Wednesday, September 4, 2019

It's not me, it's you

"You have magic hands, that doesn't hurt at all." 
~ client, as her shoulder moves without pain

"My knee doesn't hurt anymore. Whatever you did is amazing!" 
~ client, who's knee I never touched in her session

"I thought my left shoulder was my issue, since that's where I feel pain. 
But it feels better after our session, and we focused on the right side of my body. Fascinating!" 
~ client, who is a bodyworker herself

"I've never felt this good, and I've been going to a chiropractor for 30 years." 
~Think Somatics class student

It's not me, it's you.

When clients sing my praises, I tell them, "Don't thank me. Thank your brain!" 

All I did was help your brain take back control of how you move and sense yourself.

Somatics is not bodywork. 

When you get bodywork, like an adjustment, massage, or other treatment, you are passive. You've taken your body to an "expert," who does something to parts of your body.

You could even fall asleep and the results would the same. Because you are passive, your brain does not learn anything. So nothing changes for long term.

Somatics is neuromuscular education.

The brain controls how you function, move and sense yourself. When you feel pain, that's your brain signaling something is wrong. A broken bone would need outside intervention. But "pain out of no where" or ongoing pain is a signal that the body is functioning in some sort of restricted, contracted way.

Your motor patterns are off.

With Somatics, you are in charge of correcting your motor patterns so you can stop moving in ways that hurt you. You learn to move more intelligently, with grace and ease.

Somatics works so well because your brain is learning.

Your sensory motor cortex is learning.

I may be helping you sense those areas your brain has lost control of (what's called Sensory Motor Amnesia), but you are ultimately the one laying down the neural pathways between your brain and body.

After some initial help from me, you are free to do what you need on your own.

No need to repeatedly come to me. Again, very different from body work. :-)

Just tend to your nervous system, and you function well and live well.

We could actually never meet, and you can get relief by learning Somatics on your own.

That's because, like all animals, humans are meant to be able to self sense, self regulate, self soothe.

Bodywork creates dependency.

Bodywork is ultimately about the practitioner because she has something you think you must have that you can't do for yourself.

Regular bodywork is more of a dependency. A luxury. Nothing wrong with that, if that's what you want.

But what if you are in pain and can't get an appointment for days or weeks?

Imagine a life in which you seldom felt pain. 

If you have a Somatics practice—a routine of simple, safe movements you can do anytime, anywhere —you can change so many things we attribute to age, injury, and degeneration.

You can keep yourself functioning well, well into older age.

On the occasion you do feel uncomfortable, you'll know what to do, right at that moment, instead of freaking out and relying on someone to "fix" you.

Somatics is true self care.

By sensing yourself you can care for yourself.

Taking your body to another person to tend to it, is not self care. Because it's not administered by the self.

Somatics is a paradigm shift

Now, I know some of you may bristle at the thought of all this.

You may love all your bodyworkers.

After all, you've turned to them time after time for help.

But how have humans—the supposedly smartest species on the planet — become so dependent on others to fix us?

Thomas Hanna, the man behind the work I do, was a philosopher.

He's main question to life was how do humans remain free and autonomous?

With Somatic awareness, we are able to sense how we react to the world around us.  Be able to release ourselves from emotional, mental and physical tension that hold us back from being our true selves.

You can continue to turn outside of yourself in hopes that there is some pill, surgery or bodywork to fix you. You are free to do whatever you want, after all. :-)

But why? You have innate ability to self soothe. We are all born to do certain movements—movements called pandiculations— that release tension in our bodies with ease. We did these moves as babies, in the womb, and as children. For some reason western adults forego this technique, instead seeking outside themselves for answers.

If you want to be in charge of your body and life, start a Somatics practice and see what happens.

Check out my free Introductory Think Somatics class in the Think Somatics Online Classroom.

Visit my website to register for the next Free Online Intro To Clinical Somatics. (Look for it at the bottom of the homepage.)

Thanks for reading! I look forward to connecting with you in the future.

create change for good,
Kristin



Saturday, August 31, 2019

Tips to help you get rid of pain with Somatics

Somatics is never meant to cause pain. If you start doing the moves, and are feeling pain, particularly later in the day or next day, here are helpful tips.

1) Are you working too hard at this? Somatics is not "exercise."
 think of the movement as explorations, not “exercises.” Imagine you are moving like seaweed not a tightly wound contraption, or working out. This can be a very different way of moving your body, if you come from a no pain, no gain mentality of fitness/physical therapy world. You are working with your nervous system. Treat it with care.

