Wednesday, December 10, 2014

My Definition of Healthy

Morning! I thought I'd share part of my response to one of the essay questions on my Clinical Somatics Educator Program application. The directions read: Give a description of your state of health and overall bodily competence. As part of your statement, 1) give your definition of what you understand as “health,” and 2) describe what you do to maintain your state of health. 

As a personal trainer and health coach, I’m pretty sure my definition of “health” differs from that of the American Medical Association, the World Health Organization or my fellow fitness professionals. The desire in our culture to stay young (which many translate to mean “healthy”) has become a multi-billion dollar industry. But to me, being healthy comes from within, and is a state of mind that keeps us feeling young and, therefore, healthy.

To be truly healthy, one must look inside oneself to maintain/recapture the vitality, enthusiasm, exploration, movement and desire to learn that we were all born with and exhibited in our youth. Babies and children take things slowly, have dreams and are creative. They are aware of what’s going on within and outside their bodies, and they do things with intention. No amount of supplements, drugs or potions can recapture youth because you can’t bottle a child’s perspective.

For many, growing up means growing still and set in their ways. They develop faulty habits. They lose their sense of wonder. They’d never want to admit they don’t know something for fear of it being a weakness rather than an opportunity to learn and explore.

So, how do I maintain the kid in me to maintain my health?
  • While kids don’t think in terms of moving their bodies in different planes, I incorporate plenty of natural movement such as walking, swimming, hula hooping, playing soccer with my dog, dancing around the house, and jogging.
  • My husband and I intentionally live in the Pacific Northwest and chose desk-free professions that keep us active and outdoors as much as possible.
  • I predominately eat whole foods and home cook my meals. But I also figure stress is more likely to negatively effect my body than the occasional “bad” treat. Everything in moderation. 
  • I try to be an active part of my community. I started neighborhood walks and a crafting group, and I volunteer weekly at my local library.
  • I try to use technology as it was intended—to help me in my tasks, not to consume all my time and attention.
  • I enjoy creative hobbies in which I “lose myself” and my sense of time when I’m on a roll. I love to study and learn new things.
  • I value quality sleep, as well as alone time and quiet time.
  •  I listen to and work with my body when I have a pain or injury instead of turning to medications.
  • I laugh a lot and try not to let things out of my control stress me out.

... there's some other stuff, but just thought I'd share some of my ideas... When I was a kid technology pretty much meant a hardly-viewed, cable-free TV in the family room, plus my sister and I got our own phone line in high school. Unfortunately today's kids are being robbed of natural development. But that's another story.

 What's your definition of "healthy"? What do you do, or want to do, to stay healthy and happy? 

Friday, December 5, 2014

Is somatics for you?

Is somatics for you? I'd enthusiastically say "yes!" Everyone could benefit from some somatic education, but really it's solely up you.

At the beginning of every training course, when students get wide-eyed and are blown away by how powerful somatic education is, inevitably someone says, "Somatics Education is so effective! Why isn't it more well known around the world?!" Martha Peterson (my teacher) responds with:

 "Hanna Somatics is not just about pandiculation, muscles and bones! It is about giving yourself permission to get to know who you are....from the inside out. That can be scary and threatening for some people. It can stimulate uncomfortable change and, for many, elicit emotions that have been stuck."

I'll use a personal experience as an example. Usually when someone starts doing somatic exercises they love some of the moves and others not so much. When I started doing somatics I thought the back lift was just the suckiest move ever. I avoided it. But then while at my teacher training, and as I was doing it in class, I started to cry. Not blubbering-baby style, just silent streaming tears. One of my teachers quickly came over to make sure I was ok, and I was. I wasn't in pain, just felt like crying. We soon took a break and another teacher came up to me and said, "crying is ok, and you're actually a head of the curve, because once you get to the clinical training you'll find a lot of folks have some emotional responses too."

Instead of just blowing it off, or feeling embarrassed, I thought about what triggered those tears.

