Archive for Movement
A loss of balance can happen even if we’re messing around with our body.
Balance can seem elusive at times and can be affected by a number of factors.
Compensations such as shoulders rolling forwards, palm facing backwards, bent knees, a slumping chest or even having a bad day can happen enough to begin to form such a posture over the long run.
This can lead to discomforts in the chest or upper back where high stress levels can put the weight of our world on our shoulders and can prevent us from reaching states of comfortable balance.
While we might attempt to straighten up, the weight of what is going in internally can continue to undermine us.
Bad life (fun) events such as being a Cleveland sport fan like I am, who for the past 50 years has lost count on the number of bad sports days can have an affect.
Letting go of bad (fun) events can be difficult since we can go to that sinking (movement and) feeling over and over.
So life and how we participate in it can affect us.
How to restore our body and balance using mindful movement
One way to restore balance is to employ mindful movement where you tap into the brain’s ability to direct an easy or gentle movement pattern.
You make the decision to do a particular movement and stay well within your comfort zone.
See, the doing of a movement is one thing.
Another is when you also pay attention to the feel or sensing of any number of movement actions taking place during the particular movement you decided to do.
When you direct the mind and body, thereby targeting the brain in a specific manner, you can enhance one of nature’s most potent acts to restore the body in order to re-balance.
This is a far different approach than regular exercise where that is more about doing.
Mindful movement is about feeling and sensing smaller movements or movement patterns while noticing certain self-adjustments of either a grand or minute orchestration of a particular movement.
You simply notice the inherent quality of your own movement taking place
Since the movement system involves any number of layers of muscles and fascia – which actually has more sense receptors than the muscles – there can be a lot of information to process, be aware of, and simply explore.
This approach can augment other physical types of activities in order to rebalance our faster pace of life and give us a restoring respite to recharge in a more playful and intelligent manner.
Plus, all of this can be done in a lazy, gentle, yet highly tuned in approach.
8 Somatics tips for the body and balance
Somatics, defined as the body experienced, covers many areas and here are some everyday useful tips you can use when you do easy, mindful movements such as somatics exercises to help restore balance.
You can also apply this to other forms of exercise too.
1. Move with the least effort
This often goes against many people’s idea of how to exercise, yet when we live in discomfort, this naturally makes more sense.
Even if you are highly active, you can pay attention to your movements by noticing your sense of effort rather than pushing with your efforts.
This has more to do with noticing the quality of movement itself.
This slight difference can make a big difference and help healing and recovery.
2. Breathe with your movement
Since we tend to go on autopilot when it comes to breathing, becoming aware of breathing and how this is impacting our sense of effort or the quality of a movement can be quite revealing.
You can use your breath differently and explore the differences it can make or mean when you shift your awareness.
You can do a movement and notice how you are breathing.
Do the same movement and hold you breath to feel or notice how this can impact the quality or feel.
Reverse your breath in terms of how you noticed yourself breathing to check in how this can affect a movement or the feeling of it too.
3. Move as a system not as a muscle
The big muscle–the brain–sends messages to the muscles and receives back information in our sensory-motor feedback loop.
When we become aware of how intimately involved our sense and level of effort is involved, that exploration can improve overall body balance since you’re tuning in to how you are connected throughout your entire body.
4. Thoughts can affect movement and impact our body and balance
As you do any exercise, choose to think a thought while feeling what muscles may be contracting in your body.
Or simply sit. Conjure up a thought and feel how your muscles respond.
Play with an emotion and feel what happens as you move.
What does a thought or state of emotion do to what you feel and how you move?
Can you tune in your sense of muscles turning on or off during a particular movement, exercise or simply noticing while sitting or standing?
5. Comfort is king
Any small adjustment such as using a pad or pillow can alleviate any struggle we might find ourself when it comes to positioning ourself for a movement, exercise or simply sitting.
There’s no need to tough it out.
Even the slight adjustment of an angle or body position may be the necessary thing to do so our body can be as comfortable as possible at that moment.
This can let us more fully experience ourself rather than taking away our focus in a movement or exercise.
