SOMATICS AND POSTURE
by Lawrence Gold
Posture, feeling and movement are all interconnected. Good posture is the most effortless, natural state, but involuntary muscular tension drags us down from our natural, upright grace. Then, we become concerned with posture and suffer the aches, pains, and stiffness of those muscular tensions, which we mistakenly attribute to aging.
Somatics frees us of involuntary muscular tension by improving bodily awareness, quality of movement, and natural muscular control. You learn what you feel like when you are using different muscles and how to eliminate residual tensions from injuries, overuse, and daily stress. You relax. You gain lightness and grace.
Thomas Hanna, father of the field of Somatics, identified three postural reflexes that get overconditioned through stress or injury: one that tightens the back of the body and creates common back trouble, one that tightens the front of the body restricts breathing and our ability to be fully upright, and one that tightens muscles in reaction to injury and often causes chronic pain. His method, Hanna Somatic Education, ends the chronic tensions these reflexes create, restoring comfort and freedom of movement. The changes come faster than by most other methods and are lasting.
Simple in principle, the techniques of Somatics involve having the client assume positions and perform movements slowly enough and with enough attention to the feeling to produce a sufficient sensory impression on the brain to alter brain functioning. The process involves triggering an innate "neuromuscular refreshment" response known as "the pandicular response", which I have nicknamed, "the whole body yawn". Maneuvers begin with an act of muscular contraction, mindful of the sensations, controlling the amount of effort to remain within the comfort zone; continue with a slow relaxation, still mindful of the sensations; and end with complete relaxation. The client typically relaxes to a deeper level than when the movement began, and this relaxation is a stable, lasting change of resting muscular tension level.
The clinical somatic educator helps to guide the client into position. For example to involve the muscles of the front of the neck, the client may be instructed to lie on their back. In that position, lifting the head activates the muscles of the front of the neck. More precise, hands-on guidance into position and coaching such as, "Slowly lift your head and constrict your throat as if you were swallowing," enable the client to locate and activate the muscles effectively. Instructions such as the following, used in alleviating TMJ syndrome (habituated clenching of the jaws) might be used: "Now, keep your throat constricted and slowly lower your head. When your head is down, relax your throat," might end such a maneuver.
In Hanna Somatic Education, the practitioner often provides hands-on matching resistance to the movement that results from the muscular contraction to cause their client to feel the muscular effort more clearly. Position, movement, attention to sensations of the movement, and pacing of the movement produce the result. Different movement functions involve different positions and instructions for movement.
Now, you have something you can do for yourself to eliminate the pains, stiffness, and tension that come from injuries and daily stress.
Lawrence Gold is a certified Somatic Educator.
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