Friday, May 15, 2015

My advice? Maybe stop seeking so much advice.

There's an "expert" out there for just about every decision we might have to make in life. There are wedding planners, social media experts, even, get this, silverware consultants for new restaurant owners. Don't get me wrong, there are times when we might need some outside help for something we really don't know, like writing HTML to develop your website, or turning to a professional for teeth cleaning or skin cancer removal. Or even working with a Clinical Hanna Somatics Educator. :-)

What I'm talking about is listening to our
bodies and tuning into our instincts

Ann* is a perfect example of not truly listening your body and trusting your instincts. She came to her first Hanna Somatics classes a few months ago. She's an active senior, works out with a personal trainer, but has some dysfunction in her body that significantly impacts her posture and gait.

Fast forward to the end of the session: Ann get's up off the floor, walks around and really senses some differences in her body and how she walks. I can see some major shifts. She's walking more gracefully, less twisted and stooped to one side. I expect she'll be back to learn more. I mean, who wouldn't want to explore how they sense their bodies, feel space and freedom within their torsos, and rid themselve of stiffness or downright pain?

She never returned. She evidently told her personal trainer about me and my services and her trainer, showing a huge disservice to Ann, said "you don't need somatics". What the...?!

This blew my mind in two ways. First, what kind of trainer, or doctor, anyone in a helping career, poo-poos something that profoundly and positively improves their client's life?  Is it fear? Fear of the unknown? Fear of competition from another provider? Shame on you, Ms Personal Trainer. I don't train body builders, or elite athletes in their sport, or pregnant women for that matter. Those aren't my specialities. If one of them came to me for help with functioning better and getting rid of pain, then yes, I'd happily work with them. For a trainer to think she knows all her client's needs is nonsense. Ann's trainer should look at my methods as job security. If I can work with Ann for a few sessions to help her function better and give her the tools to fix herself, then she could train longer, get stronger, and stick with her trainer forever...  But if Ann continues to work with her trainer who doesn't know how to help her undo her muscle imbalances at the neuro-physiological level, she's actually strengthening Ann's dysfunction which causes discomfort now and in all likelihood will result in injury at some point, that seemed to come out of "nowhere".

But you know what really makes me sad? Ann's blind faith in her trainer. Ann put more stock in her trainer's opinion, than her very own personal, embodied experience of that single class. One hour that drastically changed her body for better. To feel freedom within your body and not listen to it just boggles my mind.

So the point I'm trying to make here is if you are truly proactive in your healthcare maybe it's time to look within for some of the answers. I'm not saying don't ask for help, but ultimately you are in charge of your body and life. I'm also not suggesting you diagnose yourself with google. But in the same light, do some research.

Hanna Somatics is not magic or voodoo or woo-woo-new-age-y crap. It's based on neurophysiology, the science of how our brain and nervous system control our muscles and movement patterns. It's what helps people move without pain when they have given up hope on all the other treatments that don't provide lasting results. Thomas Hanna said, if you can sense it, you can change it.

  Freedom to move well is your birthright.
Claim it for your SELF.

* Not her real name, of course. :-) 

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Basic Cat Stretch exercises

The Cat Stretch is a series of exercises Thomas Hanna developed and considered a perfect all-around routine for those who want to maintain functionality of their bodies. While babies and pretty much all vertebrates do some sort of pandiculation multiple times a day, most adults think they're are too busy to take the time to relax their muscles completely, feel better, and function well. Too bad...

But wait! Here at the studio, we are in the second week of our 4-week Cat Stretch focus. I promised the class I'd give them a simple run down of what we are doing so they can practice every day. They're of course getting a lot more tips and nuances, but you too can benefit. And you can always attend a class or Skype with me to learn more. :-)

Thomas Hanna's Cat Stretch Series

start by lying on your back, with your legs lengthened out and your arms on the floor at about a 45* angle away from your body. Sense what your back, legs, feet, arms and head or doing. How do they contact the floor? Are things symmetrical and evenly weighted, or is maybe a hip hiked towards your waist, or a shoulder blade pressing int the floor more. Are your feet evenly flopped out to the sides or not so much. Just sense what your body has to tell you. As you move through the following exercises, you can come back to this scan and see if things change and how. Definitely do this at the end of the whole routine. 

