The first-ever Essential Somatic Movement Retreat took place last week at Mar de Jade, Chacala, Nayarit, Mexico Jan. 19-25, 2019, and it was a rousing success! Mar de Jade is a jewel among retreat centers. It was founded in 1982 by Dr. Laura del Valle who wanted to create a center that could support the local community in Chacala. Among the many programs Mar de Jade is able to fund with the profits from their center is a local Montessori/Waldorf School for local children as well as professional technical training for local youth in cooking, farming, plumbing, and other skills.
Our sold-out retreat drew an interesting mix of people from Switzerland, Canada, and the United States. There were Clinical Somatic Educators-in-training who wanted nothing more than to explore the deeper nuances of the work, those who had read Move Without Pain, and wanted to learn in person (rather than from a book), and others who were complete newcomers. Our youngest participant (17) was the granddaughter of our oldest participant (76). She came with her cousin, aunt, and mother – all of them inspired by their grandmother and the changes she had experienced in her body after having attended a Fundamentals Immersion course. Daily Somatic Movement classes were supplemented by early morning Essentially Somatic Yoga (taught by Theresa Evans, CCSE), hikes, swimming, beach walks, and salsa dancing (if you’ve never done it, salsa is a wonderful way to integrate new found movement of the pelvis and hips!)
Learn to let go
One participant arrived with a desire to learn how to shake off the compulsion to fill her days with constant “doing.” She had a career with lots of day-to-day responsibility, and would wake up feeling overwhelmed with all there was to do. Her mental and physical tension would build throughout the work day, leaving her feeling anxious and exhausted when it was time to head home. Being busy and constantly “doing” had become a habit that was uncomfortably familiar. She wanted to learn to accurately sense when her stress level was rising so she could do something about it in the moment. She wanted to greet each morning with a sense of wonder and excitement, with space to breathe and relax, rather than with anxiety and dread.
The first step on her journey was to become an observer of her thoughts, feelings, and bodily sensations. This is what it means to be “somatic” — to sense yourself from the inside out. We do this when we move slowly and intentionally. When we choose to rest, stop moving, and sense our breath, we also learn to think, act, and move differently. Some notice how uncomfortable or agitated they may feel when we stop “doing.” Learning to relax and observe is a life-long skill!
When you wake up in the morning, notice your thoughts. What’s the first thing you think about and notice — and how does that feel in your body? Does it create tension or a sense of spaciousness? You may have a lot to do (whether you like it or not), but what do you choose to focus on? Take a minute to slowly pandiculate, reaching your limbs out, wiggling your hips, flexing your toes and feet. Yawn. And let go completely. Notice your thoughts and physical sensations. Is anything different?
During the day consciously notice your stress level. Do you feel compelled to do everything now or can you pace yourself, taking a mental and physical break? Can you take a moment to notice, close your eyes, calm your thoughts, and feel OK that you may not get everything done that you hoped, but you’ll cross the crucial things off your list? Can you give yourself two minutes to “reach to the top shelf,” do a Seated Arch & Curl or standing Flower,” and mentally and physically reset yourself?