Regain Mobility, Restore Natural Flexibility, Return to Comfort
Contact UsQuestions?

Archive for Movement

Dec
14

Body and Balance (Revised)

Posted by: | Comments (0)

Loss of Balance

A loss of balance can happen even if we’re messing around with our body.

Balance can seem elusive at times since it can be affected by a number of factors.

1 – 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.Posture - Rounding Shoulders, Chest Caving In, Palm Backwards, Knees Bent, Slumped Over

2 –  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.

3 – Bad life (fun) events such as being a Cleveland Browns sport fan like I am, who for the past 50 years, have lost incredibly more than we’ve won (especially lately).  C’mon Brownies!

Those losses can a negative effect on the brain and body since I know how my shoulders can slump over yet another loss.

Letting go of bad (fun) events can be difficult since we can go to that sinking (movement) feeling over and over.

Over time, if we’re not careful or don’t have a way of letting life’s (self-imposed fun) stresses leave or get calmed down, the brain can reinforce our (negative) emotions.

So life and how we participate in it can affect us and challenge our internal balance since the brain can get altered over the course of the long run.

Plus, there are any number of other factors such as dealing with diseases, what we eat, our environment, and the small and large negative life events which can lead to the brain going haywire to keep us out of balance.

A Way to Restore Balance

One way to restore balance (and change the brain) is to employ mindful, conscious, easy movement where you tap into the brain’s ability to reset tension levels thus leaving you feeling calmer and more refreshed.

See you can find a  safe zone – where you’re reasonably comfortable (or at least do the best you can given your circumstances) because this is the place where positive change can happen.

Even if you live in states of chronic pain, high tension or stress, there can be a small place where there is comfort or safety when it comes to doing a mindful movement.

Simply put, you gotta start from where you are to discover where those places can be.

Doing vs. Feeling

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 a specific movement.

This may not be obvious to outside observer since this is an area you have to feel and self-observe within yourself.Master Brain Software

When you direct the mind and body together while targeting the brain’s motor cortex in a specific manner, you can enhance one of nature’s most potent acts to restore the body in order to re-balance.

Not Exercise in the Usual Manner

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 adjustments while noticing certain either a grand or minute orchestration of a particular movement.

Q.O.M vs R.O.M.

You simply notice the inherent quality of your own movement taking place.

Again, this may not be what we usually tune into since we tend to go for range of motion (ROM) rather than quality of motion (QOM).

Human Movement System

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 from a qualitative view rather than the end goal of moving to one’s end limit.

This more mental-feeling embodied approach can augment other physical types of activities in order to rebalance our faster or hectic pace of life.

You can recharge in a more playful and intelligent manner.

Find Out How to Recharge Here

See, this can be done in a lazy, gentle, yet highly tuned in or focused approach where you learn to dissolve tension so balance naturally returns giving you back control.

8 Somatics Tips for Balance

Somatics, defined as the body experienced from within, 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.

Again, this has more to do with noticing the quality of movement itself.

This slight difference in attention can make a big difference to help healing, recovery and living in an easy, flexible, fluid moving body.

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 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 would normally think to do it as this can also affect a movement or the quality of feeling 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.

Somatics Coordination Exercise - 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.

Once again, the “quality of a movement” and what you notice or feel lets us process or feel sensations which lie beneath the surface (where we ordinarily may not go by doing a movement).

4. Thoughts can affect movement and impact our body and balance

Simply sit and think.

Conjure up a thought and feel how your muscles respond.

As you do any exercise or movement, choose to think a thought and feel how your body responds.

You can play with different emotions to feel how your body responds as you move.

What does a thought or state of emotion do to what you feel as you move?

Can you tune in your sense of muscles turning on or off during a particular movement, exercise or simply noticing or feeling from a quality viewpoint while sitting or standing?

5.  Comfort is king

Any small adjustment such as using a pad or pillow can alleviate any struggle (with tension) when it comes to positioning ourself for a movement, exercise or simply sitting or lying down for that matter.

Lean on Me Props

There’s no need to tough it out.

A 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.

Of course, I get it if you live in states of chronic pain so experiment and find out what works for you.

When you are more comfortably propped, this can let you more fully experience yourself rather than taking away your focus in a movement or exercise because some of the tension can lessened in the moment.

6.  An exercise can’t hurt us

People will tell me they tried a certain exercise or even our gentle somatics exercises and hurt them self or say – “that exercise hurt me”.

It’s not the exercise or movement, it’s simply that our brain can respond in a programmed way.

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 or chronic state or we’re early in healing.

Even a 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.

This is the tricky part to getting back to the comfort zone on a more permanent basis.

