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