WHAT IS SOMATICS
From the first session with Susannah it was apparent her knowledge of the human body and it’s biomechanics was second to none. A simple postural assessment yielded much more useful information than I had ever had from any other professional.
SOMATIC MOVEMENT EDUCATION
Soma : The term is derived from the word “Somatic” Greek in origin. Living, aware, bodily person. Meaning pertaining to the body, experienced, and regulated from within.
Somatic movement therapy is based on Thomas Hanna’s work. Very simply it is a method of neuromuscular re-education that directly addresses the underlying causes of chronic muscular pain.
This method of movement patterns uses your brain to change the length of your muscles, which in turn can realign the body, bringing it back to a homeostatic state, a balanced body. The only thing that controls the muscles is the brain, which is why Somatics can make lasting changes to your body, as it uses your brain to change the length of your muscles! Therefore, making you conscious of your perhaps previously unconscious poor alignment/posture, and teaching you how you can independently release the chronic muscular tension, that locks you into poor posture and enabling you to relearn natural and efficient movement patterns. These movements are ‘no impact’ , they are easy to learn, they do not cause pain, they are very gentle but powerfully effective, and you can do them anywhere!
Thomas Hanna believed that “Ageing is a myth” he believed that muscular pain, tension, inflexibility was not ‘inevitable’ but that it was due to ‘sensory motor amnesia’ (SME). SME is when the muscles become chronically tight because they have forgotten how to relax, they are constantly stressed. The muscles become locked in around the bones, and this causes constriction, compression, and pain.
The brain loses the sensation of the muscles, and literally forgets how to release them. Frozen shoulder, chronic neck, shoulder, back, hip pain, shallow/restricted breathing can all be caused by SME.
Another unique component of Somatic movement therapy is Pandiculation. Pandiculation is the practice of learning how to fully relax a muscle by first taking it to a full contraction, and then fully releasing it. The animal kingdom practice pandiculation constantly! You only have to look at cats and dogs to see that they fully contract, and fully relax their muscles in their repetitive daily ‘pandiculations’!! The difference between pandiculation & stretching a muscle is that pandiculation is a conscious, voluntary contraction of a muscle, followed by a slow, intentional active lengthening of the same muscle, followed by a complete relaxation period, just like a yawn. You don’t aggravate the stretch reflexes, you don’t force the muscle to stretch beyond its physical capabilities, and you don’t then experience potential muscle tears/trauma.
MY EXPERIENCE OF SOMATIC MOVEMENT THERAPY
In my opinion, Somatics and Pilates compliment each other perfectly, as both of them share many of the same principles: Breath, Control, Centering, Flexibility, Precision and Rhythm.
I first found Somatic Movement Therapy about 18 months ago. I was in a pretty desperate state, having herniated a vertebral disc in my neck from a bad fall. I was in constant high level pain with numbness/tingling down my right arm, and could barely function. The Orthopaedic surgeon indicated that I would only be pain free after having invasive surgery, which I did not want, so I searched for something to help heal me, leaving the surgery as a last resort. I found that the somatic movement therapy was brilliant, and slowly but surely it helped to relieve the pain, and gave me a greater understanding of how tense my body was in places that I didn’t even know were tense.
I discovered more fluidity and awareness that I have not found with Pilates, Yoga or in the gym. It gave me access to these tight/restricted muscles, so that I could use the information to then apply specific Pilates/Yoga based exercises to work more on strength/flexibility in those parts. 18 months later I am pretty much pain free…. I have to dedicate time every day to keep pain free, but that can range from ten minutes to 2 hours depending on how much time I have. The movements are simple, and meditative, therefore stress relieving too! They have become an integral part of my life.
If you have muscular pain, then I definitely urge you to at least try them out for a few weeks, as they can really achieve miracles.