2) Are you not contracting both sides of your body at once?
I’ll use arch and flatten as an example: when you arch, notice if you are releasing the front of the body. Can you feel your belly muscles lengthen and be soft?  If not, you are literally using your body’s tension as a weight machine, pulling against tension. Instead, let the opposing side of the body release a you contract the focus side NO CO-CONTRACTIONS :-) Apply this principle to every move you do. Another example could be the side bend  . Feel the side of your body lengthen into the floor as the top side shortens.
 
3) Your muscles have released and can be sore after years of contraction
If you are releasing muscles that have been chronically tight for a long time and there can be soreness when they finally release. 

4) If you feel pain while doing the moves, STOP.
I know a lot of modalities tell you pain is what is required to get rid of your pain. That is so wrong on so many levels! Pain causes tension. Tension causes pain. Explore tip 1 & 2 above and see if that helps. Or try motor planning the move. Or reach out and schedule a private, in-person or online session with me. Trust me, when you have some deeply ingrained Sensory Motor Amnesia, you might need a little outside help. 

Let me know below in the comments below if you have questions. 

happy pandiculating,
Kristin

Tuesday, August 20, 2019

Alternative to Feldenkrais or Somatics table--Can you do Somatics on a bed?

Sometimes when new clients come to me they say they can't get down and up from the floor with ease, so they ask if they can do Somatics on their beds.

Yes, you can do your Somatics practice on your bed, but if it's a soft, squishy one, be warned: You can over do the movements and make yourself sore.

When I redecorated my home office I wanted a daybed of sorts. I actually got rid of my standing desk. I hate to sit at a desk or table for long periods of time. When I do sit, I like to sit on the floor. But this where you'll find me, when not on the floor. I sit on this bed to write newsletters and such. It's not really a daybed, but it makes a great little snuggly area to sit and work. I put my laptop on a pillow on my lap, legs crossed. It's SUPER firm! Perfect alternative to a traditional Somatics table, and actually less expensive than many of the folding tables.

It would make a great bed for doing Somatics if you can't get to the floor. I've just got a twin size, but a wider double bed would be good too. Of course you need the space for one.

Could it be a Somatics table/guest bed?

I imagine a lot of people would not like to sleep on this, because they are stiff and rigid in their bodies. But if they did Somatics they could find it comfortable. My sister has slept on it. She has very "green light" posture and does not do Somatics. She called it a prison bed. Haha! My mom, who does do Somatics, really liked it. Found it cozy. Personally I love sleeping on this bed...when my husband snores, I escape here! ;-)

I still do my Somatics on the floor, but love doing a few movements on this bed in the morning when I wake up.

Here are the exact items from IKEA.
MINNESUND Mattress,
We cut thin slices of a large dowel to bump up the height of the legs a bit, so we could fit the reclaimed drawers under the bed.

Alternatives to Somatics on the floor

You don't have to go to the floor to do your practice. You can do Somatics standing or seated. I guide students through all kinds of lessons, including seated and standing lessons in the Think Somatics Online Classroom. Sometimes I even like to do Somatics standing with my back against a wall. Varying the way you do your Somatics will give you varying sensory feedback, which is a good thing!

If you are brand new to Somatics, I can help you establish your home practice with a private somatics session. I work with clients from around the world online. Lessons are designed for your needs and you even receive a recording to use for your home practice. :-)

Enjoy,

Kristin

Friday, August 2, 2019

If you're just in to Somatics for the pain relief you're missing out

Thomas Hanna was a "philosopher who worked with his hands." He believed that the way we sense ourselves is part of the living process of being human.

By being aware of how we process everything in our lives through our thoughts, movements and habits, we can remain free and autonomous. To some people that might be a head scratcher. Especially since most people come to his work because they are in pain. Which is does wonders for. But really it's sooooo much more than that.

Here is a great interview of the great man, Thomas Hanna.

I suspect he would be appalled at how humans are living today. Let's see if we can turn this ship called humanity around and find a more homeostatic way of co-existing.

peace,
Kristin

Friday, July 26, 2019

Motor plan your somatics moves

If the idea of moving your body a certain way, sends you into a state of anxiety that said movement will hurt, or you believe you can't do a pandiculation, here is a suggestion.

Motor plan it.


Motor planning is simply imagining do a somatic movement--pandiculation-- with ease and control. Imagine what it would feel like to do the movement, breathe with ease, and release out of the imaginary movement with control and without pain. Because if your brain is anxious, it can send you into a state of hyperarousal. Almost like a self-fulfilling prophecy.

But you aren't actually moving! So your brain starts priming to move with ease in your imagination. Practice that, and see what happens.