PREP: lie your your back, knees bent with your feet on the floor, in line with your hips. 
DO: inhale and arch back, tipping the pelvis towards your feet, 
exhale and let your back and abdomen relax as your lower back returns to neutral. 

PREP: this exercise is similar to arch and flatten, but now you'll have your hands interlaced behind your head.
DO: inhale and tip your pelvis towards your feet so you gently arch the back
exhale and let the back melt towards the floor
continue to let the back come to the floor as you flex the upper body up into what looks like a "crunch", bringing your elbows towards your knees, feet gently pressing into the floor a bit, and the lower back pressing into the floor, inhale as you unfurl your upper body back to the floor, exhale and melt, relax and let your elbows meet the floor out to the sides of your head.

PREP: Lying on your front, turn your head to the right and rest your left cheek on the back of your right hand. If this is uncomfortable, move your hand out from under your cheek and have your finger tips touch the side of your face instead. Rest your left arm on the floor, legs comfortably lengthened out
DO: inhale into your belly as you slowly lift your head, arm, elbow and hand off the floor looking over your right shoulder...simultaneously lifting your straight left leg
exhale to lower back to the floor
inhale and exhale to relax at the bottom and sense the length and relaxing of your back muscles
repeat 2 more times then do the same on the other side

PREPlie on your your back, knees bent with right knee in the air with right hand on knee, left hand behind head
DO: inhale and arch the back letting the right knee drift forward a bit, you may lose touch with your finger tips as the thigh bone tilts away from the torso, then exhale as you draw the elbow and knee closer together and curl up on a diagonal as you draw your right knee inward.

PREP: lie in your back, knees bent and feet on the floor about hip width apart, arms almost to a T out to your sides. 
DO: Imagine your arms are rolling pins, and roll one arm up the mat other down the mat... roll your head towards the up turned hand...and let both of your knees gently rotate away from the up turned hand and head. Slowly alternate.

PREP: Lying on your back, knees straight, legs on floor 
a) draw the right foot up towards your groin, turning your right knee out to the side, letting the outside edge of the right foot slide on the floor. Relax then slowly slide the foot back to the starting position straightening the leg. Let your head tilt on the floor to the left as if you wanted to see the sole of your right foot (This is inverting the foot) Repeat 3-5 times
b) next, sliding the inside edge of the right foot up and turning your knee inward. Your right hip will want to come up off the floor for this and that's ok. Let your head tilt on the floor to the right as if you wanted to see the sole of your right foot Return leg to the floor. (This is everting the foot) Repeat 3-5 times. 
c) do the above with the other foot and leg
d) let both feet slide up on the outside edges so both feet invert, then return legs to straightened. Repeat 3-5 times.
e) now try everting both feet so the knees are "knocked", repeat 3-5 times
f) lastly, keeping feet and knees together slide both feet up to the right, then extend to straightened, then to the left, alternate sides, like you were "skiing" letting the hips roll side to side with the slides

PREP: sit up and try the skiing motion while seated, then drop the knees to the right, place your right hand on the floor at your side/hip, and let the left leg shift so you bring your left knee to the sole of your right foot. Your legs are now in a zig-zag. Place your left hand on your right shoulder.
DOthere are many variations to this exercise that I share in class, but here a few standards
a) Slowly rotate your torso to the right 3 times.
b) hold the torso rotation to the right, rotate your head back to the left, then right 3 times, then relax back to the front
c) rotate the torso to the right as you turn the head to the left 3 times, then relax.
d) rotate back again to the right, hold the rotation, lift your face to the ceiling as your eyes scan the view as you drop them downward, then vice versa 3 times, then rest.
e) repeat to the other side

Hanna Somatics is a method of gentle movements that help your brain "reboot" it's connection with your muscles. Thomas Hanna called this disconnect, Sensory Motor Amnesia. Your brain is no longer aware that you have chronic muscle tension, which can pull your bones out alignment, create poor posture, resulting in a host of ailments--arthritis, frozen shoulder, back pain, even endocrine imbalances, and more. So, see, you really should give this a shot! :-)

Friday, May 1, 2015

Can you stand up straight?

