Archive for Somatics
When you play with the brain in a mindful way, the body can get a boost.
Targeting the brain’s sensory-motor cortex can help relieve stiffness, stress, ease pain, and improve the body and mind.
The brain’s motor cortex sits atop the brain adjacent to the sensory cortex.
The motor part is where you can “turn on” the motor of movement. The sensory part lets you perceive or feel a variety of sensations or feelings about the quality of movement itself.
This feedback loop of information can help you in effect, move well and be freer to move around.
This little guy is called the homonculus, the little man.
This represents how our body parts are reflected in the brain in terms of how we use them and sense them.
As you can see from this representation:
The hands and mouth have the largest areas in terms of how we sense ourself.
In order to help both the brain and body as you age, you can zero in on your sensory-motor cortex so both a movement in and of itself and the quality of how you move your body is addressed by paying attention to the information you can perceive or feel.
Plus, you can do this in a playful type of manner without a lot of hard work.
You see, the brain functions better with a variety of movements which opens up the possibilities of new neural connections since the brain itself can be changed, formed, and reformed.
Normally, we think of brain exercises like doing a crossword puzzle or doing some type of cognitive training. Any number of ways can sharpen us mentally such as learning to play an instrument, trying new recipes and good old fashioned doing math in your head.
Regular exercise itself, is good in general, and can help the brain too.
The brain thrives on novelty and our 600 muscles and 17 layers of muscles and fascia (which surround the muscles) can be used in a unique un-exercise approach by focusing our awareness on the conscious nature of movement itself.
This wakes up the brain and body since we can tap into the flow of information in our nervous system.
This non-traditional approach can augment any traditional type of exercise and can actually let us exercise pain free or be able to do the necessary movements you engage in with less tension and a different felt sense of ability.
The brain can be used to lessen tension through a natural process of updating our movement software.
When we have less tension or when we can sustain more neutral levels of tension, then we can move easily and agilely over the long run.
So when our brain gets challenged with paying attention, our body can actually feel the difference. Even when small, easy, gentle micro-movements are used to help set up or be the foundation for the moveable building blocks of overall coordination of movement.
Slow movements help brain functions
Watching someone do small movements, is similar to watching grass grow.
We might think not a lot can be accomplished by little or slow movement.
When you shift upstairs to target your motor cortex and do conscious specific types of movements slowly, gently and with as much awareness as possible – the brain can help the body make a number of changes.
A slow movement practice is about how you pay attention to a number of areas of the body.
The conscious application of movement done slowly forms the system of somatics exercises which is essentially brain based.
9 Advantages of a Brain Based Practice
1 – Pain Relief Using the Brain
Since the brain thrives on novelty, the brain and body can be used in unique ways to affect the flow of information in the nervous system.
This is set up with simple movements that can be done in a lazy, gentle manner where the mind is highly engaged.
One of the brain functions of the motor cortex is that it can reset the resting levels of the muscles. The muscles are left more relaxed.
As the muscles become more relaxed, the brain creates more feelings of relaxation and pleasure.
2 – Improved Memory
Movement is memory.
The lower part of the brain, the cerebellum remembers much like a programmed computer program which does our quick, fast movements. We don’t have to think about it, we get up and go.
Using the brain’s motor cortex allows us to change the program by noticing what is happening in our overall quality of movement as well as the actual movement.
By improving the quality of how well we can move at any age, the brain functions at a higher level since the brain’s software is getting updated.This helps us remember and experience our former youthful movement.
3 – Gain Strength
Normally we exercise our muscles to get stronger.
Strength is also resiliency and flexibility.
So rather then a brawn approach, you can use the brain to lose excessive or amped up tension and stress.
Our body becomes more balanced. We remain strong like animals in the wild who reset their muscles naturally since the slow movements are done along certain chains of connections which help us move more effectively.
4 – Posture Changes
We can change our shape.
By losing compensations such as a curved spine which has our belly hanging over or the reverse when we’re too slumped.
Our new appearance results from letting go of the tension which held us in place by the lower brain and its programmed ways.
When the brain remembers to reset to neutral, the brain functions much better and now we appear more easily upright and relaxed.
5 – Natural Stress Alleviation
The brain can create powerful chemicals of relaxation.
Healthy animals with a spine tap into this natural source.
They do this through the act of pandiculation as they target the brain and body.
You can zone in on the brain in a similar conscious manner to create natural chemicals of relaxation so you’re left feeling content, relaxed and in control.
6 – Regain Natural Flexibility
Regaining flexibility is not about getting longer or going for range of motion.
Simply being able to squat is one thing, getting up is another.
When we let go of the binds of stress, tension and long held-injuries and compensations, the body knows where to reset to neutral so it can in effect move easy and be in comfortable positions.
