How To Know If You’re Out Of Balance

Daily stress teaches our muscles to contract in very specific ways. If the stress is on-going or repetitive enough we may even feel as if we’re “stuck” in our stress. Over time we may find that we feel “out of balance.”

An imbalance in the center of the body will show up as an uneven gait, twisted pelvis, slumped shoulder on one side, one-side muscle pain or quite commonly, a “hiked” hip. Overly contracted muscles pull us off balance and add excessive stress to our joints. They can contribute to arthritis, joint pain, back, iliotibial band pain, neck, shoulder and hip pain. The key is to learn to ride the waves of stress in our lives – not get stuck in them. Learning to find neutral in the center of the body and bring the brain back into control of the muscular system is one of the biggest benefits of Somatic Exercises. It is a skill not unlike any other skill needed to live in today’s world. In fact, it’s one of the most important skills necessary to become stress resilient.

In this video below you’ll learn an easy and quick way to determine if you’re out of balance. Don’t worry! If you are, you can begin to learn how to regain muscular balance and symmetry with Somatic Exercises.

Click here to purchase Pain-Free Somatic Exercise DVDs.

Click here to purchase Martha’s book.

Click here to find out about clinical sessions, Skype sessions and phone consultations.

Politics Can Be a Pain in the Neck – Literally

The midterm elections are over. The results are in. But are the aches and pains of election season over in your body? Did political ads create residual aches and pains?

Political ads are designed to elicit emotional reactions and responses – those of anger, fear, hope or excitement. political-attack-ads-slide11-1Emotions create muscular tension in the body, as the brain responds to any and all feedback in the environment, whether mental, emotional, physical or even imagined! Political ads, repeated over and over again can cause tension in your muscles that, after a while, your brain can no longer voluntarily control.  Just as a baseball player practices swinging a bat repeatedly; it commits an efficient, effective swing to muscle memory, so do our emotional reactions to overplayed political ads create habituated muscular tension. It can become embodied stress that we feel at a loss to control or change.

First comes awareness, then comes change.

For example, if your response to a political ad caused you to feel fear, worry or a sense of instability (“That’s it! I’m moving to Canada!”), the muscles of the front of your body contracted strongly. This is called the Red Light Reflex - a primal response to fear which causes us to withdraw inward. It contributes to most chronic neck and shoulder pain, shallow breathing and fatigue.

If your response to those ads is anger, panic or agitation, you may feel the muscles in the back of your body getting tight, as if to flee, take action – “Do something for Pete’s sake! The country is falling apart!” This is the Green Light Reflex - the root cause of most chronic back pain.

If your back, shoulders, neck, etc. hurt more than usual in the last month, it is probably due to some  very effective political marketing strategy. Beware – the holiday shopping season is upon us already and is no different in its affect on the body!

The stress of political campaigns will never go away – especially if you read newspapers and watch television. The good news is that humans have an innate ability to self-teach and choose their actions based upon trial and error and new information. Our enormous and impressive brain can learn whatever we put our focus on. We can also un-learn that which is not working to our advantage.

When you understand that change is effected first through awareness (How do you respond to your life stresses? What does it feel like to live in your body?) and then through action (what can I do to make a difference in how I feel?), you will be on the road to taking back control of your muscles, aches and pains and quality of life.

Click here to learn to purchase the Pain-Free Somatics DVDs.

Click here to take a Somatic Movement class.

Click here for free self-care Somatic Movement videos.

Thank you to Tricia Engelking, RYT, SEC for her inspiration in writing this post.

All images taken from clotureclub.com

Train Yourself for Life – Not Just For the Gym

Earlier this year I was interviewed on En*theos by one of the innovators of the functional fitness movement, Frank Forencich. In his most recent book, Beautiful Practice, he writes,

We are stuck in the middle of a mismatch. Our ancient bodies, wired by evolution for survival in a wild, natural habitat, are struggling to live in radically different  modern world. Challenges are everywhere: overwork, sedentary living, toxic foods, social chaos and habitat destruction surround us. This is what I call “The Primate’s Predicament.”

And now we’re suffering. Our bodies are suffering with lifestyle diseases, our minds are stressed, our spirits are confused. And our primitive, habitual responses just aren’t working.What we need is a practice, not just to alleviate our suffering, but to live the beautiful adventure we call life.

Movement is probably the most important element in the adventure of Life. Human beings learn through movement; it is in our nature as self-learners of the highest order. We have learned to adapt over time because of the ability of our cortex to do one thing: LEARN. The question is, what is important to learn and adapt to and what is potentially harmful? How many people realize that learning how to relax and recover is a critically important aspect of good health. Stress resilience is a skill.