I've got a surprise for you: if you have to put effort into standing up straight-- holding in your belly, tucking your bum, retracting your chin, shoving your shoulders back--you're actually doing it wrong. Standing should feel effortless, but seldom does, right? It's not that you are doing it wrong, but your brain and nervous system are messing with your muscles so you can't simply stand up. If you have rounded shoulders or arch your back, or slump to one side you have to put effort into getting out of those positions to stand up. Your body is habitually stuck in some nasty little faulty patterns. But don't despair! I'm here to help you find the culprits!

When people come to me, one of the first things I do is photograph them from the front, back and both sides. These images help me document, and show the student, what I see when assessing their posture and if they are stuck in one (or more) of the reflex patterns Thomas Hanna referred to as green light, red light or trauma reflexes (you can read more about them here). All perfectly natural human reflexes, but can cause us pain when we get stuck in one (or more) of them.

When I share and explain what their bodies are telling me in the photos they are amazed and say, "I had no idea I stand that way!"  But it helps them become more aware of how they stand in the grocery line or sit at their desk.

If you can sense it you can change it!

You can do a simple assessment on your own, or get a friend and do this together. You'll need a full lengthen mirror. Stand about a 1-2 feet away from a full length mirror and close your eyes. Stand calmly for a few seconds, sense how you're standing, shift your weight a bit from foot to foot, then open your eyes and observe the following:
A few things to notice in this photo: the staggered feet,
differences in the arms, and uneven shoulders.
  • Check out what your chest is doing. Is the front of your chest fairly parallel to the mirror, or are you twisted a bit? Yes, most breasts are not symmetrical, but look at your clavicle bones in the mirror to check. Are the level?
  • What are your shoulders doing? Are the tops of your shoulders level with each other, or is one higher or lower than the other? Is one closer to the mirror, or pulled back a bit? 
  • See what are your feet doing. Are they both pointing forward, or is one turned out or slightly staggered forward a bit? You may have to step back a bit to see your feet in the mirror and look down at them.
  • Put your hands on your hips (feel for the crest of your pelvis at your waist) and see if they are level or is one side of your pelvis higher or lower? If so, you have a hiked hip. Is one hip further forward or backward? Your pelvis is rotated.
  • Wearing shorts or rolling up your pants will give you a view of your knees. Are both knee caps facing forward? is one turning outward a bit, or pointing inward? Do you see a leg bowing out while the other is straighter? 
  • Sense what your feet are doing in relation to your knees and hips. If your knee bows out, do you sense that you are putting more weight on the outside edge of the foot?
  • Look at your hands. Do they hang the same way at your sides or is one more in front of a thigh? Do they hang evenly or is one closer to the floor.
  • If you turn to the side, ideally have your friend take a photo of you. See if your low back arches. Does your bum stick out and belly stick out?
  • Take a walk and sense how you move. Do your feet hit the ground softly or loudly? Do you sense your waist moving a bit, as well as your hips? Do you feel like with each step your legs are pulling your forward or do you sense that your legs push you forward? What do your arms do? Do they swing with each step? Evenly or is one swinging more than the other? Have your friend watch you too. 
  • Lastly, just lie down on the floor on your back and scan your body and sense how it touches the floor. From what you saw while standing, what does your body now feel like on the floor? Is one side of your body heavier and presses down into the floor more? How do your legs feel? Is one doing something completely different from the other? Turns out? Feels hiked up to your waist? Scan your hips and shoulders the same way.
There are more observations I make in a session, but this will give you a sense of what your body is doing day in and day out. It may not seem very significant to some, but I always equate this to the foundation of a house. If your foundation is off, your doors won't open and shut properly, your windows will get stuck, the the house will sag. From a bodily perspective, your joints get stiff, your posture sags and you can get "stuck" with frozen shoulder, low back pain, plantar faciitis, tension headaches, even scoliosis.

