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.

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