Humans adapt or die

I consider Somatic Exercises a critical part of one’s daily practice. Our birthright as human beings is to move easily and effortlessly, yet it takes practice and skill. Learning to prepare yourself to move with intention and voluntary control can spell the difference between “successful” aging and the traditional idea of aging: inevitable decrepitude, pain, a cane and a slow demise.

What we are missing is the understanding that every part of this thing we call a body is interconnected. We are not “a knee,” “a hip,” “my tight psoas,” or “that painful IT band.” We are system that moves in patterns, as an integrated whole. If one part of the system is out of balance, it causes an imbalance throughout the entire system. This system we call our “body” is efficient in the best of times, and completely out of control in the worst of times when, as we adapt to stress, we forget what it feels like to move and sense as we did when we were children. Somatic Exercises recreate the basic movements of bending, reaching, twisting, side bending and extending – the non-negotiable basics of all movement that came so easily to all of us long ago. They remind our brain who is in control!

Tomorrow in Astoria, NY I will lead a Somatic Exercise Coach Training for a group of fitness trainers at the Matrix Fitness Center. It will be the first such training of personal fitness trainers whose goal it is to learn more about how Somatic awareness, the first step to any movement practice, can positively shift the course of one’s training regime, whether the goal is to lift weights, play tennis, do Yoga, dance, train for a marathon or simply walk without pain.

A somatic perspective is long overdue in the fitness arena. Many people don’t feel as if they’ve gotten anything out of their workout if they aren’t hurting; somehow, they say, they “just don’t feel anything.” The belief in “no pain, no gain” is the quick road to misery and a short-lived athletic career. There is a more intelligent way to approach movement and one that the trainers tomorrow will begin to experience:

Less is more and slow is fast when it comes to learning how to move well.

 

Last Two New Somatic Exercise Coach Trainings for 2014

2014 has been z busy year for Essential Somatics®. I have traveled to Australia, England, Norway, Canada and cities throughout the United States to teach the Somatic Exercise Coach (SEC) Trainings (both Level One and Two) and the clinical professional training. I have had the pleasure of teaching with Laura Gates, CHSE, Carrie Day, CCSE and Theresa Evans, CCSE as well. Together we have taught over 60 Yoga, Pilates and movement teachers as well as several physiotherapists, psychotherapists and chiropractors how to use the concepts and exercises of Hanna Somatic Education to help their students and patients learn to relieve their own muscle pain, improve movement and take back control of their lives.

Last two Somatic Exercise Coach trainings for 2014

In November I will teach the last two SEC trainings of the year. This is a last chance to participate in a very popular and exciting 3-day training and walk away with tools to help your clients help themselves move the way they were meant to move.
Astoria, New York 
November 7 – 9, 2014
only 3 places left!
Click here for details and registration

San Jose, California
first time in N. California! 
November 21 – 23, 2014
 Click here for details and registration
This training is open to movement  professionals, body-workers, athletic/fitness trainers, Yoga, NIA and Pilates teachers and medical professionals and others outside the movement profession who want to learn to use Somatic Exercises to help others. You will leave with a new perspective on how functional muscle pain develops in the body and how Sensory Motor Amnesia (SMA), the condition of chronically contracted, painful muscles, can be reversed. SMA is the root cause of many muscle pain conditions, such as sciatica, plantarfascitis, back pain, neck and shoulder pain, TMJ, IT band pain and hip pain.
Learn how to help your clients and students begin to eliminate chronic muscle pain – on their own – so they can prepare to move better at any age or in any activity. Click here for a full description of the training.
Please  contact Martha directly with any questions.

Somatics for Pain-Free Airline Travel

Last week I returned from a two week Somatics teaching tour in Australia. Thank you, Jo Bentley, my Australian organizer, for bringing me back to teach the Essential Somatics® Somatic Exercise Coach Training (SEC) – and being a fantastic host. Thanks as well to Mick Betteridge and Philippa Howard in Melbourne for hosting a training there.

As many of you know, I travel internationally teaching Hanna Somatics. Plane travel is part and parcel of my job. In order to lessen the negative effects of sitting stationary for hours in a cramped airplane seat I came up with a few somatic movements during my flight to Australia. I arrived in Australia feeling relaxed and considerably less stiff than on previous flights.

For all you travelers out there – check this video out and let me know how it goes!

Somatic Exercise Coach Training in Maplewood, NJ – September 5-7, 2014

I will be teaching a Somatic Exercise Coach (SEC) Training Level One in Maplewood, NJ September 5 – 7 (Friday – Sunday). This is the only SEC training I will be teaching in New Jersey for the rest of the year.Image

Register now! Space is limited to only 8 students.