So it’s normal to err back into the pain program while learning how to get the brain to change.

So any arbitrary movement or exercise can seem to lead us to flinching, wincing or holding our breath, for instance.

Get Back to the Fundamentals & Quality of Movement Itself

Un-Exercise & Move Well for Life!

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.

… and if we pay attention to the quality of movement rather than the range of the movement, you will benefit with more internal awareness on the road to more lasting comfort.

“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.

I’m not saying this is easy at first glance or first try, however, you can regain control of the brain by observing the quality morso than the quantity of movement or exercise.

See, more often than not, our compensations and habits of movement get us to bump the pain switch on – even if we don’t mean to –  though this can be reversed with a more mindful approach which will have its normal course of learning to readjust.

So it’s both what you do and how (qualitatively) 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–sometimes just getting to the position of a movement or exercise can test our limits.

So to imagine or eke out even a micro-movement, can start the process to get the brain to change the body’s negative response to a more pleasureable response of calming feelings, restoration and healing.

Since it might seem like you’re not doing much with small or micro-movements to the point of imagining a movement, this counter-intuitive approach of doing less, wakes up the nervous system since the brain doesn’t know the difference between you imagining a movement and doing it.

-Try this: Imagine this movement taking place. (You can even close your eyes if you want to after you’ve read it).

-Sit.  Bring your ear to your shoulder slowly.  Then imagine the ear and shoulder moving away from each other.

  • Now that you have the idea.

– Go ahead and actually do the movement.

  • How did the actual (entire) movement feel as compared to your imagination of the (entire) movement???
  • Did it feel the same or a little different?  Only you will know.

Unleash Your Imagination

Move with Confidence & Control

Only you will know (and feel) where you comfort zone is.

Only you will know (and feel) what you sensed.

Only you will know whether you were able to feel a shift down in your hips or weight in your feet.

And if you didn’t feel a thing – that’s merely sensory information where you may have some SMA.

The least of efforts

See when we shift to what I’ll call the “least of efforts” in terms of doing a movement, i.e. imagining a movement.

This might reveal more from a slow purposeful internal observation and provide keys to successfully getting out of a particular body-mind jam.

Successful athletes have used imagination and visualization techniques for quite some time.  

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.

When you spend the Somatics time – tuning in as deeply as you can – this can become a highly interesting, fun, focused and mindfully effortless way to regain balance in the body.

8Pain 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 with a little internal know-how. 

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 were initially designed to help heal, resolve pain, and lower tension and stress.

Since these types of gentle movements are mindful and involve the brain’s motor cortex, they fall under the category of motor control exercises and mindful based stress reduction.

These are now proven to be “the first thing to do to relieve pain”.*

In general, somatics exercises work with many different lifestyles, circumstances, issues and with different types of pain, stiffness, discomfort, and injury all leading to increased levels of comfort.

Plus, they are now used by “somatic” athletes to prepare the body and help restore it after vigorous activity.

As a matter of fact, many “somatic” athletes have entirely given up stretching since they’ve learned how the brain is the one big muscle to regain control while at the same time restoring comfort levels.

General enthusiasts now have learned to consciously maintain comfortable levels of range of motion (without going for it) and are naturally flexible feeling more control and balance to boot.

It’s really up to you to go inside and take control of:

• your brain and your own awareness,

• mindfulness,

• breathing,

• coordination,

• tension levels,

• comfort

• and the effortless effort which allows a fluid body to Move Easily and Restore Balance.

Recapturing the feelings of childlike, easy movement happens since this is kinda like coming back to youthful memory patterns which are buried in the brain.

You have the ability to restore this or enhance it by reconnecting the brain and body from within.

The brain can be programmed to bring the body back to its natural state of comfort and pleasure.

This is what we do in the Somatics Un-Exercise Classroom.

This is where we explore conscious movement to learn more about how we are connected (or not) and we relearn and remind ourself to easily move from the inside out.

Simple (yet powerful) conscious movement patterns which can boggle the mind and leave the body refreshedrestored and in balance for more happy days ahead!

Brain-Mind-Body Work Together

* 2017 ACP (American College of Physicians)

Move Like an Animal BookMany years ago I saw a squirrel fall out of a tree and like humpty dumpty put herself back together again.

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:

Move Like an Animal: Feel Comfortable, Be Flexible, Move Well for Life in 3 Simple Steps,

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

Cat Stretch - a part of the daily somatics exercisesThe result of a cat stretch could make one more restful.

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.

Jul
17

Bare foot running

Posted by: | Comments (0)

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.

Exercise Programs

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.

Comments (0)