The emails I most often receive from customers and clients praise Hanna Somatics, the Essential Somatics® Pain-Free series DVDs, and my book, Move Without Pain. Every once in a while I will get an email stating, "I do my daily exercises and then the pain comes back about four hours later... what am I doing wrong?"
It's not that they're doing something "wrong" – but there is something they need to remember: It is essential to apply somatic awareness to your daily movement habits in order to achieve long-term muscle pain relief and improved muscle function.
To quote Thomas Hanna, from his book, Somatics:
The most important thing for you to remember is that Somatic Exercises change your muscular system by changing your central nervous system. If you do not remember this important fact, their effectiveness will be diminished for you.
This says it all. You are literally changing the way in which your brain controls your muscles, movement and even your sense of Self. Many people "do" their Somatic Exercises, then get up and resume their daily activities and movements without awareness. It is important to be aware of:
- How you WALK. Are you heavy on your feet, heel-striking, or lumbering from side to side?
- How you SIT. Do you sit into one hip? Do you slouch and collapse over your computer? Do you arch your back when trying to sit up straight?
- How you BREATHE. Are you a "breath holder?" Do you breathe from your chest and forget to relax your belly?
- How you STAND – when you're not thinking about it. Do you stand into one hip? Is your back over-arched? Do you stand tall, grounded into your feet?
- How you RESPOND EMOTIONALLY and the muscular response you experience in your body. Do you stop breathing when you're angry? Do you clench your jaw or grind your teeth when you're stressed? Do you hunch your shoulders when you're afraid?
- Arch and flatten teaches you to sense the gentle movement of the back muscles and relaxation of the belly.
- The side bend teaches you to contract and lengthen the waist muscles so your hips move more easily. The walking exercises encourage gentle rocking and rolling the pelvis, which helps you regain a balanced gait.
These moments of awareness are opportunities for learning that, when applied to your daily life, create long term, substantive change in your movement once you stand back up into gravity. You are the one who can turn on the light bulb in your head. As I tell my clinical clients and students who attend my trainings: Somatic Exercises, done over time, give you the opportunity to become self-monitoring, self-aware, self-adjusting, and self-correcting.
Play the game of Awareness.
If you move through your daily Somatics routine, feel nice and relaxed, and then rush out the door, disconnecting from the learning experience you just had, then you are missing a crucial lesson of Somatics that means the difference of eliminating pain or continuing to live with it: It is OK to do your Somatic exercises, but you must apply the awareness you experience while doing the exercises to every movement you do throughout the day. LIVE your Somatics.
Try this next time you finish your Somatics routine: get up, and choose to spend the next half a day paying attention to every movement you make. When you sit in your car take a minute and notice how you're sitting. Before you put your hands on your computer keyboard imagine how you're going to reach for the keyboard. Make a point to look in the mirror and notice your posture. See it for what it is and then shift yourself if need be. Before you get up out of your chair, decide how you're going to do it. Be intentional. And when you're feeling something emotional, notice how your body is responding as well. Just play the game of awareness and see where it takes you. Let me know how it goes!