I have taught this training in the United States, Canada, England, Germany and Australia and the response has been overwhelmingly positive. I am thrilled that now over 75 new Essential Somatics® Somatic Exercise Coaches are using the assessment techniques, movements and principles of Hanna Somatics to help others regain full movement so that they are able to pursue their favorite activities again.

Pilates, Yoga, Yoga therapists, Nia and Feldenkrais teachers as well as physiotherapists, psychologists, osteopaths and primary care physicians have taken this training for a very specific reason: They want to help their students and patients get rid of muscle pain on which traditional stretching and medical protocols have had little effect.

Hanna Somatics teaches “missing link” information that can eliminate chronic muscle pain for the long term.

Many of my students sought out this particular training because, while they love what they teach, they knew there was a “missing link” about muscles and movement. Hanna Somatics answers many things that traditional methods and approaches cannot. For more information click here.

Hanna Somatics helps improve movement and quality of life.

Training participants report many benefits from learning Somatic Exercises including improved sleep, ease of breathing, freedom from dependency on pain medication, and feeling younger – they are able to move without pain an stiffness. When your students/patients experience the benefits of your Somatic Exercise Coach Training, you are improving their quality of life as well as your own.

See you in September!

For the full line of Pain-Free Somatic Exercise DVDs and Martha’s book, click here.

To host Martha to teach in your area, contact her directly.

 

How Somatic Exercises Can Teach You To Get Rid of “Degenerative Disc Disease”

I recently read an article about Mike Crawshaw, a young British singer, who stated that his “spine is crumbling” and to avoid any potential harm through surgery, he chose to exercise. One doctor is quoted as saying, ‘The right kind of exercise can be helpful. You can strengthen the back muscles that support everything. This helps deal with the spasms in the affected muscles that cause pain. It’s possible to help with these problems without surgery.’

Crawshaw made the best decision for himself by finding a way to strengthen his back muscles. The doctor’s statement, however, isn’t completely correct; strengthening back muscles “to support everything” will not help deal with muscle spasms in the areas that cause pain. If back muscles are stuck in a state of heightened tension that pulls the discs closer together, you are more likely to “strengthen your pain” than to relieve it.

First here is a perspective on degenerative discs from a Somatic Education perspective. Then we will discuss strengthening the back in order to “support” the allegedly weak spine:

Is a “degenerative disc” caused by a disease process or is it a case of poor muscle function, which results in compressed, herniated and otherwise weakened discs?  The label “degenerative disc disease” sounds like a pathology that supposedly develops with age. Yes, arthritic changes can emerge due to age, poor diet, lack of sufficient water, lack of movement and overuse injuries; all of these can contribute to disc problems.  Most “degenerative discs” that I have seen in my practice are another example of Sensory Motor Amnesia, which can be eliminated when one learns to regain control of one’s muscular system, improve nervous system function of the muscles and restore muscle length.

Muscles put pressure on discs. Release the tight muscles and the discs have more room to move.

In an X-ray, discs that are squeezed tightly together look as if they’re X-rayabout to crumble, causing the spine to buckle like an unstable building. Look at the X-ray on the right. Notice how one disc (the black arrow) has a lot of space, while the other (white arrow) is squeezed together. It doesn’t look good, does it? The spaces between the discs are uneven and the spine is being pulled into an uneven “archer’s bow,” which gives the appearance of excess pressure on the lower vertebra (white arrow).

But what exactly pulls the spine into this shape?

Answer: the muscles.

And why would the muscles pull on the spine like this? They are stuck in what Thomas Hanna called the “Green Light Reflex,” a reflex that contracts the muscles to prepare them for action. This reflex, like all reflexes is simply an unconditioned response to stress. The problem occurs when it becomes conditioned and habituated; the brain can literally forget how to relax the muscles. Here’s the thing: you can’t see muscles on an X-ray; all you can see is the result of the bones being pulled by the muscles.

Never strengthen something you can’t feel.

Degenerative disc disease is a functional problem of the sensory motor system, not dissimilar to many other musculoskeletal problems that are deemed structural by the medical world. Once you lose awareness of your movement and how the way in which you respond and adapt to stress (mentally, emotionally and physically) you, too, may develop problems with your discs. There is a solution that doesn’t involve surgery: Clinical Somatic Education and Somatic Exercises.

We all need to be strong, so awareness of what you can and cannot feel and control in your body is the first step to strengthening. The second step is to regain full muscle function and length. Once this is achieved, your brain now works with a muscle that is not being restricted by Sensory Motor Amnesia. Think of it this way: moving with Sensory Motor Amnesia is like trying to drive with the emergency brake on. Once Sensory Motor Amnesia is eliminated, create an enjoyable strengthening routine and be sure to include Somatic Exercises as a warm-up and cool-down to maintain optimum muscle function.