Friday, August 7, 2015

which came first: the posture or the emotion?

Can your posture affect your mood? Can your mood affect your posture? And if posture can affect one's mood, can it affect one's chemical responses in the body? Well, evidently, yes!

Mood and energy levels
Here's an interesting study in which subjects either traveled down a hallway skipping and swinging their arms upward motion, or slouched as the walked down the hall. No surprise, most of the skippers felt more energetic, happier, and positive. The slouchers (think red light reflex) felt sad, lonely, isolated, sleeping, and “zombie-like.”

Other studies show body posture can affect the recall of positive or negative memories. When participants sat in a slouched position looking downward they it recalled more hopeless, helpless, powerless, and negative memories than positive ones. Those sitting upright and looking upward, found it easier to recall empowering, positive memories. Upright posture can also improve memory because sitting up straight increases blood flow and oxygen to the brain.

Builds confidence
Here's a study in which students were divided into two groups and instructed to take an upright or slumped posture while answering questions in a business interview. You guess it: Those with upright posture felt themselves empowered to rate themselves more highly when in the upright rather than the slouched position. Check out this video of Amy Cuddy’s 2012 TedTalk in which she talks about the power of posture.

Good for your innards 
A slouched posture can contribute to acid reflux, constipation, and even hernias. Hunched shoulders can lead to a less than ideal digestion. Slump into poor posture and you literally compress your stomach, intestines and other abdominal organs. Personally, I like to go for a leisurely walk after eating, which also helps with digestion.

Bone health and prevents osteoporosis
A properly aligned skeleton puts less stress on your spine and joints. Standing up straight should actually not take a lot of effort. Poor posture, on the other hand, requires your muscles and connective tissue to "hold you up" and over time your bones can actually become weaker.

Alleviate headaches
Heres' a study in which some participants were asked to perform posture exercises every two to three hours, given reminders to relax muscles, and educated as to the benefits of posture. Other participants did not follow the program. At the end of eight months, the intervention group reported 41 percent fewer headaches, 43 percent less neck and shoulder pain, and a 51 percent reduction in the use of pain medication.

So when I see bodies stuck the green light, red light and trauma reflexes I bet know they could benefit from some Hanna Somatic Education! 

If you want to learn how to get out of pain, function and live better, then let's talk. I work with clients in person in classes, 1-on-1, and you can email me to train via Skype

Friday, July 3, 2015

Are you a Trauma Queen?

Many of the clients I work with present with
the trauma reflex in some capacity.

Human beings respond to stimuli with reflexes. Reflexes are perfectly natural, but if someone gets "stuck" in a reflex pattern, pain and dysfunction can result. The trauma reflex is one of three reflex patterns Hanna Somatic Education addresses to help people release the muscular tension and stress.

Once you understand these three reflexes, you start seeing them in your fellow humans everywhere you go!

Here are some examples of the trauma reflex (the body rotates and/or bends to the side).


Are you stuck in the trauma reflex? Watch this video to find out.

Hanna Somatic Education addresses
tight muscles that can cause:

  • sore feet and plantar fascititis
  • knee and hip pain
  • low back pain
  • frozen shoulder
  • TMJ disorder
  • breathing problems
  • headaches
  • brain fog
  • and more

As a Hanna Somatic Educator I offer hands-on sessions
and self-care exercises so you can remedy
your own pain right when you need it. 

What is involved in a Hands-on Session
"Hands-on" does not mean treatment or massage or adjustments. Hanna Somatic Educators don't work on people. Instead, we work with clients, educating them how to sense their bodies, and release chronically contracted muscles that are a result of Sensory Motor Amnesia. Sessions are performed on a table similar to a massage table and you are fully clothed. In addition to hands-on time, you are taught self-care exercises for your specific issues. Please purchase your intro session(s) here.

Classes, Skype Sessions and Workshops
There are self-care exercises you are taught to help you function better and enhance/maintain the results from a hands-on session(s). Some people prefer to start with my classes to as an introduction to HSE. Skype sessions are a great option for those not close to an HS Educator but want some guidance to get the most out of their self-practice.

I offer private workshops for you and your group (family and friends, workplace wellness, etc). Please email me to discuss your needs.

I look forward to sharing this phenomenal restorative exercise method with you!
Feel free to contact me with questions.


Thursday, July 2, 2015

Blending somatic awareness into your workout

At my Hanna Somatic Education training I was the only personal trainer in the group of 18. Many were massage therapists and yoga instructors. One of them jokingly asked me why I was there, since personal training (or any typical workout sans trainer) can unintentionally contribute to people's dysfunctional movement patterns. If someone is out of alignment, workouts can literally strengthen faulty patterns.

So I thought I'd share some of my somatic awareness moves we do in my Take It Outside Fitness classes. This is dedicated to my fellow HSE students and teachers, so it might not make total sense to you if you don't have any previous somatic education experience. You should come to class or let's Skype! (I'm TrainerCrafterKristin).