Motor planning is also a cool thing to explore if you:
  • are becoming rote in your Somatics practice
  • are going too fast
  • can't feel anything in particular while moving
  • are over effort-ing. Working too hard!

Let me know what you learn about yourself after you try this trick.

Enjoy!
Kristin

Check out the Think Somatics Online Classroom to learn Somatics online.

Sunday, July 7, 2019

Somatic Awareness + Better Breathing = Better Health

How your breathe makes all the difference.

Our culture, our daily routines, even our workouts are limiting our capacity breathe with ease, limiting our optimal health.

Things that limit your breathing.

As you go through your day you are probably doing things that hinder full, deep inhalations.

You rise, only to go sit, at meal time, at work, in your car.

You may walk, but we've learned to limit rotation of our centers reducing freedom of the ribcage and pelvis to rotate around your central axis. Culturally we've been "trained" to not move our hips and shoulders!

You may go to the gym, where routines and machines are designed to keep us in the sagittal plane, ie facing forward, with little to no rotation. You throw in plenty of abdominal exercises, which enforce a shortening of your rectus abdominis. Sorry, tight abs are not a good thing. They pull you forward, limiting your breathing capacity.  Habituated shortening of your abs and chest muscles--through your daily routines-- make your back muscles work harder to hold you up vertically.

Maybe you do yoga or pilates. Breathing patterns in these classes often encourage a forced exhale, which is not natural, relaxed breathing. Inhalations require a contraction of the diaphragm and intercostal muscles (between the ribs) and exhaling is a release of those contractions. Pursing your lips and forcing the breath out, makes your abs tighten. No es bueno.

This is not a judgement.
It's what we've been told to believe.

I used to do all these things too. As a personal trainer and pilates teacher I believed all these things were good for me and my clients. Now I know the secret to remaining free and at ease in my body. It's not by creating habituated tension, but by being able to release the tension we are creating all day long.

You can continue to do what you do, but be aware of the tension you are creating, and learn how to let it go. As an example, you wouldn't want to contact your biceps and keep them contracted all day, right? Same goes for any other muscles in your body. We want our brains to have control to contract muscles and then release them to their natural length. That's where Somatics comes in!

I teach special movements, called pandiculations, that reset your muscle length to their natural resting length. Without stretching. Without strengthening.

What happens to your health from limited breathing

When we contract and contract and contract our muscles, especially those around our torsos, we limit our freedom of movement and freedom to breathe with ease. Habituated, we lose our capacity to breathe deeply, resulting in:
  • high blood pressure
  • heart disease
  • suppressed immune system
  • anxiety
  • depression
  • poor sleep patterns
  • pain and tension
  • exhaustion
  • perpetually being in states of fight-or-flight or freeze

Start releasing yourself from your limitations

This week we are focusing on breathing in my Take It Outside Fitness and Think Somatics classes. You can even join me online for Somatics on Wednesday July 10 at 1:00pm. You can sign up here.

Join the Think Somatics Virtual Classroom

Can't make it to classes? No problem! Enroll in the all new Think Somatics Virtual Classroom. There you will gain access to an ever-expanding library of recorded classes I produce just about every week.

There are two lessons on breathing ready and waiting for you, plus classes for:
  • somatics for neck and shoulders
  • somatics for hips, knees and feet
  • somatics for better living
  • tips on getting the most out of your practice
  • somatics for lower backs
  • somatics for neck, face and jaw
  • and a whole lot more!
Thanks for reading. If you have any questions, let me know. If you know of others who could also benefit from Somatics, share this with them, ideally on social media, so everyone can start reaping the benefits of being free and at ease in their bodies.

Enjoy!
~Kristin

Thursday, May 16, 2019

Pelvic Floor from the Somatics Perspective

Whenever I mention the pelvic floor in an email blast or in a Somatics class, a ton of you request more information. I'm developing an online course, but in the mean time I thought I'd share some helpful information and tips for better pelvic floor health and function.

1. Muscles do not work in isolation
First off, your body should function as a whole system, not just parts working alone. I make this point first, because your pelvic floor may be your "issue," but there is so much more than just what's "down there".  You can read more about how muscles do not work alone.

2. Core! What is it good for?
The "core." Ugh, I hate that word, but let's run with it here, since its ubiquitous in our culture. Too many people think a tight core is a good thing. It's not. No muscles should be turned on all the time. That whole theory that tight abs means no low back pain is based on faulty reading of a study years ago, and is perpetuated to this day. But I digress.

