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!

Friday, January 23, 2015

Cross training for somatics

When it comes to different fitness programs, I used to think I was a Jill-of-all-Trades-a-Mistress-of-None, but now I know that the more I learn about movement, from multiple disciplines the better teacher I am. Plus we all know that doing the same routine day in and day out, year after year sets us up for plateaus, back sliding on our progress, risk of repetitive-stress injuries, and just plan boredom.

I may be all about somatics these days, but I know we need more movement than just slowly rolling around on the floor! :-) So when one of my students asked me what should she be doing in addition to her somatics practice, I thought I'd share some thoughts.

Think of Somatics as Movement 101. 
Most of us are not functioning well, so by retraining our brains to let go of chronic tension in our muscles with somatic exercises, we make everything else we do so much easier and enjoyable. Really! I was so messed up after my accident it got to where walking--one of my favorite things to do--just felt hard. Not heart rate wise, but physically I was not moving fluidly or comfortably. Now I just want to walk all the time!

Move it or lose it.
Once you are moving with better functionality, I encourage you to explore movement that get our bodies moving in multiple planes. Here are a few I came up with, but feel free to share yours too!

Hula hooping: a full-body integrated movement.
  • hula hooping
  • dancing
  • nordic walking
  • cross country skiing
  • roller blading/skating
  • hiking
  • rock climbing
  • crawling and rolling
  • skipping
  • rotational and contralateral exercises as well as exercises that move your spine in and out of flexion and extension, such as yoga or pilates, but be sure to get plenty of extension. Our world puts our bodies into flexion plenty already. 
  • tai chi and qigong
  • martial arts
  • playing with your kids, and I mean really playing with them. Play Follow the Leader and let them lead you!
  • imitate your cat or dog. They pandiculate every day, and so do babies and small children. Let them teach you how!

Go for a somatically-aware walk.
One of the first things I do when I start a class is have everyone walk around the room. I have them explore how their hips, waists, shoulders move, or don't move, as the case may be. Does one arm swing more than the other? Do they hear their feet hit the floor loudly or softly? Do they reach with their feet to pull them forward, or do they push off their feet behind them to propel them forward? Somatics encourages us to feel every move we make as an extension from the torso, but our culture has turned us into almost robotic walkers. We don't move our torsos much to move, resulting in awkward gaits and sore feet and knees. 

Check out how these women can dance with baskets on their heads. They have to move their bodies to balance the weight. If they were were rigid in their torso they'd lose those baskets in a second! Or watch how this woman balances a jug of water on her head...and what the spine looks like of the one who carries it under her arm. Yes, it may be a hardship to haul the water every day for these women, but their bodies are healthier than most westerners because they integrate their whole bodies in movement... Another student just today mentioned how women in South American cultures swing their hips and move much more fluidly. Yep! That's a good thing. In my teacher training someone said you need to channel your inner hooker. :-) 

... Walking with somatic awareness could be a whole post in itself. Stay tuned.

Monday, January 5, 2015

Practically passive ways to improve your health

It's that time of year again. When half the planet declares their new year's resolutions, the other half says, "Meh, I never follow through so why bother."

For each camp here are a few ways to healthy up your life without really trying. So easy to slip into your day...all you have to do is think about it then take action. :-)

I love my Altras! The soles aren't really this thick. 
Get some new shoes. There are shoes galore, but most alter your foot's natural shape and how your feet should interact with the ground, which effects your gait, which effects your hips, back, spine, etc. Personally I love my Altras. They are a zero drop shoe, meaning there is no heel lift, has a flat sole and no toe spring (the part of the shoe that turns up at the toes) plus they're wide at the toe box, instead of tapering to a point. (No wonder everyone's feet are messed up!) These aren't a barefoot/minimal shoe, which most people can't switch to without a lot of practice, if ever. Your local running shoe store should have some options to explore. I got my first pair at Fit Right NW.

