Every morning last week as I went to work I was treated to this magnificent visual "good morning." My reaction was to stop, smile, sense the wind on my face, and feel grateful to be feasting my eyes on such beauty. It made a difference in the way I felt throughout the day.
The above photo was taken in Stavanger, Norway where I was teaching a clinical training module in Somatic Education at the studio of my Norwegian clinical student, Sol Brandt-Eilertsen. Imagine being treated to such a calming scene each morning.
The studio is also home to a swan who sits happily in a puddle in the driveway all day long. He's there when we arrived and there when we left in the evening. This swan is just part of the scenery - nothing extraordinary to the locals. For the other students and me, however, the swan, the boats, the wind-whipped sea, and the cloudy, unpredictable skies had a positive emotional affect on us. It was a sensory experience that made us want to reach our arms into the air and breathe deeply.
In addition to the swan and gorgeous coastal scenery I noticed (over the course of the week) how little my right hip (the one with the two labral tears) bothered me. I credit my hiatus from long hours writing at my computer and answering emails to this added extra pain relief and improved movement. When I travel I spend very little time on the computer. This is a good thing for my body. I sleep better and feel calmer. So it goes with Somatics.
A Soma is a body as experienced from within.
Everything we experience in our lives is first a sensory (feeling) experience, which is followed by a motor (movement) response in your brain. Whether it is a newborn baby that makes you to smile broadly or a fight with your spouse that leaves you physically exhausted, it all begins with sensation and awareness. Some responses to one's environment are reflexive and predictable, common to all human beings when they respond to the stresses of life. Thomas Hanna codified these postural reflex patterns and called them the Red Light, Green Light, and Trauma Reflexes.
To be "somatic" doesn't just refer to the way in which you move. It refers to everything you do in life. You see, like it or not, everything you do is responded to by the sensory motor system with a muscular response in the body. Since you are the only one who can sense what it feels like to be "you," you are the only one who can choose how you want to feel. And this can impact all aspects of your life.
If your back hurts constantly, when was the last time you stood up to take a break from your computer? If your neck bothers you, do you hunch over your phone as you text? Are you aware of how your thought patterns, attitudes, movement habits, and emotional responses to life contribute to your muscular pain or limited movement? What brings you joy and calm? Do you bring those things into your life or push them off for another day?
An easy and gentle way to bring more somatic awareness into your body and life is through a practice of Hanna Somatic Exercises. These exercises help change the way you sense, feel, move and control your body. This awareness and control invariably filters into other aspects of your life.
One of my clinical students has a student in her weekly Somatic Exercise class who reported that not only is she feeling pain-free and more flexible after incorporating a daily Somatics practice into her life, but she is feeling happier about herself - freer and more able to express herself. This woman's sentiment is what keeps me traveling around the world teaching people how to teach Hanna Somatics.
Somatics teaches freedom by way of somatic awareness, and you can't get much better than that.
To buy Martha's Essential Somatics® instructional DVDs, click here.