Adding somatic awareness to your workouts
will make them and all your life activities
more enjoyable!
skipping forward and backward |  Swing opposite arm up to the lifted knee. Sense the waist shorten on the lifted knee side.

roll -n- tuck |  Lie supine (on your back), and without touching the ground with hands or feet, completely over, then slowly tuck drawing knees up and back down and repeat other direction.

side hop overs |  Travel sideways lifting knees as if you were hopping over parallel logs on the ground. Travel back with the other leg leading.

balance beam with lunges + turn around |  Walk the length of a "balance beam". (Use a line on a court, or a curb if you want more challenge.) At the end of the beam, lunge, stay in the lunge and pivot your entire body and legs to turn the other direction. Walk the beam and repeat back and forth. Alternate your lunges.

hopscotch |  Make sure you can hop onto your less dominate leg on the single leg hops. Try the pattern going backwards.

in-in-out |  I have no idea what this game is called, but as kids we called it in-in-out and played it all freaking day! It makes both sides of your brain work simultaneously! You can make your own topics, but let's go with the one labeled colors. Double hop on the colors square saying a color 2 times, then double hop to the next square saying another color, and go through all the squares repeating the hopping and saying a new color, and exit out the color square. You'll say 7 different colors. People look at me like I'm crazy and think "how hard could it be?". Try it. You'll be surprised at how challenging it can be. You can change the hopping patterns (single leg, single hop, etc) to increase the brain challenge.
spiderman crawl |  Sometimes called bear crawl. This move challenges the body to move contra-laterally (opposite arm to leg). Travel forward moving left hand and right foot forward, then switch. Try to keep back neutral and parallel to the ground.

lunges with bow-n-arrow | Using an exercise band without any slack between hands, lunge forward with the right foot, anchoring one of the band out in front of you with your left hand pull the other end of the band retracting the scapula. Sense the cross lateral pattern from your left scapula to your right hip. Alternate traveling forward.

runway walk | slow down a walking pattern, and exaggerate the contralateral swing of the arms and leg.  Bring awareness to the back line of the body. Sense the diagonal muscle contraction from one shoulder blade to the opposite hip.

additional x-lateral patterns | we did other cross lateral patterns with the band focusing on the back line, but I gotta get back to work so will leave it at that for now. :-)

Enjoy! and please feel free to share some of your favorite outdoor--or indoor-- somatic awareness exercises.

Monday, June 29, 2015

Human reflexes are natural, but...

. . . not if you get stuck in them.

I keep referring to reflexes and how Hanna Somatics Education helps you break out of the chronically tight muscle patterns that you can get stuck in, so I thought I'd dedicate a post to explain them a bit more.

Human reflexes are perfectly natural reactions to stimuli, stressors and daily activities. You put your finger in the palm of a baby and she grips it. That's a natural reflex. You shine a light in your eye and your pupil constricts. That's a natural reflex too.

As far as fuller movement patterns,  here are three perfectly natural reflex patterns humans do with their bodies in response to daily activities. They are the: 

green light reflex
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. 
Green light posture can often be considered "perfect" posture. But in the above photo the person is a little too arched in the lower back and is leaning forward a bit.

    red light reflex
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. I also attribute it to lifestyle habits these days, like excessive driving, sitting, computer and device time.
In the above photo notice the tightness in the back of the neck, forward rounding of the shoulders and how the arms and hands are out in front of the legs.

trauma reflex
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.)
In the above photo notice the different heights of the shoulders, placement of the arms, more flexion of the right elbow, the staggered feet, and how the right shoulder is back and down a bit.

FYI, I see the trauma reflex in just about every person I work with.
(In fact the red and green light peeps above are also in the trauma pattern.)

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. 

Thanks to the folks who let me use their photos! I appreciate them willing to share so you can learn more about your body and how it works. No one is perfect in their posture or perfectly symmetrical. The point is, if we get stuck in patterns of tightness it can create problems of pain and dysfunction. Learning how to regain control of your muscles with Hanna Somatic Education can help!

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

My first year living of Somatically

OK, not to sound like an infomercial, but Somatics has completely changed my life. Seriously. If you've been around here before, you know I was hit by a car a few years ago and for 3 years following it, I just kept developing one muscular/skeletal dysfunction after another. It got to the point where just walking was painful.

Then I discovered Hanna Somatics,
which changed my body, my brain and my perspective on life.

So, as I get ready to start my Clinical Somatic Educator training, I'd like to share ways Somatics has helped me live better. I'll keep it brief for now, but hope it gives you faith to overcome what's holding you back in your life, be it physical pain, chronic tension or you just want to age well and feel amazing!

I can move my neck and shoulder. After my accident I lost a huge amount of range of motion (ROM) in my neck and right shoulder. Now I'm back to normal range.