Reach high. This tip is from Katy Bowman, one of my favorite biomechanists around. Every time you walk through a doorway, reach up and hook your finger tips over the door frame, and then with most of your weight on your legs and feet let your body weight "hang" towards the floor.  Don't feel strong enough?  Just try to extend your arms up and then step forward a bit so your chest is between arms. Door too tall? Take your hands to the sides of the frame and do the step through option. If you did this every time you walked throw a door way you'd improve your should mobility and posture.

Get a massage everyday!
Have a ball! Tennis, pinky, super, soccer, dodge, pilates, cricket, soccer balls, balls from the dollar shop, balls from your pet store, the variety of density, size, texture is practically endless. Tie two of them in a sock and roll your back against them on a wall or on the floor for a great back massage. You can roll them under your feet at your next boring work meeting. Roll a smaller ball between your hands. Even a rolling pin can iron out some kinks. Just remember, less is more. Too much pressure and your muscles can actually tighten up, rather than release. Check out Jill Miller's fountain-of-knowledge book, The Roll Model for more techniques to keep your body supple and healthy. Personally I like Jill's book much more than Sue Hitzmann's better-known Melt Method.

Lift your bootie. Your butt muscles are designed to help you walk, run, climb hills, and stand tall. I find people are either butt tuckers (pelvic tilters), or don't use their butts much at all, instead use their quads and hip flexors more to pull them along as they move, than get their butts to push them forward. So this exercise helps to wake up those butt muscles! Stand with your feet wide enough that you feel a bit of a stretch in your inner thighs, feet and toes pointing forward. You may have to actually place your hands on each gluteal (butt cheek) to get this right. Now, engage your butt muscles so your feel your cheeks engage and slightly rise upwards. Remember this is not about tucking your tailbone under, or just engaging the deeper pelvic muscles around your anus. Do about 20 of them, take a break and then do another 2 sets. You'll be amazed at what this does for your rump and hips. Granted this might look a bit odd depending on where you do it, but I bet you can find time while brushing your teeth, standing around the dog park, or doing dishes.

Somatics changes everything! OK, somatic exploration will take some time to incorporate into your day, but everyone who tries some of the exercises, loves them and actually finds the time to do a little every day. check out these simple, safe somatic exercises from a previous post. And just how do they change everything? They help aleviate pain, faulty movement patterns. Help you sleep better. Put you in charge of your health. They calm the brain, which in turn can effect your endocrine system. The list goes on...

At this time of year people think big, grand plans to lose weight, or get in better shape, so those posts are a dime a dozen. These tips on the other hand will help you function better so you actually can tackle those bigger, grander plans without injury, which will set you back... and end up having to start over again next January.

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Somatics Class at TaborSpace Coffeehouse

I may be a good trainer, but my introverted self kind of sucks at marketing. :-) So, I hope you'll share this with anyone and everyone! I'm starting a somatics class at TaborSpace Coffee house on SE Belmont starting January 8 2015.

You can register for classes online and use your regular ol' punchcard too.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

A Somatics Sampling for the Solstice...and anytime of year!

Image a la Magickal Graphics
Happy Solstice, everyone! 

In honor of the longest day of the year, I thought this would be a nice way to enjoy the season in a relaxing, grounding way vs the frenzy so many of us work ourselves up into. Plus it's a little gift for everyone in my classes who's been asking for notes so they can practice at home...please tell me you do! :-)

You may look at the notes below and think, holy gawd, that's a lot to do. Trust me, once you have read through them and practiced a bit, you'll move through this routine in a short, smooth 15 minutes.

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.

Let's get started.

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. 
SENSE: Feel the shoulders and hips press into the floor as you arch, how the back relaxes as you come back to neutral. Can you sense you are lengthening the front of your body and simultaneously shortening the back, as you arch?
FINER POINTS: though this is called arch and flatten, avoid forcing your low back to the floor. You are aiming to arch the back with the inhale, but let the back and abdomen relax back to a neutral (natural curve) of the low back as you gently exhale.

