ensure that you are getting at least an hour of high quality Somatic Movement practice regularly.
- 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.
- You get to experience different movements or variations of movements, and different sequencing of movements.
- Real time feedback on what you are doing.
- More learning about anatomy, pandiculation, somatic theory, the three reflexes, and the nuances of all the movements woven into your classes.
- The opportunity to ask questions, share your experiences, and give feedback
- 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!
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;
- Less muscle pain
- Deeper and more restful sleep
- Freer Breathing
- Improved mobility (walking, sitting, standing should all be feeling more comfortable)
- Reduced feelings of anxiety and/or stress
If you are not experiencing some or all of the benefits liste above, try the following adjustments;
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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!
In Part 1 of this series I gave you some quick tips on how to start building a Somatics practice into your routine, and then in Part 2 I offered some tips on how to track the progress of your Somatic Movement practice. Today I want to talk about keeping up your routine.
When people start a new routine, diet, or exercise program in the beginning they are highly motivated and enthusiastic about it. But inevitably, life gets in the way, and they eat that cake, can’t make that gym session, or just feel demotivated to stick to their new routine.
Well guess what? That’s totally normal! The problem is when you allow one bad day to derail all your progress.
If you miss a day of your Somatic movement practice (or your diet, exercise routine) for whatever reason. Firstly, don’t worry about it, and certainly don’t give yourself a hard time about it. One single missed day isn’t going to adversely affect your long term goals or progress. But letting one day turn into two days or four days or a week? That will derail your progress, break your habit and put you back where you started.
So the trick is to get back on the proverbial horse the very next day. But don’t try and make up for the day you missed by doing more than normal, just get back into the habit. Do a short movement practice, remind yourself why you wanted to implement this new Somatic movement routine (or whatever your new activity might be) and jot down again in your notebook/journal how you feel after your practice. As you string together days of practice and start to experience improvements in how you move and feel, you will be far less inclined to skip or miss days.
Hopefully you can reach a point where the new routine/activity, whatever it is, is not a chore, but something you look forward to. Any routine that feels tiresome or a burden, you will not stick to. This is also why it’s important to keep some notes. You can look back at these notes and begin to see a clear reocrd of your progress, or perhaps even more importantly, your lack of progress. If there is a lack of progress or positive change, you know that it is time to make a change of some kind to begin progressing again. A course correction if you will. We will talk about how to do just that in Part 4.
For now though let’s get into today’s Somatic movement. Hopefully you are able to do Arch & Flatten and Arch & Curl effectively without following the videos. But if not please keep using the videos as long as you need to.
Lets explore the third movement in your new Somatic movement routine. The next movement your going to add to your practice is called the Backlift. The Backlift is one of the most important Somatic movements for a couple of reasons;
- It relieves the insidious effects of the Green Light Reflex.
- It allows you to pandiculate a lot of muscles all at once.
- It relieves tight, stiff and sore back muscles quickly and easily.
- It improves contralateral coordination.
Practice the Backlift after you have done a few easy repetitions of both the Arch & Flatten and the Arch & Curl. Then when you are done with the Backlift, close your practice with a few final repetitions of either Arch & Flatten or Arch & Curl.
I hope you enjoy practicing the Backlift and find it as useful as I do. If you have any questions about the movements, you can leave a comment below. Have fun with your new Somatic movment practice and I’ll be back with part 4 of this series real soon.
In Part 1 of this series I gave you some quick tips on how to start building a Somatics practice into your routine. Hopefully you have decided on a time of day that works for you and are now practicing Arch & Flatten regularly. If you have, you will hopefully have noticed that your lower back now feels a lot more relaxed and comfortable than it used to.
So now that your Somatic habit has been somewhat established and you’re familiar with Arch & Flatten, it’s a good idea to start keeping some brief notes, (or journaling if you want) about your practice.
This doesn’t have to be terribly detailed, just some quick notes about your stress level, any pain you may have, your breathing, your sleep, your digestion, your motivation, your sports/exercise performance (if you are an active person) and also your mood.
Take any of the metrics above (or choose your own), and start keeping track of them, give them scores, or grades. Some simple way of measuring them. It could be a score out of 10, or a grade like, A,B,C etc. Score them twice a day, once maybe before or after work, or when you wake up. And also, very importantly, score them after your Somatics practice. Also score the practice itself. DIdi yo enjoy it? Were you distracted or fidgety? Did you rush it? Were you able to pay attention to it? etc.
And whilst I’m sure you will notice changes in how you feel quite immediately after your practice, its still a good idea to take these notes so you can have written evidence of your progress. This will motivate you on days when you lack motivation. It will also show you what happens on days you don’t practice, which of course will happen now and again and is totally fine.
By keeping track in this manner you will begin to see very clearly the effects a simple Somatic movement routine can have.
Now. It’s time to add another movement to your Somatics routine. The more Somatics movements we learn, the more tools we have at our disposal, the more benefits we can experience, the more we can learn about ourselves, and the more comfortable we will feel in our bodies.
So without further ado, the second movement your going to add to your practice is called Arch & Curl. It’s a simple movement that builds on what you’ve already learned through practicing Arch & Flatten. It will help you to regain control of your belly and chest muscles and will address both Green Light Reflex and Red Light Reflex.
Hopefully you are now able to do Arch & Flatten effectively without following my video. But if not please keep using the video as long as you need to. You will still only need about 10 or 15 minutes to do your practice when we add this second movement. Below is the tutorial video for Arch & Curl. Practice this movement after you have spent a few minutes doing Arch & Flatten as normal. Then make some notes on your experience, breathing, comfort and relaxation.
I’ll be back with part 3 of this series soon. Until then try to keep practicing daily, taking notes, and enjoying the benefits of Learn Somatics.