I released my psoas! My psoas became so painful after my accident, but no amount of stretching or treatments helped. In one hour of Hanna Somatic exercises it released.

My feet are pain free! This was a biggie. I mean, who's ever heard of a personal trainer who can't walk? One hands-on session with my teacher Martha Peterson made the difference.

Hanna Somatics is like moving meditation, which means my stress levels are much lower. I'll elaborate on this in the future, but when we meditate, our the parasympathetic  sympathetic nervous systems shift gears, so our bodies can chill out a bit and do the work that makes us healthy.

No more need for ongoing massage or foam rolling. Before I started Somatics I pretty much had a rendevous every night with my foam roller. No more.

I sleep more soundly. After the accident, sleeping through the night became impossible because it hurt just to roll over. So when you blame your bed for your aches and pains, think Somatics.

My mind is clearer and I'm more productive. The effects of my traumatic brain injury after the accident lasted for months. I was in a fog and couldn't concentrate or be very productive. Now my brain functions better and I'm calmer in stressful situations.

I'm learning more and expanding my brain every day. Forget those online brain games promoted to help our brains stay young. Using your brain to sense your body, and just thinking beyond what you already know is a huge boon for brain health.

I'm grateful for the people in my life and how fate points us in new directions if we let it. I'm embarking on a whole new direction in my career and life. I'll be 50 years old when I finish my training! I'm glad I got hit by a car? Of course not. But if it hadn't happened I'd still be seeking something to share with the world that I didn't knew existed.

A big thanks goes out to my current and upcoming teachers: Martha Peterson, Laura Gates, Carrie Day, Susan Koenig, Phil Shenk, Eleanor Criswell-Hanna; to my clients who challenge me to think Somatically to help them get rid of pain. I'm so grateful to share this method with you all and see how your bodies and worlds change; to my family for their support in so many ways; Victor Novak, HSE and other graduates who graciously share their knowledge with newbies like me; and lastly to my Somatic comrade, Cheryl Ramette, who will forging this new path along with me!

See you in a couple of weeks!


Wednesday, May 27, 2015

What's next in my Somatics Teacher Training

I'm heading to Novato, CA to start my Hanna Somatics Educator (HSE) 3-year program in 2 weeks! Many of you are asking what exactly will I be learning and what will I be offering when I return.

As a Somatic Exercise Coach I currently teach Somatic exercises developed by Thomas Hanna. These exercises are what a client would do as "homework" between hands-on sessions with a HSE. Or if you don't have access to a HSE you can do the exercises to get rid of pain on your own. Either way the exercises are meant to help you self correct and self regulate when you need to get out of pain and dysfunction.

As I go through my training I'll have greater knowledge to assess clients' posture and if they are in the Red Light, Green Light or Trauma reflexes. The client's posture will determine which protocol--or guided lesson-- I'll lead a client through.

I'll have even greater knowledge to teach the Somatics exercises you've been learning in classes and private sessions.

I'll start offering hands-on sessions in addition to my small-group classes. "Hands-on" does not mean treatment or massage or adjustments.

To understand Hanna Somatic Education requires you to 
think beyond what you already know
Your brain controls your muscles, but sometimes due to injury, repetitive motions and stress, your brain develops Sensory Motor Amnesia. Your brain has gone "off-line" and is no longer in control of your muscles. During hands-on lessons I'll use my hands to assist you through movements that are meant to help you sense how your muscles (and bones) can more more freely and naturally, which results in release of muscle tension and relief from pain and dysfunction. Like I said, you need to think beyond what you already think about pain relief. HSE lessons are not a passive treatment like massage or chiropractic, but an re-education for your brain and muscles.

Private Somatics sessions provide quicker and more profound results than solely doing the Hanna Somatics exercises we do in classes. Rather the classes and workshops are designed to help you maintain what you gain in your private sessions.

And here's another thing that will have you scratching your head and thinking differently. Thomas Hanna said most people can get themselves out of pain and start functioning better after 3 HSE sessions. A session to address each of the reflexes: red light, green light and trauma. After that you do your homework to maintain the results or if you feel yourself falling back into old habits. Some people need a few more sessions but once again, it's not like other passive treatments that require long-term or on-going sessions. It works so well because it goes to the root of all movement: your brain!

Just like in classes, you are fully clothed during your private session. You should wear clothing in which you can move easily.

Stay tuned for info about rates and scheduling!

Friday, May 15, 2015

My advice? Maybe stop seeking so much advice.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

* Not her real name, of course. :-) 

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Basic Cat Stretch exercises

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

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

Thomas Hanna's Cat Stretch Series

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, May 1, 2015

Can you stand up straight?

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

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

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

If you can sense it you can change it!

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

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

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

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

Monday, April 20, 2015

Have you worked your diaphragm today?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Reserve your spot here!
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