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 uncortable, 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, about hip width apart
DO: inhale into your belly, and keeping your right hand on the floor, lift your elbow so you feel the muscles around your shoulder blade engage. Avoid throwing the elbow up and forward so you feel your neck muscles do the lifting
exhale and slowly lower the elbow
next inhale into the belly and lift your head to look up and over your right shoulder
exhale to lower and relax
now try lifting your head, arm, elbow and hand off the floor looking over your right shoulder, inhaling into the belly
exhale to lower
try that again and sense if there’s other part of your body trying to help. Is it your opposite leg?
inhale and do the move again, simultaneously lift your left leg. Keep the leg straight so you feel your butt muscles contract. 
exhale and lower
repeat 2 more times then do the same on the other side
FINER POINTS: inhale and exhale to relax and melt completely between repetitions of this exercise
SENSE: sense the diagonal contraction between your right shoulder and left butt muscles

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.
SENSE: Feel the shoulders and hips press into the floor as you arch, how the back relaxes as you come back to neutral. Can you sense you are lengthening the front of your body and simultaneously shortening the back, as you arch?
FINER POINTS: this is not a crunch! Avoid making this an ab exercise. Avoid lifting your hips off the floor with the movement of the pelvis and back

PREP: position yourself on your LEFT side, making your body and lower arm into a “chair”. Head resting on your arm*, knees bent at a right angle to your hips, and shins a right angle to your knees. Make sure your head and arm are straight in line with your torso, not tilting forward. Take your right hand over your head and placing your finger tips on your left temple.
DO: inhale and lengthen the waist line between the hips and rib cage, breathing into your ribs and waist. 
Exhale and keeping your knees together, lift your left foot and shin up towards the ceiling.
Inhale and lower the foot and lengthen the waist on the right side of your body...
exhale to relax,

inhale to prepare, lengthening right side of body
Exhale and lift foot, head and elbow, shortening the right waist
inhale to lower down and lengthen right side of body, exhale to relax and melt
Repeat this 4-5 times each side
SENSE: explore what you feel on the right side of your body as you inhale and lengthen and exhale to shorten your waist muscles. 

FINER POINTS: you can modify this exercise with your head on a block or pillow instead of resting your head on your arm extended on the floor. 
Be sure to keep your face and eyes--they can be closed, but imagine-- them facing forward, especially when lifting the head and bending.

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. Some students say they think this looks like a belly dancer rotating her arms...
Once you have the arms going, then try rolling your head towards the up turned head. Alternate the head rolling towards the up turned hand as you keep alternating the rolling pin arms.
Got that? Now add dropping both of your knees gently away from the up turned hand and head. slowly alternate.
SENSE: Feel the lengthening down the side of the torso as the knees gently drop towards the bottom corner of the mat.alternate slowly and breathe into the ribs as you turn you can do this one for about a minute or so Soma scan
FINER POINTS: this is all about length down the sides of the body, not forcing your knees to the floor.  Explore what it feels like to focus on moving your shoulder blades to move your arms. 

PREP: stand with feet about hip width apart, lift your arms gently up towards the ceiling
DO: look up towards your left hand, and reach with your left arm as you shift your weight into your left foot, hips sway a bit to the left, like a crescent moon and you lift the right heel up, shortening the right waist.
Relax and try that again on the same side 2-3 x
Try it on the other side...
then alternate for 6-8 x
SENSE: feel the length on the reaching side and the shortening on side that you lift the heel
FINER POINTS: let the body be soft and gentle, like swaying seaweed in the ocean. 

OK! There you go. Your first of what I hope will be many DIY Hanna Somatics routines. I'd love some feedback. The more I hear from you all the more I know what you want and need. I plan to do recordings but didn't get this one done in time...stay tuned!

Comment below and you'll be entered into my January 2015 drawing for free prizes too. I have lots of things to give away... I'll start with Anita Boser's Undulation Exercise Book, another great somatic method of movement.

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