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.



Saturday, March 9, 2019

True or False: Pain occurs whenever you are injured

Pain occurs whenever you are injured. 

FALSE

Have you ever noticed a bruise on your leg or arm, but have no memory of how or when you got it? Or noticed your cheek is bleeding after shaving but were only alerted by the sight of the blood, but no pain on your cheek?

Bleeding and bruising are obvious examples of physical damage to tissues, but no pain because your brain decided it wasn't critical and didn't alert you with pain.

There can be times when your brain can't decide if you are injured or not.

Like when a small child falls down in the playground and doesn't react immediately, but looks to mom, and if she freaks out then the child starts to cry. Or vice versa, she is calm and the child gets up and moves on to another activity. 

There is a well known case of a construction worker admitted to the emergency room for a nail through his boot, in pain, only to find out the nail didn't go through his foot at all, but between his toes. The brain is an amazing thing, eh? His brain interpreted the visual of the nail through the boot and alerted him to a painful situation. 

Here is the full Neurophysiology Questionnaire with more True of False questions that can enlighten you about how the brain and nervous system interpret pain.

If you are in pain, or just want to move well so you can live well. Check out the Think Somatics website for more information on free introductory online classes, streaming classes, and personal sessions and more

Clinical Somatics is based on neuroplasticity and is a highly effective way to reclaim your freedom of movement and natural ability to release tension and pain in your body.

Sunday, March 3, 2019

March 2019 Think Somatics + Take It Outside Fitness Classes

Do you want to move well so you can live well?

During March 2019 we are addressing how to free our bodies of tension via the brain and nervous system ala Somatic Awareness. If you can sense it you can change it!

No matter what we focus on you will reap wonderful, sensational awareness and relieve yourself of tension that does not serve you well.

Week 1:  Somatics for Feet Knees and Hips
Join any of all of these classes for somatics movements that free your body so your hips, knees and feet are able to do their jobs with ease vs effort. 
TUE March 5 at 8:30am  |  in the studio
WED March 6 at 1:00pm pacific time  |  online
FRI March 8 at 8:30am  |  in the studio
REGISTER ONLINE

Week 2:  Somatics for Neck, Jaw and Face
Join any of all of these classes for somatics movements addressing the skull and neck. You'll be amazed at how releasing tension in this area impacts the rest of your body. Perfect for TMJD, neck and shoulder pain, and saggy-baggy facial muscles. :-)
TUE March 12 at 8:30am  |  in the studio
WED March 13 at 1:00pm pacific time  |  online
FRI March 15 at 8:30am  |  in the studio
REGISTER ONLINE

Week 3:  Somatics for Shoulders and Back
Join any of all of these classes for somatics movements addressing the neck and shoulders. You'll be amazed at how releasing tension in these area impacts how you walk, what your feet, back and hips feel like.
TUE March 19 at 8:30am  |  in the studio
No classes March 20 or 22
REGISTER ONLINE

Week 4:  Somatics for Rotational and Spiral Movements
Join any of all of these classes for somatics movements addressing how the torso should be free to rotate, not be rigid. There are spirals to how we can move with ease, and this class will wake up the brain to sense your movement potential.
TUE March 26 at 8:30am  |  in the studio
WED March 27 at 1:00pm pacific time  |  online
FRI March 29 at 8:30am  |  in the studio
REGISTER ONLINE

Sunday, February 24, 2019

The easiest, fastest, pain free way to get rid of back pain, foot pain, any pain!

Low back pain?
Foot pain?
It's all connected!
Most "solutions" to life's problems come at them from the outside. We turn to "experts", or gadgets, or extreme methods to create some sort of change in our bodies and lives.

Somatics, on the other hand, addresses the root of all motor patterns and habits, your brain! If you want to create lasting change, you'll get quicker and easier results by addressing your brain and nervous system.

Here's an example. Maybe you have plantar fasciitis. Your podiatrist may recommend a heel lift, orthotics, squishy shoes. Some sort of adaptation to the way you are functioning. You have tightness in the back of your body that is literally shortening your musculature along the back of your body and pulling your heel up away from the floor.