Since my bike accident I had been pissed a lot. Pissed that I got hit and wasn't healing like I expected, that my insurance company screwed me, that I had to hire an attorney who totally dropped the ball, and very sad that some of the people that I loved and trusted to help me heal had moved away during mid treatment and one even died. Top it off with a traumatic brain injury that took months to heal. Every time I started to think about things related to my accident I could feel my body coil up like a ball.

So! While I was doing the back lift, I was partially in a position that I was in when I got hit. Leaning forward with my head turned to the right, seeing a car barreling at me. Totally vulnerable. Fight-or-flight overdrive. My body had been avoiding moving that way for 3 years. It wasn't super painful, but didn't feel great. Not undoable, but I just didn't want to "go there". but this time I let go. I cried, I trusted myself, and I moved forward. It was at that moment that I no longer held anger in my body or let my thoughts overwhelm me.  It was a huge turning point for me in so many ways...

That's not to say that only those who are emotionally stressed can benefit from somatics! There are three standard reflex patterns that a Somatics Educator looks for: green light reflex (imagine military posture, chest up, tight low back), red light reflex (also called startle reflex. Imagine rounded, slumped shoulders, head protruding forward) and trauma reflex (the torso bends and/or twists to one side). So many people have these postures but may not be aware of them or how they came to be. It can be from an injury, lifestyle habits, attitude, stress, or surgeries.

So, like I said, everyone can benefit from somatics. You can break through poor habits and faulty functional patterns. You can release emotional tension stored in your body. From there, who know's what else can shift in your life!

Somatic movement changes everything.

Are you ready for it? If so, consider attending one of my classes, workshops and or meet privately. 

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Find out what others are saying about Somatics

I know. Somatics, somatics, somatics. I go on and on about it all the time now. I can't help myself. Why wouldn't I want to educate people how to reduce pain, lower stress, and just plain function better!

But I'll shut up... so you can check out this video my friend Jen Neitzel put together, and you can get perspectives from my students. When I saw this, I was blown away by everyone's personal experience, and how powerful it is for  them all. I'm so friggin' lucky/excited/happy to share this with the world!

If this sounds like something you want to experience too, please contact me. We can work together in one of more of the following ways.

  •  1-on-1 sessions (in-person and via Skype)
  • small group classes
  • workshops
  • downloadable audio files for your home practice (coming soon!)
Thanks for stopping by!

Friday, October 24, 2014

Can Somatics make you taller?

Not a beautiful photo, but the results are fabulous!
Hey all! Thought I'd share a photo of a little "test" we did in my Somatics Restorative Fitness class this morning. I taped sheets of paper to the wall and had everyone reach up as high as they could, then I marked the tip of the hand on the paper.

Then we did a series of somatic moves that Carrie Day, (one of my NJ somatic teachers) calls Reach the Top Shelf. She was kind enough to share her playlist with me. Thanks Carrie!

The moves focused on lengthening the waist and back muscles, as well as opening up the shoulders and relaxing the neck. At the end of our hour together here's some results of what we saw on the retest. The ages of these four women in class range from mid forties to late 70s.

So can somatics make you taller? Not exactly. We don't get "taller" per se, but we can regain length that we lose from age and those habitually tight muscles that compress our spines, hips and shoulders. So, if you feel and see yourself "shrinking" as you age, Somatics can give you back the height you've lost along the path of life. I don't want to give away anyone's age, but the two who showed the biggest improvement were older than the other two. Pretty rewarding, eh?!

Want to get taller with us? Check the class schedule or email me to set up a private session.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Changing things up with Take It Outside Fitness

So I bit the bullet last week and sent out a message to the world, and my entire email list, that I'm shifting gears away from Take It Outside Fitness as we know it.

The response was overwhelmingly positive! And I'm grateful. I'm so excited to shift more into somatic exercise. If you need some background, check out my teacher explaining what Somatics is here, and here's a few previous posts where I discuss it.

Of course there are those who still want and crave my outdoor programs. No worries, I'm not going to give them up!