Based on the assessment you've done, if your shoulders round forward that's a sign that you are stuck in the red light reflex. Do you bend or slump to one side a bit? Are your hips are out of alignment? Then you are showing signs of the trauma reflex (side bent and twisted). If you arch your low back you are stuck in the green light reflex

What do you do with this information? Drum roll, please... explore Hanna Somatics! With Hanna Somatics you learn how to release chronic tension in areas of your body that have gotten stuck in the reflexes mentioned. This is not stretching, or yoga, or pilates. This is different and much more effective because it goes to the root of all movement and muscle control: your brain and nervous system.

There aren't yet many somatic educators in far-flung places, but search for Hanna Somatics or Clinical Somatics to find someone to help you learn how to break the habitual patterns that create your pain and dysfunction. Those of us who do this work, work with people in person, in small groups and some even Skype. (I do all three.) There are also videos on Youtube. Search for Martha Peterson, Susan Koenig, or James Knight among others. There are books on Hanna Somatics too. You don't have to resign yourself to "getting older" or just suck it up and suffer with your pain. Honest! 

Monday, April 20, 2015

Have you worked your diaphragm today?

Breathing is one of those things that you likely don't think about much. It's an involuntary action, meaning that you don't have to voluntarily think about breathing to make it happen. But for a lot of people, they aren't breathing very efficiently or deeply. And if you're not breathing well, you can have brain fog and sore muscles, feel anxious and stressed,plus be exhausted a majority of your day.

Your diaphragm is one of the muscles that helps you inhale and exhale, taking in air and expelling it 24/7. Ideally as you take a breath in, your chest expands and the diaphragm contracts, expanding downward, so your lungs can fill with oxygen, and then relaxing back up as your chest contracts. For many people, due to stress, poor posture, anxiety, or just plain stiff, tight muscles around the torso don't do this when they breathe.

While the diaphragm is the largest muscle involved with breathing there are more. Check them out in the image at the right. You even have muscles between your ribs!

Yogis and babies know how to breathe. For the rest of us, we're likely going through life holding our breath a bit. Wanna learn how to breathe more efficiently and fully? Want to learn how to tone your diaphragm so you can relax, sleep better, reduce tightness in your core, think more clearly and get more oxygen to your muscles?

This coming week in the Myth of Aging Series we are dedicating a portion of class to our diaphragms. This class will truly enlighten you! I'll cover this in my other somatics classes as well.

Mondays at 545pm
Tuesdays t 9:45am
Wednesdays at 5:45pm
Fridays at 8:30am

Reserve your spot here!

Friday, March 13, 2015

Somatics for the desk jockey, blogger, crafter--anyone who sits a majority of the time!

This morning I introduced a bunch of ways to work on your somatic awareness, loosen up muscles tightened by static sitting, and increasing the oxygen to your body and brain. All from a chair or standing! The students loved it, so said I share a list of what we did, so they could practice. It might not mean much to you if you haven't attended a class, but you are welcome to come join us, or contact me to meet privately or Skype.

We started by closing our eyes while sitting and bring awareness to how we sat. We explored what it felt like to 
arched our backs and shift into the green light reflex, then round our backs into the red light reflex. I asked them how the generally sat at their desks when on a computer and maneuvering a mouse. Did they lean forward and slump towards it, or draw back away from it with their arm reaching to hold it? Either way, they can get stuck in the trauma reflex.(You can read more about the reflexes we can get habitually stuck in here.)

After that we slowly moved our spines more into the red and green light reflexes. Exploring how it felt and did we sense the same weight on both sitz bones, or one of our feet or legs? 

Moving on, we did a seated variation on reach the top shelf. We reached up with right hand as we shortened our waists on the left side and lifted our left heel. Sense the length of the body on the right and how the bend on the left increases that length.