You can move more freely and naturally by reprogramming the brain so a natural flexibility can be easily maintained.
7 – Improve the Immune System
When we’re constantly triggering flight or fight response in our busy lives, we’re not giving our self the chance to calm things down.
Resetting our brain and body so we can ramp it up and then back it down, allows us to live more easily with a nervous system which can be reset so our immune system is less burdened as the inflammatory response is cooled down.
This allows more good feelings to flow through us so it can aid in healing, for instance.
8 – Sleep Better
Tuning down tension levels using the brain relaxes our body.
The body and brain functions much better when we can rest easy so our tissues can repair.
Resting easy happens when we feel calmer and can let go of the body and the mind.
9 – Greater Sense of Peace and Tranquility
When you use the brain to reset the entire body system of movement, you can move with greater ease and comfort like any other healthy vertebrate animal.
As our earlier sense of freedom returns, movement can nurture us towards more tranquil states.
This also brings us a vibrant sense of confidence to move, relax and have a calm mind.
As you use the brain and target certain functions, you can return again and again to levels of comfort where you can fully understand or appreciate the mind and body connection.
Better brain functions
When we go back to the well of movement itself and harness the power of the brain to tap into our very awareness.
The brain’s intelligence is aroused (with a little practice) so you end up with a better brain and body.
When you reset yourself with a certain level of conscious awareness, the brain functions at levels which may continue to delightfully surprise you as you age.
That moment led me to the work of helping people overcome physical pain. In my 30+ year journey of living in pain, getting out of pain, and eventually learning how to help others… I’d like to give you a freebie somatics exercise class.
Go below, so you can get to download a quick, simple set of movements over at my sister site. You’ll get to hear a 14 minute audio recording. You’ll get to play with one of the more familiar somatics exercise patterns which is helpful to release trauma, improve walking, free up the side or waist muscles… and it’ll give you another way to not stretch those side muscles.
Once you learn this move, you might think and move differently to release the muscles of your side.
Why an audio recording instead of a video? When we listen, we target a specific part of the brain. When we watch, we use a different part.
All you have to do is lie back, follow along and your brain will relax the muscles as you regain or improve function at the same time. You’ll be able to go at your own pace and move well within your own comfort zone depending on your unique set of circumstances.
What’s the catch? Just make a comment or ask your questions inside the downnload area after you’ve done the movements.
Hurry, this offer is good for a few days..
See you on our sister site…
Pain free moves and living made easy with somatics exercises.
Relief for neck pain with an easy relaxation approach
Are you still doing the things you were doing with your neck 10 – 15 years ago? Or are you guarding or immobilizing yourself in order to protect yourself?
Relief for neck pain won’t be achieved through immobilization yet we can use discomfort as our guide to actually have a chance to relax tight, stiff neck muscles which might feel like a brace or vise we’re trapped in.
As we get older, does age prevent us from doing what we want physically in our body or is our accumulation of stress throughout our life taking its toll?
Do we have the capacity to discover a natural way of relief for neck pain by applying a novel approach which has been reported to relax muscles for over 300 years?
Hands-on approach to relief for neck pain
Pandiculations, which the founder of clinical medicine reported in 1680, relaxes our muscles has been systematically used by Hanna Somatic Educators where we teach people how to use the un-exercises of pandiculations systematized as somatics exercises.
Relief for neck pain comes when we un-do tightness, stiffness and regain lost mobility and return to natural flexibility which is comfortable without strain. As we move with greater ease, we can appreciate a greater sense of internal muscular connections.
In the video below, you can find out for yourself if the hip bone is connected to the neck bone. Afterwards you can try the hands-on approach as a means for relief for neck pain.
Simple movement can facilitate our understanding of how we are connected throughout our body. When we lose these connections, we lose a certain sense of ourself. Our internal guide to reset naturally avails itself so that relief for neck pain is felt as natural – as if we knew this all along.
In the many years of exercises I attempted, I had to come through a looking glass to both feel and understand how our brain can rewire the nervous system as we did as children. The conscious act of a pandiculation we did in our mother’s womb has the potential as relief for neck pain when we become reacquainted with a former ability.
Relief for neck pain and more
Please join me in this week’s online un-exercises (or get the replay) on a delightful class for the muscles of the neck and spine – which will include the back and belly as well as a movement for the ribs and hips which will tie everything together.
You’ll also learn to release some muscles in the chest and shoulders too which will help free up the arms.
And you’ll also learn a few more specific hands on techniques like you did in the video above.
Relief for neck pain can be accessed from within without any special equipment, just a little applied know how that you already possess within your nervous system.
Mindfulness exercises such as somatics exercises allow the brain to change how muscles behave.
When we change the brain, we can create good feelings in how our muscles feel.
A movement practice of mindfulness exercises relates to 9 pre-frontal cortex functions.