One of my big loves of somatic education is that it's all about me helping you to be your own teacher.  After all, that's what I always wanted to do with my trainings; not create dependencies, but educate you to Take It Outside on your own. So I'm going to share our workouts. CrossFit calls them WOD (workouts of the day). I won't be doing these every day, but as I have time... and of course if I get some positive feedback I'll know I should keep going.

So here's yesterday's workout routine at Mt Tabor

Mt Tabor Workout Plan
We started with a walk and standing somatics exercises (I guess you'll just have to come to class or email me to set up a skype session to learn these! :-) then we did the stairs.

From the stairs we had 10 stations at the picnic tables on the east side of the park facing beautiful Mt Hood

  1. push ups x 12
  2. reverse planks on a bench or hip lifts x8
  3. breaststroke off the edge of the table x8-10
  4. side step ups with side crunch 10+10 each side
  5. tricep dips x 12 or 8+8 with foot crossed over knee each side
  6. front step up + balance with a front kick to back kick 8 alternating
  7. prone scissor lifts off end of bench x 8
  8. dead bugs x 20
  9. incline overhead presses x 12
  10. elevated plank to downdog x 5

Once they had finished our first set of the stations it was a repeat of the stairs + stations 2 more times. Then a relaxing gab-fest walk back to the parking lot and some stretching.

 Yes, I need to get my butt in gear to develop these with photos and/or videos, but until then, a list of the exercises will have to suffice. If you don't know what these are, join us in a class to learn more or set up a private session.

These are intended for those who know how to safely exercise with proper form and functionality. You are responsible for your own safety and welfare at all times. Talk to your healthcare provider before starting this or any exercise routine. 

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

How to get the most out of your somatics practice

What's my number one tip for making the most of your somatics practice? 

Somatic exercises change your muscular system by changing your central nervous system

Remember that and you will reap the most benefit. As my somatics teacher says, muscles are dumb. They don't do anything on their own. They do what the brain tells them to do. All day your brain tell your muscles what to do involuntarily (like breathing, walking, driving a stick shift--all things you have mastered and no longer consciously think about). On the other hand, your brain can also tell your muscles what to do voluntarily (like learning to write with your left hand while your right arm is in a cast or swing dancing for the first time.) 

Here are some additional key points to remember when doing your somatic exercises:
  • Feel it from the inside out. Somatic exercises should bring awareness to any sensory-motor amnesia (SMA) patterns within your body. If you can feel it, you can change it. Only you feel what your body is telling you. 
  • Go S-L-O-W-L-Y. In my training someone said, "slow is the fastest way to change your brain." If you go quickly, or anticipate the next move you can't feel what's happening in the moment. Thomas Hanna equated it to watching a training movie in slow motion to see the movements of athletes. He said, the slower you go, the more you can notice.
  • Make it effortless. Forget the mentality of "no pain, no gain" workouts that send tons of sensory feedback to your brain from excessive effort and strain. Somatic moves, done slowly let your brain receive just the feedback it needs. A Feldenkrais Practitioner I know has a great cue: move your bones, not your muscles
  • Do not force the movement. Thomas Hanna equated a tight muscle to a knot in a rope. Yank on it and it only makes it tighter. You have to examine the knot (feel the tightness) to undo it (release the tension).
  • But in the same light explore your range of motion that you can move through effortlessly and gently at this moment. Our muscles are meant to move! The current pain you feel is from not moving smoothly and through full range of motion, but holding patterns that result in pain.
  • Somatic exercises do not cause pain. The movements are perfectly normal patterns. Some people may feel a bit sore after the first session or two since muscles that have been habitually tight for years, are lengthening. It's kind of like a massage; It feels good but you might be a bit sore afterwards. Regular practice will help your muscles retain their new length so you feel great and move with ease. If you are doing an exercise that is uncomfortable speak up. There are many vectors one can move a leg, hip, arm. Variations are fine, but there are a few key points that are critical for getting the most benefit.
  • Most somatic exercises are done on the floor. A flat surface with minimal cushion is ideal. A rug or blanket on a yoga mat works well. 
  • Lastly, wear comfortable clothing that's loose and easy to move in.
I hope that helps you with your practice. I'd love to hear from you if you have a mantra of sorts or thoughts on what you do to make the most of your somatic exercises. If you haven't yet taken a class you can see my schedule here.