6. An exercise can’t hurt us
People will tell me they tried a certain exercise or even our gentle somatics exercises and hurt themself or say – “that exercise hurt me”.
If we try to force our body (and it doesn’t have to be much of an effort), it can naturally react and pull itself back quickly since it will want to protect itself, especially if it is in an injured state or we’re early in healing.
Any random, thoughtless or thoughtful movement or exercise can turn up tension levels so pain signals can be ramped up if we over do it or rev it up too fast–even if we didn’t intend to.
Once the body has been programmed to turn up signals of discomfort, it can do so until the program gets changed.
So any arbitrary movement or exercise can seem to lead us to flinching, wincing or holding our breath, for instance.
To learn how to re-navigate our internal terrain of our movement system successfully is where we simply go back to the fundamentals and building blocks of movement itself.
“If” we bump into discomfort during any movement, exercise or exertion, we can use that information to bring our body and balance back as quickly as possible–while figuring out where our comfort zone truly lies.
More often than not, our compensations and habits of movement get us to bump the pain switch on – even to the point of it becoming chronic so the brain will naturally turn it up, though this can be reversed with a more mindful approach.
So it’s not so much an exercise, it’s what you do and how you do it.
You can change the quality of your movement in order to successfully exercise and comfortably move about.
7. Imagination is the least effort
In difficult times, you can use your ability to imagine a movement or exercise.
It’s highly likely you won’t hurt yourself using this approach, even though I get it–sometimes just getting to the position of a movement or exercise can be test our limits.
So to imagine or eke out even a micro-movement, this can start the process to get the brain to change the body’s negative response.
It might seem like you’re not doing much, yet this counter-intuitive approach of doing less, still wakes up the nervous system since the brain doesn’t differentiate between you imagining a movement and doing it.
Try this: Imagine a movement taking place. Then do the movement.
Ask yourself if what you imagined, felt like it did when you actually did the movement.
This might reveal more layers from an internal observation viewpoint and provide keys to successfully getting out of a particular body-mind jam.
Successful athletes have used imagination and visualization techniques. You can do the same by simply visualizing and feeling to the best of your ability – what it might feel like to move by not moving.
This can become a highly interesting, focused and mindfully effortless way to regain balance in the body.
8. Pain is our greatest teacher and gives us back our body and balance
In the practice of somatics exercises, you learn how to wield pain and discomfort to your advantage.
Pain is treated as a signal that you can change, intensify or dissolve since you can use the brain and body to change the output of tension levels through various feedback loops of information.
With a little practice and familiarity of a simple 3 step method which mimics one of nature’s acts to reset tension levels, negative experiences can move towards more comfort and pleasure. Once the brain remembers that it can produce more positive feel-good sensations, you’re well on your way to restoring and maintaining balance.
Somatics Body and Balance Movements
Somatics exercises move around many themes, levels and types of pain, stiffness, discomfort, and injury all leading to increased levels of comfort.
Take control of:
• your brain and your own awareness,
• tension levels,
• and effortless effort allows a fluid body to Move Easily and Restore Balance.
Recapturing the feelings of childlike, easy movement happens. Kinda like coming back to memory patterns where we once did this and now have the ability to restore it or enhance it using a brain and body connection.
The brain can be programmed to bring the body back to its natural state of comfort and pleasure and you can find out more in the Gravity Werks Insiders Club where we explore conscious movement to learn more about how we work and easily move from the inside out.
Simple movement patterns which can boggle the mind and leave the body refreshed, restored and in balance for more happy days ahead!
This extraordinary act happened during the course of my training to become a Hanna Somatic Educator over ten years ago.
At the time of the fall, I was both surprised and mesmerized by all the movements the little fellow attended to before triumphantly walking back into the woods.
While I was learning about this animal act and how we could use it both manually for the hands-on bodywork as well as for the movement patterns we teach.
What I came to discover is to Move Like an Animal and give up the ways in which I was taught to stretch.
Simple conscious movement done with an ever growing awareness trumps all the stretching techniques I practiced, even those I practiced for hours at a time to “not” relieve my chronic pain years of fibromyalgia.