We moved on to explore:
The Flower while seated

The Seaweed Spine
The Backhand Sweep and Forehand Sweep, some with the right arm and then the left
Alternating Thigh Slides reaching one knee forward as the other knee drew backwards, slowly alternating (this was a favorite!)
Explored movement of our necks with 
   * forward and back
   * side to side, then adding a lift of the shoulder towards the head
   * up and down with the head turned at a 45*, then adding a lift of the shoulder towards the head

Shoulder to torso cylinder twist (this one is very enlightening, so I'll give you the run down)
This move is about getting your shoulders girdle to move separately and in conjunction with your torso.
To start stand comfortably with feet about hip width apart
cross your arms over each other and elevate them to about shoulder height. You should look like “I Dream of Jeannie”
Gently rotate your arms and torso and hips side to side. Be soft with this move and let everything relax. Notice your end range of motion with each turn to each side, and how far you can rotate. 
Go side to side about 4-5 times
Release your arms and relax for a few seconds
Next, position your arms again in your “Jeannie” position.
Now, keeping your torso and head still, rotate your arms and shoulder blades side to side.
This is where the “cylinder” visual comes in. Your rib cage is a cylinder and your shoulder blades are another cylinder. The ribs are the inside cylinder, and your shoulders are the outside cylinder. Rotate that outer cylinder around the inside one. Make sure you feel your shoulder blades glide with this move, avoiding just shifting your arms side to side. Explore breathing into your rib cage as you rotate. Does it help you rotate further?
Release your arms and relax for a few seconds
Next, position your arms again in your “Jeannie” position. Try crossing your other arm over the other one. This may feel odd but give it a shot.
This time you’re going keep your arms and shoulders in place as you rotate your head and rib cage side to side. The Inside cylinder is rotating within the outside cylinder. 
Lastly Reach the Top Shelf while standing

Like I said, if you are scratching your head and wondering what the heck I'm talking about, sign up for a class or email me for a private session in person or via Skype. 

I have only one video about somatics to share so far, but there are others sharing them on youtube. My SEC teacher Martha has videos and a youtube channel, and I think I actually picked up the torso twist from Susan Koenig, who will be one of my teachers when I start me Clinical Hanna Somatics Educator training in June. Lawrence Gold has a channel too.

If you have a favorite move or something to share, let me know below in the good ol' comments. 

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Wide-eyed, a-ha moments with Hanna Somatics

We started the Somatic Exercises to Bust Myth of Aging series this morning. So many a-ha moments and wide eyes when folks rediscover how to move their bodies better. 

Even before we started with the exercises I shared some information about Hanna Somatics and how it pertains to our lifestyles and bodies. Here are some key points.

First of all, it's called Somatic Education for a reason. 
This is not a passive-do-it-once-a-week-and-not-think-about-it way of moving your body. This is a method where ideally you need to become aware of your body, learn about how it works, and sense it to get the best results. 

What is Hanna Somatics, in 25 words or less?
Hanna Somatics is a method of exercises developed by Thomas Hanna that correct full-body patterns of dysfunction so you can get rid of pain in your muscles and joints.

How does it work?
Hanna Somatics goes to the root of all movement--your brain! Our brains control everything our bodies do. There are involuntary actions-- digestion, beating hearts and eyes blinking--and voluntary movements-- learning to sit up as a baby, walk, dance, knit, or drive a manual transmission. But eventually those voluntary actions become second nature and what was a voluntary action--you had to think about it and your brain was fully engaged and taking notes--becomes involuntary, so your brain can think about other things, like what's for dinner while you drive your manual transmission car home and not think about shifting gears. You with me so far? Good!

How does this relate to pain and faulty movement patterns?
There are three perfectly natural reflex patterns humans do with their bodies in response to daily activities. They are the:
  • green light reflex- or sometimes called military posture, where one stands with an arch in the lower back and chest lifted. This posture is a reflex to get-er-done, go-go-go demands in life.
  • red light reflex-- or sometimes called startle reflex, where one stands with rounded shoulders, head forward. A reflex in response to stress, fright, anxiety or depression.
  • trauma reflex-- where the body bends to the side in response to injury, surgery or sometimes abuse. (Imagine a sprained ankle. You will tilt your body away from the injured ankle to take weight off of it. Eventually you walk on it again, but you may very likely still have a bit of a tilt to your torso.)
Like I said, these are natural responses to daily demands. But if and when we do them repeatedly or don't fully relax out of them, that they become habitual patterns. Your brain has gone offline and these reflexes have become involuntary, which then can create misalignments, tight muscles, and pain in a variety of places in the body. Just think about what most of us do day in and day out; We sit at desks with our posture either slumping or arching and our chins jutting forward. 