Peace and health,

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

a quick wrap up from my Somatics Exercise Coach course

Phew! I'm back from Maplewood NJ where I attended my Somatics Exercise Coach course with Martha Peterson of Essential Somatics. It was an amazing experience. The students as well as the instructors-- Martha, Laura Gates, and Carrie Day--were inspiring and fun, and I'm so excited to share this knowledge with anyone who's looking to feel better in their body, make that their soma, and rid themselves of chronic pain.

Here are some key points I took away from the course.

We are not bodies, we are somas. "Body" is the third person perspective of a person. You got to the doctor, a massage therapist, even look in the mirror and what one sees is the body from the outside perspective. Yes we all have bodies, but what we feel, our neurological programming, how we move, function, live, from our internal perspective, that is what is called the soma.

"Slow is the fast way to retrain the brain." The somatic exercises are designed to reprogram the connection between the brain and the muscles. The slower you do them the more quickly your brain can reprogram your movement patterns and move more efficiently.

"the brain cannot change what it cannot feel" Some people pretty much go through life thinking the body is just something to carry around their head, without making any connection between the brain and their muscles. The majority of muscle pain is due to habitual patterns that we take on due to stress and/or trauma. But because the patterns are habits, the sub cortex of our brain just naturally defaults to the faulty pattern. Let's say you have a habit of tilting your body to the right, because you sprained your left ankle 12 years ago. Now your left hip aches all the time. By assessing your current alignment you can practice particular somatic exercises that address the imbalances. With somatic exercises one slowly contracts, lengthens and releases the muscles that are causing tightness.  By doing so you unlearn that patterns, develop correct movement patterns so you no longer tilt, and there for no longer have pain.

I think I really love somatics because it's based on science. I'm not dissing chakras, auras and other things that some people might call woo-woo. But somatic exercises work because you consciously make a connection between the muscles and brain on a neurological level. There's science to back up how the brain develops new patterns.

The course I took trained me to teach somatic exercises that a client could do between hands-on treatments. The hands-on treatments are part of the Clinical Somatics Educator protocol. Since I started practicing somatics I've released my chronically contracted left psoas and increased the range of motion in my neck, but I knew there was something else that was still hindering my posture and gait. So I scheduled a hands-on session with Martha after the course.

The best way I can describe what I felt afterwards was this: after a massage, acupuncture, etc I may feel good, but after the clinical somatic session I felt changed. My chronically tight left hip released so my hips could swing the way nature intended. My left foot and ankle rolled through the natural pattern of walking that I hadn't been doing for a very long time. My waist muscles released so that my low back was bettered aligned. When my husband picked me up at the airport he said I was taller. My clients said my back and butt were different. My belly shrank a bit too.

So I've been practicing particular exercises to maintain what I achieved in that session. Thomas Hanna said that a client should be done and out the door after 3 sessions max. Martha says a few clients may need up to 6 or 8. But that's what I love about this method of pain relief. It's not months and months or years and years of expensive adjustments and treatments or worse, drugs. You reprogram your muscles neurologically; from your brain. You practice your homework. You are ultimately in control. You are your own teacher.

It's amazing stuff! It's so simple yet so profound.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Fitness Vocabulary: Pandiculation

In 25 Words or Less
Pandiculation - a stretching and stiffening especially of the trunk and extremities (as when fatigued and drowsy or after waking from sleep). Merriam-Webster Online Medical Dictionary

Let Me Explain
Do you ever notice how when your pet gets up from rest, she never just bounds up, but rises and does a couple of  "stretches"? She isn't actually stretching though. She's pandiculating. As she bows down, she lengthens the front of her body while shortening the back, then they move throw a neutral spine to do it again, but in an upward lengthening of the body.