I had no idea the brain could reset tension levels and didn’t think much of it initially, even though my knee was recuperating from an accident on account of micro-movement.
Tension levels can appear to hold us in place. Many of the compensations which hold us out of balance are held at the level of tension signals generated by the brain.
When we learn to turn the switch off, the tension levels lessen so we can reprogram our muscles for more effective and easier movement. The upside is, stiffness and pain go away.
In the past decade, I’ve continued to put this to the test in soccer tournaments where we play some 3-5 games over the weekend or more during weekly competitions.
My peers fill up the physical therapy and massage tents with all the usual aches and complaints of tight hamstrings, groins, sore backs, calf cramps and more. Just from playing a game so many people stiffen or can’t rest knowing they’ll get even stiffer in between games.
While I’ve had my shares of injuries from the collisions and the odd mayhem which happens, I continued to foster the ability to Move Like an Animal so that the general stiffness doesn’t happen. The aches and pains of a collision lessen rapidly.
The ability to recover quickly and be able to play again continues even as I play in the national and state level senior competitions. So I even took this decade long experiment further and did not ice or use up the tiger balm or even have a need for a hot tub.
While those measures can ease things a bit, I took the squirrel’s point of view and re-mend with simple conscious movement.
Since I’ve helped many, many people do the same, the book:
is now out of the cage and available to download from Amazon. If you can read this, then you’ll be able to see it and read on your electronic device.
What are you waiting for? Are you ready to Move Like an Animal and Be Comfortable for Life?
The Cat Stretch is what Thomas Hanna called the daily maintenance somatics exercise program in his book, Somatics.
The cat stretch is a misnomer even though we often see our furry felines appearing to stretch.
Cat Stretch is not Stretching
When a cat stretches, it is actually tightening or contracting a series of muscles. We’ve come to find out this is called a pandiculation. When we do this entire act, our muscles lengthen and become more relaxed.
Our clever cat uses its brain’s motor cortex to initiate a movement, which at first glance looks like a stretch. You’ve seen a cat round its back. It’s not stretching the back, it’s pulling the belly in and using the abdominal muscles to pull back.
Then… it’ll release itself. The abs are reset and ready to be used. Healthy vertebrate animals naturally reset their muscles and movement system periodically throughout the day. No wonder they rest so well. If only we could do the same.
Cat Stretch – 7 Simple Movements
Fortunately, some 300 years after we learned about pandiculations. This very act brings muscles to rest. The system of somatics exercises teaches us how to go cortical and re-establish length and comfort in our movement system. Watch the fast version of the cat stretch below.
Here is what the 7 simple movements of the cat stretch address.
1. The first movement wakes up the brain, spine and hips.
2. The second movement helps to release tightness in our front side, such as the abdomen. This will allow the back to further lengthen.
3. This movement relaxes the muscles of the back, from the neck all the way down to the foot.
4. The fourth move releases held tension levels in the hips and chest. If we’re locked-in from too much sitting or hard work, this is a go to release.
5. Most everyone’s favorite movement, this delicious move lengthens the spine, frees up the hips and shoulders… and is enough to purr along.
6. A 3 part lower body sequence to free up the feet and ankles and connect up to the hips, back and head. This helps to straighten out the legs for better walking and balance in running.
7. The final movement of the cat stretch addresses the neck, back rotation and hip mobility in a delightful seated manner. You may not need the car mirrors anymore after this.
Cat Stretch Audio Recording
Healthy animals do a number of morning resets. We can simply follow along with a morning routine of the cat stretch somatics exercises designed for the human animal. Once you learn the routine, it only takes minutes to remind the muscles of their natural length, while at the same improving the mobility we need for the day.
Just like a good cat stretch at night, we can drift off and sleep more easily too.
The Cat Stretch daily maintenance somatics exercises program is now available to download and enjoy in the comfort of your home – meow.
When it comes to bare foot running, the Tarahumara have this unique human ability down pat. Is it possible that we could develop this same capability? Certainly they aren’t the only humans who use their body as it is designed.
Watch this video on bare foot running
Can you imagine what it is like to put your hands in glove liners and then wear gloves all day… and then use them?
