As yoga teachers and holistic therapists,one thing we hear from and discuss with our community on a near daily basis is the desire to release pain from the body. As we live and age we become accustomed to things "just hurting", to injuries new and old, to back pain and tight hips and stiff necks. It has become a well ingrained myth that theses things are all simply the product of growing older.
Yoga is something to which many of us now turn to find relief from these symptoms and many of us are now referred to take up yoga by our physiotherapists and GPs. Great! Yoga can be fantastic for helping to create and maintain a healthy, flexible body. But yoga isn't the only tool which can help and if you've spoken to us at the studio you've probably heard us say "try somatics!".
Somatics is a much newer movement system than yoga (which dates back thousands of years), and there is a good chance your physio hasn't heard of it, so won't have recommended it.(yet!) What Somatics does that is different from yoga is to work in a way specifically and scientifically designed to undo the root causes of pain and muscular tension.
What Somatic's understands is that as we learn to move and walk this information is stored in the sub cortex of the brain. So for example if when we are a child we learn to ride a bike, 10,20 years can go by and we would still be able to ride a bike. The reason why is that this movement information is stored in that part of the brain - the sub cortex - and the body responds automatically to that information, allowing us to get back on the bike and cycle off, without having to remind our bodies how to peddle!
On the flip side, if for 10 years we sit at a desk with our shoulders forward, our lower back rounded, hamstrings shortened... you guessed it. This information will be stored in the brain and it will continue sending a message to these muscles to keep them in a contracted state even when you have left the office and go about your day to day.
So what we are addressing in somatics is something called Sensory Motor Amnesia. What this means is that our muscles have basically forgotten how to relax. In this work we use a proccess called Pandiculation which is something that we naturally do every day usually when we wake up and yawn.
Do this now: Draw your shoulders in, open your mouth and yawn slowly as you would when you wake up. Notice how good it feels? There is a reason why our body naturally does this. It is the brains reset button. What you're doing is strongly contracting into your tense muscles, then slowly releasing out. And this is the key - the slow release out which helps to retrain the brain.
This reflex or Pandiculation prepares the body to move. In fact most animals in the vertebrae kingdom will automatically do this after resting. The next time you are around a cat or dog, watch closely after they have rested and see how they strongly contract back and then slowly release out. It’s their brains way of getting the body to get ready to hunt/run and move.
So going back to you and your body, the good news is that it’s not just part of ageing that you feel stiff in the mornings. It’s sensory motor amnesia and through working with the body using gentle Somatic movement it can be retrained to release again. In this safe and common sense movement class you will learn simple and effective techniques to release chronically held muscle tension. You will learn how to move with grace and ease and pain free and move better in all of your hobbies and daily activities.
Francesca Melluzzi, Sept 2019