Adaptive approaches aren't addressing the root cause of your plantar fasciitis. This is like shoving a towel across a drafty threshold, when the true problem is the out-of-alignment foundation of the house, that makes that door not close properly.

From the Clinical Somatics perspective, you likely have tightness and tension not just in your calf and bottom of your foot, but along the entire facia/muscular lines, running from your head to toes on the back side of your body. You likely have tightness in your low back and probably into one side of your waist.

The experts may also suggest stretches and forceful, painful methods to get the muscles of your calf and foot to stretch. Science now knows that stretching does not work to lengthen muscles. Plus why do we perpetuate treating pain with more pain?! When we experience pain, our muscles contract not lengthen. Again, counterintuitive when you really think about it.

Somatics on the other hand, resets your muscles to their natural resting length. We do simple, enjoyable movements called pandiculations. Pandiculations reset the feedback loop between your brain and the nerve receptors in your muscles so they release the muscles to their natural resting length. So simple! Really. Ya gotta try it. This is all based on the science of neuroplasticity. You can change your patterns. You can get out of pain. The brain is the command center of how you function. If you want to function well to live well, go the source, the brain.

To learn join me for my next  FREE ONLINE Intros to Somatics March 3 2019 at 9am pacific time. Can't make it? Visit thinksomatics.com and subscribe to get updates for future events.

Monday, February 4, 2019

What is a pandiculation?

The words Pandiculation or Pandiculating are hot topics these days. But if you search for a definition online, you aren't getting the whole enchilada. Here's a video explaining what pandiculations are. Pandiculations can help you get out of pain, reset your muscles to their natural resting length, and by way of neuroplasticity, your brain learns a new way of moving, relaxing and being in your body.



If you want to explore more pandiculations, which are the movements of Essential Somatics classes, join the online Think Somatics Virtual Classroom. There you will have access to an ever-expanding library of recordings of somatics classes I host in my studio. It's by far the most cost effective way to work with a Clinical Somatic Educator!




Wednesday, January 30, 2019

February 2019 Think Somatics + Take It Outside Fitness classes

Let's Give Our Nervous Systems Some TLC this month!

Are you thriving or just persevering? With so much pressure of the 24/7 world, we can be overwhelmed and just getting by. I equate the go-go-go life to living like a squirrel in the road, as I call it. Maybe you feel like this? That erratic-frantic mode is no way to go through life, but many people are, and they aren't even aware of it.


Learn how to  calm yourself with somatics. Learn about how to self soothe and self regulate so you can remain calm and collected. By learning how to pandiculate--the key to clinical somatics-- you can increase your resiliency, so you can get out of pain and relax to a more homemostatic state of being.

Because all these classes focuses overlap each other, I'm listing things that will be touched on in each class, each week in the month of February.

Breathing for Better Living with Somatics
Quite often we are told, take a breath when we are anxious or overwhelmed. But did you know that can backfire, depending on how you breathe? Come and learn more about

  • what the diaphragm is
  • how it should function to lower stress
  • the diaphragm's relation to your pelvic floor
  • which breath patterns can raise or lower your cortisol levels 
  • how to get rid of tension in your neck and shoulders

Just imagine being able to reverse so many common ailments with just some gentle breathing awareness.

Somatics for Anxiety and Stress
Stress, anxiety, and depression play a dance in the human brain. Most everyone experiences them from time to time, but when they become constant, problems arise. While I am not a mental health therapist, clients who come to me for pain often find that they are able to self soothe and self regulate better with their somatics practice. They lower their responses to stress (pressure of life) and can reduce their anxiety levels. No matter who you are, we can all use some stress reduction.

Somatics for Resiliency 
If you ever watch an animal after a traumatic event, like a zebra escaping a tiger or a dog barking frantically at a squirrel, you'll notice they dissipate their energy and calm down. Humans can do this as well, with pandiculations. By contracting into tension and then slowly releasing it, the brain resets the muscles to their natural resting length. But if we stay contracted all the time, it becomes exhausting and makes us more susceptible to pain and illness.

Somatics for Creativity
Let's take our somatics practice into some fun realms. Somatics is about you being you, and letting your body and brain have a nice relationship. The only "rule" to somatics is there are no hard and fast rules. These classes will help you with your practice at home and on the road.