This is what we are doing to our feet by wearing sock and shoes and not using them in the same way we use our hands and fingers. The ramifications of course move upwards into our knees, hips and spine and even our neck.
Aspire to bare foot running
Now to take our modern body which has become accustomed to socks and shoes and then radically make this shift will be like most things. We’ll have to learn to adapt or in this case, re-adapt to a more natural use of ourself.
Given that many people in modern day society live with any number of postural compensations, like an elevated hip, flexed or extended spine, etc. These type of compensations can continue even if we shift to bare foot running. We might still live with our discomforts yet we can change towards a comfortable use of ourself.
This is why shoe makers such as Vibram Five Fingers have a warning label on the time it may take to adapt to a different way of walking or running about.
Awhile back I made a video on somatics shoes. The first experience I had using a so-called bare foot running shoe. Well I wanted to do was jump up and down and relish in the delight in the lightness of the feet and the ability to sense the ground more acutely.
Bare foot running a proprioceptive experience
When we sense ourself with our proprioceptive ability. We can sense and feel the position of our joints with more awareness. This is what we’ve lost with our sock and shoe modern way.
By playing in the field of gravity, for instance with bare foot running, we can recover our lost healthy ways.
For some us though, we may need to de-compensate our postures and regain our natural ability of comfortable movement. Naturally, somatics exercises are here to remind us of how we can use our brain’s ability to reset muscle tension. We remember how to feel and adjust ourself back to comfortable levels so that if we decide bare foot running is something we want to try.
The transition becomes easy since we’re already playing with gravity and reacquainting ourself of our inherent proprioceptive abilities which have gone dormant.
Why not give bare foot running a try and feel if there is any difference in how you run or even walk.
The word exercise often connotes sweat and hard work. Movement on the other hand is about changing a position.
So many people in the gym are exercising and are still in pain rather than being able to move freely and comfortably. Are their exercise programs serving them?
When it comes to exercise vs movement to get us out pain, I’m going to have to side with movement at this point in my 50 year old life.
The other side of exercise programs
Somatics exercises which are often the reverse of most exercise programs out there, changes pain and discomfort levels using the brain rather than the brawn of exercise. This can be a challenge when we’ve accustomed our self to pushing, straining and over efforting.
Without sufficient awareness, the simple somatics movements can become exertion and exercise and not bring about the change we want away from pain.
So in both types of exercise programs, problems can occur not because of exercise itself but how we move our self in this ever present field of gravity. After all, you don’t need a weight to cramp yourself.
A learning process to move more comfortably is highly involved, though anyone can do it when we are mindful and not rushed. This lazy approach appears on the surface to be too simple, yet is complex in terms of feeling our way through the various connections and sensations we can perceive.
These sense perceptions lead us to move more comfortably so that it’s possible you’ll never have to go through arduous exercise programs again.
After all, I can go play soccer, ski, ride a bike, and walk comfortably along a trail without the uncomfortable strain, stress and high tension levels I used to live with while living with fibromyalgia.
Of course there is a debate whether the condition even exists yet there are many millions of people with inexplicable pain. But some of us no longer have the pains which racked our nervous system to pieces where a good nights sleep is so sought after.
The treasure of sleeping well comes to us more easily when we are relaxed enough, namely the tension levels which can lower themselves either by the thought of a breath or the ability to let go – which for many, many, many folks no longer is the case.
So naturally we attempt to use exercise programs to exercise stress away. I’m not opposed to exercise yet as I said, when I play a 90 minute game of soccer, it’s all about the movement, the dance on the field, being able to avoid getting crunched and being able to take a hit and recovery quickly… but these are the games I play. What’s yours?
Exercise Programs – An Alternative Choice
Each week I offer online somatics exercise – using simple movement which can be thought of like as the reverse of an ab crunch or inner thigh lift for strengthening.
To come through the looking glass of exercise vs. movement is a novel way to experience what a difference a change of position can foster rather than forcing or pushing our self.
You can use this learning, then do your exercise in a reverse manner and discover for yourself if alternative exercise programs like somatics may be one of the missing links.