So what exactly is your core anyway? Many think its the abdominals. And if they do crunches, and god forbid sit ups, they are addressing a muscle that isn't even part of the core. Your core, according to pelvic floor PT Julie Weibe, is made up of your diaphragm, pelvic floor, transversus abdominis (girdle muscles around your middle) and the multifidus (deep muscles along the spine). These guys should all play nice together, but often don't, resulting in the problems that brought you to this page.

3. Take a breath
If you take a deep breath, do your shoulders rise up? Most people's do too. But guess what? That means you are using your accessory breathing muscles. These are the smaller muscles around your neck and shoulders that kick in to help you breathe when in a state of fight or flight. If those guys are doing the work,  the muscles that should be firing when you breathe--your diaphragm and intercostal muscles (between your ribs)-- aren't. So what, you ask? How we breathe impacts the pelvic floor. Breathe well and the pelvic floor is resilient, contracting and relaxing a bit with each breath. Breathing is one of the first things Somatic Educators explore with clients/students. Learning to breathe can solve a whole lot.

4. Enough with the Kegels already
Kegels are often doled out to help women in particular, but also men, with pelvic floor dysfunction. Theory being, that if you just tighten, tighten, tighten the pelvic floor, all will be resolved. But tight does not mean strong.  Or functional. Or healthy. Muscles shorten to pull bones closer together. If you do a bicep curl the bicep muscles pull your forearm closer to your upper arm. But you wouldn't want to do that a million times a day, and get tighter and tighter biceps. You would end up with chronically bent arms. Not only that, once a muscle is chronically contracted, it starts losing it's resiliency, because those short tight muscles can't lengthen, limiting their full potential, ie power.

5. Untuck your bum
Kegel exercises draw the tailbone closer to the pubic bone. Too much sitting does too. There are women of a certain generation who were told to tighten their abs all the time and tuck their bums. All these motions contribute to a shortened pelvic floor. If a muscle is shortened, the opposing muscles can't do their jobs well. Let's go back to the biceps, as an anatomical analogy of sorts. As the biceps shorten, the triceps lengthen. And then vice versa. So, if the belly and pelvic floor are tight, the gluteal (butt) muscles can't do their jobs.  All that sitting, tucking and tightening is probably why you have no junk in the trunk.

6. Can you pee in the woods (without peeing on your heels)?
How you squat tells a lot. We should all be able to squat, but modern life makes it really easy to avoid this motion. Our toilets are too high, our car seats tuck our bums, we sit too much. Again, the bum tucks under and squatting properly is next to impossible, resulting in peeing on our heels in the woods. Don't go out into the woods? (Well, ya should, but that's another post.) Squat and look at your side view in a mirror. Do you tuck your bum under? Does your low back look rounded? Something to note....

7. Train your bladder
Women are notorious for going to the bathroom when they see one. "I better go now because I might have to pee later, and there won't be a bathroom around." Your bladder is a reservoir. It's supposed to collect urine and when it is full, send you a signal to go to the bathroom. By making ourselves go, when we don't need to, we are training our bladders to be dysfunctional. Urinary frequency is different from urinary incontinence. Both are somewhat learned dysfunctions. Again, this post is the tip of the iceberg...

8. Heed the need, to poop
The colon, on the other hand, is not a reservoir. When you gotta poop, you should go do just that. Immediately. But we are fickle folks. We like our own bathrooms. We don't want people to hear us. Whatever. I've been right there with you, but we need to take care of business when our bodies say so. Think of it this way. Your body is telling you, time to get rid of some toxic crap. Literally. No one wants to hold toxicity in their bodies, right? So go do your business! What do you do if you want to avoid passing gas or pooping? You tighten your anal sphincter.  Do that frequently enough, then when you do finally pass something it can be painful and challenging to do. Hemorroids anyone? Dogs and babies are quite happy when they poop. You can too!

9. It's not just women who have given birth that have pelvic floor dysfunction
Not every woman who has given birth vaginally has pelvic floor issues. Women AND men can have pelvic floor dysfunction. I haven't even touched on things like painful intercourse, impotence, the list goes on. But...

10. Our bodies are designed to find homeostasis
Falls, surgeries, pressures of life, fear, anxiety and more, throw our systems--how we function neuromuscularly and hormonally--out of whack. We ultimately are looking for homeostasis, some place in which our systems function a state of calm/neutral, and to be able to return to that state quickly. With somatic awareness you can find that neutral state.