You can improve how you regulate your heart and lungs for instance. You can affect how well your body’s regulation system works.
The nervous system changes from what’s called the parasympathetic system which is a relaxed place to a more driven one called the sympathetic system.
Mindfulness exercises gives us a window as to how we can sense the shift between the two systems.
The two separate areas of the brain, the right and left side, integrate more fully with mindfulness exercises.
We can watch our self in an entirely new manner.
Being observant of how we move by slowing down our movements rather than the traditional manner of activating muscles and increasing the blood flow gives us a different perspective.
Mindfulness exercises teach us how to use brain’s inhibitory process.
When you gain better control at the cortex by inhibiting muscles it’s like squirting a little neurotransmitter substance of relaxation down below. This will help us be more emotionally balanced.
It’s ok to freak out, just as long as you can regain your senses. The flip side being you can feel dejected yet have the ability to bounce back too.
Since mindfulness exercises give us a practice in pausing. We may be able to translate that to the idea of response flexibility where we can calm our self down.
By tuning inwards rather than outwards in goal oriented exercises, we work with our sensory system and learn to trust our feeling and sensations. The more “I” can feel, then it’s more likely I’ll know how others feel.
Mindfulness exercises can bring us towards resonance with others in states of empathy. People who lack it, can learn it if they choose.
Another pre-frontal function is being in touch with your own intuition. This awareness
happens when you heed the quiet wisdom of the body.
Reflecting mindfully can be achieved with mindfulness exercises.
When we realize how to be nonjudgmental in our movements, then we gain insight and the brain grows again and improves its function.
To modulate fear happens when we use mindfulness exercises to explore parts of our self which may reveal past or present fears. It can be quite surprising and revealing what essentially a simple, slow, and easy movement can show.
Join us online this Friday, June 24th from 1-2pm to learn how simple somatics exercises are delightful mindfulness exercises.
When we gain this insight, this shift of perspective and improve along the other 8 pre-frontal cortex functions, then all 9 of these provide us with the resilience to free ourselves. We can learn this simply from mindfulness exercises.
A kick in the grass (turf) doesn’t have to be a kick in the $ss or tight hamstrings or pulled muscles…
Somatics is coming to the…
2011 Winter Chill Soccer Tournament at the Starfire Soccer Complex in Tukwila, WA on February 26th-27th.
This 7 vs 7 event held by the Washington State Womens Soccer Association will have women competing in the open, over 30 and over 40 categories.
For those of you attending, you can discover an entirely new way to get those muscles ready to play before, after and in between your games.
Animals naturally lengthen their muscles by pandiculating. Say what?
They are not stretching contrary to popular belief. There doing a whole ‘nother thing which you’ll get to experience at the tournament.
If you’re a player, coach, or physical trainer, come find out why you never need to stretch. That’s right, in fact it’s bad for you… according to the research.
When you get your muscles ready in the ways animals do… you just might move like a healthy animal again and stop limping your way back to the car when the games are done.
We’ll meet at 10am, 1pm and 4pm on Saturday and Sunday.
We’ll probably find a comfortable place to unwind indoors at the complex.
If you’re team wants its own session, just let the guy with the funny shoes know.
Get ready to get those hamstrings, hip flexors, quads, and inner leg muscles looser, more relaxed and in your control so you can keep on playing and playing…
or at least make it to the end of the day… and play the next if you’re one of the lucky ones.
Somatics exercises are different
Watch Thomas Hanna who created Hanna Somatic Education® teach a couple of somatics exercises to provide back relief. He coined the term, Somatics, “as the body experienced from within”.
Somatics Exercises are presently taught by Hanna Somatic Educators® to primarily relieve physical pain in our back, neck, head, shoulders, hip, legs, feet, arms and hands.
Somatics exercises are the slow, cortical alternative to exercise
Instead of just doing an exercise, somatics is carried out with our feelings and sense of movement. This is a far different approach than pushing or straining. And most anyone can do them since they are safe anatomically speaking.
To defeat pain, is to learn how to use this signal and then master it so it no longer controls us. This is easily accomplished with somatics exercises where we regain cortical control as our muscles remember to let go of holding tension patterns which often cause us the pain and discomforts we live with.
The soma in somatics
Thomas called the soma, our experience where we are neither mind nor body. We’re aware of our body’s internal actions. These actions encompass our sense perceptions and feelings where we use our individual learning process of the brain’s motor cortex to restore our self back to comfort.
Naturally, this is how we can easily live in our mind-body being.
You can experience these two somatics exercise movements and more in our longer verbally guided free training series.
How do you feel? I mean how do you really feel? Can you describe right now in this moment or at any moment what your experience is?
Inside my head are terms and descriptions which I can’t always put a finger on. It’s as if I’m describing a rushing, splashing, sloshing, back-throwing, pushing up, getting sucked down, and at times still, peaceful, serene, translucent… river ride.
