Good Health is a Long-Term Commitment

Just as the mountains and valleys were created over millennia through the forces of nature, anything that lasts takes time, effort and consistency: a friendship, a marriage, a career, good health.  A hand on the arm of a friend in need builds compassion and togetherness. Listening to an upset child builds trust in the present and for the future.

Being present to your body and caring for it can make or break you in terms of the quality of your long-term health.

Why are so many of us resistant to taking care of ourselves?  What purpose does it serve to not listen to our bodies, our sensations, our own feelings? How much of that is conditioned (“I’m not worth taking care of”), and how much of that comes from reacting, and then unconsciously adapting to our environment – timetables, deadlines, self-imposed or otherwise?

When people tell me that they “don’t have time” to do their Somatic Movements every day, I ask them if they brush their teeth. Muscle pain is a great motivator, the same as cavities! Treat your Somatic Movements as part of your daily self-maintenance routine, rather than a luxury (“I have all the time in the world today”) or a chore (“ugh, let’s get this over with”).

It doesn’t take much – just a commitment to yourself.

Just recently a friend of mine broke her ankle. Due to compensation, her hip is beginning to hurt. My advice was to take it easy and listen to her body. She said that her doctor told her that she could go back to life as usual – driving, walking, etc. – but her ankle, hip, and sore body were telling her otherwise. She was frustrated, and caught between what someone else (her doctor) told her and what her body was telling her. Who’s the expert here?

Thomas Hanna once said that no one will care as much about your body as you will.

No one. If your muscles are tight and painful, the only person who can change that is you. When you pay attention to how you move every day, how you respond to stress, and how you interact with your own life, you will be taking the first step on the road to somatic awareness. Participating in a Somatics event, scheduling a one-on-one session for your recurring pain, or taking a specialty workshop teaches you techniques, concepts, and movements that will take that awareness further, and could be the difference between feeling out of control and in pain, and getting your life back.

In taking time to care for your body you are taking back control of the living process that is you. You’re creating true health, awareness and control.

And you ARE worth it.

Quick Relief For Painful Knees

An old friend stopped in for a brief visit over the summer. He was planning an extended trip overseas and was very concerned. His left knee caused him severe pain, especially when walking or kneeling, and he wanted desperately to be able to enjoy walking while on his trip. He asked me, “Could you please look at his knee? The doctors have all said that I need a knee replacement.”

Father Peter is a 82-year-old retired Episcopal priest, still active as an assistant rector in his church in Maryland. He had spent the past several years caring for his ill wife who had just recently passed. He had lifted her, wheeled her around, and sat for days by her bedside. Now, after the death of his wife, he had trouble walking. What he found most troubling, however, was the fact that he couldn’t kneel properly in church. Peter’s posture was good – erect and balanced. So where was the problem?

I explained to him that certain muscles involved in sitting, walking and moving his legs were probably tighter than they should be. When muscles are involuntarily tight due to having been overused they don’t function well. We needed to restore his muscles to a healthy functioning.

Tight thigh muscles and an immobile kneecap will cause pain.

tendons-of-the-knee-478x500Due to the brevity of our impromptu “session,” I had Peter sit as I palpated his quadriceps muscles.  His right leg was softer, the muscles more pliant. His left leg was hard as a rock. I gently moved his right patella up and down, side to side. There was only slight resistance. His left patella, however, wouldn’t move. It refused to budge no matter the direction I moved it.

I explained to Peter how the patellar tendon, which is an extension of the quadriceps tendon, passes over the kneecap and attaches into the tibia. If the quadriceps are too tight (or suffer from Sensory Motor Amnesia), the tendons put pressure on the kneecap, and make it impossible to move. This can cause pain when sitting, kneeling, or walking upstairs – all the activities that bothered him.

Tight muscles require pandiculation to relax and release.

In Hanna Somatic Education our clients learn to pandiculate tight muscles. This resets the muscles length at the level of the central nervous system. Keeping this in mind, I taught Peter to pandiculate the right quadriceps muscles: he extended his leg fully to voluntarily tighten his quadriceps muscles. I told him to watch how the thigh muscle “drew the kneecap up,” as if it were sliding on a track. He then slowly relaxed his thigh muscles and watched the kneecap slide back into place. Then he completely relaxed his thigh.

When we did this same movement for the left leg/knee, it was more difficult. At first he simply couldn’t move the thigh muscles. He contracted every muscle he could think of except his quadriceps! His brain had simply lost sensation and voluntary control of those muscles, which caused them to “freeze up” and stay tight. After several slow, patient attempts in which he really had to concentrate and focus his attention on the feelings in his muscles, he was finally able to firmly and voluntarily contract the thigh muscles. He watched in amazement as his kneecap slid upward, and then downward, as he slowly and voluntarily relaxed the muscles. We repeated this movement several times (with his foot turned inward, then outward) until the kneecap wiggled easily.

Father Peter stood up, walked around the room, and to his utter amazement pronounced himself pain free. I gave him some gentle, easy Somatic Movements and concepts to do at home that would help him reinforce his progress.  Just yesterday – a month later – I  received this email from him:

Prior to our Somatics session I was hobbling and limping to ease the pain.  Now I go for my evening walks marching like a soldier !!!
To learn the methods and movements of Hanna Somatics for rapid relief of muscle pain purchase my instructional DVD here.