How is Somatics different from other treatment options, like chiropractic, massage, physical therapy? 
Treatments are passive. You have someone else move, massage or crack your body to "correct" misalignments. But if you want to make your adjustments last, you need to get your brain to undo the tightness, or else you're right back to where you started within a few hours or a day later. With Hanna Somatics you are proactive! You can self-regulate and self-correct so you can fix your body when you need it and learn to maintain proper posture with Hanna Somatics.

I found these photos in Kathleen Porter's Natural Posture book.
Take a look at the over-tracing of skeleton. Very enlightening!

So what's the Myth of Aging?
Thomas Hanna coined the term Myth of Aging. He said most things we associate with aging aren't due to getting older, but are a result of learned and habituated patterns. What if these two folks (above) hadn't spent years in the startle (red light) reflex?  Sadly they probably have a whole host of aches, pains and health issues, that they attribute to aging, but could be remedied or avoided altogether with Hanna Somatics.
  • tension headaches
  • neck pain
  • shoulder pain/dysfunction
  • reduced oxygen consumption which can result in:
    • brain fog
    • headaches
    • poor circulation
    • reduced endurance
    • cold hands and feet
  • bladder control issues
  • trouble swallowing
  • indigestion and acid reflux
  • low back pain
  • poor mobility
  • poor balance
  • knee pain
  • foot pain
So if your brain can learn to get stuck in these patterns, you can consciously learn to undo them. Now, that's what Hanna Somatics is all about!

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Do you believe in the Myth of Aging?

Do you have ongoing issues with your shoulders, back, hips, feet, knees that you, or maybe even your doctor attributes to "well, you are getting older..."?  then I'd like you to flip that belief on it's head and consider this:

Aging is NOT the cause of your pain.
Your brain and body are just stuck in faulty patterns. 

What most people believe to be the inevitable part of aging--losing our natural mobility and becoming disabled--Thomas Hanna, called the Myth of Aging. Check out his book, Somatics to read more. It's facscinating! 
Around the world there are cultures where people continue to move well throughout their lives. Meanwhile many of us in the first-world are being beaten down by stress--anxiety, accidents, repetitive actions, surgeries, etc --that takes a toll on our bodies and plays a role in whether we age well and can continue to enjoy a good quality of life, or not. Our bodies respond to stress with natural reflex patterns, but if we get stuck in these patterns our bodies can develop pain and dysfunction.

So what can you do to age well and feel better in your body?
Learn Hanna Somatics!

With Hanna Somatics you use your brain to neurologically "reprogram" your muscles so they can relax to their natural resting length. Your brain also regains better sensation and control of your muscles, so you can move with more ease and grace. fluid, an ultimately less pain.

Hanna Somatics is amazing stuff! Everyday I work with people who are rediscovering their bodies, their muscles, how they react to voluntary movements.  They realize that no matter how much treatment they get or medications they take, that they truly do hold the key to lasting change. By using their brains and sensing what's happening with their muscles they can reprogram their nervous system to reset the length of their muscles. It's just that simple!

Just that simple, but it takes practice and awareness. To learn about Hanna Somatics, I strongly suggest you read Hanna's book, Martha Peterson's book, Move Without Pain, and find a Hanna Somatics Exercise Coach or Hanna (Clinical) Somatic Educator. 

I'm a Somatics Exercise Coach, and it the process of getting my Hanna Somatics Educator certification. I teach somatic exercises to classes and individuals. 

Join me for The Myth of Aging series 

Over the eight weeks of classes you'll learn:
  • what the natural reflexes to stress are, which ones you may be stuck in, and how it can result in back, shoulder, hip, plus other muscle and joint pain
  • what Sensory Motor Amnesia is, how it the most common cause of chronic muscle pain, and to undo it
  • why stretching (or massage or adjustments, etc) doesn't work for long term relief and what does. Hint, it's called pandiculation...
  • easy somatic exercise routines you can do to rid your body of muscle pain and keep you active so you can maintain your quality of life
Here's what we'll be focusing on each week.
week 1: release the muscles of the back of your body
week 2: release the muscles of the front of your body
week 3: learn how to release and lengthen your waist muscles
week 4: learn how to increase the mobility involved rotating your torso
week 5: learn how to increase the mobility of your hip muscles
week 6: rid yourself of neck and shoulder muscle tension
week 7: expand your breathing
week 8: put it all together for effortless walking

I'll be starting these 8-week series of classes on 
Tuesdays at 9:45am starts March 10th 
OR Wednesdays at 5:45pm, starts March 11th

You can view the calendar here. You can sign up for all of them for the most benefit or pick and choose. Or email me with questions. I'm thrilled to share this with you. Together we can start turning back time, and proving that aging does not equal pain and dysfunction!