With all the activity going on inside of us, can we accurately describe the vast internal world of our inner processes. Surely we can feel our blood rushing, heart thumping, breath leaving or re-entry… even our pains are indescribably unique.
Is there more to life than pain? We all know there is… yet so many people continue to live with it. Understanding our true nature, may lead us out of it, as we come to more fully understand ourselves from the inside…
As you may know, Thomas Hanna, coined the term Somatics. He described this as the body experienced from within.
At Harvard, we’re getting to see what’s going on inside.
To read more about cinema meeting biology, go to this New York Times article.
Novel somatics exercises help you reduce your muscle stiffness the way nature intended. In nature, all healthy vertebrate animals use the process of a pandiculation to get their muscles loose and ready for the day.
As we age, most of us have forgotten this lost art of pandiculating. In fact, we all did it in our mother’s womb. If you’ve forgotten how to pandiculate, then it’s likely your muscles are getting stiffer as you age. You don’t feel as spry as you used to.
You can change all of that in an instant since this is a cortical brain response. Your brain is waiting for you to pandiculate so it can send the necessary chemicals of relaxation to the areas you target with your intention.
Brain plasticity or the ability to change your brain allows you to change the feelings of your muscles from stiffness to mobility. When you’re more mobile, you’re less likely to hold your stress… and you’ll be able to sleep even better.
Give these somatics exercises for your neck and shoulders a try and feel for yourself what all the healthy animals already know.
How well you move, plays a roll in how well you feel. Learning to move with greater ease isn’t always easy. If you’re used to giving it your all or moving with more force than is necessary, chances are your over doing it unconsciously… and this could be the cause of your discomforts.
*Move with Less Effort*
A practice in moving easily is simply accomplished by dialing down your effort in moving. Being more precise with your movements involves lessening your effort so your muscles work efficiently instead of shuddering with extra effort.
Noticing where you contract from or the area you are using during a movement may not initially be clear. When you contract and shorten your muscles, take notice to the areas where your contract, the level of effort, the feeling, the sensations aroused or lack thereof.
As you contract your muscles, others are normally and naturally lengthening in response. It’s not necessary to force the length, rather your observation of it happening, deepens your awareness and your coordination in what moves what and where and how it moves.
*Be Aware of your release*
If you can merely observe the release of your contraction, you’ll notice the resulting length is accomplished without force.
If you force the length, a signal is generated by your brain to re-contract the tissues afterwards. Traditional forms of stretching actually produce tighter muscles according to the latest research.
To have the flexibility of a cat, the agility of a panther, and the ability to jump like a gazelle requires you to follow their lead. Animals engage their motor cortex through the process of a series of pandiculations.
*First thing in the morning*
Since animals self-correct throughout their day, it would be wise once again to follow their lead. When healthy, they engage the process first thing in the morning, every day. There’s their key.
Who else is going to ready your muscles for you each new day? Animals are wise enough to do it first. They are not checking the emails nor will you find a way to ready to yourself in your emails, unless of course, you happen to be receiving the Somatic Classes via email.
The natural process of engaging your motor cortex is always available to you… I know you have other things to attend to.
It’s just a process and as far as I know most of us have the ability to engage in the process since it primarily activates your motor cortex, which has been called your highest learning center.
You can continue to learn and generate new brain cells. Neurogenesis and neural plasticity perhaps becomes of interest as you age, unless you already engage the process everyday. If you are, yoohoo, you’re way ahead of most people as the mass understanding of this process hasn’t reached them, yet!
Somatics is merely applied neurogenesis.
*Pay attention to how you move*
Practicing Somatics is a matter of paying attention to how you manipulate yourself in the field of gravity. How you contend or float in the field of gravity is known to you by the signals your body generates. You can become more One with the field of gravity. No this isn’t airy fairy stuff, I mean you can continually fight gravity and keep kicking yourself in the pants, which would naturally lead to tighter hamstrings and a sore back.
*Use your self-correcting brain and mind*
The power lies in your brain to self-correct, adapt accordingly, merely by spending some time in your self. When you practice the variety of movements which are offered in the Somatics classes or through your understanding and application of Somatics, your brain feeds off of these differentiated patterns to present you with possibilities of change in your habit of movement.
Your habitual and repetitive patterns lead to some of the negative results you encounter over and over.
*Differentiate your movements*
Differentiation provides an avenue to more integrated, more coordinated, more balanced and efficient movement itself. You’ll know how, when, and at what speed, in order to move more cohesively.
So as I said, learning to move with greater ease isn’t easy, but it’s very simple once you get the hang of the process.
The antidote for discomfort, pain, aches, soreness, etc, lies between your ears.
Engaging the process is not under your nose, it’s in it.