Anyone can enhance one's somatic awareness by:

  • paying attention to how one breathes
  • sensing oneself from an internal perspective 
  • doing gentle movements called pandiculations that reset muscle length to full length without stretching or strengthening

 I'll be covering all this and more at the Fundamentals of Somatics Workshop in Bellingham WA June 22-23 2019. There are spots still available. I'd love to share all the wonderful things Somatics can do.

freedom and ease for all,
Kristin


Friday, March 29, 2019

Why stretching doesn't work

Before I found the secret of somatics, I use to stretch religiously. I'm actually quite flexible, but no matter how much I stretched, I didn't feel my muscles relax. Now I know why!

It was a paradigm shift from the beliefs I had developed from years of dancing ballet and working as a personal trainer. Stretching was what I did, because I believed it was good for me.

When I got hit by a car and couldn't move my head or walk without pain in my feet, the stretching --and "core" work -- weren't doing jack for me. Actually I was getting worse. 

Then one day I found a book on somatics. At first, I flipped through the book and thought--without actually reading the directions--"oh this looks like some of my pilates moves." Again, I believed what I already knew as gospel and the photos of the book were reenforcing my beliefs.

Then I read the book. I did the moves with awareness and got instant relief in my left hip psoas area. Volia! I was turned on to pandiculations. The movements of somatics that get muscles to actually relax without stretching! This video explains pandiculations.


I went on to study and become a clinical somatic educator. I learned about the stretch reflex, how the brain is controlling what the muscles are doing, and a whole lot more.

Why stretching doesn’t work and the Stretch Reflex

Reflexes are naturally occurring events within your body to protect you from danger, to keep you safe and alive. If you touch a hot stove your hand is pulled quickly away from the surface before you even know what you've done. That is a reflex.

When you force a muscle to lengthen beyond its normal length, the neurons in your muscles get a message from your spinal cord to contract to keep the muscles from being torn from your bones. You don't want that, right!? ;-) When you stretch, it triggers the stretch reflex. Your nervous system is protecting you from injury by triggering the stretch reflex.

You may feel you are getting more limber when you stretch but what's really happening is ligaments and tendons are being lengthened. Which results is less stable joints. And these tissues don't rebound like muscles. A slack tendon or ligament is not a good thing.

One of the key differences between stretching and somatics, is somatics is re-education. How you move is learned. Forcing muscles to change doesn't work because it doesn't address the feedback loop between your brain and the nerve receptors in your muscles. Pandiculations do.

If you want to get rid of pain, and function better so you can maintain quality of life, give pandiculations a try. You can learn more from my website and youtube channel. I work with clients online and in person, so your relief is just a click away

Wednesday, March 27, 2019

If your doctor says your pain is all in your head...

It's insulting when a doctor says your pain is all in your head. When they say that, they may think you are being unreasonable.  Since they can't solve the problem, then it must be you. You are the problem because they went to medical school and if they can't solve it, then your pain must not be real.

Pain is real, buddy!

As a somatic educator I get it.

But really, pain is all in your head. (Though I'd never say that to a brand new client!)

Let me explain. Your brain, like everyone else's, is in your head. And your brain is command central, taking in information about a gazillion things every day. Your brain assesses what is painful to your body and what doesn't matter.

So while it can be hard to grasp at first, your stubbed toe, that paper cut, broken bone, backache, are all messages your brain receives from the tissues of your body, via the nerves, telling your brain, "Hey this is something worth noticing! Something is a bit off here where you feel pain." Ultimately it's the brain's decision if it is worth doing something about.

Watch this favorite video of mine, of a very funny PT explains pain and how a snake bite can feel like a twig scratching the side of his leg on day, and then like a hot poker of death a few months later.

But since the medical community is looking at your painful area, and not taking into consideration what your brain is doing, they are missing the mark. Sure they may do some imaging, but that MRI or x-ray is not showing what the brain is doing to the muscles around your painful area. Your sensory motor cortex is in charge of contracting and releasing your muscles day in and day out. If you are chronically firing your muscles to contract, your sensory motor cortex forgets how to release the muscles, which can pull the bones out of alignment, create bulging discs, mess with your alignment/posture, and make you hurt! Duh, doc!

So as a Somatic Educator I help people get rid of pain without drugs, surgery, or ongoing treatments that don't last. You become your healer. You are born to do this, but we are taught at an early age to stop moving, sit still, face forward and listen to the experts around you. We learn how to NOT move well.

But you are perfectly capable of taking back control of your body. Yes, you can regain your freedom. Yes you can have joy for life you had when you were pain free.

The choice is. Please get in touch if you'd like to start re-educating your brain, so you can move well so you can live well.

freedom and ease for all,
Kristin

You are currently reading my blog. Here is my website, thinksomatics.com to learn more.



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