Friday, February 20, 2015

It's Official! I've been accepted to the Novato Institute of Somatic Research and Training!

Last year marked my initial Somatic Exercise Coach (SEC) certification with Martha Peterson of Essential Somatics. I was so impressed by the results somatic exercises has on one's posture, alignment and pain I just had to delve much deeper. I had a hard time deciding on which school to attend, but am excited with my choice and acceptance into the Novato Institute of Somatic Research and Training (Thomas Hanna's original school) for my Hanna Somatic Educator (HSE) certification.

This is why I love what I do! This is a "before and after" of one of my lovely clients.
She has had multiple traumas to her body, and as a result literally couldn't stand up straight.

photo 1- before any Hanna Somatics exercises
photo 2- after her first 1-hour Hanna Somatics session
She has a way to go but is she says she's loving the results, feels like walking is easier too.

Confused about what a SEC does versus a HSE? As a SEC I teach people how to do somatic exercises to help them rid their bodies of faulty patterns that cause pain and/or effect how they walk and function. A Hanna Somatic Educator goes deeper. An HSE does hands on treatments, that are generally quicker to provide results*. An HSE will also share exercises the student/client can do on his own to enhance/speed up/maintain progress.

There aren't a lot of Hanna Somatic Educators out there. Yet. This method is becoming more widely known. Searching online you'll find many variations of somatic educators. To be called a Hanna Somatic Educator, you must be a graduate of the original school, though there are Educators that use Hanna as part of their titles or may call themselves Clinical Somatic Educators. There are only three other Somatic Education schools in the US that teach as true to the original methods of Thomas Hanna.

I'll be starting my training in June 2015. Here's what I'll be learning over the next 3 years.

Semester One focuses on:
  • somatic functional problems of the trunk and vertebral column
  • assessment techniques to recognize common postural disorders: Landau (or green light) Reflex, Startle (or red light )Reflex, and Trauma Reflex
  • sensory motor amnesia
  • kinesiology
  • techniques to eliminate fundamental disorders such as chronic back and neck pain, headaches, sciatica, scoliosis, etc. 
Semester Two focuses on:
  • expanded study of the trunk and spine plus functional problems of the shoulder joints, arms, hip joints and legs. 
  • procedures for eliminating 
    • carpal tunnel syndrome
    • tendinitis
    • frozen shoulders
    • chronic hip and knee pain
    • pronated or supinated feet
  • and my favorite! neurophysiology
Semester Three focuses on:
  • expanded the clinical skills 
  • expanded the understanding of neurophysiology
  • ability to help clients with walking/gait, balance, and other more complicated conditions
* Thomas Hanna felt that most people would be "fixed" i.e. relieved of their chronic pain with three hands-on sessions and daily homework exercises done between sessions. Since there aren't a lot of Hanna Somatic Educators in the world, one can do the "homework" exercises on their own, though it can take about 8 or even more weeks of daily practice of the appropriate exercises for one's particular habitual faulty patterns. You can find basic exercises in Thomas Hanna's book, Somatics, and Martha Peterson's Move Without Pain. I highly recommend getting them both if you can't find a Somatic Exercise Coach or Hanna Somatics Educator in your area.

Cheryl Ramette at Pacific Northwest Pilates and I are the only SECs in Oregon. After my HSE training I'll be the only Hanna Somatics Educator in Portland and second in the Oregon behind Victor Novick in Southern Oregon. 

Pretty exciting! 

