Over the last month I’ve had the good fortune to not only be teaching others, but to also take weekly Somatic Movement classes. I’ve noticed that after participating in a class there is a marked improvement in what I can physically do in addition to how I feel from within. Considering my travel schedule throughout the year, I am grateful for a Somatic Movement practice that leaves me more proprioceptively intelligent as well as more capable of controlling my body and physical resources.
Somatic Movement provides a number of benefits:
Releasing accumulated muscle tension
Improving breathing (which improves oxygen uptake)
Increased alertness and sense of renewal
Heightened awareness of one’s body
One of the biggest benefits of a daily Somatic Movement practice is that it provides you with the tools to improve your ability to do even the simplest actions and to move more efficiently.
Somatic Movements address muscle tension at the level of your nervous system. You learn to improve your physical functioning, coordination, self-control, and balance through improved sensory motor awareness.
Thomas Hanna once lectured about the unique experience of those practicing Somatic Education and Movement. He said that Somatic Education is much more than absorbing new information in the traditional sense; you are asking yourself to become aware of yourself for the purpose of being able to become masterful at controlling yourself from within, thus changing and improving your physical state. Yet how do we know if we’ve learned something well?
Move Well with These 4 Somatic Movements
Let's set a goal. Say you want to improve your reach
Find a wall in your home and, keeping feet flat on the floor, reach up with one arm and place a piece of colored tape or a post-it on the wall. Repeat with your other arm. Now lie down on a comfortable spot on the floor and do the following movements:
- Arch and flatten 8-10 times slowly, sensing both the front and back of your body and taking a breath in between each repetition. Sense neutral as you move through your arch and into your flatten.
- Side bend 4 times on each side, relaxing between each repetition
- Washrag slowly and luxuriously for one minute, coordinating the lazy twisting of your shoulders with the movement of your pelvis and legs
- Human X (with feet planted on the floor) slowly, like a yawn, for a few minutes.
As you practice, bring awareness to the release through your waist as you gently expand your ribcage on the inhale. Can you allow one side of your body to lengthen as the other side shortens as you move through the Side Bend and Human X? Would the Human X be more pleasurable if you allowed your hips and pelvis to gently swing in response to the reaching of your arms?
After completing your practice, slowly find your way to standing. Stand still for a minute and notice how you feel. Notice your thoughts and your breath. Can you send breath into your ribcage and waist? Go to the wall and, with two new pieces of tape, reach up to place one piece on the wall, and then the other.
Did you improve your reach on one side or the other? Maybe both?
If you found that you improved your ability to reach by restoring coordination and softening the waist, back, and belly muscles, consider other activities you would like to improve. Which movements could you combine to help improve your golf swing, your ability to hike on uneven ground, or your yoga poses? Or even something as simple as getting up from the floor with ease? Try it out and let me know how it goes!
**Thanks to Carrie Day for this “Reach to the Top Shelf” mini-class.**