Wednesday, December 26, 2018

January 2019 Think Somatics and Take It Outside Fitness classes

If you have goals to change things in your life, starting in 2019, please join me in these classes. My Think Somatics and Take It Outside Fitness classes are all about being present, openness, freedom of movement and having fun. Ya know, like when we were babies and children. Back then we just wanted to learn and absorb new experiences. But as we grew up our freedom was often stymied. 

"Sit still."

"Face forward."

"Be quiet."

"Stop asking questions."

"You're doing it wrong."

We started to prune away our freedom of movement and literally learned how to not move. 

These classes are designed to bring your brain, senses, and somatic awareness back onboard, so you can move well so you can live well.

 To sign up for classes and purchase a punchcard visit my website

Somatics Fresh Start
TUE Jan 1  | 8:30am | Studio
WED Jan 2  |  1:00pm PST  | Online
FRI Jan 4  |  8:30am  |  Studio 
This week we will be covering the basics of somatics. Perfect for newbies, but always wonderful for established students to review. We will release tension from front, back sides of body and learn how to rotate with ease. 

Somatics for Hips, Knees and Feet
TUE Jan 8 | 8:30am | Studio
WED Jan 9  | 1:00pm | online
FRI Jan 11  |  8:30am  | Studio 
This week we will explore how to torso moves impacts the pelvis, knees and feet; connect the shoulders to the pelvis; and how a free moving spine makes for pain-free feet. How we function (move) is all connected and trying to fix one part and not the whole system is the old-school wack-a-mole approach. Learn to make your life easier with Somatics!

Skull, Neck and Shoulders
TUE Jan 15 | 8:30am | Studio
WED Jan 16  | 1:00pm | Online
FRI Jan 18  |  8:30am  | Studio 
This week we will explore how the eyes influence the way the spine moves; play with head placement in seated and standing movements on Wednesday; and connect how the hands and arms move impacts the pelvis.

Somatics for Freer Walking
TUE Jan 22 | 8:30am | Studio
WED Jan 23  | 1:00pm | Online
FRI Jan 25  |  8:30am  | Studio 
Tuesday we will explore moves to connect the skull to the pelvis so walking becomes a fluid movement pattern; Wednesday will explore standing and some seated movements; Friday  will be a combo of both days. Super fun stuff, that you can blend into your days and take for a walk. :-)

Rock-n-Roll with Somatics
TUE Jan 29 | 8:30am | Studio
WED Jan 30  | 1:00pm | Online
FRI Feb 1   |  8:30am  | Studio 

This week we will explore moves that move a bit faster and bigger. These moves will take you back to playing, wiggling and being carefree of childhood! 

Take It Outside Fitness classes
Mondays | 8:30am | Mt Tabor
Wednesdays | 8:30am | Mt Tabor
In addition to my somatics classes I offer Take It Outside Fitness classes. These classes take your somatic awareness "up into gravity" for real-life movement patterns to re-enforce what you gain in my somatics classes. Even if you opt for just the outdoor classes, you will benefit. These classes take the body into multiple planes of movement, unlike typical gym workouts, so you learn to move well so you can live well.
TIOF is my original class format where I'll share fun, clever ways to use your surroundings as your gym. You'll never look at stairs, hills, see-saws and swings the same way again. Ages range from teens to 80s. I can vary a workout for your abilities. You'll love it! Really!​

​* INFO about ONLINE CLASSES

To "attend" online classes you will need:
* a wifi connection
* a laptop computer, tablet, ipad, smart phone device (desktop computers don't work well because they are on a desk and you are on the floor)
* open space to lie down on the floor (unless we are doing a seated/standing class)
* so I can see you better, a well lit area works best
* space to walk around a bit as well

You will receive a link to the Zoom classroom in your class registration confirmation. Here's a tutorial to learn how to join the classroom once you receive the link.

​IMPORTANT!
​Please get online prior to class and set up your space so you are visible to the camera of your device. If I can't see you, I can't help you with your practice as well. Below is an example of what I'm talking about.


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