This is what we do with our Somatics exercises in my classes. We move the body through a gentle range of motion to tighten a set of muscles while at the same time lengthening the opposing muscles. Notice I don't say stretch. It's not that stretching is bad, but it doesn't release chronic tightness in our muscles. If you have particular knots and sore spots that no matter what you seem to do, won't release long term, try pandiculating them.

When I guide students through the somatic exercises--or "un-exercises" as I like to call them--I suggest they imagine moving their bones, rather than engaging muscles into extreme contractions (like when lifting weights) and avoid forcing a stretch. Rather we move gently, giving the brain, muscles and nervous system a chance to reboot, so to speak, by turning off habitual tension that causes pain. Instead we move with more fluid, natural movement.

It's a hard concept to sell. The idea that less is more, when it comes to correcting alignment and easing pain, but it really works! Come try a class or contact me for a private session

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Neighborhood Walks start September 10th

I'm such a PDX girl. I love drizzly rainy days, long walks in the falling leaves, and just plain sweating less! So while these hot-for-Portland summer evenings make me more inclined to do somatics, yoga, and pilates, fall is right around the corner and the days are cooling off! Which means we need to get our neighborhood walks back on the calendar!

First scheduled walk will be 

Wednesday September 10th at 7:00pm. 

You could just show up, but better yet RSVP on my Friends of Take It Outside Fitness Meet Up page. It's a good idea to join the group so you'll get updates and announcements.

I host these walks to:
• get out an enjoy the fresh air and low tech benefits of being outside
• encourage folks to find walking/workout buddies within the group
• learn about what's going in our community and share it with others
• give people an opportunity to talk with a certified Health Coach and Personal Trainer (that's yours truly :-)
Here are answers to FAQs
  • Everyone can join, whether you live in the area or not. 
  • Walks are generally 1-hour, but you can break off early if need be. 
  • Dress for the weather and have appropriate shoes. 
  • Small kiddos don't enjoy these walks much because of the speed and duration. 
  • If we have a large enough group it might split into 2. One for faster walkers and the other for slower peeps. So the more turn out the better!
  • Where we go varies from week to week. We've walked up Mt Tabor, visited the Old Dahlia House, gone to the library, and just tooled around the 'hood.
OK! See you then!


Participation in any of the Friends of Take It Outside Fitness events are purely voluntary and you are responsible for your own health, safety and welfare at all times. 

Monday, August 18, 2014

Pilates is back on the schedule

I'm adding Pilates back to the schedule, and honestly I'm not sure why I ever dropped it. Well, honestly I guess I was getting a bit bored. So to spice things up I'm incorporating more variety into the classes, using the TRXs, bands, mini balls, more challenging Pilates moves...All done with focus and intention, designed to take your traditional Pilates mat class to another level or simulate some of the moves done on the reformer, but using the alternative equipment.

Come Join me in a Pilates Plus Class!

Mondays at 5:45pm

Wednesdays at 8:30am

Thursdays at 6:45am

all at the studio

If you haven't noticed already, I'm leaning more towards the corrective, restorative, somatic exercises these days. Personally I need it for my own body, and even though a lot of people think harder-core workouts are where it's at, too many of them have compensation patterns from past injuries, repetitive motions, trauma, and just the day-to-day stress that gets trapped in our brains and muscles without even knowing it.

See for yourself. Take a little personal inventory right now. How are you breathing? Shallow, maybe even hardly at all? Are you're sitting symmetrically on your sitz bones? Is one shoulder higher than the other? Or one foot, leg and hip turned out more than the other? Those little imbalances may not seem too significant, but think of it like a foundation of a house. If you are out a alignment in your foundation, then adding outside forces like weights and strength exercises can strengthen your imbalances, not fix them.

So pilates, along with my Somatics classes and Reformer training are great for laying a solid, well-functioning foundation, so we can do all that other fun stuff in life--run, ski, weight train, swim, cycle, etc-- with ease, power, and grace.

Come join us! Your first class is free and you can reserve your spot right here.

See you soon!

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