Saturday, February 7, 2015

Recipe: Gluten Free PB + PB Chocolate Chip Cookies

I'm not gluten free, but a lot of my friends are so I try to create things they can eat when we gather. Since, I've been cooking up a lot of dry beans lately--black beans, pinto, navy, garbanzo-- and I made black bean brownies in the past and wondered if I could make cookies with beans. Thanks to the intertubes I found out that people have been baking with chick peas. Bob's Red Mill has gluten free baking mixes, but I'm not jazzed about garbanzo flour, which is a key ingredient in many GF mixes...hmmm... I wondered if pinto beans would be a good alternative. So what's the best way to find out? Make some and taste 'em! It's always good to have an extra taster on hand, so my husband was happy to help out. 

The verdict? Not the same texture as a regular cookie, but really nummy! I used my food processor to make these, but a standing mixer would work, but a hand mixer might be challenged. I wouldn't attempt this in a blender, unless you have one of those uber fancy, super powerful ones.

Pinto Bean, Peanut Butter, Chocolate Chip Cookies

1.5 cups pinto beans, rinsed and drained well
1/2 cup peanut butter
1/4 cup honey (or sweetener of your choice)
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 teaspoon baking powder
pinch of salt, optional. (if you have salt free beans you might want to add a pinch of salt, otherwise maybe not)
3/4 cup dark chocolate chips

  • Preheat your oven to 350°F / 175°C. 
  • Combine all the ingredients, minus the chocolate chips, in a food processor and process until very smooth. At this point C. thought the dough tasted like the filling in bean paste sticky buns at our local dim sum spot, which he thought was pretty awesome. Me? Meh.
  • Once that's all blended, add the chocolate chips and stir or give your food processor a pulse or two.
  • The dough is thick and sticky, so you'll want to wet your hands with water to shape the dough into about 1" balls, then flatten in your hands a bit. Place on a cookie sheet.
  • Bake for about 10 minutes. These cookies don't brown up like regular cookies so don't based their doneness by appearance. Remove them from the oven and at this point they're the epitome of chewy, gooey goodness!
  • Let them cool and then you can store them in the fridge or at room temp in a closed container.

They turned out really tasty! I added some flax seed meal to the second half of the dough and that changed the texture a bit. I think I'll play around with this recipe a bit and see if I can make them into some sort of bar, with more something in them... shredded coconut? nut meal? oats? Maybe some protein powder? (I just checked this book out from the library that's got me thinking about cooking with protein powder....) Not sure yet. In the mean time, we'll enjoy what we have!

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

New Recipe! Mu Shu Tempeh

When I get hungry, and a flavor pops into my head--or is it in my belly?--of what I want to eat, I look in my pantry and fridge, then I wing it.

The other day I was craving hoisin sauce. Yes, I have weird cravings. No pork on hand, so I thought I'd make some mu shu tempeh wraps. 

ALERT! Before you go any further, please know I don't follow recipes, nor do I pay attention to exact measurements. I whip up meals pretty quick. If something I cook up turns out nummy and I think I gotta share this, I then scramble to remember what I did... So feel free to take this recipe and use your best judgment and preferences to make it your own.

Mu Shu Tempeh Wraps

1-2 tablespoons of olive oil or sesame or what ever you like
1 medium onion, chopped
2-3 celery stalks, chopped
1 big carrot, grated
2-3 cups of cabbage, chopped (I used some already-shredded cole slaw mix 
1 block of tempeh, crumbled
1-2 garlic cloves, pressed,  or garlic powder
soy sauce (I love my mushroom soy sauce! If you don't do wheat, then you know there's always Bragg's or tamari)
black pepper (some white would be nice, but I didn't have any)
washed and dried lettuce leaves of your choice, or you could use rice paper wraps or I've also used sprouted grain tortillas
hoisin sauce (this brand is my favorite and you can get it at your local asian market.)
chopped green onions, optional
  1. start with the onion and celery and sauté to soften a bit
  2. add the carrots, cabbage and tempeh and pressed garlic and sauté to wilt the cabbage ( I added a bit of water to steam it a bit)
  3.  add your soy sauce, black (or white) pepper, and garlic powder (if you're using it), to taste
  4. cool it a bit, then wrap it in lettuce leaves and top with some hoisin sauce and green onions. Yumm!
If you have food sensitivities by all means, make changes. Enjoy!
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